Politics

Mimiko’s return shifts Ondo’s political landscape

BABATOPE OKEOWO reports that the return of former Governor Olusegun Mimiko to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after many years has recaptured the political landscape of the Sunshine State

 

The defection of former governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko and his supporters from Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) to the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has altered the political calculation in the state as the state has moved from being a three party state to two.

 

Before the latest defection of Mimiko and his supporters to the PDP, there were three major political parties – the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the PDP and the ZLP.

 

With the movement of ZLP into PDP, with the coming of Mimiko and his supporters into the PDP, the opposition has now collapsed three to two political parties. Aside Mimiko, others who joined the PDP included immediate past Deputy Governor and ZLP governorship candidate in 2020 governorship election, Hon Agboola Ajayi, his running mate, Engr. Gboye Adegbenro and state chairman of party, Hon Joseph Akinlaja.

 

Also, a former governorship aspirant of PDP, Hon Banji Okunomo, former Chief of Staff, Dr. Kola Ademujimi, Senatorial candidate of ZLP in 2019 general election, Mr. Eni Akinsola, former Special Assistants, John-Paul Akinduro, Andrew Ogunsakin, Ayo Fadoju, Afolabi Akinsiku, Bolanle Olafunmiloye, Funmilola Oluwadare and Taye Afilaka.

 

The joining of Mimiko to PDP for the third time was sequel to the visit of Governors Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Nyesom Wike of Rivers, Seyi Makinde (Oyo) and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State to Mimiko to his house in Ondo in Ondo West Local Government area of the State. Tambuwal who spoke with reporters after the close door meeting said they visited Mimiko in order to woo him into the party.

 

Tambuwal, who is the Chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, said they are rebuilding the PDP ahead of the 2023 general elections. His words “we are here in the beautiful town of Ondo, in Ondo state the home of our leader, brother and friend, Dr Olusegun Mimiko to re-invite him back to his family, his political family, the Peoples Democratic Party and work towards rescuing Nigeria. “I am here with the governor of Abia, Rivers and Oyo.

 

We have had a very robust engagement with him and very optimistic we will hear something very positive from him soonest. The position is simple, let us come back to reposition the PDP and rescue the country. The urgency of the matter is now. We are rebuilding the political platform, the PDP towards ensuring that PDP is back to power in 2023.”

 

Shortly after the departure of the governors, Mimiko met with stakeholders in the ZLP where it was agreed that they would join the PDP to help rescue Nigeria from the claws of APC. The meeting had in attendance, Mimiko, former deputy governor, Ajayi, his running mate, Adegbenro, former speaker, Jumoke Akindele, the state chairman of the ZLP, Hon Joseph Akinlaja among other leaders in attendance.

 

They resolved after deliberations to pitch their tent with the PDP in order to rescue the country from the misrule of the APC and set her on a path of peace and progress for the benefit of all.

 

Mimiko told the stakeholders that the ZLP in being invited to join the PDP to rescue the country from the brink of insecurity. Stakeholders at the meeting appraised developments across the nation and agreed that the PDP is the most viable platform to work with to be able to work towards winning future elections in the State and in the country as a whole.

Mimiko had told his supporters that leaders of the PDP have shown demonstrable commitment to fully integrate all willing joiners from the  ZLP and accord them full membership rights in what promises to be a win for PDP members and Nigerians alike.

 

Mimiko’s impact

As if the party was waiting for the arrival of Mimiko to start to play its opposition role, the party within one week through its spokesperson, Kennedy Peretei, issued three statements to criticize the perceived ineptitude of the government of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.

 

This was the first time since the party lost the last governorship election in the state. It was as if the party had gone to sleep after the election.

One of the three statements slammed the wife of Governor Akeredolu, Betty for her domineering influence in the governance of the state. Peretei said the pet projects of the First Lady was meant to siphon the resources of the state, adding the wife of the governor used her office to manipulate officials and appointment seekers in her husband’s government.

The PDP said the activities of the wife of the governor breached the provision of the 1999 Constitution of the country as First Lady is supposed to be seen and not to be heard.

The party said Mrs. Akeredolu, since she became an occupier of Government House Alagbaka, has come to be heard and not just to be seen in conformity with the provision of the Constitution. Peretei said: “Starting off with her ad-  vocacy programme on breast cancer, BRECAN, a first timer to Ondo State will think that, breast cancer is such an epidemic in the state.

 

The influence of the governor’s wife permeates her husband’s government so much so that, she is referred to as the Sole Administrator of Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC) an interventionist agency for the coastal areas of the state.”

 

Peretei alleged that the wife of the governor has taken charge of every contract and subvention to OSOPADEC, distributing same to whoever she fancies, saying the agency that was used by previous administrations to transform the coastal areas of the state is now dead due to the activities of the governor’s wife.

 

The state added: “Akeredolu cannot point to a single project in the mandate areas under his administration. But several awards in honour of the “Sole Administrator”. There is no appointment made in Ondo State without Betty’s input, a situation that has turned her to an Empress of some sort. This is the same reason that made it imperative for a lot of people to attend the award ceremony. “However, on Wednesday, November 3, 2021 Betty Akeredolu arrived Abuja with a retinue of government officials and appointment seekers to receive an award of “Most Valuable Governor’s Wife”.

