GIVEN the circumstances, it is very tempting to have a complete misreading of the outcome of the October 20 governorship election in Ondo State in which the incumbent, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, was declared the winner. More foreboding, the significance on Yoruba politics and democracy in general could easily be lost.
Some people have erroneously proposed the election as a direct contest between Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his lieutenants like Osun Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola on one hand and Governor Mimiko on the other.
To begin with, neither Asiwaju Tinubu nor Ogbeni Aregbesola was a candidate in the election. Rotimi Akeredolu was the candidate of their party, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. What they did was to deploy their political and campaign skills into Akeredolu’s governorship project. It was the same way Edward Kennedy poured himself into the Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. What they did for Akeredolu was no different from what they did for Adams Oshiomhole in Edo, Abubakar Audu in Kogi, James Akpandohehe in AkwaIbom and Steve Ugbah in Benue State. It’s the same intensity, panache and wits. There is nothing unusual and nothing to be ashamed of.
If Aregbesola threatened that he was going to drive out Mimiko from office prior to the October 20 election, it was a legitimate political statement consistent with his standing as a leader in ACN. What would have been bizarre would have been for him to promise to support Mimiko for a second term when his party was going to field a candidate for that election.
The first duty of a political party is to contest electoral offices by fielding candidates and seeking to win. A political party stands for something in terms of ideology, values, tradition, programmes, development agenda, etc. When people vote for a candidate of a political party, they are indeed buying into these. The ACN, for instance, stands for progressivism. This is the tradition directly descended from Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the father of progressive politics in Nigeria. It is a tradition of Fabian socialism with its hallmark of egalitarianism, human development and social welfare. In contrast, a party like Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is descended from a tradition of hierarchy, big money, plutocracy and neo-feudalism.
When these parties campaign, this is what they try to sell and those who vote for them have wittingly or unwittingly bought these products, assuming that the election is free and fair. The tendency though is that a party like PDP will see democracy as a system of power, rather than a platform for providing choice for the people and would therefore not have the slightest compunction in rigging and manipulating election as long as it serves the purpose of either getting its members into power or keeping them in it.
Nevertheless, it is the raison d’etre of a political party to contest elections, seek to win where it was excluded from power and consolidate on where it holds sway.
This point is very important in light of the negative campaign of the Mimiko campaign team and a section of the media who either don’t know what democracy is about or have conveniently forgotten that parties seek to win election and were accusing ACN of seeking to extend its influence to Ondo State.To put the records straight, ACN had sought to expand its reaches to other places and narrowly lost in places like Anambra and other aforementioned states where its governorship candidate is now a senator of the Federal Republic.
It simply beggars belief how supposedly ‘enlightened’ people will urge a political party not to contest election in a particular place because that party is strong in the region.
This point is overstretched and expanded into the ‘alien’ and ‘Lagos invaders’ hysteria that ran through the campaign. If this logic is to hold water, only one election is to ever be held in a country and the parties should just be allowed to rule indefinitely in any territory where they win the first election. The Labour Party for instance that had no political base prior to 2008 in Ondo State cannot and should be disqualified from contesting any election anywhere in the country. Of course, this will be absurd, but those who take a position forget to reconcile their position with a bigger principle.
It is interesting to note that the Mimiko campaign was never about any issue, development agenda or a solid base of first term achievement. Rather, it ran seamlessly on the divisive tide of rejecting the Lagos invaders and a godfather. If we are to accept for a second that Ondo people indeed rejected the Lagos invaders and a godfather, it means Ondo people have alienated themselves from the greater Yoruba agenda and the march of history.
On the face value, the consequence of this would have been political isolation of Ondo State by other Yoruba states. But this is not an option. This is the Ondo of Papa Adekunle Ajasin, Papa Adebayo Adefarati and other titans of Awolowo school of political leadership. It fill me with trepidation to think that the Ondo that drove out Akin Omoboriowo in 1983 in order to enforce the enthronement of Adekunle Ajasin who was the candidate of Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Awolowo (Baba Ijebu)’s party, has now degenerated into an insular and other-Yoruba-hating enclave.
Of course, there are Ondo indigenes in Lagos and other Yoruba states, doing business and occupying positions of political leadership. If an Ondo indigene for instance is keen, he or she can be a governor in Lagos State that has become the avatar of Yoruba accommodation and openness. In Osun here, there are frontline members in the Aregbesola government who are from Ondo State and are in every sense at home. That is the way it has always been and should be in Yorubaland. Some people, however, for their own selfish reason, have for the first time brought this divisiveness into Yorubaland and are being cheered on in evil mischief by a section of the media and Yoruba owned media for that matter.
It will however be unfair to ascribe this unwholesome development to Ondo people who indeed are as progressive and well-meaning as they come. This is no exaggeration – Ondo people are the nicest people you can ever have as your neighbour. I speak from a rich experience.
Those who engineered this campaign represented nobody but themselves and spoke for no one other than themselves. More importantly, Governor Mimiko was declared winner for fulfilling the requirements of the Electoral Act which states that a winner must have at least one third of the total votes cast in two thirds of the local governments. This interestingly translates into a paltry 260,199, representing only 40 per cent of the total votes and certainly less than two per cent of the population of the whole state. I have no problem with this. Democracy is about the rule of law.
It will be unfair however to hold Ondo people responsible for this mea culpa. It is one of the imperfections of democracy that a supposedly democratic election would produce a most unusual outcome. This confirms again the notion that democracy only offers a platform for choice but does not guarantee a rational one. The people however will have to live with the consequences of their choice, good or bad.
Our consolation however is in the words of the Nobel Laureate that nowhere in the natural order of things does a mere bird of passage determine the fundamentals of the terrain over which it has flown. This present darkness will surely pass.
SOLA FASURE political analyst, writes from Osogbo, Osun State