Candid Notes

March 7, 2017

An Iroko that made a forest

Olusegun Mimiko

Olusegun Mimiko

By Yinka Odumakin

D RAHMAN Olusegun Mimiko who recently stepped down as a two-term governor of Ondo State is the most experienced of practicing politicians in Yorubaland today. He was twice appointed Health Commissioner by different governors, served as Secretary to Ondo State Government before he was appointed a Federal Minister, a position he resigned from to contest the Ondo State governorship election in 2007 running against the late Dr. Segun Agagu at micro level. His real contest at macro level was against then Emperor Olusegun Obasanjo who insisted he must not contest the polls.

Olusegun Mimiko

Having defied Obasanjo, his natural move should have been to the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, controlled by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to get a shield against the rampaging bull at the other end.

But Mimiko would not take the line of least resistance. He decided to take the hard destiny road by picking the unknown Labour Party four months to the elections to confront both the ACN and the PDP. The dexterity of the grassroots politician came to fore as he emptied the PDP structures into LP within so short a time even without any fantastic war chest.

The millions of pounds

In 2012, when he campaigned for the ACN in Akure, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu had created the impression that Mimiko got a fortune from him when the battle moved to the courts: “He collected money from me. I spent millions of pounds sterling but he betrayed me.”

Mimiko has politely debunked this allegation in his biography titled Mimiko’s Odyssey written by Prof. Olu Obafemi and presented recently. Hear him: “I did not take any money from Tinubu. He offered technical and logistics assistance, which I appreciated and which I have had occasions to reciprocate in the course of similar litigations in which he had interest. But it was also a fact that the result of the forensic expert was not part of the evidence that the judges relied upon to give me my judgement “(P 247-8).

The truth eternal wisdom says is always the first casualty in every war. It would however take the most ungodly soul to deny “millions of pounds” in writing!

After a tortuous journey to reverse the truncation of his mandate by the “do-or die” machinery,Mimiko assumed office and went to work in appreciation of the enormous support the people gave to him. In his eight years in office, he was able to rekindle hope in our unlimited possibilities if we get our structures right and have leaders with a caring heart .

Put his eight years side-by-side with the other thirty five states, there is none that can boast of being better run than Ondo State under Mimiko. The left of the centre politician reminds one of the pro-people projects under the legendary leadership of Oloye Obafemi Awolowo whose purposeful leadership in the old Western Region remains a reference. Some of us have remained his friends chiefly on account of the work he has done for our people in that state.

The first time he drove me to one of the mega schools in Akure, I first thought I was in a university environment until he said we were in a primary school. He put up 54 of such in eight years to make public school more attractive than private ones and provided a melting pot for both children of the rich and the poor.

I saw poor women delivering babies in well equipped “Mother and Child” hospitals where they walked in with their pregnancies and go out with bouncing babies without paying a dime even if they had to go through Caesarian procedure. The last time I checked about three years ago, a woman who had to go through a CS in Ayinke House must have paid N350,000 before the scalpel surfaced.

Health care facilities: The state-of-the-art Gani Fawehinmi Diagnostics Centre and the Medical Village in Ondo are rare and bold healthcare infrastructures that show rigorous planning and execution in a total package that is human development focused. Mimiko made various and worthy interventions in different aspects of Ondo State that space would not permit me to write about. But I must mention his urban renewal as a milestone. I was impressed that in all places where he demolished markets to build modern stalls, it was the same occupants of the old markets that were returned to the new.

Little wonder, therefore, that the WHO and the UN Habitat made Ondo State a benchmark in its areas of strength. In a clime where politicians only measure their size by the rate at which they pulled down their predecessors, Mimiko’s successor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) had openly commended him for his giant strides without mincing words said it would take a lot of hard work to surpass his achievements. A sincere heart bound to succeed!

Smooth transition: And talking of Aketi succeeding Mimiko, providence always comes with a fair deal. I was told years ago that in the years Mimiko fought at the courts, the legal luminary was there for his friend from our Great Ife without collecting a dime.On one occasion,he came to court preparing to stay for a day but had to stay for three days. Change of cloths had to be arranged for him!

The seamless transition between the duo is a shining example we must hold up against those who thrive in acrimony, bitterness and vindictive politics around here. Well done Iroko,take your rest in preparation for taking your seat among veterans in the next phase of the battle of progress. You are one Iroko that brought back the possibility of our forest of development.