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After the last elections, the next election in the southwest holds in 2013. It is the gubernatorial election in Ondo State where Governor Olusegun Mimiko holds sway. Mimiko assumed office in Feb, 2009 on the platform of Labour Party (LP). He did not make it on a platter of gold. His road to government house was long, winding and tortuous, but a politician of the kind of Mimiko, tenaciously holding on to a dream to get power and hold it in trust for the people, will always succeed. No wonder he is fondly called Iroko. He actually won the 2007 gubernatorial election in Ondo. Months before the polls, he had joined the LP which he nurtured in the state to confront his former party, the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). His efforts paid off. The people elected him their governor. Significantly, he was the only governor across the country elected on the platform of the LP. But the powers-that-be would not allow the mandate to stand, forcing Mimiko to engage in a legal battle that saw the Court of Appeal restoring him to office. But that was not until after the PDP candidate, Dr Olusegun Agagu of the PDP, had usurped power for more than one year. Now, the activities of the government of Mimiko over the last two years leave no one in doubt about the progressive inclination of the governor.

The governor has proved that his government is the lease of life that the state needs after the years of the locusts imposed by the PDP- led administration. One commentator described the state as one huge construction site. He must have been amazed by the volume of road constructions and housing projects going on in the state. Another called the breakthroughs in the health sector monumental. Not only are health services in government hospitals substantially free, infrastructural development in the sector is a top priority. Mimiko is a doctor and so knows what it means to have a healthy citizenry.

Agriculture is another sector of the state where the administration is doing so much to aid formers to make Ondo Nigeria’s food basket. In the education sector, many people think the transformation is comparable only to the time of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo when education took the pride of place in the scheme of things in the Western Region. The giant strides of the Mimiko government have not been without the people’s endorsement. In the just concluded polls, the Ondo people voted overwhelmingly for his LP. There cannot be a better way to pass a vote of confidence on a governor that is working. The LP won the three senatorial seats in the polls as well as most of the House of Representatives and House of Assembly seats. Ondo is in fact making history by being the only state to produce virtually all the LP lawmakers in the National Assembly. Now, ahead of 2013 when Mimiko is due for re-election (pundits have apparently given it to him, going by the superlative showing of his LP in the state in the April polls), there are some undercurrents in the politics of the southwest. Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is said to be discomfited about the rising profile of Mimiko and his LP in the politics of the geo-political zone and would rather prefer to swallow the party up. The ACN must have been emboldened by its control of the six states in the southwest viz Lagos, Osun and Ekiti in addition to the two it recently won- Ogun and Oyo. The argument of the ACN seems to be that all the states in the zone should be under its control. This mindset would appear to be in tandem with the opinion in many quarters that the ACN and the LP are two parties of like – minds.

Now, Mimiko is ostensibly not disposed to the perspective that the Ondo LP should dissolve into the ACN. He prefers that his party should stand alone, to continue to represent a new power bloc in the southwest. The twist to the stand off is the recent threat by an ACN leader that the party’s is ‘Broom Revolution’ is soon to sweep Ondo in apparent reference to the ACN inordinate ambition to put the state in its kitty via the 2013 gubernatorial election. The ACN argument that the progressives in the southwest should operate under one umbrella lacks logic. It stands logic on its head to suggest that all the progressives in the zone should operate under one umbrella before democracy dividends can be effectively served. If Mimiko chooses to operate separately from the other progressives in the southwest with the LP and the he gets his Ondo people to endorse the initiative, so be it! It beats imagination that the ACN leaders could be so naïve as to think that had their party held attraction for Mimiko at the outset, he would not have hesitated to adopt it as his platform when he quit the PDP preparatory to the 2007 gubernatorial race.

One political analyst suggested that the PDP will be better kept away from power in the zone when it has two potent power blocs to contend with. Each power bloc will make up for the inadequacy of the other. Mimiko has paid his dues in politics as to allow anybody like the ACN leaders are doing to boss him around. His antecedents speak volumes of rare progressivism that dwarf the credentials paraded by many of the ACN leaders seeking the upper hand in southwest politics and voicing the illusion that the Ondo LP should dissolve into their party. He made his mark in politics before majority of them. He started off as a student – activist. Mimiko was prominent in student unionism in his university days at Ile-Ife where he was at various times a member of the Students Representative Council (SRC). He was to chair the SRC before he left the university. As a full fledged politician, Mimiko served as the publicity secretary of Ondo Local Government chapter of Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), led by Awolowo, in 1983. This happened at a time today’s so-called progressives in the ACN had not cut their teeth in politics.

During the third republic, Mimiko was the Ondo State health commissioner. By the time he left office in late 1993 as a result of military coup, he had made his mark as a performer. He returned to the office of health commissioner at the inception of the current political dispensation in 1999 under the Alliance for Democracy (AD) government of Chief Ade Adefarati. Among his legendary achievements before he left that office in 2002 was his introduction of the Festivals of Surgery under which auspices hundreds of free surgical operations were carried out to restore the sight of the blind and partially blind patients and to relieve those with hernia. There was also the Health Rangers Scheme facilitated by him to take health services to the innermost parts of Ondo State. Mimiko left AD in 2002 when it became clear he could not achieve his gubernatorial ambition on its platform and joined the PDP which he helped to win the 2003 elections in the state and subsequently became the secretary to the state government (SSG). It was from the position of the SSG that he was appointed into the federal cabinet as minister of housing and urban development by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. It is on record that Mimiko also acquitted himself as minister as he coordinated the Obasanjo administration’s reform programme in housing and urban development sector. He quit the federal capital in December 2006 to enable him offer himself for higher service to Ondo State as the LP gubernatorial candidate in the 2007 polls. Then the election which saw him being robbed of his mandate and was ultimately restored by the court. Since then, there has been no looking back for Mimiko in his quest to put smile on the faces of Ondo people.

Tokunboh Lawson Writes in from Abuja.

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