Femi Sowoolu writes that though Governor Olusegun Mimiko looks good to win the October 20 governorship election in Ondo State, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, might become a liability in the aftermath of the exercise
Politicking in Nigeria has never been fair. Our political history is replete with tales that would send the Jeffery Archer and Frederick Forsyth novels off the bookshelves. Five-star generals and billionaire rogues have tattooed their blood stained signatures on the torsos of our political tapestry. Farmers, market women and peasants have fought for freedom even under the hegemony of totalitarianism. Magicians have been deployed to consternate our common senses.
They often s in the disguised robes of jurisprudence, spewing untenable legalese supported by fractions that don’t add up. Even animals have replaced human beings at polling stations, and technology is yet to diagnose how a single fingerprint can multiply itself over and over again, or how the innocent numeral, ‘zero’ can replicate itself such that a simple figure like ‘20’ can easily become ‘200,’ or ‘2000’ or ‘200,000’ or even ‘2,000,000!’ It is at times like these that some of us, born before the de-Nigerianisation of Nigeria began, often forlornly, to recite the first line of the first stanza of the first National Anthem: “Nigeria, we hail thee...”
The only universally acknowledged free and fair election ever held in Nigeria was the ill-fated Ibrahim Babangida plot that went awry, in which Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola was adjudged the winner. A group of analysts and thought provokers insist that if you seek the source of Nigeria’s current woes, you need go no further than June 12, 1993. Make amends for that, they insist Nigeria’s debilitating issues will self-adjust.
Others, more conservative hard liners, burnt by histories of repression and ‘under-doggism’ resist the thought - amends have been made, they insist...was Obasanjo not Abiola’s kinsman? We wish it were that simplistic. They told us that the simple things were the best things. Unfortunately ours is a country that loves to operate in opposite direction to the rest of the world. When others are swimming downstream, we always choose to swim against the currents.
Our tribal instincts obviously remain a major hindrance to nationhood, development and stability. Fifty-two years after independence, we still dislike our closest neighbours. We have been forced to unlearn that very vital second line from that same first anthem: “Though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand.”
The only other election truly regarded as free and fair happened more recently. The landslide governorship election in Edo State confirmed to all doubting Thomases, conniving Judges and corrupt Aninehs- that all a candidate needs to win an election is truth, honesty and service. Have you been to Edo State recently? Adams Oshiomhole has shown other state chief executives the true meaning of service.
By the way, do not mistake; Oshiomhole is shining not because Lucky Igbinedion was a total disaster - he shines because he came with a game plan to upturn the fortunes of the people, to manage resources better, to exponentially increase development, and simply to do the right things. A group of my Bini friends who were former staunch supporters of the Edo State PDP, still question the source of the Oshiomhole financing for all the multi-development projects he has embarked upon with a squint of sarcasm: “Sebi Lucky and Anenih say money nor dey ni? From whey dis Adamu come see money spend, so? Has anybody heard Anenih’s voice since the grand slam defeat? So, there is Fashola, there is Oshiomole, and there is...Mimiko.
I recently spent some time in Ondo State, a place I have visited rather regularly over the last five or so years. I have watched the transformation of the state - to borrow a term often over-glorified in other more central regions. I have witnessed what has been termed the Iroko revolution, and as a strong advocate of consistency and continuity, I am hoping that Governor Mimiko is given a second term to complete his extraordinary, extremely ambitious, yet beneficial and providential assignment for the people of Ondo State.
When Mimiko was sworn in upon winning through an election tribunal appeal in 2008, he came with a 12-point developmental agenda called ‘A Caring Heart’ for the people of Ondo State. The areas targeted by the agenda included agriculture and food security, community-driven city and coastal region renewal and general development initiatives, an aggressive capitalisation of land resource, roads and infrastructure, heavy industrialisation, a stern no-to-poverty agenda, and gender equality and women empowerment.
Also, healthcare and housing, education and capacity-building, artisanship development and empowerment programme, rural development, tourism, sports and youth development, were included in this massive regeneration project. A visit around the state will convince you that the state has indeed been working hard at ensuring that all the projects are on course, even as the indigenes have begun to reap the benefits of having a likeable, friendly, industrious and purpose-driven governor. These past four years, Ondo State has been developing peacefully, cohesively and without friction.
However, as the election draws near, the terror has reared its ugly head again. We need not remind anyone about how ugly politicking can get in Ondo State, before and after the election has been won, or lost. The sabres are being sharpened again. The blood has begun to spill. Everybody knows that in Ondo State, you do not throw stones! The last man who disbelieved had his name twisted around (Owo Bo’ri Omo!)
