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Ahead Of 2019: Mimiko’s Return To LP And Matters Arising



It is no more news that the immediate past governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, who was elected on the platform of Labour Party, LP, but later abandoned the party for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had retraced his steps back to LP. TOPE FAYEHUN examines the move and its implications on the political scene of the state ahead of the 2019 general elections.

After dithering procrastination, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, a former governor of Ondo State, formally left the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for Labour Party, LP, thus probably matching the record set by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, in carpet crossing.
Recall that Atiku had become Vice President on the platform of the PDP, before he defected to the defunct Action Congress, AC, in 2007 to contest for the Presidency. He later returned to the PDP and defected to the All Progressives Congress at its formation before returning yet again to the PDP.
In like manner, Mimiko had started his political journey in this dispensation in the Alliance for Democracy, AD, before defecting to the PDP in 2003 and helped the party to win the governorship election. In 2007, he defected to the LP, on whose platform he won the 2007 gubernatorial election successfully for two terms, before defecting to the PDP in the run up to the 2015 general election. He is now back in the LP.

The news of his planned defection back to the LP, the party on whose platform he won the governorship election twice as governor of Ondo State, did not come as a surprise to keen observers of the state politics.
Mimiko had deserted the PDP and its activities both at the state and the national levels immediately after the party lost the last governorship election in Ondo State, suggesting that his body may be in the PDP but his soul is already out of the party.
Analysts had predicted that survival instincts would not allow the Ondo-born medical doctor-turned politician to continue to play a second fiddle in the PDP, since he was no longer a governor.

LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that in the last two weeks, the man his admirers call ‘Iroko’ has been holding meetings with LP leaders across the country, trade unions and other interest groups in the state, explaining what informed his decision to change his political party for the fourth time since the country returned to democracy in 1999.
The name Mimiko, came into political limelight in 1999 when he was appointed as Commissioner for Health in the late Chief Adebayo Adefarati-led AD government.
Prior to this time, he had been appointed as Commissioner for Health in 1992 during the short-lived administration of Evang. Bamidele Olumilua, the republic that was terminated in 1993 by the military as a result of coup d’etat.

Since then, the ‘Iroko’ had been building his political structure because he has his eyes on the number one sit in the state.
Precisely, on November 7, 2002, he resigned his appointment as commissioner and joined the gubernatorial race in the state on the platform of AD.
Mimiko later left the AD over issues, which were said to have centered on irregularities that characterized the primary election and equally pulled out his political structure to work for the PDP as a preferred platform for his continuing struggle.
He was said to have been largely instrumental to the defeat of the AD government by the PDP in the 2003 gubernatorial elections, which brought late Dr. Olusegun Agagu, to power.
After the victory of the party in April 2003 polls, he was appointed Secretary to the State Government, SSG, a position he occupied till July 2005, when he was appointed by then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, as Minister of Housing and Urban Development.

When he got to PDP, Mimiko eyed Agagu’s seat again and further expanded the political structure he brought from AD to a formidable structure between 2003 and 2006.
Although, not proved till today, it has been largely whispered in political circles that there was an agreement between Agagu and Mimiko that Agagu would serve only one term and thereafter, Mimiko would run for governor in 2007. When the alleged agreement was breached according to some analysts, Mimiko turned in his resignation letter from PDP and contested for the governorship seat against the late Dr. Agagu on the platform of LP, a party he single-handedly brought into the Sunshine State.
Many PDP leaders in the state, including the then state chairman, who later became his running mate, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, and the state secretary of the party, now Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, among other top shots of the party, followed him to LP.

The LP became a new political movement that spread like wildfire, which he formally presented to the people of the state at Akure City Hall, on December 14, 2006.
Two days after the 2007 election and when counting of votes was said to have been concluded, the candidate of the PDP and then incumbent governor of the state, Dr Agagu, was declared winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, under Professor Maurice Iwu.
Mimiko approached the courts to challenge Agagu’s victory and eventually won the legal tussle, though he did not get the mandate until two years later. He was sworn-in in2009 as the fifth Executive Governor of the state, after his victory at the Court of Appeal. He also won re-election in 2012 beating the opposition APC and PDP candidates.
There is no doubting the fact that LP was a relatively unknown party in the Sunshine State until December 2006 when Mimiko introduced it to the people of the state. Since then, the governor has been the chief promoter of the party in the country, until the build-up to the 2015 general election and on former President Goodluck Jonathan’s promptings, he crossed over to the PDP.

While decamping to PDP in 2014, Mimiko said he took the decision in the interest of democracy, stating that the Jonathan ¬led administration has been able to improve the plight of the citizenry.
He said then, “It is evident to all who care to look well enough that our country is today at a critical historical juncture.
“Challenges that in regular climes and under normal circumstances should have been corporately addressed for the good of the land are now being further deepened and tossed up as elements in political brinkmanship.
“Our fault lines as a nation are being further cemented on the altar of partisan bickering. Yet, the nation goes on hurting; and our democratic institutions go on cranking under undue pressure,” he noted.

