The outcome of yesterday’s gubernatorial election may have drawn a curtain on plans for regional integration by the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the dominant political party in the region, but the proportion of votes mustered by the victorious incumbent is troubling.
The victory of Governor Segun Mimiko in last Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Ondo State was a remarkable personal effort for a dogged medical doctor, whose political life has in recent times centred on risky adventures. Mimiko has in his nearly 30 years on the political field taken many risks that many otherwise endowed political generals would have shied away from.
Remarkably, he has repeatedly overcome the odds. Yesterday, he came on top again and rubbished another maxim in Ondo politics that no incumbent governor is returned to power through the ballot box. Chief Michael Ajasin the first civilian governor of the old Ondo State was returned to power courtesy of the courts in 1983.
As a commissioner for Health in the government of Chief Adebayo Adefarati, Mimiko put his budding political prospects at risk when he resigned from the ruling government in 2002 to join forces with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, whose standard bearer was Chief Segun Agagu.
After helping Agagu to power, Mimiko again left the ruling PDP and his ministerial portfolio gotten on the platform of the party, to slug it out against Agagu on the platform of the unknown Labour Party, LP. And again he was on the victorious side. It is no surprise that as he prepared to seek re-election as governor that the maxim used to taunt him was that Ondo State governors do not get a second term.
Breaking that barrier was of course not easy. He was faced with one of the most entrenched political organisations to have surfaced the country in recent times in the shape and structure of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
ACN’s opposition to Mimiko was a grudge battle centred almost on personal disloyalty to the political leader of a section of the country and his denial of an alleged agreement to join the ACN.
It was of course a great risk for Mimiko taking on the powerful political machine of the National Leader of the, ACN, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Before now, the Tinubu-led ACN had successfully uprooted three PDP governments in the Southwest, Osun and Ekiti in 2010, and Oyo in 2011. Mimiko inevitably made himself a target for the ACN with his refusal to decamp to the party.
Mimiko’s refusal to join the ACN became the major stumbling block to the ACN’s ambitious plan of carving out a homogenous political identity for the Southwest. Besides the talk of political homogeneity, is the still to be unfolded plan for economic integration that has been trumpeted by the ACN.
It didn’t matter that Ondo State was on the fringes of the territory under the control of the ACN, the campaign to wrest the state from Mimiko was a dogged battle. The top hierarchy of the party and all its Southwest governors including Mimiko’s one-time friend and neighbour, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, were actively involved in a battle that tested personal loyalty and political sagacity.
It was never expected to be an easy battle and as the campaign dragged on, it became inevitable that bridges and bonds had to be broken in the contest for the soul of the state. While the Tinubu crowd sought to brand Mimiko as a traitor, the governor’s supporters coined the phrase that ‘Ondo people will not serve a foreign god.’
In the end, the people of Ondo decided to return Dr. Mimiko apparently based on what has been largely described as his credentials in office. However, it was a narrow escape. Yesterday’s declared results gave Mimiko 260,199 votes out of a total of 624, 659 voter representing about 40%. He thus did not get majority of the votes.
The PDP candidate, Olusola Oke who came second with 155,961 votes and ACN’s Rotimi Akeredolu, who came third with 143,512 votes together mustered enough votes that could have probably sent Mimiko packing. However, the past history of animosity between the PDP and the ACN did not allow the two to form an alliance.
Remarkably, Mimiko was returned to power by the Court of Appeal in 2009 which scored him with 198,261 votes and his rival, Segun Agagu with 128,669. Then he had more than 55% of the votes.
How the governor’s votes proportionally diminished between 2007 and 2012 is an issue for the governor and his handlers. He may not be seeking for another re-election but a legacy in the hearts of the people is a worthy ambition for the adventurous governor.
PDP with its divided house was alas, a surprise second in the election. Given the internal division within the party that saw a faction of the party opposed to Agagu, work for Mimiko, the second place finishing would boost the morale of other state chapters of the party in the southwest as elections draw closer in Ekiti and Osun States in the next year.
It was no surprise that in the tick of the campaign that the revived publicity machinery of the party in Osun State took it upon itself to taunt Governor Rauf Aregbesola drawing attention to what the party described as the governor’s abandonment of his duty post for party duties in Ondo.
With the result now declared, the PDP could now draw blood!