After the Edo State Governorship election which has been won and lost, attention of most of the people in the South West and other parts of Nigeria has shifted to Ondo State where elections will hold in October. Political parties have started gearing up for the contest even as Governor Olusegun Mimiko officially declared his intention to run for a second term on Wednesday.
Many find the Ondo gubernatorial race interesting as a result of the intrigues, upsets and revelations that have trailed past governorship elections in the state. The 1983 election is one that will not be forgotten in a hurry. Violence followed the announcement of the result by FEDECO, the then electoral body. The orgy of violence only subsided when amends were made by the Court of Appeal and Chief Adekunle Ajasin was announced as the winner of the election before his former Deputy, Akin Omoboriowo could be sworn in. Omoboriowo had left the UPN after his boss allegedly reneged on an agreement that he would not seek a second term. That marked the beginning of intrigues in Ondo elections and till date, very little has changed.
Mimiko’s Journey To Alagbaka
For Governor Olusegun Rahman Mimiko, the journey to the Alagbaka Government House started long before the 2007 elections. Having cut his teeth as the Publicity Secretary of the Ondo Local Government chapter of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in 1983, he ran for electoral office in 1990 when he vied for the Chairmanship of Ondo Local Government on the platform of the Social Democratic Party. His zeal as a party man did not go unnoticed, he was as he was appointed as a member of the campaign organization of Evangelist Bamidele Olumilua who contested for governorship then. By 1992, he was appointed as the Commissioner for Health by Governor Olumilua. As Commissioner, he facilitated the “Pharmacy Shop” system which ensured 24-hour pharmacy services in the major hospitals in the state then.
Dr. Mimiko had already become a major political force by the time the Fourth Republic commenced. In view of his immense contributions to the electoral victory of the Alliance for Democracy in the 1999 governorship election in Ondo State, he was again appointed as the Commissioner for Health by Chief Adebayo Adefarati. He however resigned in on the 7th of November 2002.
After quitting as Commissioner, he heeded calls to join the governorship race. He however left the Alliance for Democracy when the party failed to hold primary elections in order to select the party’s flag bearer. He thereafter pitched his tent with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Even as a new member of the PDP, Mimiko was not irrelevant in the scheme of the party. Again in recognition of his being instrumental to his new party’s success at the governorship polls in 2003, he was appointed as the Secretary to the State Government by Governor Olusegun Agagu.
He was SSG till July 2005 when the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him as Minister for Housing and Urban Development. Again, Dr. Mimiko heeded calls to contribute more to the development of his state and he resigned his appointment in December, 2006 to participate in the 2007 governorship election.
While many were still wondering how he planned to defeat a sitting Governor at the primaries, Dr. Mimiko presented the Labour Party to the people of Ondo State on December 14, 2006 at the City Hall, Akure and he contested for the election on the party’s platform.
Though the electoral commission announced Dr. Agagu as the winner, after a legal tussle which ended with the appellate court, it was affirmed that the election was indeed won by Dr. Mimiko. He became the Ondo State Governor on February 23, 2012.
The Contenders: How They Stand
Two lawyers, Chiefs Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN and Olusola Oke of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) respectively have emerged as the top contenders for the governorship position.
Oke, a former Legal Adviser of the PDP is obviously not a political neophyte. He has vast experience on the political field. He represented the Ilaje/ Ese Odo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives in 1992. In 2000, he was appointed as the Commissioner representing Ondo State on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) where he served for four years. He was also at the Political Reform Conference in 2005.
His achievements at the NDDC put him up for consideration as the Chairman of the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Commission (OSOPADEC). He however resigned in 2006 to contest for the Ondo South Senatorial seat. Though he won, he never sat in the Senate chamber as intra-party squabbles cost him the seat.
Chief Akeredolu on his own path seems to have the least political experience among the contenders. The former Nigerian Bar Association President had previously served as the Secretary General of the Ibadan Branch of the Association between 1985 and 86. He served as the Publicity Secretary of the NBA between 1988 and 89 and was the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State from 1997 to 1999.
The Odds Against Them
Though Governor Olusegun Mimiko is seen by many as being unbeatable in the gubernatorial race, one factor that political analysts seem to believe could work against him is that the Labour Party, on whose platform is about the only party that will not benefit from “external support.” As it stands, he is the only Governor elected on the platform of the Labour Party, an indication that he is his own godfather.
The party also witnessed the defection of some of its prominent members, including Chief Olaiya Oni who was the party’s Chairman, Senator Boroffice, Wale Akinterinwa as well as Ifedayo Abegunde, a member of the House of Representatives.
Labour Party supporters have however stated their exit will not in any way affect the fortune of the party at the polls. According to them, “Labour Party has a solid structure” which remains unshaken by the exit of some members.
The ACN on the other hand seems to have built up from its 2007 woes. Not long after the elections in 2007, the party’s governorship candidate, Prince Ademola Adegoroye decamped to the PDP which was ruling the state then. Before then, the party had been rocked by internal crisis with many members antagonising the then Chairman, Sola Iji on the allegation that he supported Adegoroye against them. The Ondo ACN eventually lost it after the 2007 elections.
