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Gov election: Akure as waterloo
Rotimi Akeredolu, a.k.a. Aketi arrived the battlefield of Ondo State with a medal.
He was an activist-chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), a platform from which he engaged the policy of state on a wide range of social issues that was on the ‘exclusive’ list of lawyers’ concerns. For his heroic struggles on many matters affecting our rights, as Nigerians, which the bar took upon itself to either articulate or champion, we applauded the white bearded attorney. And, as they say, he paid his dues as a defender of public causes. All of this we may soon forget as he has since shelved his silk, the privileged gown of Senior Attorney at the bar, and removed his intimidating wig, the mystifying head gear replacement of the white-headed jurists in the court of star chambers of old.
Now that he has thrown his cap into the ring, as a candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to bid for the prized seat of the Sun-Shine State, new parameters will be required and introduced for his new political engagement. As he himself should be aware, his credentials as a public figure, including, but not limited, to his role in the NADECO leadership harassment in the residence of Chief Adekunle Ajasin in Owo would surely up come for reckoning. But this is the least of his problem, except that while Yorubas are ready to forgive enemies from outside who waged war against them, they are most unlikely to forgive their own member who opened the door and gave a helping hand, no matter how little to the invader of the homestead. For the descendants of Oduduwa, those who poured poison into the village drinking pot would forever be hunted for their malevolence.
In his quest to be the governor of Ondo State, at this period of Yoruba history, he comes face to face against two formidable opponents: the incumbent governor and history, and both are inclusive of one another as Segun Mimiko may well be the defender of Yoruba cherished and proud legacy of resistance against being conquered and enslaved on their own land, even by an enemy from within.
To the average voter in Ondo State and the ordinary interested Nigerian public, the election coming up in October is just another contest in another corner of Nigeria. As a student of history, anytime I remember 1983 and the attempted electoral robbery, I always pray that somebody should not attempt to tempt the people of Ondo State, a proud breed noted for their self-esteem. And it could be worst if there is a feeling that an electoral heist has been committed against their collective interest, aided by an external force. The feeling is in the air, and it is justified if the pedigree and antecedents of the empire-builders of Yorubaland are not treated with cursory sensibility. But I hope they are not poor students of history.
However, for concerned Nigerians of Yoruba extraction, the battle for Alagbaka is more than electing one contestant as governor. it is a battle between political hegemony of a tendency, personified by an individual, and the liberty of a proud race whose time-honoured heritage is being hijacked by pretenders, masquerading as ‘the preferred one; And this is why I sympathise with Mimiko as he shoulders a responsibility. Given the objective condition on ground, he, and the people of Ondo State are to decide where the Yoruba race may be headed.
If the election of October were to be a matter of electing a governor, other people of Yoruba extraction, outside of Ondo State, will not be that much bothered beyond hoping that, as it was the case with Edo State, where an Adams Oshiomhole was the candidate, PDP should not have its way. To be clear about it, the issue in Edo State was not about ACN against PDP. It was a case of one good character, a David, in battle against a Goliath, the PDP as Philistine. Thus, when some of us rooted for ACN in Edo State, the mistake should not be made by taking our support as an endorsement of a party whose leadership in the South-West is all about appropriating the anti-PDP sentiments of Yoruba people to install its own brand of nihilist political philosophy. Thus, for many of us, the election in Ondo State is a battle to reclaim part of the land from those who would rather hijack the goodwill of Awolowo political tendency for a negotiation tactic for retail politics of national relevance. Our consolation in this Titanic struggle is that Mimiko, the General of this liberating army, comes with a well-fortified armoury of ground-breaking and agenda-setting quality performance – in all sectors of political economy. I saw them all. Or, let me say, I saw a fraction of them and that half-filled glass of cold-refreshing water was good enough to satisfy a soul in quest of elevating performance index, in the South-West.
Sometime in June I got a phone call from a compatriot with whom I had navigated Yoruba politics under the auspices of Alajobi, a coalition of Pan-Yoruba organisations which operated under the influence of Afenifere strategic-objective requesting me to attend the 19th annual conference of All-Yoruba Youth Conference being organised by Coalition of Self-determination Groups (COSEG) slated for Akure, Ondo State. Ordinarily, it was a kind of event I was familiar with and would normally attend, if only to reunite with friends and ruminate over the disaster that has befallen the house of Oduduwa, our common patrimony.
Beyond the convention, I saw my trip to Akure as an opportunity to see an old friend in Afenifere political committee, Governor Olusegun Mimiko, from whom I had an unfulfilled long standing invitation since becoming a governor. Since he headed for PDP where he was SSG to the administration of Segun Agagu, I had not met with him. Though his parting of ways with us in the Alliance for Democracy (AD) was painful for many of us, the younger elements in Afenifere, his departure was understandable given the unfairness with which he was treated in an ensuing political contest in 2003 that was ambushed mid-trajectory. Because of my deep affection for the memory of Pa Adefarati, the detail of that drama of the absurd that was staged, as we arrived Akure to conduct the primary for the governorship candidates of AD, in which Mimiko was a serious contender, is better left out of recollection, at least for now. Except that the denied candidate has proven, before our very eyes, that he is a formidable force to reckon with, at least in the politics of Ondo State. Starting from ground zero, he created his own political platform and convinced the people to follow him to relaunch Ondo State on the path of greatness. The rest is history.
To be sure, Mimiko is an interlocutor’s delight, a highly cerebral person he certainly is still with his faculty and in charge of his oratorical skill with which he ‘mesmerised’ the Students Representative Council (SRC) as he moved his agenda-setting motions during our days at our Great Ife.
What I, in company of delegates and guests to the COSEG-organised conference, saw in Akure, were not different from what normal government should do, and which most would not do. At least in kind. What, however, distinguished the Ondo experience is the difference, in degree of project conception and execution, the type of which I am yet to witness in any of the South-West states which I rightly claim some understanding of its politics, policies, programmes and projects. In the Ondo experience there is a deliberate attempt to raise the bar of developmental agenda. Yet, in the conception, the people are the very nucleus of the programmes. By people, I mean the majority and not the tiny elite class. As a teacher the school buildings were of interest to me. The truth is, what Mimiko calls public primary school buildings are way out of the buildings and landscaping of many high-brow private-sponsored secondary schools. Without engaging in unwarranted hyperbole the administrative building of one such, classified as Type A, is better than the administrative block of a state university of my acquaintance. Baffled at what I considered unnecessary sophistication for a primary school, the governor would later respond, in the course of his address to the conference, that the mission is to change the conception of education, and primary school environment and facilities, such as library and computer room, being the foundation of the education edifice, is just the right place to begin the reconstruction. I was not unduly surprised about his programme on health, especially the child-mother care programme. Being a medical doctor, one that has been a Commissioner for Health in the state he is expected to express a bias. Or, as the Dettol advertiser would say, ‘if I don’t take care of them, who will? And he really pampered the women who are unwittingly being encouraged to go procreate as much as their husbands could afford the time and muster the required energy. As we would quip in Ife, ‘I go do o’.
It is difficult to do a thorough review of Mimiko, administration projects in a piece as this, whose mission is outside of such, beyond the need to establish the fact that his candidature in the race to Alagbaka House for a second term in October has been well-earned.
And I stand to be contradicted that Mimiko, the ‘Iroko’ of Western State political forest need not be bothered by the cutting knifes being brandished around its well-rooted trunk. No one is known to have felled the fearful tree of Yoruba forests with a blunted knife.