According to Mimiko, “Even so, I am so very well persuaded that if we manage to remain on this democratic governance track, warts and all, Nigeria has a good chance of living above its present challenges.
“It may indeed be on to creating an enduring and responsive system, to which the interest of our people, especially the weak and the disadvantaged, would be the singular concern.
“This is why, for me, perhaps the most critical task before us as a people today is to ensure the survival of our extant democracy project. It is in this broad context that we situate our current engagement in the Nigerian political firmament.

“It is also this that has made support to the emergent Goodluck Jonathan tendency in this same firmament quite imperative.
“It is on record that soon after he became president, Dr. Jonathan made a public commitment to ensure that elections in our country become and remain free and fair. Of course, it is trite to aver that without a credible electoral process, Nigeria’s, and indeed, any country’s programme of democratisation remains but a mere mirage.”
He went on to say that before joining the PDP he made the needed consultations with the major stakeholders in the state, who gave him their support.
He said, “Permit me to state that we have always supported the Jonathan presidential project. In 2011, even from our LP platform, we endorsed, worked for and voted massively for him. This did not prevent us from working for LP candidates where it fielded candidates and in subsequent polls.
“Our support for the President will, in the light of the above, not jeopardise the legitimate electoral aspirations of our teeming supporters and associates.
“Our immediate target is to help the process of getting President Jonathan elected. We hope to be part of a process of creating, especially in the South-West, a solid and robust platform of involvement in the election of the President, governors and legislators and post-election governance structure which will help to engender rapid socio¬economic development.
“It is in the light of the foregoing that I, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, following extensive consultations across the land, today formally announce the decision of members of National Assembly from the LP in Ondo State, members of the LP in the Ondo State House of Assembly, members of the State Executive Council and indeed all those who share our aspirations, to join the PDP.
“This decision arose after a period of consultation with major stakeholders in Ondo State, which include the aforementioned, as well as traditional and religious leaders, market men and women, artisans, trade unions and community as well as party leaders.

“I must confess that it surely was tempting and perhaps more fulfilling to continue as a national leader in our smaller, calmer and quite promising ocean, represented by the LP, but this decision to return to the PDP, we have taken in the overall interest of our people and our nation, and its democracy, which for those who are perceptive enough to notice, is now mortally endangered by a constellation of forces which must be confronted.”
However, when he returned to the state from Abuja, ‘Iroko’ grabbed the leadership of the party, despite the remonstrations of the PDP leaders he met on ground.
He quietly saw the back of his former political buddy, the former Deputy Governor Olanusi, who was alleged to be romancing with the APC, the then opposition in the state, now the ruling party when Jonathan eventually lost his reelection bid.
He was promptly impeached. Olanusi’s impeachment was not unexpected. He had defected to APC from PDP a few days to the March 28 presidential election, a move which ostensibly embarrassed Mimiko.
In the ensuing election, APC won five of the nine House of Representatives seats, two of the three Senate seats and also defeated PDP in the March 28 presidential election, polling 299, 899 votes to PDP’s 251, 368.

But Iroko bounced back to take a clean sweep of the state’s House of Assembly seats in the House of Assembly election that followed. His PDP won 19 of the 24 available assembly seats, with APC winning just five seats.
He has again retraced his step back to his former party, the LP, not as a sitting governor this time around, but as a former governor.
At the event which was held at Oba Adesanoye Civic Centre in Ondo, his home town last Thursday, Mimiko disclosed that he decided to return to the LP to enable him join forces with eminent Nigerians and young people to rescue the country from the shackles of underdevelopment.
Addressing a mammoth crowd of supporters, after registering and collecting membership card of the LP at Ward 7, Ondo West Local Government Area, the former governor said that all the existing political parties in the country as at today belong to the right of the centre, ensconced as it were in a neo-liberal mental construct, the name or mantra they choose to enrobe themselves in notwithstanding.
According to him, “This is evident not in terms of the pretentious claims they make to ideological purity, but in the way and manner they have used power; including the extent to which they have mainstreamed the interest and welfare of the weak and poor in our society.”
Mimiko pointed out that energetic, competent and innovative young people in the country need a true progressive platform which the LP represents, to achieve their dream of a safe and prosperous Nigeria.
He noted that he joined the PDP in 2014 because of national interest, noting that both the ruling APC and the PDP were not different in terms of ideologies, hence the need to return to the LP.

