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Ondo 2012:Mimiko and challenges of opposition
Ondo State governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, will have his hands full with challenges from many fronts ahead of the October 20 governorship election in the state. Group Politics Editor, Taiwo Adisa, examines the huddles posed by the opposition forces against the governor’s re-election bid.
AHEAD of the 2007 gubernatorial election in Ondo, there were two main contenders to the seat; then incumbent Governor Olusegun Agagu and the challenger, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, who had just resigned his position as Minister of Housing to plunge into the murky gubernatorial campaign. There was a groundswell of support in favour of the then challenger, Mimiko, as indigenes of the state, young and old, took turns to contribute their widow’s mites to his campaign train. Thus, it was obvious that Mimiko ran a people-oriented campaign and the huge expectation was there that his victory was assured.
But due to the initial setback, which saw the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declaring Agagu as winner of the election, Mimiko had to battle for his victory in the courts. Though the people resisted the decision by INEC to stop the announcement of the election results when it was sure Mimiko was coasting home to victory, the electoral body went ahead to name Agagu winner of the polls from Abuja. It could be said that the state knew no peace until the Court of Appeal, sitting in Benin City, Edo State, in February 2009, named Mimiko the winner of the April 2007 election in Ondo.
Since his assumption of office, Mimiko is said to have stayed with the people who gave him the power he now wields. It was said that in reference to the people, Mimiko designed the Caring Heart programme, which he fashioned after the Four Cardinal Programmes of the parties premiered by the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the defunct Action Group (AG) and the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). He immediately went to work by establishing the Caring Heart Mother and Child hospitals, the Caring Heart schools, the urban renewal projects and agricultural revival programme. Within a short while, the people of Ondo State started noticing the desired changes in the infrastructure of their state and the desired humane culture in governance. And from that point onwards, the refrain from the governor’s men has been “come and see.”
A number of top-level Nigerians have visited the state in recent times and have come up with words of commendation for the governor for his performance in a space of three years. Ranging from the clergy, the politician and the technocrat, everyone has applauded the positive contributions of the Labour Party (LP) government under Dr Olusegun Mimiko in Ondo. The World Bank had hailed the Mother and Child hospitals as not only world class but also as having contributed to drastic reduction in maternal mortality. The Universal Basic Education Programme (UBEC) has also hailed the Caring Heart Mega School projects as exemplary. With such flurry of accolades, there is the tendency to believe that the governor was home and dry in his second term bid.
Ordinarily, it should seem so, but as it is said in political parlance, it is not over until it is over. Just as Mimiko appears unrelenting in providing the dividends of democracy that should stand him out of the lot, like the Iroko tree which he shares a nickname with, his opponents are equally sleepless, strategising to outwit him. On the political turf, the main challenge is coming from the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which currently controls five of the six states of the South-West zone, with Mimiko’s Ondo being the okanlawon. Recently, however, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) appeared to have found its long lost rhythm when it nominated Olusola Oke, a lawyer, as its candidate for the October election.
But while the attack from the PDP is not as vociferous, ACN has constituted itself as the main challenger of Mimiko. Its leaders have also vowed to oust the governor to make way for a one-party control of the South-West. The battle has moved from ordinary politicking to a war of attrition, with the Osun State governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, being the chief strategist of the ‘Mimiko must go agenda’.
It was gathered that one of the issues that angered ACN was the refusal of Mimiko to join the platform of the party after he secured his election victory against PDP through the Court of Appeal. ACN has mouthed the claim that Mimiko had such an agreement with them and that they provided subtle backing for his legal tango with PDP. Another item on ACN’s agenda against Mimiko is the need to ensure that all the six states are under the “progressives” control. Incidentally, none of the points of departure between Mimiko and ACN has to do with the spate of development in Ondo as a recent critique of the government by a loyalist of the party only claimed that the state was only being treated to “window dressing.”
Mimiko’s insiders have, however, countered that while there was no agreement between the governor and the leaders of ACN on a possible defection, the insistence on a one-party control of the South-West is also untenable. They had claimed that Lagos State, under Senator Bola Tinubu, remained the lone party under the control of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 2003 and that PDP which controlled the five other states did not coerce or cajole Tinubu into dumping AD. According to Mimiko himself, the intregration of the South-West must be based on development agenda rather than political party affiliation. Besides, Mimiko’s men also said that if the development efforts ongoing in Ondo can be termed tokenism, the South-West would be better for it if such “tokenism” is replicated in all the South-West states, including Lagos, which takes home as much as over N30 billion monthly from federal allocation and taxes.
While the agitations by ACN against Mimiko’s re-election are not abating, the crisis generated by the primary election process that produced Rotimi Akeredolu(SAN) appears to have further relegated the party in the order of relevance in the Ondo election. A seasoned politician and former senator said last week that ACN was trailing LP just before the selection of Akeredolu but that the party has now dropped to a distant third. No fewer than 35 of its gubernatorial aspirants immediately defected to LP and PDP after Akeredolu was foisted on the party. Even at that, PDP is not going into this election with a single mind. There are those who believe that an alliance should have been struck with LP to ensure Mimiko’s return, rather than dissipating energy on the election. The feeling was said to be responsible for the refusal of many potential aspirants to pick the gubernatorial form ahead of the primaries.
