This is a person well known around the Aikido community with over 40 years of practice. My personal opinion is that Yondan is long overdue and it should have been awarded to him.
How comes that he has over 40 years of practice and is "only" sandan?
Well, talking about aikikai the regular way is to be tested for yondan and to be awarded godan ...
So perhaps to be awarded yondan could be understood as "he is too old, he is too ... whatever to do the test. So we award it to him."
Perhaps he himself wanted the test?