For many indigenes of Ondo State, especially those living “abroad” as opposed to those in the Diaspora, the days preceding the October 20, 2012 governorship election were surely full of apprehension. At every gathering, both formal and informal, the election became a focal point. It could not be otherwise, there was so much bad blood in the air. The campaign train of Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, descended on the state like a blitzkrieg. While Akeredolu himself is a disciplined gentleman and distinguished lawyer, it was very clear that he is no politician. Thus his godfather, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, national leader of the ACN, ably aided by other leaders of the party did all the politicking. It would have been great if they had proved beyond reasonable doubt why Akeredolu would be a better governor than the incumbent, Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party, LP. Rather, the campaign descended to the level of the guttersnipe. Their hundreds of supporters at the campaign grounds, largely believed to have been “imported from neighbouring states,” were only fed stories of Mimiko’s betrayal. He was believed to have received both financial and moral support from the Tinubu camp when he was struggling to retrieve his 2007 stolen mandate at the Elections Petition Tribunal. Having succeeded however, Mimiko is alleged to have reneged on a promise to dump his LP for the ACN. When it comes to Ondo State politics, Mimiko is surely a beautiful bride. For we have equally heard how he is forever being courted – or is he the one doing the courting? – by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
But the stories of the campaign grounds were not restricted to the issue of betrayal alone, party stalwarts that we revere as elder statesmen began inciting voters to violence ahead of October 20 if their candidate did not carry the day. That of course was the limit. Thus it was not surprising that the inspector general of police deployed 11,000 policemen to provide security on polling day. This was apart from the heavy presence of soldiers with an order from the GOC 2 Mechanised Division, Ibadan, to shoot anybody caught with arms at sight. That was how badly polluted the political atmosphere was. Well, we can all heave a sigh of relief. The election has come and gone. By the evening of October 20, it was already clear who was coasting home to victory. Thus it was not surprising that Mimiko beat Olu Oke of the PDP, the first runner-up, by over 100,000 votes. And the latter beat Akeredolu, who came third, by over 12,000 votes. And while Mimiko won 13 local governments, LG, the runners-up won three and two respectively. Of the 594,244 ballots accepted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Mimiko’s 260,199 votes constituted 43.7 per cent. The runners-up got 50.3 per cent, and the other nine candidates the remaining 6 per cent. The results show that this was a keenly contested election. The ACN was surely at a time in a position to send Mimiko out of the Government House, but the party leaders shot themselves in the foot when rather than conduct the primaries to elect a candidate, they single-handedly picked one and foisted same on their members. That was the day the wind went out of their sail. In spite of their brinkmanship, the party never recovered the initial momentum that would have given Mimiko the greatest fight of his political life. And talking of the PDP, whose candidate came second, until a few months to the election, it was not clear whether they even had a candidate. The choice of Oke was a surprise too. And perhaps, if he had started early with his preparations, who knows, he could have given the incumbent some fright.
What were the things that gave Mimiko the edge in this election? One, he is a grassroots politician who had been involved since he qualified as a medical doctor. Even though he has a hospital in his hometown, he is known more as a politician than a medical doctor. And not many of his associates would allow him to administer an injection on them. He is now more at home in politics than in the world of medicine. In government in the last three and a half years however, he has scored a bull’s-eye with his Iya Abiye programme. This programme is targeted at reducing maternal and infant mortality. In many parts of the state, he has built modern markets, with conveniences and police post to boot. This project has further endeared him to the womenfolk. His mega-school project too has endeared him to the heart of many an educationist. Today, teachers in Ondo State are believed to be the highest paid in the Federation. He has equally revived the Farm settlement scheme made popular in the First Republic by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. So far, his greatest showcase may be the facelift he has given Akure, the state capital. Is it any wonder that it is in Akure North and Akure South LGs that Mimiko got the largest number of votes in this election?
Now that he has secured a second term mandate, what is the state to expect from him? There are so many ongoing projects that are crying for his attention. Mimiko needs to rededicate himself to the job of uplifting the state, so that it can become the envy of others. Ondo is the only South-west state that belongs to the oil-producing club. That huge revenue should be used in developing infrastructure that would make the state a first choice for investors. By so doing, there would be jobs for the large body of able-bodied young men and women in the state. The governor should not turn his back on the issue of South-west integration. Even though the leaders of the ACN had fouled the air so much during the campaigns for the last election, there should be a rapprochement. If the goal is progressive politics, the ACN and the LP ought to find a meeting point. After all, don’t they say in politics there are neither permanent friends nor permanent enemies? It would not be surprising if some day some of those in ACN today find themselves in other parties. What have we not seen in this country? Even after the swearing-in next February, it may be a while yet before the ghost of defeat stops haunting the losers. While the leaders of the ACN are preparing for a post-mortem of the election, the Ondo State chapter of the PDP has confirmed that they would be contesting the results. That is why they have castigated some of their leaders, including President Goodluck Jonathan, David Mark, president of the Senate, and Aminu Tambuwal, speaker of the House of Representatives, for congratulating Mimiko. It would have been surprising if there was no voice of dissent from the political parties. In Nigeria, parties lose election only when they have been successfully out-rigged by their rival. We are waiting for the tribunal to do its job in this matter.