By Kassim Afegbua
In the last two and a half months, political fireworks have been on display in the sunshine State of Ondo where Governor Abdul’Rahman Ifamumikomi simply shortened to read Mimiko, calls the shots.
Expectedly, it is understandable why the fireworks have assumed this fever pitch. Ondo State is home to all manners of political hara-kiri and engagement; a scenario that became manifest in 1983 when the ruling National Party of Nigeria tried to rig out the Unity Party of Nigeria under the incumbent Governor Adekunle Ajasin.
Late Chief Akin Omoboriowo of the NPN was said to be coasting home to victory before the State got itself under political terrorism with its attendant wanton destruction of lives and property.
The political violence in Ondo State using the 1983 scenario as a case in point offers a very symbolic lesson that election riggers are actually not wanted in the State. I was an eye witness to the 1983 political imbroglio which reduced what ought to be a civilized and peaceful election conduct to a theatre of war with cake of crimson. People were burnt alive in broad day light without caring a hoot.
Lawlessness assumed the driver seat while the siege mentality imposed on the state as a result of the political fracas destroyed the fabric of political engagement. Every politician became a prime suspect. Mutual suspicion became the order of the day.
Distrust, mistrust and subterfuge engaged the minds of everyone as the state lived under perpetual fear and anguish. Till date, it is still a fairy tale how Chief Omoboriowo escaped from the state to Lagos. The military coup of 31st December, 1983 rested the stalemate.
Countdown to October 20, 2012 when the people of Ondo State will file out in their thousands to elect a new Governor or re-elect their own man, the incumbent Governor Mimiko fondly called Iroko by his political followers, several pundits have been advertising obtuse permutations.
The tempers in Ondo State are building up and will get to a crescendo on that day when the people will elect one of the candidates as Governor.
Typical of any political engagement in this part of the world, every candidate will give full assurance of victory when confronted with questions of preparedness and political reach. Even those who may not have campaigned will readily tell you that they have since done their home work and just waiting for the coronation. We saw it in Edo State particularly in the PDP which boasted that Oshiomhole was on his way out.
As it turned out to be, Oshiomhole’s trouncing of the stubborn PDP politicians has since become a great lesson in political engineering. As we speak, PDP has not recovered from the shock of that exercise.
If the Action Congress of Nigeria was lucky in Edo State, it will not be as lucky in Ondo State. For those who may not know, Ondo State people are very principled in terms of political engagement; and building and retention of affinity.
To some extent also, their respect for political ideology has not been badly eroded like we have in some other parts of the country where money can sway voters in an awful and ruthless manner. Mimiko has been on ground in Ondo for more than three decades now.
Having enlisted in politics in 1979, and stayed the course since then, the people are quite familiar with his person and brand of politics. I have read a couple of very misleading articles and opinion write-ups which are not illustrative of the very content of Ondo State politics. Ondo State people can predict Mimiko much more than any other aspirant.
The ACN candidate, Chief Akeredolu has lived better part of his life in Ibadan, and records show that he has not been connecting with his people. His responses to some questions during the debate give fillip to this claim. Mimiko knows the geography of Ondo State and her people.
The people also know him through and through because he has been with them all his life. He has lived in Ondo town; politics or no politics, in government or outside it.
He has been ex-this, ex-that and also as a Minister of the Federal Republic. From the way he spoke at the debate, he is unarguably the most experienced in the business of governance among those who are contesting with him.
As a politician who has been part of the political arithmetic of the State, his achievements in the last three and half years offer him good selling points unlike others. But the whole scenario I am told is no longer about achievements in the eye of the ACN chieftains, it is all about ego.
Otherwise, I do not see any rationale why the opposition cannot present a formidable front against the PDP. Even if the PDP is weak, as it does presently in Ondo State, there is the need to weave together all manners of forces to checkmate its usually dubious and invidious state power in the name of federal might.
This muscle flexing by the ACN chieftains amounts to swallowing too much than their stomachs can take.Mimiko has worked and I can testify to that because I just returned from the State on a fact-finding mission. His Mother and Child Hospitals which offer free Medicare for mothers and children are good benchmarks.
If that alone is what he could achieve in three years, he will still occupy an enviable position among performing Governors, let alone several other achievements that this space will not permit me to mention.
Mimiko will trounce the Action Congress of Nigeria; that is a statement of fact provided there is one man, one vote. Mimiko epitomizes the beginning and the end of Labour Party that is why he could jettison the PDP in 2007 for Labour Party, [such an unknown quantity] and was still able to defeat an incumbent Segun Agagu.
My worry is that with ACN’s victory songs in Edo State, it will be catastrophic if they are made to eat the humble pie in Ondo. Surely they will, and the months ahead will be a healing process for an opposition Party that is usually guilty for the same offence it accuses the ruling Party. October 20th beckons.