The party has however been on a mission to rebuild and restructure the party in order to regain its lost glory. With the party’s success in the South West in 2011, opinions have changed in favour of the ACN in many places.
Another thing that might affect the self-styled progressives is their system of choosing candidates. The ACN’s system of anointing candidates has been a cause of intra-party complaints since the party started. Not a few aspirants were displeased after Chief Akeredolu’s emergence and a number of them have since left for other political parties. Dr. Olu Agunloye, a guber aspirant in the ACN joined the Labour Party at Dr. Mimiko’s formal declaration in Akure.
While the fact that the most popular candidate might not end up flying the party’s flag at the main contest is believed to be capable of jeopardizing the party’s chances, it has been opined in some quarters that with the manner through which the ACN candidate emerged, if he wins, he will most likely end up as a puppet whose strings will be pulled by a godfather outside the state.
Chief Akeredolu is also carrying a burden of mixed feelings from his Owo kinsmen. Many have not forgotten that it was during his time as Attorney General that the former Governor of the state and one of the most revered personalities in Owo was arrested.
It is also a known fact that among the three main contenders for the position, Akeredolu is the least experienced politically. Most of the politicking he has done has been within the NBA. He will be having a feel of real politics for the very first time, thus leading to conclusions in some places that by fielding a greenhorn, the ACN might be having a game plan that remains yet unclear to non-members.
Sequel to the “anointing” of a candidate, the ACN has created a number of aggrieved aspirants, ome of who have moved on to other parties. That too will not work in the interest of the party in the forthcoming election as most of the defectors will be striving to deliver in order to become relevant in their new camps.
The PDP is seen as the Party that has the biggest work burden, the fortunes of the party in Ondo State before the 2007 elections when some of its key members chose to stake their political future with the newly formed Labour Party. The State Chairman, Alhaji Alli Olanusi was one of those who did. Two years after, they had reasons to celebrate as the party’s victory at the polls was eventually affirmed by the Appeal Court. The PDP thereafter went on a steady decline. It became characterised by divisions and internal wrangling as many members had their eyes on the governorship position.
It also became a subject of discourse that Ondo State PDP had lost favour with the PDP at the centre, apparently with the scandal that trailed the 2007 elections in which it became an open secret that the likes of Olusegun Obasanjo, Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson and even Joseph Ayo Babalola who died decades ago registered and voted in Ondo State.
One of the resultant effects of the in-fighting between the PDP members apparently led to the appointment of Omobola Johnson who was barely known in the state to represent them in the Federal Executive Council. Johnson is a daughter of High Chief Bayo Akinnola who though has close affinity to the PDP is also close to Governor Mimiko, being his kinsman.
Though it is being said that all is now well between the central arm of the PDP and the Ondo State chapter, many people are not expecting any surprise from the PDP in the October elections. Thanks to the party’s structure that is just being put in shape.
Members however believe they are up to the task of unseating the Governor. The fact that the candidature of Chief Olusola Oke did not bring any rancour is seen as a step in the right direction for them and a sign of good things to come.
Will ACN Capture Ondo?
The question on most lips now is “will ACN capture Ondo State?” Followers of political events have opined that all the parties concerned have a point to prove with the Ondo election. The state is the only one in the South West that is not being run by the ACN and as such, the ACN desperately wishes to capture it and claim a complete rout of the South West.
Those who have looked beyond the present feel the Asiwaju of Lagos and Leader of the ACN is simply preparing ground for “greater challenges”. Winning Ondo obviously means the South West is in the kitty and that will give the party more bargaining power ahead of the alliance it intends to form ahead of the 2015 general elections. Winning Ondo State will make the party the beautiful bride in the alliance to force the PDP out of office.
From another point of view however, it is being peddled around in political circles that the Asiwaju Tinubu has an axe to grind with the Ondo State Governor because in spite of the support he reportedly received, he did not join the ACN. But whichever way one looks at it, Mimiko seems to be the only one standing between Asiwaju, the ACN and the dream of capturing all Yoruba states.
Members of the Labour Party have however affirmed that Mimiko is not the type that can be pushed around and that Mimiko has done enough to convince that he deserves to be re-elected.
… But Will Mimiko Join PDP?
There are speculations that Governor Mimiko might join the PDP. Those behind the speculations have continually hammered on it that the Ondo State Governor enjoys a chummy relationship with Chief Oghiadohme, the President’s Chief of Staff. They also claimed that he has the ears of the Presidency. To drive home their point, those in this school of thought cited examples of Mimiko’s men who were given Federal appointments. The name of Dr. Pius Osunyikanmi, the President’s Special Adviser on International Relations came up. He had served as Mimiko’s Special Assistant in his days as SSG before he was later appointed as a Commissioner in 2010.
Those on the other side of things have however opined that that the Governor has no reason to leave the Labour Party which he single-handedly brought to Ondo State for the PDP or any other party. Explaining to Street Journal, Fola Adewunmi, an Akure indigene pointed out that “in Ondo State, Mimiko is Labour Party and Labour Party Is Mimiko, Why will he leave his domain and now go to where he will subject himself to a godfather? I don’t see that happening”, he concluded.