GOVERNOR OLUSEGUN MIMIKO: AN 'ANTIDOTE' TO LEADERSHIP DEFICIT
Over the years one of the disturbing concerns of ever-increasing global challenge of the 21st century especially in Nigeria is finding and nurturing purposeful leaders for socio-political and economic advancement. Many world leaders, leadership scholars, business gurus and mentors equally express worries about the need for developing, training or grooming the future leaders, but to date no feasible solution has been recorded to expunge this jinx. Thankfully a glimpse of succour finally came to life as His Excellency Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State vigorously engage in riding off leadership deficit and creating an enabling environment to foster millennium development goals, food security, and human capital development among other things in Ondo State.
Aside these sheer qualities of excellence which keep resonating in his leadership style, Governor Mimiko has also began a voracious campaign which can seamlessly help the Nigerian government to identify the fact that if the country would have to succeed, its failure rate must be doubled. This intellectual analysis of Governor Mimiko was potently emphasised when he spoke on People, Power, Good Governance and the Future of Democracy in Nigeria, during the public presentation of the “Nigeria Golden Book” by The Sun Publishing Limited in Abuja, on Tuesday (27th Sept 2011). He expressed regret that Nigeria was one of the largest food importers in the world despite over 74 million hectares of arable land in Nigeria, and as a result the country spends an average of N24.5 trillion annually on food importation. It does not take a genius to know that such scenario cannot in any way sustain or encourage economic growth but would only raise inflation rate and also cripple the efforts of our local farmers and causing other devastating effects on our fragile economy.
According to Governor Mimiko during the key note address: “The food import bill of Nigeria in 2007 to 2010 was N98 trillion or $628 billion. In 2010 alone, Nigeria spent N632 billion on importation of wheat, N356 billion on importation of rice. That means we spent N1 billion per day on rice alone, N217 billion on sugar importation and with all the marine resources, rivers, lakes and creeks, we are blessed with, Nigeria spent N97 billion importing fish.” For those who might be sceptical about this emphatic claims laced with facts and figures, the Governor reliably got the figures from the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, whom he quoted as saying that Nigeria was completely unable to feed its citizens going by the current trend of affairs. He continued further: “This is a clear departure from the reality of Nigeria in the 1960s when agriculture provided the main source of employment, income and foreign exchange earnings for Nigeria. The advent of commercial oil exploitation in the mid-1970s no doubt, heralded an era of decay for agricultural output in Nigeria. It is interesting to note that as a nation today, we produce 500,000 tonnes of rice whereas we consume 2.5 million tonnes.”
While addressing the issue of the country’s educational system, Mimiko affirmed that the state of infrastructure, institutional materials and quality of teaching had nose-dived precipitously in the country. “The products from our schools now have to grapple with the issue of the integrity of their certificates. Our graduates are largely unemployed, yet the number of those aspiring to secure places in the limited number of higher institutions continues to rise. The loss of confidence in the nation’s educational system has inadvertently opened the floodgate of exodus of the nation’s youth to foreign lands. Nigeria has recently become the country with the largest number of students who attend universities and high schools in the United States.”
Quite frankly, I see a future that Nigeria can be proud of when I went through the 512-page book by The Sun, which chronicled Nigeria’s journey to statehood from 1914, when Sir Lord Lugard amalgamated the northern and southern protectorates and christened the union, Nigeria to the present day. The book succinctly tells the nation’s story with an eye on the future, examines her journey through independence, the post-independence crisis to the leadership challenges and the present democratic dispensation. To the best of my knowledge book has been receiving rare commendations from eminent Nigerians including past and present leaders, traditional rulers, and captains of industry, professionals, and politicians, among others. No wonder the event witnessed the presence of political bigwigs, captains of industry, technocrats, members of the diplomatic corps, etc.
Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, Jigawa State Governor Mallam Sule Lamido, among others, made stimulating demands for a new deal anchored on the expressed wishes of the people; even as former Head of State, who chaired the event, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar warned that no effort to re-shape the destiny of the country should be spared. Without fear of contradictions kudos should be bestowed on Governor Mimiko, who was the keynote speaker at the occasion, as he extolled the “Can do Spirit” of Nigerians, which he observed, had been blighted by stagnation in vital sectors, including agriculture, health, infrastructure, leadership deficit and a defective structure. He blamed the electoral woes of the past and the consistent decline in economic growth on the malaise, and therefore called for an urgent “discussion on the future of the nation.”
In an ecclesiastical tone, the governor said: “We must talk in this country. We cannot continue to pretend and run away from it. There are structural problems. If we don’t talk, people will talk for us in the streets; robbers, kidnappers and terrorists will talk for us in the streets.” He enjoined the National Assembly to join in the struggle to put together a perfect structure that will fashion out a perfect constitution of our dreams.
Meanwhile, during my intellectual discourse with a distinguish lawmaker who shares same ideology with Governor Mimiko, Honourable Joseph Akinlaja, (Labour leader in the Federal House of Representatives), he equally attributed the positive improvement in the last April elections to the amendment of the Constitution by the National Assembly last year. He insisted that the National Assembly will be unrepentant in its progressive strides irrespective of the clamour for a Sovereign National Conference, (SNC). He noted that the House would likely review the Land Use Act to encourage agriculture, fiscal federalism to reduce tension in the polity, adding that the House had already taken the lead by pruning down its running costs which will foster a good direction for the polity. It is important to note that Governor Mimiko was seemingly spot on, when he stressed that ‘‘we need to talk’’. And in fairness to the Governor, stakeholders never sat down to develop this Constitution that was entrusted on us. Every time amendment, amendment; Nigerians need to discuss that document entirely. We’re either a federation or not. We really need to state where we are. Suffice to say in lips and bounds Governor Mimiko is acclaimed by many as Nigeria’s best performing Governor and the facts are evident. In the circle of intellectuals, particularly those with residential, professional, or emotional stakes in Nigeria, he is honoured as an exemplary leader exhibiting the realities of purposeful, progressive and visionary governance. He is a cynosure of all eyes in a political topography devoid of leadership and clarity of political vision, a model deserving of widespread replication.
Mimiko deserves all the credit he is getting. His governance philosophy and his ability to grow his ideas from paper to infrastructure and service-delivery outcomes make him a champion in this segment of our on-going democratic transition. However, in this era of leadership deficit in our states and at the national level, we must look to the margins to locate and celebrate every effective, disciplined, compassionate, and result-oriented leaders; interestingly Governor Olusegun Mimiko is that shining example that should be celebrated in that order. God bless Nigeria.
** Emmanuel Ajibulu is a Media Aide to Hon. Joseph Akinlaja (Ondo East/West Federal Constituency); Hon Akinlaja is also Deputy National Chairman of Labour Party, Nigeria.