Ondo: Can they cut down the Iroko?
By Rotimi Fasan
IT’s been three full months since Comrade Adams Oshiomole was returned to government house in Benin. In the build-up to the July 14 election, it was as if the contest for the governor’s sit could have gone in the direction of either of the two dominant parties, the ACN and the PDP, in the state.
The atmosphere had been fouled by violence and the anxiety that preceded the election could be touched with bear hands. Supporters of both parties had been heavily mobilised.
The security agencies had been kept on their toes and the two leading contestants traded accusations freely, each accusing the other of planning to rig the election. Charles Airhiavbere, a retired general and the PDP candidate, was a late comer into the contest and there was the fear by the ruling ACN and other side watchers that Abuja might give him a hand in a bid to wrest power from Oshiomole who many in and outside the state thought should carry the day.
The possibility of ‘federal might’ coming into play was strong and until the results were announced the winner couldn’t confidently say that he had not been done in. Indeed, a statement credited to Comrade Oshiomole shortly before the official announcement of the result accusing INEC and its chairman of bias not only sounded embarrassing in view of the final outcome of the election but was going to be seized upon by the PDP candidate as evidence that INEC was against the PDP.
At the end of the day, however, Comrade Adams Oshiomole’s victory was a landslide that many foretold well before the polls opened. Even at that, the noisy accusations and counter accusations by both the PDP and the ACN had gone on for so long that the losers in the election are now loathe to accept a victory that was all but certain months before it became reality.
There is a strong sense in which the situation in Ondo State where voters go to the polls at the weekend reminds one of the Airhiavbere-Oshiomole encounter. Unlike the Edo case, however, the Ondo showdown is not a straight fight between two but three contestants. Ondo State stands out like a sore thumb not only among the Yoruba-speaking states but also in Nigeria as the only state where the Labour Party is in power.
This is a unique position that makes the state the beautiful bride of bigger parties. It is a position that can be put to both useful and utterly despicable purposes. It is now a position that has brought dark clouds to many brows in the politics of the South-West, especially leaders of the ACN who strongly believe that the state should come under their wings.
The stance of the ACN leaders sounds reasonable enough for they it was who came to the aid of Olusegun Mimiko, incumbent governor of Ondo State and until lately an ally of the ACN leaders, when his friends in the PDP where he had served in different positions chose to kick dirt in his eyes by giving away his victory to his former boss and erstwhile governor of Ondo, Olusegun Agagu.
Politics is business and nothing goes for nothing. Having helped him snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, the ACN leaders, particularly Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the real power house of the ACN that goes by the title of National Leader in a party that has a National Chairman- Senator Tinubu wanted nothing short of Mimiko joining the ACN ostensibly to be part of an integrated South-West region. Lofty idea but there appears to be more to that desire for an integrated West than has been stated. But for first foot-dragging and later failing to join the ACN, leaders of the ACN have resorted to calling Mimiko names and cannot wait to see him thrown out of office.
It is for this reason that the ACN are propping up Rotimi Akeredolu against Mimiko, a strong and credible candidate who could have easily won against another contestant in different circumstances. The ACN is joined in its onslaught against Mimiko by the PDP and their candidate, Olusola Oke. Both the PDP and the ACN are giving Mimiko no quarter and each party has vowed to sack the governor in their different ways.
The PDP and ACN are not ordinarily the best of friends but in the final battle for Ondo government house they seem determined to bury the hatchet of their enmity in Mimiko’s midriff, to wit, cut down the Iroko and set it alight.
The PDP does not appear as determined in its fight against Mimiko as the ACN who, it seems, would be content to have the PDP win than have Mimiko keep his position. For the ACN especially, the call to arms against Mimiko is a grudge war. The party exhibits the bruised tantrum of a ditched lover. But more importantly, the big egos of the ACN leaders come to the fore too strongly in their criticism.
Increasingly, their campaign against Mimiko is based not so much on his assumed non-performance ( a highly contestable and perhaps false claim relative to other ACN governors), but their own bruised ego that he refused to massage by becoming one of the ‘boys’ under the wide wings of the party leaders.
Although, other ACN governors have been corralled to campaign against Mimiko at one point or another but it would appear that these governors, with the exception of Rauf Aregbesola, would rather mind their business realising Mimiko’s sin was nothing more than his readiness to be his own man as a politician, not one who has to take orders from leaders of other parties who disguise their desire for personal estates and fiefdoms as concerns for the common good. Had Fashola or Fayemi not being in the ACN, they would have faced the same problem Mimiko faces.
Mimiko has his faults as a politician and there is a huge room for improvement in his management of the affairs of Ondo State. But what I say for him goes for other ACN governors.
They, like all our politicians, can do far more than they have. By joining his counterparts in the ACN towards regional and economic development of the West they may serve as example to others in other parties.
Nothing says the noble goal of regional integration as canvassed by ACN leaders can only be pursued in the ACN. What should count is the readiness of all to share and contribute to the growth of that vision. For all I know, Mimiko has not said he is against it. It is this realisation and the fact that he may yet do far better, given another chance, that might bring him the victory many predicted.