TAIWO AKERELE: A SHINING EXAMPLE OF THE IMPACT OF PROFESSIONALS IN GOVERNANCE
By: Benedict Aguele
Since her independence in 1960 Nigeria, despite being blessed with an abundance of riches in natural material and human resources has often failed to reach her immense potentials.
This is not unconnected to the fact that the “giant of Africa”, which is a conglomeration of over 350 ethnic nationalities, has often had to sacrifice meritocracy on the altar of ethnoreligious politics to placate vested interests at the expense of the whole.
In satisfying the principles of federal character and “quota system”, some of Nigeria’s best brains have often found themselves being excluded from positions where they could have made a difference and impacted her development along the lines of the Asian Tigers that started their journey to the first-world status at about the same time as Nigeria.
Edo state, often described as a miniature Nigeria due to the diversity of ethnic groups that make up the state, has had its fair share of unhealthy politicking leading to underdevelopment despite boasting of a vibrant and energetic populace.
It will be recalled that the state under the old Bendel state arrangement, during the Second Republic between 1979 and 1983, had probably her best run of development under the leadership of the amiable Professor of Medicine Ambrose Folorunsho Alli.
The state is popularly known as “the Heartbeat of the Nation”, has suffered from a succession of poor leaders during the military and even under civilian administrations.
The participation of technocrats in the governance of Edo state had over the years been few and far between, owing to a well-oiled patronage network keeping them out of the system.
This trend was bucked when a certain Taiwo Akerele, a native of Igarra in Akoko Edo Local Government Area was appointed Chief of Staff to Governor Godwin Obaseki.
The highly Cerebral Taiwo Akerele would bring his diverse educational background – acquired from the like of Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts USA. Carlton University, Ottawa, Canada, Stellenbosch University Cape Town, World Bank Institute Washington DC, University of Ibadan, and the University of Benin – to bear on the running of the office of the state governor for four solid years.
Even though he served in a politically turbulent period, with his principal at loggerheads with the national chairman of APC and immediate past governor of the state Comrade Adams Oshimhole, Akerele distinguished himself for keeping the governor’s official affairs running on an even keel.
Despite his relative youth, Taiwo Akerele’s life, and career trajectory reads like the biographies of 3 veterans.
Mr. Akerele was very active in the days of the struggle for the actualization of the June 12 mandate during the detention and the eventual demise of Chief M K O Abiola, becoming a founding member of Prof. Pat Utomi’s Center for Values in Leadership (CVL). He cut his teeth in the banking industry, where he served with distinction in the likes of United Bank for Africa as a Strategy Group agent, First City Monument Bank in the Credit unit, Afribank as a Market Intelligence Officer, as well as the old Fidelity Union Merchant Bank.
He moved into the development scene where he served with various multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the European Union.
During his days at the World Bank in Edo State, Akerele led the teams that transformed several governance processes of the state.
Systems such as the PFM Laws, Audit Laws, Budget Reform Programme, and Procurement Laws among others were instituted during this time.
The state, through these immense efforts, was able to secure multiple World Bank budgets support facilities, having met the stringent conditions for World Bank financing.
Taiwo was known to be an embodiment of values that are strange to the Nigerian government system, driving himself around the capital city on several occasions, despite the high office he held and being seen socializing with friends in Benin city without the regular Nigerian style of wearing political positions like a badge.
He continued to be a dedicated family man, making every effort to be with his family, despite the demands of the office.
His simplicity and dedication to the public good can be traced to his humble roots in Igarra, where he began life having lost his father at the tender age of thirteen.
Taiwo Akerele recently bowed out of service, resigning his appointment as Chief of Staff to Governor Godwin Obaseki in April 2020.
While as expected in our political clime, this decision generated a lot of controversy and wild speculations as to what could have motivated it, there can be no doubt that the methodical Akerele took this step having given careful consideration to his next steps.
It is worthy of commendation that a Nigerian would voluntarily relinquish such a “juicy position” and there can be no doubt, having carefully studied his antecedents, that he will surely blaze new trails in whatever career choice he makes next.
The argument for greater inclusion of youth and thoroughbred professionals in governance was very well made by the performance of Akerele who served in a difficult time and the nation would do well to reference this shining example going forward.
Benedict Aguele is mediaPrenuer he contributed this piece from Abuja, Twitter: @benaguele