Adeola Akinremi writes that Dr. Olusegun Mimiko’s path to electoral victory in last Saturday’s governorship election in Ondo State has a bearing with rural development and care for women
On the election day, there was something strange in his eyes. He looked fatigued. His eyes socket appeared dropped and the fatty tissue that padded the eyes had obviously relaxed, thus allowing for an abnormal movement of the eyes. Abdul-Rahman Olusegun Mimiko, the re-elected governor of Ondo State was not his normal self by the time he arrived the polling booth last Saturday, although he was confident of victory. The threat he had faced during the electioneering period in the hands of the opposition, especially his party’s main challenger, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) had changed his demeanor from one of a placid looking man to one under intense stress.
Mimiko’s challenges were truly not about how to convince the electorate to cast their vote for him and return him to the Government House for a second term; his main challenges had to do with the dynamics of politics. The main opposition ACN had tagged him enemy after his blunt refusal to defect to the party upon his victory at the Court of Appeal in Benin, Edo State, in 2009.
In one of his campaign messages while on a tour of communities in Ondo State last month, Mimiko stated: “They did not say I have not performed. In fact, they acknowledged that Ondo State is working. But they said I should come and join their party and we told them that the people had not asked us to join any political party as the Labour Party (LP) is doing fine. They then threatened to make the state ungovernable and capture it if we did not join them.”
Weeks before the election, Mimiko truly experienced verbal political attacks and the drumbeats of war from the opposition. But, for every barrage of attack Mimiko absorbed, he responded with a few word: “We want free and fair election because it is certain that we will win.”
In the end, it was not different from his personal prediction; he won with a wide margin. With a total vote of 260.199, Mimiko crushed his arch rivals, Oluwarotmi Akeredolu of ACN who emerged a distant third with 143,512 votes, coming behind Olusola Oke of the PDP who polled 155,961 votes.
But more importantly, last Saturday election may have placed emphasis on rural development and women support as pivotal in vote swing in any election.
Across the polling booth throughout the State, large number of Women with higher percentage than men turned out to vote. A source close to some women group in the State told THISDAY that the decision for women to vote was not unconnected with the free healthcare programme of the Mimiko administration which touched people in the rural areas. “I can tell you that Governor Mimiko had sufficiently appealed to the mind of the women long ago. I think he had fore-knowledge of who will decide the winner at election, because many of the women equally influenced their husbands and sons to cast their vote for Mimiko.
“I can also tell you that women have been holding meetings in groups for sometime before the election in various communities to ensure that they were not divided over the decision to cast their vote one hundred per cent for Mimiko and that was what played out on the election day.”
The Mimiko’s rural vote advantage over his opponents is predicated on his 12 points agenda that sufficiently prioritise rural development and care for the women. Within the first 100 days during his first term of office, Mimiko gave clear indications of his readiness to govern and deliver on promises. He hinged his party’s 12-point agenda on “A Caring Heart” philosophy.
Immediately after his inauguration in 2009, he fired the first salvo with beautification project in Akure, a strategy that political experts described as a ‘quick win’ opportunity. Government said the project was designed to give the capital city a facelift. Truly, that singular act immediately erased the ever-present traffic gridlock at the popular Oja Oba market within the capital city. Many road contracts were also awarded while work was intensified on the ongoing or abandoned projects. According to statistics, Mimiko spent over N7 billion on projects abandoned by his predecessor in office, while over 700 projects have also been executed by the LP government.
Government, in addition to this, also quickly launched out early on the housing sector with the construction of 1500 units of affordable houses within the first 100 days. After that, Mimiko then went for the ‘kill’ as a political strategist to fully take over the heart of Ondo residents by embarking on the construction of a specialist Mother and Child hospital popularly known as Abiye. Instantly, the Abiye hospital launched Mimiko into both national and international appeal. He soon became the talk of the town. The target, according to him, was to reduce infant mortality and pregnancy related deaths. The mother and child hospital, thus, complemented the already over-stretched State Specialist Hospital.
Perhaps the drilling of some 40 boreholes and distribution of over 1,000 eye glasses to the visually impaired in the State within his first 100 days in office also endeared him to the rural and sub-urban dwellers in the State. Having done that, his administration continued to build on the foundations and by the time he launched his second term campaign, he already had his achievements working for him while he was telling the people: “we will do more”.
Even the fiery Pastor Tunde Bakare, vice-presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in the last presidential election having understood how women and projects implementation in rural areas can swing vote, had predicted a landslide victory for Mimiko.
Mrs. Ruth Olawale, a resident of Ajebamdele, a rural community in Ondo State after casting her vote last Saturday said: “Dr. Mimiko is like a good road which deserves to be passed twice.” This, political analysts say, underscores the bond between Mimiko and the citizens and the reasons he won the election with a landslide.
According to a development expert and the former country Director for Action Aid in Nigeria, Dr. Otive Igbuzo, who monitored the election, Mimiko may have etched his name in the heart of the Ondo people because of his bond with the people well ahead of the eletion day.
“I talked to a lot of people in Ondo and from what I gathered, there is a perception that Mimiko is performing. In my view, the Ondo election has contributed to the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria because before the election, nobody could really say who would win or would not. Also, the votes cast did not show a particular dominance. When you look at the vote of the PDP and ACN together, it is more than the vote of LP. The political context is really improving from what happened in Edo and now in Ondo,” he said.
National Secretary of the LP, Alhaji Abdulsalami Salam, gave reasons for Mimiko’s victory in an interview. He said “Mimiko has been able to surpass any governor consistently and continuously in Ondo State. You will see; it is a practical and physical phenomenon. Go to every ward, there is development. Go to every rural area, there is development. The people are happy; they feel the effects of governance. No governor has been able to achieve this kind of thing. What they have been able to do is to develop the State capitals, but Olusegun Mimiko reached every nook and cranny of Ondo State.”
As Analysts were doing the electoral math in the days before the election, Mimiko made their job a lot difficult. During his campaign tour, he created momentous capable of putting him in the lead or keeping his voters with him while opposition continued with their verbal attacks.
During a campaign tour of Okitipupa Local Government Council as well as parts of Akoko in the northern part of the state, Mimiko commissioned some projects at Oka-Akoko that included an ultra modern market of 264 open stores and 92 lockup shops and the Oka – Akoko Health Centres located at Akowonjo, Igbo Egun and Iwaro Oka, where he also commissioned a town hall. He also gave out cheques worth N16 million as micro credit loans to the various market women’s associations in the area besides the distribution of 21 Nissan cars as part of the empowerment scheme.
No doubt, Mimiko’s penchant for executing projects that affected the lot of women and children was the overriding effect in the victory he garnered at the Last Saturday election.