The political permutations for the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo state has taken a new dimension as incumbent Governor, Olusegun Mimiko , has approached President Goodluck Jonathan for assistance, sources within the presidency and the state government have told PREMIUM TIMES.
Though Mr. Mimiko is a member of the Labour Party on whose platform he was elected, a source close to the governor said the growing influence of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria is causing the former federal minister intense political migraine.
Jittery that the ACN, which has grown remarkably and has continued to swallow decampees from both the LP and the PDP, was on a ruthless mission to dethrone him, Mr. Mimiko has scampered to Abuja for help.
Usually reliable Aso Rock sources said the governor had reached out to the president, asking for help as the ACN troop, led by an increasingly ruthless former Governor Bola Tinubu, advance toward Akure, the Ondo State capital, for a massive political assault on Mr. Mimiko.
“I can confirm to you that Mimiko sought the President’s help for his reelection,” said a presidency source who sought anonymity because he had no permission to discuss the matter with journalists. “He is very concerned at the way the ACN is charging at him and he believes he needed a stronger force to stop the party.”
Seeking Jonathan’s help
Seeking the President’s help may not be unconnected with the support Mr. Jonathan enjoyed from the Ondo governor prior to the 2011 Presidential election, our sources explained
Mr. Mimiko, though a member of a different party, actively campaigned for the election of the President. His support ensured that Mr. Jonathan garnered 79 per cent of the votes cast in the state during the Presidential election.
A source explained that Mr. Mimiko sees this as payback time by the President.
“Governor Mimiko believes he can secure Mr. Jonathan’s support for the election; either to return to the PDP or ask the PDP in the state (Ondo) to support him for the election,” he said.
Mr. Mimiko could not be reached to comment for this story. His spokesperson, Eni Akinsola, did not answer or return calls to his mobile telephone. He also did not respond to text messages sent to him by our reporter.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that Mr. Jonathan is well disposed to helping Mr. Mimiko.
How that will be done has however not been decided. Those briefed on the matter say the president might appeal to the Ondo State chapter of the PDP not to field a candidate for the election.
An alternative would be for the party to field a weak candidate for the election, and then discreetly instruct party leaders to work for the governor’s re-election. Strong candidates with ambition to run, we are told, would be summoned to the presidential villa and then promised federal appointments.
Our sources say Mr. Mimiko has offered to return to the PDP after the election and then begin the process of rebuilding it into a formidable platform it once was in the state.
Mr. Jonathan’s reason for wanting to lend a helping hand, we are told, is not entirely altruistic. It has to do with self-survival. He is mulling a second term in 2015, and to shore up his electoral fortune, it is important that the ACN is not allowed to have control over the entire South-West region.
Ondo is currently the only state not in the grip of the ACN.
“You know the ACN already controls five of the south west states. Ondo is the only one remaining. President Jonathan does not trust the ACN enough to know what direction they’ll go in the 2015 elections, so it’s in his best interest that Ondo remains away from their grip,” our source said.
No way for Mimiko in PDP
Contrary to some reports, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that Mr. Mimiko would not be returning to the Peoples Democratic Party, his former party, before the next governorship election.
The reasons for this, according to sources familiar with the matter, is the level of bitterness and enmity between the governor and top members of the PDP in his state.
Mr. Mimiko’s decision to quit the PDP prior to the 2007 elections was as a result of the fall-out he had with the then PDP governor of the state, Olusegun Agagu. Since emerging governor however, Mr. Mimiko had rendered the PDP increasingly irrelevant in the state. Mr. Agagu could not win a senatorial election under the PDP in the 2011 elections as the labour party candidate defeated him.
Ayodele Fadaka, the Director of Publicity of the PDP in the state believes that Mr. Mimiko would not have an easy ride into the PDP.
“There are pending disciplinary issues against him (Mr. Mimiko) in the PDP. If he chooses to come in today, it might not be impossible he will be made to answer the issues,” he said
“What is the sense in him coming into the party today only for him to be expelled tomorrow for gross indiscipline,” the PDP spokesman asked rhetorically while explaining that neither the national leadership of the party nor the President could foist Mr. Mimiko on the Ondo state PDP.
The Ondo election
Following the announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission that the governorship election in Ondo state would be held on October 20, the major political parties have been involved in intense campaigns with various aspirants emerging.
While the PDP, which Mr. Mimiko defeated to emerge governor, remains a factor in the political equation of the state, the major challenge to the governor’s re-election bid appears to be the ACN.
The ACN which controls five of the six states in the South West region of the country already has trained its sight on capturing the state, mobilizing its six governors and national leaders for the all-important assignment.
Over 10 aspirants have emerged as aspirants on the party’s platform, many of them decampees from the Labour party.
These include Ajayi Boroface, a serving senator; Olu Agunloye, a former Defense minister; and Olaiya Oni, former chairman of the LP in the state.
With the ACN increasingly growing in strength in the state, Mr. Mimiko may be taking his best action by seeking the support of President Jonathan, our sources said.
However the PDP in his state appear determined to scuttle his ambition.
“He cannot just stroll over to the PDP, I can assure you of that,” Mr. Fadaka said.