In Ondo State, Governor Olusegun Mimiko’s celebration of June 12 is instructive, writes Kayode Akinmade
Bashorun MKO Abiola, Nigeria’s democracy martyr joined his illustrious ancestors 18 years ago, but his name rings a bell still. Offering nothing but a programme to actualise the dream of Nigeria’s underprivileged to live a decent life, Abiola, or MKO as he was (and still is) fondly called, encouraged by the unprecedented pull of universal goodwill he enjoyed, plunged himself fully into the 1993 presidential project. From North to South, East and West, Nigerians trooped out and chorused in unison: “MKO is our man o.”
At his first outing on the political scene in the Second Republic, he had not been of the progressive fold, but time and tide soon forged different – and oh yes, noble – circumstances and the greatest Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba modern history joined up with the very people he should have started with, clothed in humility and brimming with the zeal to make a change.
His was real change anchored on a distinguished, widely travelled and exposed solid intellectualism. It was change anchored on the depth of proven achievements spanning decades of excellence; a change that even the downtrodden men and women of the uniformed services embraced with fervour, knowing that it was bound to bring a smile.
However, the election already clearly won by Abiola was annulled. Many lost their lives in the melee that ensued but Sani Abacha, who would be named in 2004 as the fourth most corrupt leader in all of history, was to later assume office and execute the most brutal dictatorship ever in the national history.
And so the nation, today, remembers June 12 in different ways. Lectures are given and rhetoric published in the media, even by those who aborted June 12.
In Ondo, a state run by a true disciple of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, June 12 has always been celebrated in style, not by a public holiday but through lectures and symposia and celebration of life-changing projects dedicated to the memory of MKO. For on June 12, 2012 it was that the Dr. Olusegun Mimiko administration rolled out the free shuttle buses that have made schooling such a pleasure in the Sunshine State.
The shuttle buses convey primary and secondary school students to and from school, easing their transportation burden. The scheme started with 39 buses in 2012 and by 2013, the fleet increased to 90. It is a tribute to efficient management that, till date, all the buses are on the road in good condition.
The Mimiko administration had taken bold steps to institutionalise the programme through a bill to the Ondo State House of Assembly, which will ensure that the programme outlives it. That is a hallmark of progressivism. It has also honoured its pledge to extend the services of the buses, and shuttle boats, to the remaining local government areas in the state that were previously not enjoying it.
The Ondo youngsters get to school in time and without hassles, ready to learn, and stories of students lost to okada (motorbike) accidents have become alien to Ondo State. Most youths in Nigeria today simply do not know Chief MKO Abiola, the progenitor of the current democratic climate.
But on June 12, Mimiko reminds youths in Ondo State that the free shuttle buses they enjoy is part of the life-changing projects, which MKO would have executed had he been allowed to utilise the mandate freely given to him by Nigerians. The people-oriented scheme has indeed empowered parents and guardians as it has substantially alleviated the financial and physical burden of transporting their children to and from school daily.
It is on record that its services since inception exactly three years ago have been running uninterrupted. The scheme has been civil servant-driven since inception and this is a demonstration of the efficiency of the Ondo State civil service.
Speaking during the June 12 celebrations held at the State Cultural Centre, Adegbemile, Akure last year, Dr. Mimiko promised that “we shall continue to honour these patriots, not just in rhetoric but by seeking to actualise the noble values of good governance and democracy which many of them lived and died for.
“We shall continue to consolidate on our numerous programmes targeted at improving the livelihoods of the people and residents of our state, and focus on the governance content of June 12. As we remember June 12, we, as critical stakeholders in the project Nigeria, must continually play the game with the sole aim of deepening the country’s democratic culture and peaceful co-existence among the various political, religious, ethnic and socio-economic entities.”