On April 14th 2007, I was at the Christian Corpers’ Lodge in Alagbaka, Akure, Ondo, waiting for Maurice Iwu’s (or Iwuruwu as my friend calls him) INEC to announce the Winner of Ondo State Gubernatorial election. The wait lasted more than two days and allegations of rigging out Mimiko started flying round. Against public opinion, Dr. Olusegun Agagu was announced as the winner and this was followed by mass protest in Akure, Ondo, Owo and several other towns and villages in Ondo State.
Dr. Olusegun Rahman Mimiko was the people’s choice by a wide margin but the PDP rigging machine that was well oiled by the then president; Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and manned by the controversial Prof. Maurice Iwu returned Dr. Olusegun Agagu (they love this Olusegun name in that state) as the Governor. This prompted a legal battle that lasted till 23rd of February, 2009 when the Appeal Court declared Dr. Olusegun Mimiko the real winner of the election.
Prior to this period, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, aka IROKO had been a foundation member of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) which won the gubernatorial election in Ondo state. The winning candidate was Gov Adebayo Adefarati, a two time commissioner under Pa Michael Ajasin. Mimiko was a key figure in Gov Adefarati’s government for almost four years but jumped ship to PDP as election drew nearer. He promised to deliver the State to the PDP flag bearer (Dr Olusegun Agagu), obviously in exchange for a juicy appointment. He delivered on this promise and was subsequently rewarded with the post of Secretary to Ondo State government. He was later elevated on the recommendation of the State government to The Federal Minister of Housing. Sources within the PDP said he was sent to Abuja to curb his influence and excesses within the state structure. Once the next election was around the corner, he changed his colour again like a chameleon and stabbed Dr. Agagu in the back by contesting against him under the Labour party. There were earlier rumours of falling out with Ondo Town politicians. They saw him as an over ambitious politician who will do anything to get to the post of the Governor. The sitting Governor, Olusegun Agagu had the backing of the federal structure but Iroko’s grassroot support was too massive to be intimated by the resources available to the government of the day. The fact that Ondo Town has not produced a Governor since the creation of a state that is named after her was another selling point for the Mimiko campaign team.
The Appeal Court declaration of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko as the winner of the Ondo State gubernatorial election re-wrote the history book for the other Olusegun, as he became the first governor of the state to be unseated by a court of law. The political career of Olusegun Agagu did not recover till he died in 2014. The jubilation that greeted the Court judgment was enough to convince any doubting Thomas that Mimiko was indeed rigged out by the incumbent. I still remember vividly how he promised Ondo people heavens on earth on the day he was sworn in. One phrase that everyone old enough to hear and speak will remember is; “I WILL WORK FOR YOU”. This phrase was used severally by IROKO. The state television station, radio station and all Pro-Iroko newspapers made it a phrase that was synonymous with the name Iroko. True to the catch phrase “I will work for you”, he started massive infrastructural projects across major towns (or cities as Ondo people will want us to call them) like Ondo, Owo, Akure and Akoka. Massive contracts were awarded for road expansion, building of ultra-modern schools, Markets, Hospitals and dredging of rivers etc.
Too many projects were initiated at the same time and this is why very few of these projects were completed close to 7 years after work started on these projects. In Ondo town, a few of the uncompleted projects are; expansion and dualization of Yaba road, dualization of Ademulegun road (a federal road), dualization of Surulere-Cannon Adeyemi Road, Mega School Odosida, Expansion and repair of Laje Road, etc. The new markets built all over the state have remained largely unoccupied due to the high rent charged by the state government. Aside the high rent, other charges that further put the market out of the reach of the average trader were introduced.
This uncompleted projects and the high tax regime that the citizens now live with systematically created a crack in the once rosy relationship between the Governor and the electorates. Despite this crack, he convincingly won his re-election in 2012. This was largely due to the quality of the candidates provided by the opposition. PDP fielded Chief Olusola Oke while ACN fielded Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN). Olusola Oke was seen as an Agagu protégée who has done very little to carve a niche for himself. His support base was limited to Ondo South Senatorial district. He had little or no structure in Ondo Central and North Senatorial districts. He was however better and more popular than Rotimi Akeredolu aka Aketi who did not even know his way around the state capital. He was obviously swimming outside his depth from day one of the contest. The little votes he got were more due to the influence of the party than to his personality. Two years earlier, the Governor had overseen an election that his party (Labour Party) swept most of the State house of assembly seats. There were reports of rigging in the two elections that Mimiko had overseen as a Governor, especially the presidential election that returned President Goodluck Jonathan as an elected president. As in most Pro-Jonathan states, massive figures were allocated to President Jonathan, Senatorial and House of Representative candidates that were in his camp.
