BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, Deputy Political Editor
CALL him the most-sought after political bride of the South-West geo-political zone and you may be right. At a time of massive political alignment and re-alignment ahead of the 2015 elections, Ondo State Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, is emerging as a rallying point of sorts, if the substance of politicians and eminent Nigerians, who converged on Akure for his second term inauguration, weekend, was anything to go by.
From all parts of the country, all roads literarily led to Akure, the Ondo State Capital between last Thursday and Saturday as people congregated for the series of activities mapped out for Mimiko’s historic second inauguration.
The jinx breaker
Re-elected on the banner of the Labour Party, LP, he broke the jinx of inability of incumbents to win and consummate re-elections in the Sunshine State. Since the creation of Ondo state in 1976, no civilian governor has served for more than four years. Although, the first civilian governor, late Chief Adekunle Ajasin of the Unity Party of Nigeria won a second term after a bitter political battle with the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, in the Second Republic, his mandate was truncated by the return of the military three monthsafter his second coming.
And since 1999, no governor has ever won a second term in office in the state. Late Chief Adebayo Adefarati’s second term bid was truncated by Olusegun Agagu, while he (Agagu) also failed to return, having lost to the incumbent, Olusegun Mimiko. Agagu lost out to Mimiko through a court process that invalidated his return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Mimiko won his re-election under interesting circumstances. He weathered two-pronged attacks from the leading political parties in the land – Peoples Democratic Party, PDP (ruling party at the centre) and Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN (the dominant party in the South-West with five of the six states) and emerged unscathed.
Scramble for South-West
Now, the scramble for the political soul of the South-West has started even though the 2015 elections are 27 months away. ACN, which is hammering out a merger with three other parties – All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP; Congress for Progressive, CPC; and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, wants to retain the South-West and also expand its political coast to other parts of the country including the presidency with the merged platform, All Progressive Congress, APC.
ACN is also pursuing regional integration of the South-West, which will be incomplete without Ondo State, a major resources oasis of the zone. On its part, the PDP that lost control of the zone in 2007 is mounting a come-back bid.
Thus, any of the parties that successfully woos Mimiko to its side will stand a better chance of actualizing its South-West political dreams in 2015. One way or the other, Mimiko has traversed these parties in the last 12 years. He started out as a chieftain of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) that later became the bedrock of the ACN in 1999 and later decamped to the PDP where he was made a minister. En route the 2007 polls, he quit the PDP for LP to realize his governorship ambition, when he was denied the PDP ticket.
Mimiko: The beautiful political bride
Given his achievements, which have transformed the Ondo landscape in the last four years, and for which the electorate handed him a fresh four year term, it is therefore not surprising that a host of eminent Nigerians and politicians from the leading parties chose to identify with Mimiko last weekend. Sources said their presence was also part of efforts to woo him to their camps.
The polity has been awash with reports of PDP wooing him to serve as its arrowhead in the battle for South-West. There are also speculations of the ACN seeking his hand for the South-West regional integration effort. The presence of top shots of these parties at the events organized for Mimiko’s swearing-in ceremony indicates that there is no smoke without fire.
First, they were at the Inauguration Lecture delivered by Professor Bolaji Akinyemi at the Cultural centre, Akure on the morning of Saturday February 23. The lecture was titled: “Leadership, Democracy and Development; A Paradigm Relationship.”
They also returned to the Cultural Centre in the evening for the premiere of the movie: Asogbodilu (transforming a forest into a city). Written and produced by Tunde Babalola. The film chronicles Mimiko’s achievements in the last 48 months and showcases the state’s investment potentials. And on Sunday afternoon, they converged at the Democracy Park to witness the swearing-in of Mimiko and his Deputy, Alhaji Ali Olanusi.
The roll call
Eminent Nigerians who attended the events included ACN governors Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Ibikunle Amosu of Ogun State, who was represented by his Deputy, Chief Segun Adesegun. CPC governor, Alhaji Tanko Al’ Makura of Nassarawa State was also present.
Others were Governor Peter Obi (APGA) of Anambra State; Theodore Orji (PDP) of Abia State; Health Minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu; former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar; former Governor Rasheed Ladoja of Oyo State; and former Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State.
There were also former Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose; former Plateau State Deputy Governor, Mrs Paullen Tallen; Chief Great Ogboru; LP National Chairman, Dan Nwanyanwu; Dr Olu Agunloye; Business mogul, Aliko Dangote; Oba Otudeko; Dr Tunji Braithwaite; Professor Bolaji Akinyemi; General Adeyinka Adebayo (rtd); Rear Admiral Akin Aduwo; Brigadier Dayo Olukoya; Chief Michael Ade Ojo, Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi (Rtd); Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC Founder, OPC National Co-coordinator, Otunba Ganiyu Adams; Dr Frederick Fasehun; former Information Minister, Mr. Frank Nweke (jnr); Afenifere leaders – Chiefs Ayo Adebanjo and Olu Falae.
Among the personalities were Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade; Deji of Akure, Oba Adebiyi Adesida; Osemawe of Ondo, Oba Adesimbo Kiladejo; Olugbo of Ugbo, Oba Akinruntan and Emir of Tsonga, Shehu Yahaya.
Speaking after his swearing-in as the fifth democratically elected governor of the state, Mimiko, mindful of people of diverse political affiliations surrounding him, promised to pursue patriotic corporation across party lines to ensure growth and development of the country.
On regional integration, he said: “We are convinced that the totality of the concept of progressivism, which the late sage (Chief Obafemi Awolowo) represented, is about using the instrumentality of government to make choices on behalf of the majority of our people. To us, being progressive means democratisation of access to fundamentals of good living.”
Recounting some of his achievements in the last four years such as massive investment in road construction, education, healthcare, agriculture and 644 community nominated projects across the state, mega primary schools, mother and child hospitals (Abiye), etc, the governor vowed to continue to enhance the quality of life of Ondo people, whom he saluted for re-electing him.
Mimiko, however, warned that in the next four years political office holders in the state “must cease from looking at government and service as a goldmine.
He said the on-going International Events Centre, The Dome, would be completed this year while the state’s residency card, ‘Kaadi Igbe Ayo’ would be launched next month. Mimiko also commended President Goodluck Jonathan “for guaranteeing the ambiance for a free, fair and peaceful election (in Ondo State) through the timely and most responsible deployment of security operatives” and prayed “for more grace and strength for Mr. President to take our nation unto greater heights.”