Before July 2012, the ACN was a serious contender for Alagbaka, the Ondo State Government House. Having swelled its rank with aggrieved members of other political parties, notably the PDP and the LP, it became a determined contender that was willing to play fair and ride rough, if necessary. The party enjoyed considerable goodwill from the public and despite what appeared a daunting task; few would ignore it at their own peril. Twenty-four hours is however a long time in politics. Before one could spell ACN, just as it easily found fame, the party, of its own freewill, threw all away when its national leaders sat down in the comfort of a living room in Lagos and adopted their preferred candidate to the chagrin of other aspirants and party supporters. ACN leaders have explained that their model of anointing a candidate violated no known rule.
They are right. The Nigerian Electoral Act 2010 as amended allows them to elect or handpick. The choice is theirs. It was one of those landmines deliberately inserted to perpetuate syndicates’ grip on the Nigerian political system and pass the outcome off as democracy. In August, I placed it on record in my column in the local Trace magazine that that singular action had earned the ACN a third position. My friends who were ardent fans of the ACN rigorously contested my position; the victory of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko in October laid that argument to rest permanently.
Experienced political pundits would agree that one of the primary decimal of the October election in Ondo State was the battle of wit between one PDP and another PDP. In my aforementioned article in the Trace, I asserted that Dr. Mimiko was a de facto PDP candidate at loggerhead with a de jure PDP candidate and predicted that one of both would win in October with the candidate of the ACN trailing behind. I went further to list reasons why Dr. Mimiko was indeed a PDP candidate mentioning among other things the evident excellent relationship between Dr. Mimiko and the national leader of the PDP, the latter’s body language, as well as earlier proclamations by PDP key leaders like Chief Ebenezer Babatope and founding fathers such as Chief Olusegun Obasanjo that Dr. Olusegun Mimiko “is a member of the PDP in spirit, even though he belongs to the LP”.
I went on to state that for every political appointment that the first PDP in Ondo State is allowed to propose a candidate, it does appear that the presidency would ask the second PDP to put forward two candidates. For instance while one PDP was allowed the ambassadorial candidacy of Otunba Omolade Oluwateru, the second PDP produced Col. Rolland Omowa (Rtd) as well as a career diplomat of ambassadorial rank. In the Executive Council of the Federation, the highest executive authority in Nigeria, the normal PDP has one person (this can even be disputed as that person earned his appointment as a result of his personal relationship to the first family) while the second PDP appear to have two people, one of which you can describe as a full-fledged grassroots politician. Here I refer to my brother, Dr. Pius Osunyikanmi. Apart from being a brilliant person, so far, Osunyikanmi has comported himself as wiser than his age and as someone who truly understands the transient nature of power.
Options before Dr. Mimiko
There are three distinct options before Dr. Mimiko. Stay in the Labour Party and expand it, move his political resources to the ACN or move same over to the PDP. Of these three, the most politically sensible is the last option. I will explain.
One of the most difficult issues confronting the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan led PDP government is the dearth of sector leaders, to whom reform is no sheer academic adventures or veiled opportunistic exercise for cementing personal job placements with world commerce organizations, but a genuine tool for efficiently targeting cost effective service delivery at meeting the pressing needs of ordinary folks. This is why the average Nigerian is unable to readily feel the impact of government despite the obvious desire of Jonathan to make quick impact. His most prominent aides have acted as individuals far removed from reality and are thus unable to benchmark development indices with street indicators.
Thus while Dr. Jonathan does need the services of technocrats, as Chief Richard Akinjide pointed out on Channels TV in January, he needs political leaders more. It is therefore my view that Jonathan does need technocrats but the stock that is sensitive and experienced – specifically on such issues as effectively mobilising resources to deliver public services and providing leadership that can inspire the people. Technocrats with zero street sensitivity and political experience combined are sure disasters to his administration’s goals. This is the gap that I think a Mimiko can help fill – both in terms of attracting capable hands to Mr. President as well as guiding him to understand the changing dynamics of South West politics. Mimiko’s victory has altered South West politics presenting to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu for the first time, a practical political foe that can match him wit for wit.
Continuous membership of the LP would thus undermine his capability to fully function in this role while a membership of the ACN would put him in direct opposition to his allies. A membership of the PDP is the most fitting as he can both play the earlier mentioned critical role unencumbered as a service to nation building while also frontally uniting the various leadership groupings in the South West, not necessarily as members of the same political party (which is an anathema to a democracy anyway) but as people with shared heritage and history that can leverage on their contiguous geography to attaining sustainable economic cooperation, growth and social wellbeing. At the last count, apart from partisan leaders of the ACN, all notable opinion leaders in the South West seem to have robust relationship with Mimiko. One can safely say that key elders like Mama HID Awolowo, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Aare Afe Babalola SAN, Rev. Bolanle Gbonigi, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Chief Adeyinka Adebayo, the list is endless, across states, political, religious, professional and social divides would be working with Mimiko if he is ready to work with them.
I am one of those who believe that Mimiko won fair and square in October even as I also believe that he fell short of his real potential. As a pure empirical exercise, we can hazard a guess as to what the Mimiko October win would have been (in terms of percentage) had he reconciled with his erstwhile boss, Dr. Olusegun Agagu and had the pace of service delivery doubled. Hence, Dr. Mimiko must now reunite the people of Ondo State behind him, be willing to listen to dissenting voices and alternative views, as well as accelerate project implementation in manners that can endear him even to those who did not support or vote for him in October and the several millions in the South West aching for genuine heroes of democracy.
Essentially and more importantly, he must now consider it his added role to help the people by taking due advantage of his good relationship with the Nigerian first family and help bring to the Jonathan presidency the true progressive values built upon undeniable and timely service delivery to the people in manners that ordinary folks can see, feel, experience and tangibly appreciate – services that must target exposing millions to direct benefits of government policies, massively impart their well-being and reduce absolute poverty currently put at over 70 per cent (of Nigerians living on less than 1$ per day) while ultimately matching growth with considerable improvement in microeconomics.
Tunji Ariyomo lives in Sheffield, United Kingdom