His words: “I most humbly announce to Nigerians today my decision to quit the PDP, and return to LP, my true political family.
“This ideological fluidity, within which the nation’s extant democracy has evolved since 1999, deserves now to be fully interrogated, with a view to engendering a transition to a more ideologically defined system of engagement.
“This will at once allow for a nuanced examination of the context and content of governance, provide the Nigerian people with real alternatives, and help the electorate in making informed decisions as to which individual or platform to invest with power; and how to hold such to account at all times.
“We have come to the conclusion that these are the missing links in our political process, which have tended to make an all comers game of it, and one in which the interest of the mass of the people has been greatly marginalized in several of our governance spaces, since 1999.
“To be sure, our thought here is not a mere theoretical exposition. It is one that is consequent upon years of active participation in the political process, at the local, state, and federal levels, since the early 1980s, and especially these past two decades.
“LP, and its few ideological soul mates among the legion of parties in the country today, provide the requisite platform for this type of deep ideological introspection.
“Without doubt, this social democratic mantra, which LP and its soul mates represent, remains the best possible outlet for leading Nigeria into a new era of progressive governance.
“By the grace of God, using the platform of LP, we demonstrated for eight years in Ondo State, (2009 – 2017), what it means for government to be pro-people. It is our hope moving forward, that working within LP, and hand-in-hand with other Nigerians of like minds, we would begin to sharpen the ideological divide in Nigerian politics, with a view to mainstreaming the welfare and interest of the mass of our people.

“It is for the foregoing reasons that I, and Nigerians across the country, and in the Diaspora, who admire what we represent, as demonstrated in our varied accomplishments in government, have elected to have us return to LP.
“This is a decision we consider as correct, reasonable, and patriotic. With this, we are no more restrained from offering to the Nigerian people a pristine, truly ideologically driven, well-thought-out, and historically valid alternative for repositioning our country.
“Let me just add, for the purpose of clarification, that while it is the goal of every political party in a democracy to win the next election, and form the next government, our formation considers it perhaps more important to have a platform with which we can begin to sensitize the Nigerian people to the requisite ideological clarity without which governance in the country will continue to operate at the mundane level – serving only the interest of the few, while marginalizing that of the many.”
However, his movement this time, unlike before, did not enjoy the support of most of his foot soldiers, as some of them decided to remain in PDP.
The likes of governorship candidate of the PDP in the last election, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, his running mate, Prince John Ola-Mafo, former commissioners, Kayode Akinmade, Dayo Awude and Jide Adejuyigbe, among others, the state chairman of the party, Engr. Clement Faboyede as well as long-time ally of the former governor, Akogun Tokunbo Modupe, have opted to remain in the PDP.
Others who refused to follow Mimiko to the LP include: former Commissioner for Transport, Otunba Nicholas Tofowomo, Adedayo Omolafe (Expensive), Adebayo Alarapon, Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, Chief Segun Adegoke, Chief Akintade, Barrister Sola Ebiseni, Barrister Remi Olatubora, and Col Omowa.
Not done, former ambassador to Greece and Australia, Prof. Olu Agbi, the immediate Chief of Staff, Dr. Kola Ademujimi, and the Vice National Chairman South-West of the PDP, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, Hon. Benson Amuwa, and immediate past Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Hon. Femi Adekanbi, among others, refused to join Mimiko in his second missionary journey to the LP.
When contacted on the telephone whether he would be following his former boss from the PDP to LP, Jegede laughed for several seconds before responding with “I am a member of the PDP.”

Notwithstanding, it was also learned that few members of the cabinet of the former governor, many of his former appointees and at least a federal lawmaker and three members of the state House of Assembly moved with him to the LP.
Those cabinet members were led by former Deputy Governor, Alhaji Lasisi Oluboyo, and former Commissioner for Works, Engr. Gboye Adegbenro, as well as others who are looking for a fresh platform to contest the 2019 general elections in the state.
The three members of the State House of Assembly who were said to have decided on moving with Mimiko to the LP are former Majority Leader, Hon. Dayo Akinsoyinu (Ondo West 1), Hon. Ade Adeniyi (Ondo West 2) and Hon. Siji Akindiose (Ondo East).

The federal lawmaker believed to already be on the train is a former major financier of the LP, Hon. Joseph Akinlaja, who represents Ondo East/Ondo West federal constituency in the House of Representatives in Abuja.
Reacting to the development, the state PDP chairman, Engr. Faboyede, said Mimiko’s exit from the party would not have any negative impact on the party, saying the party was waxing stronger on a daily basis.
Faboyede said, “Mimiko is a human being, he has the right to his opinion, we have tried at all levels to discourage him, but he insisted on leaving. One thing I know is that the PDP will not die as he (Mimiko) leaves. We have survived many turbulent times in the past, so if he goes it cannot affect us negatively.”
But the questions on the lips of political observers in the state is that what is he still looking for? Having been commissioner, SSG, minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and two-term governor.
One major poser begging for answer is: Will he be able to make any appreciable impact in the politics of the state with little or no financial strength like APC or PDP come 2019 general elections?
Taking into cognisance the fact that Mimiko’s brand of politics can be confounding sometimes, but when the turf is politics, he is a master of the game, a master strategist in his own right. He always keeps his cards close tightly to his chest and that is one of his political strengths.
He had moved again, leaving certainty for uncertainty. That is why it will always be difficult for political analysts and observers to place him whether as an astute politician or a political opportunist.
He has done this three times in the past, and it paid off generously for him, whether he will get it right or not this time, only time will tell.

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