Tunde Rahman on Sunday

March 5, 2017

Iroko, Aketi and South-west Politics

Iroko, Aketi and South-west Politics

Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN

By Tunde Rahman

The constant travels and other engagements I have been involved in lately will permit just general interventions in a few recent events and developments in the country, particularly in Ondo State as they affect two leaders of the state- one just ended his two terms of office, the other has just been inaugurated as a first term governor.

The interventions, in the final analysis, will dovetail into what the exit and entrance mean for the South-west and the All Progressives Congress, which controls the region at present.

So, I like to crave the indulgence of readers to allow me engage in a few takes, to share some of my thoughts on issues, which include Dr. Olusegun Mimiko’s transition from a state governor to an ‘ordinary’ citizen, the inauguration of former Nigeria Bar Association president, Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu aka Aketi, as the new Ondo governor, and the places of the two leaders in the politics of the South-west and of the governing APC.

I grouped Mimiko, popularly called Iroko, and Akeredolu together in the APC advisedly. This is because as you read this, Mimiko, who is ex-Labour Party and ex-governor of PDP, may have concluded his plan to move to his third political party in this dispensation by pitching his tent with the APC. The plan to switch over to the party was said to have begun since he failed in his bid to install his favoured candidate, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, as successor.

In the beginning, Iroko held out so much promise as a politician who would go very far. He began as Commissioner for Health in the state. In 2003, he was Secretary to the State Government (SSG) in the late Dr. Olusegun Agagu administration on PDP platform. After an alleged disagreement with Agagu, Mimiko was tapped by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to be minister in Abuja, succeeding Mrs. Mobolaji Osomo in 2005.

Iroko resigned from the cabinet to contest the 2007 governorship election against his erstwhile boss, Agagu, damning everything, including Obasanjo’s opposition to the plan. He won the election, though his mandate was only restored after a two-year legal battle.

Mimiko showed so much promise, particularly as governor. He began with people-oriented programmes, some of which fetched him local and international awards. He identified with Ondo people and the people celebrated him in return. Many analysts then saw him as the third force to Obasanjo and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s political tendencies in the South-west.

With support and encouragement coming from the Afenifere leadership, which base had by then shifted to capital Akure, it was smooth sailing for Mimiko. He won a second term in office, a jinx other governors who came before him in the state could not break.

But the bubble burst during his second term. Now, Mimiko is in a situation where he is bereft of power and influence. How did this happen? Just how did he box himself to this ruinous corner? I will attempt to answer this with two explanations. One is self-inflicted, the other flows from the traditional concept of good and bad. The first could be located in Mimiko’s brand of politics, which, in my view, lacks consistency and seems devoid of any clear cut principles.

Let me explain this. To contest the 2007 governorship poll, Mimiko opted for Labour Party because he knew, quite understandably too, that Obasanjo would block him from getting the PDP ticket.

But when one thought he had imbibed the ideals of the party and was firmly rooted in LP, emerging its major gladiator with a horde of followers, he allowed former president Goodluck Jonathan, who desperately wanted a second term in office in 2015, to goad him into joining PDP. In the process, Mimiko lost his dynamism and credibility.

Later came the governorship poll. Mimiko and his candidate Eyitayo became a pawn in the APC chess game. But rather than mount a spirited challenge against the shenanigans, Iroko was in bed with those who mounted a brickwall against his candidate, meeting and receiving them in his office in Akure. He soon became a mince meat for the governing APC.

The other explanation borders on a traditional belief, I mean on the concept of nemesis, which they say is at the root of Mimiko’s present situation. They say his present political status is borne of betrayal, that it’s the price to pay for allegedly betraying late governors Adebayo Adefarati and Agagu.

Mimiko has, however, denied all that in his recently-released book entitled “Mimiko’s Odyssey: A Biographer of Revelations”. In the book, he claimed his disagreement with the two late governors was over their failure to keep to the agreement that they would run for just one term and support his own governorship aspiration. Only the people privy to that alleged agreement could attest to the veracity or otherwise of that claim since Adefarati and Agagu are not alive to state their sides of the story.

At present, Mimiko seems headed for an uncertain political future. Iroko himself knows so well he is facing an unsure political future. If in doubt, just check the front page photograph of the Friday, February 24 edition of Nigerian Tribune taken as he handed over to Akeredolu on Thursday at the Alagbaka Government House.

Mimiko was staring into space, at nothingness, at the political oblivion, which seems to await him. Enough for a politician lacking in clear-cut strategy, focusing on short-term gain and now seemingly headed for the political wilderness!

Now, it seems too early in the day to assess Governor Akeredolu. But he comes unto the job with a big reputation as a legal luminary and former NBA president. At his inauguration, he enunciated lucid programmes and clear deliverables. The jury will be out soon to evaluate his performance as the weeks roll into months and years.

However, one remarkable thing about his recent inauguration is the quality of attendance at the event and what the attendance portends. Apart from the APC Chairman John Oyegun, former Interim Chairman Bisi Akande and some of the party’s governors, one key figure at the event was Asiwaju Tinubu, who put the chicanery of some APC top officials at the Ondo primary election of the party behind him in attending the event.

Asiwaju wanted to rise above the fray and be the big umbrella, the leading leader that he is. At the inauguration, he was the cynosure of all eyes, the centre of attraction.

His attendance changed the dynamics of South-west politics. It was the game-changer. Akeredolu himself rose to the occasion. He poured encomiums on Tinubu at every turn, calling him the leader deserving of all adulation. The governor asked everybody at the occasion to rise up and applaud Asiwaju.

Also, Governor Ayodele Fayose attended the ceremony. When asked by media hounds why he attended the event, being a PDP man opposed to Akeredolu’s election, the recalcitrant Osokomole said it was in furtherance of South-west regional integration devoid of political party categorization.

What does all that portend for the South-west? For me , it demonstrates that unity is key in the politics and development of the zone. The zone needs to be united because only in unity can it advance and develop its true potentials.

This is the import of Tinubu’s message in a series of tweets to APC members in Ondo. He said the state has had its elections and it was time to move on. He urged the party members, including those disenchanted from the time of the party’s primaries until now, to put aside their differences and rally round the party and Governor Akeredolu.