Destiny beckons on Mimiko, the Iroko of Ondo
We all saw it coming – those of us who had not sold our conscience to the devil, that is. We knew that it was a matter of time for the rightful winner of the governorship polls in Ondo State, Rahman Olusegun Mimiko, to keep his date with destiny. He is just about on that highway now with the judgement of the Justice Garba Nabaruma Tribunal which awarded victory to him. Although the incumbent Governor Olusegun Agagu has appealed against that judgement, you don’t need an LLB to know that the power has abandoned the former university teacher. Agagu will soon be history even if he tries to muddy the waters before his long-awaited exit from the corridors of power.
When the whole state erupted into singing and dancing, it was clear that the tribunal had just spoken their minds. For a non-incumbent, the kind of crowds that Mimiko has continued to command attests to his acceptability by the generality of the people. He had come a long way and if the facts pleaded are anything to go by, the people of Ondo State are soon going to have the real man they voted for.
Documentary and oral evidences pleaded and tendered by Mimiko’s counsel to substantiate allegations levelled against the return of Dr Olusegun Agagu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) showed that Mimiko’s Labour Party (LP) prepared well for the elections right from the time of voters’ registration. PDP’s rigging was not only brazen; it was careless, reckless and silly. Names of popular personalities were borrowed and deployed in the criminal binge. It is quite hilarious sampling a few: Mike Tyson (former world heavyweight boxing champion), Sam Omatseye (newspaper columnist working in “The Nation”), Maurice Iwu (the sit-tight chairman of the so-called Independent National Electoral Commission), Mohammed Ali (the greatest thing that ever happened to boxing), Ahmadu Ali (then chairman of the rigging-ruling party), Dora Akunyili (Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC) and Nelson Mandela, the Madiba himself.
The tribunal’s verdict that nullified the victory awarded to Agagu by INEC marked the eleventh time a gubernatorial election would be upturned by an election petition tribunal since the conduct of the flawed April 2007 general elections in Nigeria. So far, in addition to losing an elected legislator who died before inauguration, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has lost seven House of Assembly seats out of the 16 declared for it by INEC) following successful petitions filed by Labour Party candidates. Equally, the PDP lost seven out of nine House of Representatives members’ seats and one Senate seat occupied by Senator Gbenga Oguniya, the Chairman of the Senate Committee of Police Affairs.
Before declaring Mimiko winner, Nabaruma said there were no disputes on the results of the election in areas not mentioned by Mimiko in his petition – meaning that the results of the exercise were accepted by all parties except the areas listed in Mimiko’s petition. Giving the summary of the lawful votes scored by the petitioner and the first respondent (Agagu) in all the 18 local government areas of the state, Nabaruma said the Labour Party scored 198,269 as against PDP’s 128,669. The judge said the lawful results of the poll indicated that the petitioner scored 25 per cent of the total votes cast in 13 out of the 18 local governments while Agagu scored at least 25 per cent in nine local governments. The tribunal therefore nullified the return of Dr Olusegun Agagu and declared Dr Olusegun Mimiko as the winner of the poll.
The reaction of the Agagu camp since the judgement has been comical. Hear Eddy Olafeso, Commissioner for Information, Orientation and Mobilisation: “This is travesty of justice. We are going to appeal the judgment. We are civil and we uphold the rule of law. The people’s voice will prevail at the end of the day.”
Not a few people wondered about which people Olafeso was talking about. The same people that were reportedly brutalised by PDP thugs? Or the Mike Tysons and other ghosts that made their ghostly way to the polling booths?
I think Governor Agagu himself knows that the game is up. In his televised address to the people of the state, he urged them to remain calm and go about their normal duties peacefully in a manner that they were noted for. He promised that the decision of the court would not slow down the resolve of the administration to continue with the development of the state. He said he was going to appeal the verdict. He looked defeated and forlorn.
Dr. Olusegun Mimiko has attributed his victory at the Election Petition Tribunal to divine intervention and the resolute of the people of the state for change. He added that his victory was not because he and his people worked wonders but because divine intervention prevented what the opposition had in plan over the tribunal.
So what happens now after victory?
“The first challenge, for instance, what I told our people at the celebration ground on Friday was that they should continue to resist any form of provocation. Their strategy was to provoke us so that there could be massive violence and bloodshed in the state. We have always told our people to resist any temptation to go violent. This was the first challenge. When things were bad, when we were robbed in broad daylight, we appealed to the people to be calm”, says Mimiko.
“The second challenge is to sustain the enthusiasm of our people through the quality of governance that we would put in place. Our people are very hopeful of a brighter tomorrow. They have confidence that we would be able to put in place, a government that would be very responsive to their yearnings. The other side of the challenge is to be able to ensure that our people, after all struggle, after all the vilification, after all the physical violence visited on Labour Party people, to make them appreciate the fact that we are all one in Ondo State. We are working towards the same goal, and we would be ready to accommodate anybody, even if they are on the other side of the divide, to join us because the task ahead of us would require all of us. I have told them to roll their sleeves and keep moving. We want to mobilise the people at an unprecedented level.
“We want to unleash their energy in the direction of development. We want the people to take hold of their own development challenges. We want to change Ondo State from its level of poverty to a state that is prosperous. All these will require that we must all have our hands on the deck. The only enemy we have in Ondo State is poverty and we are going to galvanise all our forces to confront it squarely. In this collective struggle, we cannot afford any division.”
That is the spirit. That is the way I expect a statesman to talk. That is what I expect of someone of Mimiko’s experience. In my opinion, there are five politicians who cannot afford to fail if they get into office. They are Rauf Aregbesola of the Action Congress whose case against Governor Oyinlola has produced so much fraud and pseudo-magic; Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State whose case is almost as crystal clear as that of Ondo except that these days you can’t afford to swear by anything; Mimiko who carries the hopes and aspirations of the people of Ondo State who have laboured under the most unimaginative government ever visited on them; Adama Oshiomhole who has spent all his life criticising governments but will now have to call the shots as Governor of Edo State if the Court of Appeal says so; and Babatunde Raji Fashola, the Governor of Lagos State who has been working with frenzy because he knows that the people actually turned out in large numbers to vote him into office and they would not tolerate failure.
It is good when those we voted for are allowed to govern. We can talk to them; advise them; chastise them even. How does one begin to approach a carpetbagger? He knows that you know that he did not win the elections. The only people he owes anything are the bands of thugs who he has paid off and disbanded. The people? They don’t exist.
But popularity has its burdens as we have seen. And that is why we are going to monitor all these politicians in the mould of Mimiko who carry a flicker of hope to ensure that they continue to meet the aspirations of the people. The victory of Mimiko energises us because it shows that all hope is not lost. We are not too far gone after all.
But the biggest congratulations after the Court of Appeal would have put its official seal on Mimiko’s victory would not go to Governor Rahman Olusegun Mimiko. The people of Ondo State are the biggest winners in this long-drawn-out battle. They voted. They were brutalised. They were cheated. They stood by their preferred candidate. They protested. They filled the tribunal premises in huge numbers throughout the sitting. They shed tears of joy and sang praises to God when the tribunal adjudged their man as the true winner. They have been at the barricades before and since the current battle. They are the ones who defeated Agagu, not Mimiko. As Mimiko marches forward to fulfil his destiny, his biggest allies are the people. They should be the focal point of his administration.
So help him God!