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Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo: We need to integrate the South West, but not necessarily politically

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Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo: We need to integrate the South West, but not necessarily politically

by Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo

Never in the history of Ondo state had a sitting governor been re-elected without controversy. Dr Olusegun Agagu was declared winner of the 2007 Governorship election amidst protest of electoral fraud and he would eventually be removed by the Appeal Court.  Dr Olusegun Mimiko however, made history when he was voted in for the second term in a victory which has been confirmed by both the Electoral Tribunal and the Court of Appeal in early July.

Mimiko, a medical doctor slugged it out with two lawyers: Olusola Oke of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). With votes counted from 18 local governments, Mimiko garnered 260,199 votes winning the majority of the total valid votes in 13 local governments of the state. Oke polled a total of 155,961 votes while Akeredolu SAN garnered a total of 143,512 votes.

Prior to the election, there was a general feeling that the ACN could successfully topple the government of Dr. Mimiko due to its wide acceptance in the South West. The party dominates the polity in the Yoruba states apart from Ondo state where the Labour Party held sway not just as the only south western state but also the only Nigeria state governed by the party. Until the elections, not many knew that Dr. Mimiko was not a member of the ACN; many simply assumed that he belonged to the party. Others argued that he owed Chief Bola Tinubu and that he was just in Labour Party, his real party according to them was the ACN. The ACN had assisted Mimiko during the fight to regain his mandate from the PDP at the tribunal and upon his victory in court, all ACN governors, the Party chairman and Tinubu were at his inauguration. According to reports in some quarters, Mimiko would join the ACN. Mimiko however showed that he was a man of his own when he refused to join the ‘Ashiwaju men’ even in the face of discrimination from other south western governors. They told him to stop calling himself an Awoist because he wasn’t one as far as they were concerned.  This is one of the reasons many chose to re-elect him even in the face of his many flaws.

I liked the fact that Chief Tinubu supported Mimiko during the legal fight at the Court, but I don’t see any reason why Mimiko must defect to another party, if his people trusted him enough to vote him on an unknown platform (Labour Party), so be it! The real integration was the assistance rendered to him by Tinubu and the South west governors: integration from political injustice. And why do I have to be an Awoist before I could be elected as a south west governor. Baba Awolowo built and left a lasting legacy, why not build your own? Not a single one of these governors have matched talk more of surpassing the achievements of Awolowo even if we measured by only one parameter: education. So what is ‘Awoist’ about them?

When the electioneering campaigns began, it was obvious to all that ACN was the party to beat as more than 30 party hopefuls obtained the form to contest on the platform, unfortunately, the party has a funny reputation when it comes to primary election; the aspirants are allowed to buy the forms but there is never a primary election in the real sense of the word. The party flag bearer is decided in Lagos at the home of Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. This had been done for all the ACN controlled states and Ondo was no exception. After much tension and secrecy, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN was announced from Lagos as the party candidate for the election.

In truth, this decision was the undoing of the party, if the aspirants had been given a fair chance to slug it out; whoever emerged (including Akeredolu SAN) would have had a far better chance against Mimiko. Chief Tinubu had failed to study properly the mentality of Ondo people. Ondo state citizens are known for their stand against anything dictatorial, they voted against Agagu because of this fact. It was therefore a grave mistake on the part of the party leader to have disallowed the primary. There were more popular and politically influential candidates than Akeredolu SAN. Prof. Borrofice clearly proved to the party the error of its decision by calmly winning his local government (Akoko south west) for Akeredolu SAN. Another candidate who had the political clout was Olu Agunloye who would later announce his support for Mimiko. My point here is this: integrating the south west will be difficult because today is different from the Papa Awo era and the 1999 era. Nigerians including citizens of the South West no longer vote based on the bias of a so called regional political party but on the achievements and track record of the aspirant regardless of his political platform. For instance, the ACN pulled some weight in the last Governorship elections in Akwa-Ibom even though the South South is said to be the strong domain of the PDP. It was not really a fight between PDP and the ACN; it was one between Godswill Akpabio and Senator James Udoedehe. Udoedehe pulled such weight not because he was the ACN, but because of his own track records of achievement. It is true that many a times, people get tired of a political party but this is often determined by the quality of the candidate fielded.

Despite allegations of his alliance with the PDP, Mimiko remains the only Labour Party Governor in Nigeria; even former national Labour leader Adams Oshiomole could not withstand the ACN ‘movement’.

As it stands now, many political watchers and analysts are waiting eagerly for the step the party will take in its attempt to integrate the Yoruba states under the aegis of one political party as it was between 1999-2003 (when they were supposedly betrayed by former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.) The question on people’s lips is ‘what next for the ACN in Ondo state? Time only will tell as we await the verdict of the Supreme Court on the appeal filed by Mr. Akeredolu SAN. Some however, including this writer is yet to understand the need for the political integration of the South West. Does the ACN want us to return to the first and second Republic where the Nation was dominated by regional politicking? The beauty of politics ought to be that Parties are voted in based on sound ideologies and not on the bias of regional politics. Do we need more joint ventures like the Oodua Group? Yes! Do we need to connect the South West by rail and more clean roads? Yes! Do we need to copy the Lagos Model? Yes if it will work in each respective states but with modification. We don’t all have to pretend to be Lagos and keep photocopying what Gov. Fashola SAN does.  Do we need to copy Opon Imo? Yes but without Ogbeni Rauf’s yet to be cleared scam. Do we need to replicate Mimiko’s Mother and Child Centres and Neighbourhood markets? Yes but without starving other sectors of governance and economy. But do we need to be under the same political platform? Please spare me that! What ails us exactly in the south west? Good governance or regional politics?

Follow this writer on Twitter: @tosinfat

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