By Bisi Lawrence
It is no longer news that Olusegun Mimiko was returned as the Ondo State governor in the recent election. That fact was released after the votes had all been cast, counted and collated to the satisfaction of INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission), the official institution invested with the authority to conduct the polls.That was when it became certain that the incumbent governor had been returned by the people of the state whom he had striven to serve for the past four years. That is what elections are for.
It might have been apparent, before the election, that Mimiko had qualified for another term.
He claimed that, of course, but it was really not for him or anybody else to declare.That was purely a matter of opinion, a right to which everybody was entitled. Some other people exercised that same right in favour of his opponents. The design of elections seeks to guarantee the reality and annul the wishful projections.
It is therefore embarrassing for some people, who should know better, to suggest that the pronounced assumption that the Labour Party Candidate would win the Ondo governorship election was enough to have made others, particularly the Action Congress of Nigeria, hand him the palm without his stir. It does not happen that way.
The post of a state governor is simply too important, too massive and attractive to be filled without any contest, no matter to what degree victory appears tilted in any direction. What is more, a democratic system thrives on contention—contention of ideology, contention of programme, all embodied in the contention of personality through which it is all filtered, and based upon which the people can make a choice.
That was how, it would appear, the people have made their choice in Ondo State. The opposition was rightly there, if only to “fulfill all righteousness”. And it was a fitting “righteousness” to be observed, to add to the quality of the election being “credible”, apart from being free and fair.
Those who put themselves forward, though their chances were not so inviting, actually deserve to be commended, not ridiculed, as returning home “empty-handed”. The fact that they did not simply roll over on their backs in submission, for me, testifies to their belief in the system. Over all, it also evinces a strong faith in the Nigerian project and its potentials.
And, as it turned out, it was not so much of a touted landslide victory since, at the count, more people actually voted for the opposition combined, than voted for Mimiko. That is not to take any shine away from his deserved triumph against all odds.
It is time for the analysts, and others who know it all, to reveal why the winner won and the losers lost. There will be dissension in that as well. It might be an aspect worth mentioning, however, that democracy also demands that the one who is presented to contend for the choice of the people must, ab initio, have been freely chosen by his supporters and sponsors for that purpose.
That is what preliminary elections are meant for. But they are more conspicuous by their absence than observance over the years in almost every political party. The right conceded to, or acquired by political power brokers within and without the party, to control the selection of the candidate for the party has been a sore point with the party members for years.
In spite of its unpleasant results, by way of consequential defeats and defection of members to other parties, the practice has waxed stronger in recent years. The debacle suffered by the ACN in Ondo may have been partially caused by the imposition of someone from the “diaspora” on the free will of the people as their flagbearer.
The loss of Olu Agunloye to the LP, as a consequence, may forcefully bring home the lesson that should have been learnt years ago from the days of Obafemi Awolowo. He was able to get away with it most of the time, but the effort left indelible scars on his illustrious career and its ramifications. It is hardly an inheritance to be dearly desired.. There may yet be footnotes appended to the Mimiko victory, still in his favour or otherwise.
This may tie in with the hesitancy of the ACN to fling bouquets of congratulatory messages at him. There are grunts about malpractices involved in the election. No matter what anyone feels, only the law courts can effectively reject or uphold the accusations.
So while it is true that the declared winner of an election is almost routinely congratulated even by his or her opponents in other parts of the world, that is because election rigging, and other malpractices, are almost unknown in such climes. In our beloved country, they are commonplace.
The ACN strove to win back no less than three stolen mandates after the 2011 elections. The party may rightly shelve the idea of spraying congratulations all over the tarmac immediately after an election it is adjudged to have lost. It has been more than once bitten.
It may be uncharitable to overlook where the party is “coming from” in this regard. Even the National Peoples Party, NPN, must be having a re-think about its rush to congratulate the newly elected LP Gover
nor of Ondo State.
The members of the party in that state have distanced themselves from the ebullience of the felicitations extended to the winner of an election which they claim was far from squeaky clean. The defeated NPN candidate, maybe as an afterthought, also now seems to concur. It is not a case of being a poor loser, or not being a gentleman. It is abiding by the dictates of pragmatism on the peculiar political terrain of our dear nation.
The inclusion of Ondo State under the umbrella ( if you please) of the ACN would indeed be like old times when the entire Western Region was under the Action Group, and the virtual control of one man. Anyone striving for a return to that era with the ambition of assuming the position which that leader, Obafemi Awolowo enjoyed, may encounter too many obstacles in trying to achieve that dream.
It could even turn into a nightmare. Just consider the implication of the fact that one of the loudest ovations for Mimiko’s victory came from the household of Awolowo himself. It would appear that the self-styled inheritor may not be the heir, after all.