By Kayode Akinmade
As the drums were rolled out Thursday October 3, in celebrating the 65th birthday of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, two-time governor, architect of modern Ondo State and national political figure, it is fitting to make a few remarks on his rich record of service to humanity. That Mimiko ruled like a colossus over the affairs of Ondo State and broke the record, spending two terms in office, is well known. But the more ennobling story is that he gave his all in service of Ondo State and the nation and recorded landmarks that place him strictly in a class of his own. As a disciple of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Mimiko brought an uncommonly high nexus of ideological sophistication and political savvy into governance, striving hard to elevate the downtrodden and hitherto misgoverned citizens of Ondo State into a happy and significantly fulfilled populace fully ready to work with the government and achieve their dreams. Adopting a bottom-up approach to governance, he executed over 6000 projects requested by the people themselves through the change agents deployed across the state.
There are indeed many things dear to the heart of the man known in political circles as Iroko, but I have chosen this occasion to begin with the eradication of maternal mortality in Ondo State. It is no exaggeration that as a medical doctor, Mimiko would give anything just to save a life. Before he got into office, Ondo had the highest maternal mortality rate in the South-West, far above the national average of 545 per 100,000 live births. But that soon became history. Mimiko declared that pregnancy would no longer be a death sentence in Ondo State, and rolled out the Abiye programme that would later be adopted by the World Bank as the benchmark for the African continent. Abiye addressed delay in accessing treatment, a leading cause of maternal deaths, on all levels. The primary phase of delay was tackled by tracking pregnant women, using the health ranger assigned to them, with monitoring done with motorbike or tricycle using customised checklist and mobile phone, while the secondary phase was tackled by providing motorbikes, tricycles or four wheel drive ambulance and boats, as appropriate means of transportation whenever complication or emergency situations arose. The tertiary phase was addressed by ensuring that basic or comprehensive health facilities were provided in each of the wards in the18 local government areas in the state, with a General or Specialist hospital also provided, well equipped and manned by trained personnel. The last phase involved ensuring that all the health personnel understood the effective referral network from basic to comprehensive and then to specialist hospital or mother and child hospital, the apex maternal and child health care centre.
Abiye recorded landmark achievements in seven key areas, namely: managing and discharging routine post-vaginal delivery patients within 24 hours and post-caesarean section patients within 48 hours without compromising on quality of care, thereby reducing cost of care and work load per patient, and increasing patient turnover by more than 100 per cent, simultaneously; developing a confidential enquiry format of reporting and recording maternal and child deaths with emphasis on avoidable factors, missed opportunities and levels of substandard care; developing an easily reproducible scoring system of tracking maternal morbidities and near-miss mortalities to expand our maternal health data base; and, of course, developing a unique and cost-effective digitalized drug procurement system that has practically eradicated out-of-stock syndrome, the bane of many free health schemes across the country. There were state-of-the-art training mannequins including electronic force monitoring birthing and airway management simulators for life-like practical demonstrations and applications on emergency care; collaborations with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to conduct a multi-centre double blind randomized clinical trial on management of postpartum haemorrhage using tranexamic acid (an anti-fibrinolytic agent); and, finally, the development of a revolutionary health education video CD in vernacular (subtitled in English), emphasising birth preparedness and complication readiness.
In no time, Abike captured the global imagination. Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York on the programme, Mimiko said: “We vowed that pregnancy will no longer be a death sentence in our state and we embarked on a comprehensive process of intervention that has yielded noticeable results in a short period of time. From a novel process of tracking pregnant women through ICT tools, to providing care and access at all stages of pregnancy to delivery and five weeks after, we have provided care at no cost to the woman or her family at the point of care. Several lives have been saved in the process.” But then, there was the revolution in education. He built over 50 mega schools equipped with world class facilities, and completely free of charge, across the state. There were free school buses, uniforms, sandals, bags and books. There was the Quality Education Assurance Agency involved in maintaining standards and setting parameters in all the agencies and departments of government in the state. There were buses conveying students to and from school at no cost at all. Governor Mimiko’s objective was that no parent in Ondo State should work himself/herself to death trying to send children to school.
Identifying markets to be a major avenue of social interaction and an organ of governance in any Yoruba setting, his administration built over 40 neighbourhood markets described by tourists as five-star markets. The facilities included 24hrs solar light, crèche, clinic, toilets, police post, a bank and boreholes. This was part of environmental engineering. Indeed, in the bid to make Akure and other towns in the state functional, the state government evolved the mechanic village, where auto workers operated in a state-of-the art environment. He built state-of-the-art motor parks, for instance, the Driver’s Airport in Akure. It had well-covered loading bays, an arrival and departure lounge with 10 split air conditioning machines, shops, canteens, restrooms; industrial bore hole, communication cubicle, a first aid bay, and a dedicated transformer. While awaiting the take off of their vehicles, passengers watched cable television. Mimiko built the international auto mart along the Ilesha-Owo Road in Akure, in order to remove the car sellers from the streets, in line with his urban renewal policy. The highpoint of these efforts was his decoration in Naples, Italy, by the United Nations as the winner of its 2012 Habitat Scroll of Honour award during the 6th edition of the World Urban Forum, in recognition of his contributions to sustainable human settlement development in Ondo State. There were only two winners in Africa continent: the Mayor of Harare and Mimiko. In the area of agriculture, the administration built the Ore Agric Village, the Caring Heart Agric Village at Ore, and others in Epe and Auga- Akoko, among others. Under Mimiko, the land digitisation system took off. The Mare festival in Idanre drew people from all over the world to Idanre on a yearly basis. The list of achievements and awards is literally endless.
As a politician, Governor Mimiko has over the years taken steps that many in political circles have not always agreed with, including the movement from Labour Party to the PDP, or the formation of the Zenith Labour Party, but he has always had good reasons for his action, and it is instructive that he never forced any of his aides to toe the same path. As he turned 65, the story of service to humanity can only get more beautiful.
*Akinmade, former Commissioner of Information under Governor Mimiko, contributes this piece from Gwarimpa, Abuja.