Sworn political enemies, Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo and Bola Tinubu, National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) have exchanged pleasantries in public for the first time since the October 20 governorship election in the state.
Mr. Tinubu and other ACN leaders had in the build-up to the election accused Mr. Mimiko of betrayal and vowed to unseat him as governor.
The governor in turn fired back during his re-election campaigns, asking the electorate not to vote for the ACN’s candidate, Rotimi Akerodolu, as the state would be governed from Lagos, a reference to Mr. Tinubu.
The venue of the re-union was Saint Thomas Anglican Church, Akure, at the burial ceremony of a prominent leader of the ACN in Ondo State, Wumi Adegbonmire, popularly known as 'Omo-Ekun'. Mr. Adegbonmire died on December 28, 2012.
Arms length, then rapprochement
Although Mr. Tinubu initially avoided the Ondo Governor, the two men later shook hands after the church service. Mr. Mimiko was the first of the two to arrive at the event. The former Lagos governor arrived quietly during the program.
When the programme ended, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, and his counterpart from Oyo, Abiola Ajimobi, approached Mr. Mimiko and appealed to him to make the first peace gesture to Mr. Tinubu. A seemingly reluctant Mr. Mimiko agreed and allowed himself to be pulled by the middle-men towards the ACN leader. He approached Mr. Tinubu and both men shook hands.
The ACN, which controls five of the six states in South Western Nigeria, campaigned vigorously to take Ondo, being led by Mr. Mimiko of the Labour Party. The ACN was at the forefront of Mr. Mimiko’s battle to re-claim his victory after he was denied victory in the 2007 elections.
The Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) Candidate, Olusegun Agagu, was declared winner.
Before joining the Labour Party to contest in 2007, Mr. Mimiko was a member of the PDP. Analysts had predicted that he would join the ACN if he was eventually declared winner of the elections, a move the governor rejected preferring to remain in his Labour Party.
The former Lagos State Governor, Mr. Tinubu, was said to have personally assisted Mr. Mimiko, financially and morally, during his efforts to reclaim his mandate at the court. Mr. Mimiko has denied ever receiving any financial assistance from Mr. Tinubu.
Shun greed, cleric warns
In his sermon at the burial ceremony, the Archbishop of the Ecclesiastical Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Adebayo Akinde, urged Nigerian politicians, particularly those who are Christians, to shun greed and be committed to the service of the people.
He also advised them not to enrich themselves at the expense of the electorate that voted them into their respective positions.
Mr. Akinde, who expressed disgust over the present situation in Nigeria, noted that the country needed 'political engineering' to move forward. He said Nigerians still wallow in abject poverty because of maladministration. The cleric described the late Mr. Adegbonmire, a former Secretary to the State Government in Ondo, as a dogged fighter who exhibited uncommon high sense of integrity.
"During the days of military dictatorship, late Adegbonmire stood by the Yoruba race through his writing in the old Nigerian Tribune and used his political exploits to develop his fatherland."
"The ACN leader was a principled person, he was loyal to the ideology of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, to the end," he said.
The cleric noted that the deceased was not like many politicians who claimed to be Awoists, believers in Mr. Awolowo’s political philosophy, because of what they wanted to acquire. He said Mr. Adegbonmire believed in 'Awoism' and lived by it; stressing that when he was in government, he never enriched himself.
Mr. Tinubu and the ACN National Chairman, Bisi Akande, in their remarks described the late Mr. Adegbonmire as a man of integrity and a role model, saying he would be missed.
Mr. Tinubu said the vacuum created by the late ACN leader would not be too difficult to fill because of the 'solid' succession arrangement within the party. He said the ACN leadership has developed many young politicians that could occupy any position in the party. The event was attended by some state governors in the South West, deputy governors, federal and state lawmakers, former political office holders, and several Yoruba leaders.