Ahead of the Governorship elections that will take place in Ondo State later in the year; a desperate battle has already started among the major political parties jostling to unseat the incumbent Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.
While Mimiko’s Labour Party is scheming to retain the seat, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) are making frantic efforts to present suitable candidates to take on Mimiko.
Mimiko’s Journey To Power
Dr. Mimiko’s journey to the Governorship started way back in his days as the Commissioner for Health under the then Governor Adebayo Adefarati. He resigned his appointment just before the 2003 elections and before he teamed up with the PDP then, one of the agreements reached at the bargaining table was that he would be given the post of the Secretary to the State Government if he succeeded in delivering his constituency to the PDP.
As SSG, though Mimiko represent Agagu on several occasions, it was often said within the state that he was caged and his functions were performed most of the time by the then Chief of Staff to the Governor. Being a strategist himself, Dr. Agagu knew quite well that Mimiko was popular and ambitious hence the need to cage him. Allowing him a free hand would be like blocking his own path.
Mimiko however got lucky after several attempts to fill the vacant Ministerial slot created by the exit of Mrs Osomo proved futile. He eventually became the Minister for Housing and Urban Development and was for once able to get away from the watchful eyes of Dr. Agagu’s men.
Mimiko eventually dumped the PDP and contested on the platform of the Labour Party but according to the results released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, he lost. He however challenged the results at the election petitions tribunal and reprieve came his way in July, 2008 when the Tribunal ruled in his favour. Dr. Agagu however appealed against the verdict but it was to no avail as the appellate court upheld the verdict of the Tribunal. Mimiko was eventually sworn in as Governor on February 24, 2009.
His Strengths & Weaknesses
With his election, Dr. Mimiko proved a point about his political strength. His mastery of political calculations too has never been in doubt. Many in Ondo State agree that he knows the right time to make his moves, for instance, he resigned as Commissioner for Health when Adefarati’s popularity started declining and just when everyone had thought Mimiko would not have a platform to contest on, he resigned his ministerial appointment and declared for the Labour Party.
The Labour Party was hitherto unknown in Ondo State, the party’s status however changed just four months before the 2007 general elections.
His capability to mobilise people from the grassroots have never gone unnoticed. He was not called “Iroko” by the Late Chief Adebayo Adefarati for nothing’s sake, he got the sobriquet after he had proved that he had political control of his constituency.
Mimiko is also known to be a very good player of the mind game. He knows how to work on people and events to generate desired results.
One of the things that may however work against him is that he might not get support from outside Ondo given the fact that his party has not won the Governorship in any other state.
And over the years, he has stepped on a number of toes, not caring whose ox was gored. He has thus made a lot of enemies for himself politically. Most of his old colleagues in Dr. Agagu’s cabinet are yet to forgive him for running them out of jobs.
Another factor that will likely work against Mimiko’s Labour Party in Ondo State is the internal strife currently rocking the party. The party’s former state Chairman, Chief Olaiya Oni and the Governor have since parted ways, same for his Special Adviser, Hon. Saka Lawal, Hon Ifedayo Abegunde and Senator Meroyi. Senator Boroffice too has called it quits with the party thus signalling a decline in the strength of the Labour Party.
The Contenders At A Glance
The Action Congress of Nigeria has a long list of aspirants for the state’s top job. They include:
Felix Rawa, an Ilaje businessman who is the President General of Ilaje Oil Producing Communities in Ondo State and the National President of the Niger Delta Coastal Association of Oil Producing Communities. Rawa is known to have good money in his hands but it definitely takes more than that to win the ticket of the ACN, especially with the party’s internal workings.
Dr. Olu Agunloye too is a contender for the number one job in Ondo State. As Bola Ige’s close aide, he stunned many when he crossed to the PDP after his ministerial appointment. At a point, he fell out with his old friend, Dr. Agagu and he moved to Labour Party. His romance with the Labour Party however failed to lead to the actualization of his senatorial dream as he lost to Senator Ajayi Boroffice in the shadow elections. Now Agunloye is back in the race.
Honourable Jaiyeola Ajatta, a former member of the House of Representatives too is making moves to sell his candidacy to the leadership of the ACN in the state. Ajatta is not a political neophyte, though his opponents have put forward a postulation that he hardly knows the political terrain in Ondo State, having represented Oshodi-Isolo Federal Constituency from 2003 to 2011.
There are also insinuations that Jumoke Anifowose is interested in the race. Apart from being a daughter of the of the Late Pa Adekunle Ajasin, a former Governor of Ondo State, Anifowose is the Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria in Ondo State.
