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Olusegun Mimiko And The True Meaning Of June 12

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No doubt, the June 12, 1993, mandate freely and willingly given to the late icon of democracy and philanthropist, Chief MKO Abiola, by Nigerians but unfortunately annulled by the military junta led by Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, has come to be an integral part of our democratic life as a nation.

No one, not even history would forget that the struggle of the late political giant and business mogul to have the military respect the sanctity of choice made by Nigerians in that historic election formed a watershed and kick started the beginning of what has now become an enduring democratic system in our nation’s history.

Although, Chief Abiola died in the struggle, with the benefit of hindsight, it is painful but satisfactory to state that he died a martyr. One can confidently say without any fear of being contradicted that our democracy was eternally watered by his unparalleled sacrifice, and we are today enjoying the fruits of his labour and those of other heroes.

It is based on this premise that a good number of progressives vigorously advocated that June 12 should be made a public holiday of some sort or be declared Nigeria’s Democracy Day! However, with the request not being acceded to by the federal government, some state governments particularly in the South West observe a holiday in commemoration of the day widely believed in some quarters to be a day the roots of democracy were firmly planted in our country.

Beyond the holidays, almost all those who are inseparably attached to June 12 organise one form of symposium, colloquium, seminar, conference, and such other talk shows or the other on that day every year. These are very good! But there is one man who has chosen to go beyond all the annual talk talk shows to taking real action that reflect in its actual sense those principles and legacies which the late Chief MKO Abiola would be proud of in his abode of perpetual rest. And that man is Dr Olusegun Mimiko, the executive governor of Ondo State.

Knowing full well that Abiola touched the lives of our children and youths in his lifetime and would have done even more if not for the cold hands of death that snatched him away from us, Mimiko has decided to carry on with that legacy with his plethora of children oriented programmes that are the first and never been replicated by any other person or government in Nigeria and, without sounding immodest, in some cases, the world.

No other government has embarked on such robust and audacious projects whose target is to empower the children, not necessarily because they are capital intensive in nature (for indeed they are, which could be a justifiable reason) but because it takes a “Caring Heart” indeed to brave the odds and reach out to the less privileged, the powerless and the helpless in our society, and lift them from a state where they are an object of pity to a height where they are empowered to be that which they dream to be.

It is for these reasons, and perhaps many more that Dr Olusegun Mimiko launched the Free Shuttle Bus Project for students of the State on that same significant date of June 12 of 2012.

The Project which has run for four full years in the state without any form of interruption or disruption involves 90 buses of comfort that convey about 50,000 students, both primary and secondary, to and fro school everyday across the state. Just like Chief Abiola would have done, the buses are not discriminatory against students of private schools as any student in uniform is conveyed free of charge.

Apart from the fact that this service is at no cost whatsoever to the students, it is a model in service delivery to the populace. With the lack of maintenance of government property especially those used free of charge by members of the public, and the lack of dedication by a majority of civil servants in areas where there is no egunje, one wonders how Iroko has been able to keep this project running for four full years without interruption or disruption of any kind.

This can only be alluded to the sincerity and incontestable commitment of the governor, who, as a leader with a caring heart, has been able to sell his virtue of “service above gain” to the good people of Ondo State who have also seen in their leader the ingrained desire to serve them well even in the face of dwindling economic fortunes. This virtue has not only permeated the rank and file of the State civil service, it has also percolated down to the ordinary man on the streets of Ondo to the extent that they have come to see government projects as their very own.

This has had a multiplier effect on the people as the burden of transportation to and fro school for the students has been taken away from the parents. No student stays back at home because he/she does not have transport fare. This also saves some money for the parents and increases their spending power on other family needs, thereby improving family prestige.

In order to make the Free Shuttle Bus for students meaningful and not just a patch of a part of the whole, Governor Mimiko has so far built about 51 mega schools with ultra-modern facilities across the state. These schools are not referred to as “mega” for nothing: the gigantic buildings, exotic ambience of the classrooms, multiple playgrounds, administrative blocks that could easily pass off as the Senate building of any university, well-stocked libraries, modern ICT blocks, beautiful and well-maintained landscapes, stand-by generators etc, the schools tower above the rest in any part of Nigeria.

All these have also given a dramatic rise to the rate of school enrolment in the State especially in the last four years.

The other good factor is that this has caused all the private schools in Ondo to up their game in order to stem the tide of exodus of students from the private to the public schools due to the restoration of parents’ faith in the public schools as a result of the deliberate policies of the governor to empower the students and get all children of school age in Ondo educated in an atmosphere that builds confidence and imbues pride in them.

This, beyond the yearly rituals of organizing seminars and symposia in honour of the late icon, as has become the norm in other domains, no doubt, is exactly how to celebrate one of Nigeria’s heroes of democracy, Chief MKO Abiola.

Beyond the rhetorics and verbosity often associated with banal progressivism, Governor Olusegun Mimiko has shown the practical and more impactful way winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election can best be remembered and his memory preserved for life. He has done this by impacting life just exactly as Abiola himself would have done. Let other genuine progressives learn from the Iroko!

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Articles by Jude Ndukwe