Notwithstanding the challenges being faced by ACN in Ondo, sources have said that the incumbent governor, Mimiko, has a battle in his hands. It was said that he should be ready to approach the election as if he is contending against all the five other states of the zone. Besides the fact that the five ACN-controlled states are said to be pulling resources together to aid Akeredolu, Tinubu, the godfather in the party, is said to be particularly miffed by Mimiko’s refusal to join hands with him to create an hegemony over the South-West. But ACN is said to be hurt by the return of Dr Olu Agunloye to the LP. Indeed, Mimiko’s re-election appeared to have received a big boost with the return of his erstwhile estranged alter ego, Dr Agunloye, who made a public show of his return during the July 25 rally.
Will Mimiko scale the myriads of huddles arrayed against him in October? That is the question the people of Ondo will answer. But Mimiko’s Commissioner for Information, Kayode Akinmade, said that the people of the state would not serve a foreign god and that the people are appreciative of Mimiko’s strides in the past three years. “The people are aware that Mr Governor (Mimiko) is working for them and they will return him into office in an emphatic manner,” he said.
Two weeks ago, when Mimiko declared his intention to seek re-election in October, similar verdicts were given by a cross section of Yoruba leaders and opinion molders, Nollywood stars and politicians who insisted that the governor of Ondo State is the true Awo reincarnate. The long list include the leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Reuben Fasoranti; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Olu Falae, labour leaders, Comrades Bashir Omar, Peter Esele and other unionists. Respected chieftain of the Afenifere, Chief Adebanjo, said that he was convinced with what he saw in the state that Mimiko is a true Awoist. “You all know that I am Awolowo’s child and Mimiko is a child of Awolowo,” Adebanjo said, adding that he was happy that the people of the state have refused to be deceived by the so-called progressives. He said further: “I am happy that the people of Ondo are not part of the Akotileta (the prodigals). You all know that I am for Awo and Mimiko is a child of Awo. Awolowo’s children are those who govern to the desire of the common people. What Awo did is free education and Mimiko has built on it. We know those who claimed to be Awo’s children but their characters are different.”
Former presidential candidate, Chief Olu Falae, another leader of Afenifere, also told the people that LP is the most progressive party in Nigeria of today, adding that his party, the Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP), was collaborating to return Mimiko to office in October. He said that Mimiko had been exemplary, as his programmes were not just for the elite like him but tailored at the needs of the common people. “The ordinary people know what he is doing and we in Afenifere and SDMP are collaborating with him. We know those claiming to be progressives but they are not. Where Adebanjo is, where Afenifere is that is where the progressives are. I wish Iroko a successful second tenure,” Falae further said.
There were goodwill messages from other leaders, including Dr Kunle Olajide of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC); Trade Union Congress (TUC); the Nollywood crew, including Babatunde Omidina (Baba Suwe), Jibola Dabor, Foluke Daramola and Dele Odule, among others. Others who graced the event include the founder of Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Yinka Odumakin, Senator Remi Okurinboye, LP senators Boluwaji Kunlere and Ayo Akinyelure, members of the state House of Assembly as well as members of the state executive council.
Founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr Frederick Fasehun, also told the people that with his performance in governance in the past three years, Governor Mimiko had shown that he merited another term in office. He said he had been a believer in the governor from the start and that in 2007, he predicted that LP would win Ondo. He stated: “I was one of the people who told our governor that LP will take Ondo State and we did. Now that we have it, we will not allow it to slip. LP is the most progressive party in Nigeria and we have Mimiko at the helm. You have seen the good work he has done and we will all defend his return to office.”
The NLC president told the Ondo people that in Mimiko, they had a precious gold in their hands and they should not let it slip. He stated that NLC believed that Mimiko was the only answer to Ondo state and that the congress will back him 100 per cent. Omar said: “He came (into the race) barely three months into the 2007 election; some people tried to rob him of the election but God stood by Ondo and brought back the mandate. Ondo people, you have something precious in your hands; you have a precious gold in your hands. They said we have collected money. That is ridiculous and stupid.” His counterpart at the TUC, Peter Esele, said that when music is good, you play it over and over again. He said that Ondo State was today looking different because of Mimiko and that since he was playing a good music, the people should be ready to listen to the music again. He, however, appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure a free and fair election in Ondo, by warding off riggers and perpetrators of violence, just like he did in Edo State last month.
Fuji musician, Adewale Ayuba, who added some lyrics in recognition of Mimiko’s performance, said that God is the one who does not change his promise but that Mimiko had lived up to the reputation of a true child of God by keeping his promises of good service delivery to the people. “We know the politicians and we know the politricktians, Mimiko is a good politician. He has turned villages to towns and towns to cities. Let’s support him,” Ayuba said, with his music oozing out of the rhythmic booms of the talking drums.
Some words of reassurance for the people also came from Mimiko during the declaration. Looking at his posturing during the declaration, it is obvious the governor is aware of the political wolves that surround him as he invoked the name of God in songs and praises. He said that God’s goodness would see him through the challenges. He also told the people he was seeking re-election for five main reasons, chief among which is the need to complete and consolidate the good works he started through the Caring Heart policy.
The governor said: “For three and half years that we have been at the helm of affairs in this state, we have, by the grace of God, pursued activities that cohere with our vision of governance. We have formulated policies informed by the collective interests of our people, executed projects focusing on the primacy of man in the scheme of development and generally we have democratized access to good things of life for the dear citizens of our state. As we promised you in 2009, we have not shied away from what we consider the obligations of government in a society like our own.
“My good people of Ondo State, it is in the conviction that within the limits of our God-given resources and abilities, we have kept faith with the electorate, that I solemnly today seek your mandate for a second term in office as governor.”Share