 

This award would  not have attracted any attention but for the demand of N200,000 ticket fee per person for all those who attended the event. “Most worrisome is the fact that, the Organisers, Nigeria National News, has no known address anywhere, nor presence on Google, not to talk of registration with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

 

The instruction was to pay the N50,000.00 into a Keystone Bank Account with the Account Name, Uka Alex, one of Betty’s Aides. PDP described it as a double-edged scam, from both the governor’s wife and the organisers, coming when Governor Akeredolu just paid the 10 per cent outstanding balance of June, 2021 salaries to workers in Ondo State last week.

 

The PDP Ondo State Chapter condemned in strong terms “this phantom award as it contributes nothing to the development of our state.

It is just one of the several ploys designed by Ada Owerri to fleece the resources of our people. We also plead with Ondo State people to be vigilant and not allow themselves to be scammed in this cheap manner.”

 

The other two statements slammed the Governor Akeredolu for his refusal to pay the stipends of the military men deployed to the state, the development that made the soldiers to leave the checkpoints in the state. The other said the alternative security arrangement made by the governor; Amotekun was a ploy by the governor to siphon the resources of the state.

Electoral value

Mimiko, popularly called Iroko by his admirers is one of the most experienced politicians in the state. A two-time Commissioner for Health, Secretary to the state government, Minister of the Federal Republic and two term governor, Mimiko is arguably the most experience politician in the state.

 

He was the ZLP senatorial candidate for Ondo Central Senatorial district in the 2019 election. He lost the election to Dr. Patrick Ayo Akinyelure of the PDP.

 

He is the National leader of the ZLP, the party that gave Hon. Ajayi, the platform to contest the 2020 governorship election, having lost the PDP’s ticket to Jegede.

It was the support Mimiko gave to Hon Ajayi that made the  rapprochement between Jegede and Ajayi became difficult before the last governorship election. It was the support giving to Ajayi during the election that made Akeredolu to refer to Mimiko as his ‘bogus’ enemy.

He promised not to have anything to do with his longtime friend Mimiko again. Both Akeredolu and Mimiko were longtime friends as they attended the same university.

Akeredolu was one of the lawyers that represented Mimiko in the court during the battle to reclaim his mandate in 2007. Notable among those that followed Mimiko to PDP are the Chairman of the ZLP in the state, Hon Joseph Akinlaja, Hon Ajayi, Gboye Adegbenro and Banji Okunomo. These are the people that have electoral value on their own whether or not they came with Mimiko.

 

Engr Gboye Adegbenro

A former Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Adegbenro was the sole candidate of ZLP for 2019 before he ceded the ticket to his former boss, Mimiko.

He was the running mate to ZLP Governorship candidate in the last election. Since the end of the election, both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and PDP have been inviting him to join the party.

If he joins the PDP, he will be the leader of the party in the Idanre/ Ifedore axis of the state. He is loved by his people especially in Ilara where he hails from. Former spokesman of PDP in the South- West, Mr. Ayo Fadaka said Mimiko has a huge political value and his return shore up the chances of the party in the state ahead of 2023 elections and thereafter.

 

Joseph Akinlaja

Before his foray in politics, Akinlaja was a national leader in the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). He was with Frank Kokori in the trenches during the battle for the install Chief MKO Abiola as the winner of the June 12 1993 presidential election.

Since he joined partisan politics, he has won election as a member of the House of Representative in Ondo West/East Federal Constituency for two consecutive times. He however lost his third term bid to Hon Abiola Makinde who is now a member of APC.

 

 

Agboola Ajayi

 

In the train of Mimiko is Ajayi, the immediate past Deputy Governor of the state. He is one of the most experienced politicians in the state having started his carrier at the grassroots level as Supervisory Councilor, Councilor, former Chairman of Eseodo Local Government, member of House of Representatives and Deputy Governor.

 

Banji Okunomo

 

A former student union leader, Okunomo was a Chairman of Ilaje Local Government. He was a governorship aspirant on the platform of PDP before he defected to the ZLP ahead of the October 2020 governorship election in the state.

Among others leaders, he contributed to the success of Labour Party (LP) in the 2007 governorship election in the state.

 

Shifting political landscape

 

Despite the advantages the coming of Mimiko, political pundits said there is likely to be clash of interest within the opposition party. They expressed fear that the era of imposition of candidates on the party that scuttled the chances of the party in 2015 election may be back.

 

Some PDP leaders especially from Ondo South Senatorial district who did not like the handling of the affairs of the party by Jegede would see Mimiko as the new leader, polarizing the party between two major blocs.

Another major fear is the battle for leadership between Eyitayo Jegede’s camp and that of Mimiko which may affect the chances of the party in future elections.

 

The Jegede’s group had been in charge of the party before the arrival of Mimiko. They are afraid that Mimiko as a former governor would assume as the leader of the party and may use it against the interest of those loyal to Jegede.

 

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