The PDP in Ondo state had started rebuilding the party after their loss to Mimiko’s Labour Party in the last gubernatorial election. Aggrieved members who had decamped were brought back to the party and aggressive efforts by the State chieftains had seen the number of Party members swell in all the Local Governments in the state. The State PDP got little or no support from the Party leadership in Abuja as they (Abuja) were Pro-Mimiko though he was still a Labour Party member. The support for Mimiko over the party structure in Ondo was so glaring that Mimiko was put in charge of President Jonathan’s campaign even when he was still in Labour Party. This made the Ondo State PDP look like a subsidiary of the rulling Labour party. On the 2nd of October 2014, in a move unprecedented by Ondo State PDP, Iroko announced that he and his Party members have all decamped to PDP. Alhaji Muazu, the PDP national Chairman sacked the Ondo State Executives who were elected less than two years before then and asked Iroko to appoint a care-taker committee to oversee the affairs of the party. As expected, the elected Executives headed for the court but in a typical PDP style, they were blackmailed to submission from the state to the ward level.
The campaign for the re-election of President Jonathan was heating up and PDP wanted all hands on deck so they tried to reconcile Mimiko with aggrieved members of PDP who were now known as “PDP ko ni gba”. Ko ni gba is a yoruba phrase meaning “they will not agree”. Mimiko’s PDP faction was known as “PDP gba si be”. The Party leaders in Abuja agreed to share elective offices between the two factions in the ratio 70:30 (As if our votes are useless). The “Gba si be” faction was to get 70% while the “ko ni gba” faction was to get 30 %. This was agreed at the federal level but people who knew Mimiko knew that the agreement had less value than the piece of paper it was written on. Days ahead of the State primaries, Mimiko already had a list of those he has anointed for all the elective positions and they were all his loyalists. On the day of the State primaries, parallel primaries were held by both factions, producing two PDP candidates for each elective post. INEC went back and forth on its position but eventually recognized Mimiko’s faction. The “ko ni gba” faction started decamping to APC which was in hibernation prior to Mimiko’s move to PDP. Those who stayed behind became moles for the APC. The hurricane called Buhari further depleted the strength of Ondo state PDP. The chants of Sai Baba! Change! Gradually became a form of greeting in Ondo State, especially in the Central and North Senatorial district of Ondo State.
As the election drew nearer, the campaign strategies employed by the Governor made it crystal clear that he knew the people wanted change. As reported by Sahara Reporters and confirmed by many of the participants I spoke to, Schools were shut and Teachers summoned to an “emergency” meeting with the Governor. At the meeting, they were instructed to vote President Jonathan or risk going 6 months without salary. At the end of the meeting, they were given various sums ranging from four hundred naira to eighty naira. Yes! I meant Four hundred naira to eighty naira. This was the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back for the teachers. Enough was enough. The teachers like other civil servants were owed two months salary and nobody has bothered to explain this to them. The Governor was gallivanting around with Jonathan. State funds were being used to finance the campaign of a President that has contributed very little to the development of the state over the last four years. The battle line that had been drawn earlier was made bolder.
It was no surprise that Mimiko lost his hold on Ondo State in the last election. The only people who are surprised are the cabal in power who were obviously disconnected from the masses. One of them met me a week to election and asked me if any Southerner in his right senses will vote for Buhari. He could not believe his ears when I told him I will vote Buhari. That is the level of disconnection that exists. The demise of PDP in Ondo State will also mean the political demise of the great Iroko. What a heavy price to pay for political arrogance and insincerity. This should serve as a lesson to whoever emerges as the next heavy weight politician in Ondo state. Power rests with the masses!!! Election rigging will soon be totally eliminated from our electoral system. The great Iroko could not rig this election because of the use of the card reader. The Iroko I know never stays at his polling booth after voting, he heads into the bush with his “boys” to do the “real” voting. When figures from those bushes are released, it will erase whatever the major towns produced. This time, he stayed all day at his polling booth. He however stormed away when APC votes were being counted. In this era of Change, a new leader is likely to emerge in Ondo state but it will definitely not be from Mimiko’s “Gba si be” camp.
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