By John Ajayi
As the Ondo State governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, clocks four years in office, his popularity has continued to soar even though he has himself not sought it.
The governor, in the last four years, has evolved a number of unparalleled strategies for combating underdevelopment and actualizing the social democratic mantra on a globally acknowledged scale. In the last four years, Mimiko has revolutionised the educational sector in Ondo State by building mega schools with no parallels in Africa, winning accolades from across the globe.
At a record 50 scattered across the three senatorial districts in the state, the mega schools (with free school buses, uniforms, sandals, bags and books, alluring architecture, electro-magnetic chalk boards, the computer laboratory with 50 internet-ready computers for Type 1 schools, an imposing Senate building, encapsulated in a self-regulating internal mechanism with each of the main organs in the school conceptualised to be self-sustaining) have been hailed as Black Africa’s greatest success story in educational revolution.
The only Quality Education Assurance Agency in the country, established by the state government, is involved in maintaining standards and setting parameters in all the agencies and departments of government in the state
In its bid to make Akure and other towns in the state functional, the state government evolved the mechanic village, where auto workers would operate in a state-of-the art environment.
There are 80 workshops/bush bars, each of which can attend to four vehicles at a time, aside cars at the car wash area, the spray rooms, spare parts stores and those on relaxation. The fee paid is only N40 per day. The government also built specially designated relaxation spots for the people.
The Caring Heart Neighbourhood Recreation Park, Ilula, Akure, is one such facility where, after a hard day’s work or even while on holiday, workers enjoy themselves, watching channels on DSTV, playing table tennis, volleyball, etc, and having a swell time with barbeque and any kind of drink.
In Akure, the government built a driver’s airport with an arrival/departure lounge, a green area, rest rooms with world standard facilities, paved and painted sidewalks, duty-free lock up shops selling provisions, tastefully furnished parking areas with news cars lined up in serene order, and many more.
The environment was conceptualised to redesign the mind so that the three geometries –the humans, the plants and the non-living environment—would form a balance. Again, on Monday, April 2, 2012, the governor commissioned Africa’s first court within a prison premises under the state’s Rapid Justice System programme, namely High Court Number 10, at Olokuta Prison, Akure, promising to provide the prison with a clinic that would offer basic drugs for free.
Mimiko noted that if violent criminals were kept intermittently under remand without the assurance of conclusion of their trials, it might jeopardise the safety of the society, stressing that efforts must be intensified to address the situation.
In tackling street trading through state of the art neighbourhood markets, the state government identified markets as a major avenue of social interaction and congregation, and even an organ of governance in any Yoruba setting, submitting that if the problems of market women were addressed, poverty in communities would be almost 25 per cent solved.
In November 2011, at a ceremony at the highbrow Holiday Inn, Kessignton, London, attended by over 40 foreign ambassadors and members of the British parliament, Mimiko won the Best Governor of the Year Award, courtesy of Ben TV, United Kingdom. Said the organisers: “This committee traversed the length and breadth of Nigeria for three months, conducting empirical research and on-the-spot assessment of the state incognito and it found that Dr Olusegun Mimko towers above the others.
We found out that no state governor in Nigeria has approached the implementation of his election promises with great fervour and passion like Dr Mimiko. In the education sector, no state governor in Nigeria has ever planted the kind of structure Dr Mimiko constructed for primary schools in Nigeria. You will be amazed that these beautiful, child-friendly and academics- inducing structures are not only for the public, the common people, but that they will pay no fees.”
The governor was decorated in the same month as a Honorary Fellow of the Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria (SOGON) in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital; “Achiever of Our Time” by Radio Nigeria, Ibadan. He was named Governor of the Year 2011 by the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) in December 2011; given the AES Excellent Leadership Award by the Academy of Entrepreneurial Studies, at the Golden Gate Restaurant, Ikoyi, Lagos; named Governor of the Year 2012 by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and, again, Governor of the Year 2011 by the Nigerian Tribune, among others.
In the letter announcing Mimiko as the winner of the United Nations 2012 Habitat Scroll of Honour award, the United Nations through its Coordinator on UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour, Ana B Moreno, said the choice of the governor was the unanimous decision of an international jury.
The agency said: “Dr. Mimiko was selected among many nominees for the most coveted award in the human settlement sector.The UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour is the most prestigious human settlement award in the world which aims to acknowledge initiatives which have made outstanding contributions in various fields such as shelter provision, leadership in developing and improving the human settlements and general enhancement in overall quality of urban life.
The areas considered for the award according to the statement include, housing and slum upgrading, Urban planning and design, Urban economy, Infrastructure rehabilitation and risk reduction.
The Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Washington DC, United States, while inviting Dr Mimiko to deliver a lecture on the World Bank-endorsed Abiye model on January 16, noted that “the Abiye (Safe Motherhood) programme is winning praise as a promising model, creating incentives for expectant mothers to seek care and for health providers to deliver quality services.
Abiye model is a work in progress, and the initiative’s leadership is cognizant of the challenges associated with scale-up and sustainability over time. But the programme does provide a positive preliminary model of how data collection, technology and innovation, efficient use of resources and mechanisms of accountability – backed by sustained political will – can come together in a comprehensive strategy.”
As the October 20 governorship election approached, however, the opposition stepped up its subversive agenda, mounting campaigns of calumny against the Mimiko administration: “The encircled Iroko,” “Brother today, gone tomorrow,” “Can an Iroko make a forest?”, among many others.
Yet, in spite of the intense and unrelenting attacks, the governor refused to be drawn into the vulgarism which had characterised the attacks on him even by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governors, using the very idea of regional integration which he (Mimiko) himself muted as a blackmail tool.
“They boast in their godfathers but we trust in God the Father,” he declared.
On October 20, the Ondo people gave a clear mandate to the governor to pilot the affairs of the state until 2016, erupting into massive celebrations as soon as the election results were announced. However, the governor has promised to give the people of the state a double portion of the landmarks of the past four years, ruling with the fear of God. The success story has only just begun.
* John Ajayi is a Public Analyst