olusegun-mimiko

The truth is that it is a faction of the PDP in the state that is beating the drums of war and stoking the fire from beneath. It is now left for the security agents to do their jobs.


As the governorship election in Ondo State, South-West Nigeria fast approaches, political developments in the state have become a cause for worry. Ondo State and its next-door neighbour, Ekiti State, are the two states under the control of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the South-West geo-political zone of the country.

The two states have some peculiar similarities. Their people are brothers and sisters. In fact, Ekiti State was carved out of Ondo State some 20 years ago. In terms of culture, tradition and other socio-political issues, the two states are like siemese twins. Besides, the incumbent governors of the two states, Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo and Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti, are two dogged governors who were able to stand their own when the ‘progressive’ tsunami overran the South-West a few years ago, first, through the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and then the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Fayose put paid to the reign of the APC in Ekiti State after a ding-dong battle at the polls in 2014. Similarly, Mimiko went through an energy-sapping judicial duel with his namesake, the late Olusegun Agagu, who was governor of Ondo State on the platform of the PDP. Mimiko, a veteran of grassroots politics, had briefly served in the government of Agagu as secretary to government before he pulled out due to disagreement with his boss over his second-term agenda. By doing this, he incurred the wrath of the then president and another namesake, Olusegun Obasanjo, who was also his political benefactor. With this, he knew that the doors of the PDP were foreclosed against him.

As a grassroots politician, he knew he could weather the storm without the PDP. He later pitched his tent with the nascent Labour Party at that time. It was on the platform of the Labour Party that he contested election in 2007 as governor of Ondo State. By the calculation of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), he lost that election. Agagu won.

But Mimiko thought differently. He felt he was shortchanged. He headed for the courts to test the veracity of the result of the election. It was the battle of his life. And for two years, the case went on. He was finally pronounced governor on February 23, 2009, on the platform of the Labour Party, which he singled-handedly financed and nurtured to national reckoning.

In his first year in office, his popularity soared to high heavens. It was like he was the only good thing that had happened to the state in many years. Market women, students, artisans all sang his praises to high heavens. That was the time the people of the state came up with the slogan: “Iroko”, (as he is popularly known and called), “gba si be”. In Yoruba mythology, Iroko, one of the biggest trees in the forest, is highly revered. It is credited with so many superstitious beliefs connoting raw energy, strength and power.

The matter was made worse, when on Thursday, October 27, 2016 INEC came out with the list of eligible candidates and endorsed Jimoh Ibrahim as the authentic candidate of the PDP. Since that announcement, it is as if hell has been let loose in the state.


So, whenever Mimiko was sighted in town, the common refrain was: “Iroko, gba sibe”. “Gba sibe,” in this context, means “our votes are for you anytime, any day.” And long after the 2007 elections and the titanic court battles, the slogan stuck to him like a plague – a positive one, that is. But today, all that is history. The Iroko of yesterday is desperately struggling to find a successor to take over from where he will stop on February 24, 2017.

Long before the two separate governorship primaries embarked upon by the two factions of the PDP in the state — the Ahmed Makarfi and the Ali-Modu Sheriff factions — there had been indications that Mimiko would settle for Eyitayo Jegede, a lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and the state’s attorney-general and commissioner for justice, as successor. And true to the bookmakers’ prediction, when the Makarfi faction of the PDP, to which Mimiko belong, held their own primary in Akure, Jegede emerged as the candidate. The Ali-Modu Sheriff faction later took their own primary to Ibadan and Jimoh Ibrahim, also a lawyer and controversial businessman, emerged winner.

Jegede’s emergence caused some furore in his faction, but it was quickly doused. On the other hand, Ibrahim’s emergence from the Sheriff’s faction was like a fait accompli. Those who know Ibrahim are aware of his ruthlessness when it comes to spending money. Since he emerged as a candidate of the Sheriff faction of PDP in the state, he has avoided the public, preferring instead to remain underground where he has been throwing tantrums at real and imaginary enemies.

First, he accused certain officials of INEC of demanding a $1 million bribe from him. That one has been debunked. Then, the big upset came when a court in Abuja came up with the verdict that he was the “rightful” candidate of the PDP and also instructed INEC to acknowledge him as such. That decision overturned the apple cart in the whole political configuration in the state as far as the forthcoming election is concerned.

The matter was made worse, when on Thursday, October 27, 2016 INEC came out with the list of eligible candidates and endorsed Jimoh Ibrahim as the authentic candidate of the PDP. Since that announcement, it is as if hell has been let loose in the state.

Though the announcement must have caught Mimiko napping, he quickly summoned courage and dashed to Abuja, to lay his complaints before the president. He, also, gave a proviso that if the decision was not quickly reversed, his state could go up in “conflagration”. This is the crux of the matter.

After all, there are divisions and schisms in all the other parties, particularly the APC and Alliance for Democracy (AD), in the state, but none has called its supporters out to disrupt the peace and tranquility of the state.


For God’s sake, why should Ondo State go up in flames if Mimiko’s anointed candidate does not contest the election? It is true that Mimiko has recorded some significant achievements in office as governor, but as stated earlier, the goodwill that heralded him into office more than seven years ago, seems to have evaporated.

Ibrahim may have been an interloper in PDP, but what is happening in the larger PDP today and particularly in Ondo State is the handiwork of Mimiko. He, it was, who teamed up with the likes of Ayo Fayose and Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and brought Ali-Modu Sheriff to the party as interim chairman. Now, Sheriff has proved too artful for all of them to handle and instead of presiding over a united party, he is doing the job of an undertaker.

Initially, according to reports, the trio — Mimiko, Fayose, and Wike — were all engaged in a war of attrition trying to outdo one another to gain Sheriff’s favour and possibly become a running mate to him if his ambition to become the presidential candidate of the PDP in 2019 materialises. At least, that was the permutation and game plan. Now, that plan has fallen flat on its face.

Jimoh Ibrahim may have played a crude, crooked and smart one on Mimiko and the PDP, but, by and large, what is happening is an internal problem of the PDP, which should not be magnified into a state-wide conflagration. The truth is that it is a faction of the PDP in the state that is beating the drums of war and stoking the fire from beneath. It is now left for the security agents to do their jobs.

After all, there are divisions and schisms in all the other parties, particularly the APC and Alliance for Democracy (AD), in the state, but none has called its supporters out to disrupt the peace and tranquility of the state.

As it is, except the court reverses itself, INEC may not be able to save the PDP. And just like Justice Ignatius Agube, a justice of the Appeal Court observed last week, the party’s failure to internalise democracy within its fold over the years was the cause of its problems. Indeed, almost all the political parties operating in Nigeria today are guilty of this anomaly. The earlier the parties put their houses in order, the better for democracy in Nigeria.

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