Ondo: A Lesson on Political Transition


The spirit of camaraderie with which the Ondo State governor and the governor-elect are approaching the imminent transition of power highlights a commendable culture of change that the country’s politicians should imbibe. Vincent Obia writes

Penultimate Wednesday, the governor-elect of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, visited the incumbent governor, Olusegun Mimiko, at Government House, Akure, in a gesture meant to ensure a smooth transition from the latter’s Peoples Democratic Party administration to the incoming All Progressives Congress government. The handover will take place next February, but the groundwork for the event is being jointly laid by both leaders.

Akeredolu was declared governor-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission following his victory at the November 26 election in the state. He defeated the candidate of Mimiko’s PDP, Eyitayo Jegede. It was a bitter contest in which the ruling PDP in the state and the opposition APC put in everything they had to try to win.

But after all the election brouhaha, Mimiko and Akeredolu decided to bury their differences. They chose to forget their personal feelings and focus on the big picture: the peace and development of Ondo State.
“We are here as indigenes of Ondo who are concerned about the progress and development of the state,” Akeredolu told the outgoing governor during the visit. “We all owe you debts of gratitude for your service to this state and to Nigeria. Whether we like it or not, you have a track record that I’m not too sure many people can surpass.”

It was a rare moment of camaraderie that the country’s politicians at all levels should learn from.
Reconciliation is difficult but not strange. The ability to see beyond personal gain and look at the general interest of society lies at the heart of all questions of political reconciliation.
Interestingly, the developing story of amicable transition in Ondo State is the continuation of a culture of politics that appears to be taking root, particularly at the presidency, as the country tries to steady itself on the path of change from one democratic government to another. Nigeria has a limited experience of such political transition.

The change was seamless from the dawn of the Fourth Republic in 1999 to 2015, perhaps, because it involved the transfer of power from one PDP government to another. It was more like an exchange of power between godfather and godson. A typical vision of every elected political office holder in the country is to determine his successor.

But it was former President Goodluck Jonathan who tried to expand the national experience of political transition last year, when he handed over to President Muhammadu Buhari. Jonathan had also called Buhari to congratulate him, even before the declaration of the final result, as the outcome of the presidential election became clearer.

Jonathan’s approach to the 2015 transition was an example for Africa. Buhari appreciated this in his inaugural speech on May 29 last year, as he thanked the former president “for his display of statesmanship in setting a precedent for us that has now made our people proud to be Nigerians wherever they are. With the support and cooperation he has given to the transition process, he has made it possible for us to show the world that despite the perceived tension in the land we can be a united people capable of doing what is right for our nation.”

When recently Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, reportedly, called his victorious opponent in the December 1 election, Adama Barrow, to congratulate him and concede defeat, many saw it as part of the good effects of Jonathan’s exemplary attitude on the continent’s politics. “What Jonathan did is already yielding fruit. That’s the first time in Africa. What Jonathan did touched the whole world,” said former Osun State Deputy Governor Iyiola Omisore. Though, Jammeh has since made a U-turn, in what is widely seen as an afterthought.

Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State and his predecessor, Kayode Fayemi, had also tried to present an instance of amicable transfer of power in 2014. Fayose had paid a courtesy visit to the then governor, Fayemi, at Government House, Ado-Ekiti, to work out a strategy for smooth transition of power from the APC government to the incoming PDP administration.

These are lofty political ideals worthy of emulation by all politicians in the country.
Political instability in Nigeria has gone down. The country has broken the jinx of military intervention in politics. But the politicians need to go further to establish a character of fair play and good sportsmanship. This is needed to ease the tensions that often mar democratic contests and tend to destroy both interpersonal and group relationships.
What is happening between Mimiko and Akeredolu in Ondo State is a good step forward. Nigerian politicians have a lot to learn from it.