You do not need to be told that although, there are quite a number of parties contesting the seat with the incumbent, the main opposition is the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate, Mr. Olurotimi Akeredolu. Although, Akeredolu comes with peculiar pedigree, being the erstwhile Nigerian Bar Association President after years of successful legal enterprise, there appears to be something not quite right about his emerging candidacy.
As NBA President, he handled the position quite credibly, often contributing to national and political issues and even openly confronting government when the need arose. But one somehow feels that the timing of his political ambition is faulty. One feels, sadly, that the one we fondly call Aketi is being misadvised to contest at this most inopportune of moments. All military strategists know that there is a time to advance as well as a time to retreat. Both positions have relevant advantages based on prior preparation, strategy and planning.
If I were in the position to advise Aketi - and indeed I am, as we both shared the same classes at the prestigious Loyola College Ibadan in the wildness of our youth, I would have suggested to him to give it another four years. If he had let this one slide by and chose to contest the election on whatever political platform in the next election, I am positive of his absolute success. If he does not win the contest this time around, he could become a political liability in the future. So, the question begs answer: Why does the ACN want Ondo State so bad?
Students of Western Nigerian politics would give a credible answer. The ACN is variously regarded as an off-shoot of the legendary Awolowo political machine, although how the party came about achieving such status is disputable - the Awolowo family are at daggers drawn with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s empire. And mystery still surrounds the sudden death of the heir apparent, the Alliance for Democracy (AD) after the former President Olusegun Obasanjo blitzkrieg which snatched the ‘West’ from AD in 2003. By single-handedly orchestrating the recapture of the traditional ‘Western’ States either by outright electoral success or through the legalese of election tribunal from the grip of the PDP, Tinubu earned his title of ‘Asiwaju.’
However, there was one little niggling problem left - Ondo State. Truth, Tinubu put his might, financial and otherwise behind Mimiko’s defence during the election tribunal appeal proceedings. Is it true that Mimiko had promised to defect to the ACN thirty days after his election success? To start looking for answers or to find reasons why adult men behave the way they do at times, is to divert attention from positives that enhance progress.
What one would have expected the ACN hierarchy to do would have been to explore the possibilities of working some sort of coalition with Mimiko’s Labour Party that would ensure stability for the region and possible symbiotic relationships in future elections, which could benefit both parties and certainly ensure guaranteed years of sustained progress for the people of Ondo. In this regard, it is my opinion that Asiwaju and his party have not put the people of Ondo State first.
Things have not always worked according to plan in the ACN camp. More recently, the party lost the prestigious Ikoyi/Obalende Local Government Development Area Council seat to the rival PDP when the Lagos Local Government Elections Petition Tribunal, sitting on petitions challenging the results of the local government election conducted into the 20 councils and the 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDA), handed victory to Ibrahim Babajide Obanikoro, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the duly elected chairman of the LCDA in the election.
It also ordered the removal of the ACN candidate, Mr. Adewale Adeniji, who had been occupying the seat immediately after the election. Ibrahim Obanikoro is the son of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, former Nigerian Ambassador to Ghana and a former commissioner in the cabinet of Senator Bola Tinubu in Lagos State, who had defected to the PDP.
The tribunal ruling is a huge jolt for the ACN whose National Leader, Tinubu directly resides in the area. The implication is that the opposition party is now directly in charge of affairs in the Jagaban estate. Wahala dey!
It is rather unfortunate that reliable pre-election polls are inexistent in this part of the world that could to some extent, predict the probable voting patterns of the coming election, otherwise one would have been able to predict the pulse of the Ondo State people. But that isn’t my main worry. What worries me the most is the do-or-die nature of our politics. Violence has begun to take over, and things will likely get worse as we move closer to election day. But I should leave you with these candid final thoughts: The sum total of the Ondo situation of the last four years is that the ‘Caring Heart’ government is working.
The incumbent governor’s sterling performance during his first term can be seen all over the state - in the schools, in hospitals, in the mothercare, in the industries, on the farms and in communities, infrastructure renewal and regeneration which is visible all over the state. You can see it on the streets, in the markets, in sporting competitions, in tourism and rural development. This is the man that should be returned and re-elected for continuity and for fast track development. But as all is fair in love, or war, we can only hope that the better man wins. Do vote wisely and I wish you God’s guidance always!
•Sowoolu wrote in from Akure, Ondo State