Professor Ajayi Boroffice is sen as one of the strongest men in the race. Until his recent defection to the ACN, the Ondo North Senator was one of the backbones of the Labour Party. Senator Boroffice said he got a divine instruction to contest the Governorship election and he would rather obey God than please men who are pleading with him to shelve his ambition.
Rotimi Akeredolu, the former President of the Nigerian Bar Association too has signified his intention to run vie for Dr. Mimiko’s job. Akeredolu was once the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State.
Chief Tunji Abayomi, a Human Rights lawyer too is in the race. He is not a new entrant though, having tried his hand in 2007.
Wale Akinterinwa, the former Finance Commissioner who defected from Labour Party is one of those being tipped as men who could pull surprises. He knows the internal workings of the Labour Party having served as Commissioner under Governor Mimiko.
He started politics after his time as the Special Assistant to the Chairman of the LSPDC. He signified the intention of running for a Senate seat in 2003, the elders of the party then however prevailed on him to contest for a House of Reps seat instead. He eventually lost the National Assembly election as the PDP swept the polls then.
The PDP on the other hand has men like Chief Tayo Alasoadura on its list of aspirants. He was the Finance Commissioner when Dr. Agagu was Governor and he is one man revered for his knowledge of the political arena. At least 50% of what makes the PDP tick in Ondo State is said to be part of Alasoadura’s political machinery. His financial capability is not in doubt and when things turn violent, it is an open secret all over Ondo State that Alasoadura has men who can stand.
Olusola Oke, the National Legal Adviser to the PDP too is said to be interested in the race. He has been at the forefront of efforts to reconcile aggrieved PDP members in the state. Former Deputy Governor, Otunba Omolade Oluwateru, Professor Olu Agbi, the former Ambassador to Greece and Senator Farunkanmi are also among the contenders.
It is being speculated though that Alasoadura and Farunkanmi might be considering an option of teaming up with the Action Congress of Nigeria if their plans do not work in the PDP as they have allegedly been fraternising with some elements in the ACN.
The Battle Line: How The Parties Stand
Though there are speculations that the PDP and the ACN might work together to actualize the aim of unseating the present Governor at the next elections,many have opined that things may not work that way.
It is already common knowledge that the PDP still has a lot to do to regain the confidence of the people of Ondo State, no thanks to the devastating blows to the party’s image before, during and after the legal tussle that came after the 2007 governorship elections. Apart from trying hard to launder the image of their beloved party, PDP aspirants are also relying on their own political clouts.
It is also a known fact that Ondo PDP is just trying to put its house in order as the party has been technically split into a number of factions. The Action Congress seems to be the most stable of the three main parties jostling for the Governorship seat. What might however work against it is the large number of governorship aspirants which is a direct link to the number of people that might likely end up being disgruntled by the time the party makes its choice of flag bearer.
Street Journal also gathered that a lot of aspirants are trying to curry the favour of Governor Rauf Aregbesola. It is believed that the Osun State Governor is one of those who will decide who gets the party’s nod, apparently because of his closeness to the party’s leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The Labour Party on the other hand has a sole candidate; Dr. Mimiko, most of those who have ambitions have found their ways to other parties because as it still stands in Ondo State, Labour Party is Mimiko and Mimiko is Labour Party.
Will Mimiko Join PDP?
It has been widely reported that Dr. Mimiko might be on his way to the PDP. Street Journal’s findings revealed that the Ondo State Governor has been in a romance of some sort with the PDP right from the days of the Late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua. It was also found out that the Governor often put up the image of a “good boy” to the national leadership of the PDP.
It has also been said over and over in Ondo State that with the current image of the PDP and the internal rancour going on in the Labour Party, Mimiko might just consider merging with the PDP for maximum results, at least to get another four years at the Alagbaka Government House.
Some forces in the PDP are however opposed to the return of the Governor to the PDP. Some have even speculated that “Mimiko is using the knowledge gained from his favourite book, the 48 Laws of Power to forment strife in the LP so as to infiltrate the ranks of the other parties”.
Will Agagu Run? What of the Jimoh Ibrahim Factor?
Dr. Olusegun Agagu is opposed to anything and everything about Dr. Mimiko and that is a widely accepted fact. Though Dr. Agagu might have decided to forget the idea of running for the Governorship position, he has not forgotten how to sponsor candidates.
He is throwing his weight behind businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim knowing fully well that Ibrahim and Mimiko have an axe to grind over the decision of the state government under Mimiko to terminate the lease of Owena Motels to Ibrahim. The deal was struck during Agagu’s governorship tenure.