An atmosphere of war has been created in Ondo State. Bullets and missiles are flying everywhere. The aggressors, numbering 30, are firing voraciously but the bullets and missiles fail to hit the targets. The commander of the aggressors, domiciled outside the state, is furious. This time, he not only orders more ammunition into the state, he also decides that all instruments of war will be deployed. Propaganda, half truths and outright falsehood are quickly deployed.
Yet, these do not seem to be turning the battle in the aggressors favour. The Iroko, his army and the people to whom the weapons are deployed deflect them effortlessly. To the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN),the main opposition party in Ondo State, the October gubernatorial election in the state is war. Its army is currently made up of about 30 aspirants jostling for the party's ticket and firing in all directions.
They do not only have the heavy weaponry supplied from outside the state by their commander, they also have propaganda. As it is in war, the truth in the Ondo forthcoming poll is the first casualty. Half truths and outright falsehoods are major instruments of war in this case. Sadly for the A.C.N, the weapons are missing the targets: Governor Olusegun Mimiko and his administration. Why? The people know the truth about the situation in Ondo State spanning the last three years. Only recently, the picture is painted of an 'encircled Iroko' presumably by the 30-man ACN army, and commanded from outside Ondo State.
Now the 'encircling' has sparked off questions. What is the motive for the 'encircling?' Is it ulterior or for the common good of the people of the state? Two responses are emerging to these questions. One of the motives for the 'encircling' is apparently ulterior. According to reports, the A.C.N's bid to 'capture' Ondo is all part of an expansionist agenda of the party and not because of lack of performance on the part of Mimiko as governor.
The other angle to this, reports further said, is Iroko's decision not to dump the Labour Party which provided him the platform to realise his gubernatorial ambition after he had reclaimed his mandate from the PDP in 2009. It had been insinuated that although Mimiko contested the election on the platform of the Labour Party (LP), one ACNleader "helped" him to reclaim his mandate and therefore the ACN leader was deserving a 'thank-you' package. But this 'thank-you' package never came nor did Mimiko deem it fit to jump into the ACN .
The governor's aides say the ACNleader is undeserving of any 'thank-you' package from Mimiko on account of the reclaiming of his mandate. But for the past three years, the ACN propaganda has been at work, trying to paint Mimiko black on account of the 'thank you' package. The motive is to present Iroko as an ingrate who refused to return a favour from a supposed benefactor. Now, the half truths and absolute falsehoods.
The ACN group of 30 are deploying their arsenal here-ostensibly to impress their commander. One of the gubernatorial aspirants was recently quoted in a newspaper interview as saying he did not say that "the Labour Party government has not done anything (in Ondo)". In this clime where the opposition doesn't always give credit to the ruling party, one finds it gratifying that this member of the opposition in Ondo State is acknowledging that the Mimiko government is doing something to uplift the people. And for the aspirant to acknowledge some quantum of performance by the Labour Party government goes a long way to show the achievements of the administration on ground is like light that cannot be hidden. But the aspirant's next postulation presents an irony.
He says the Mimiko achievements do not merit the awards they have attracted. He adds: "The truth is that all of us know how these awards are given. Most of them are purchased." The position of this aspirant, a lawyer, is bereft of logic. There is no logic in a performer procuring awards in recognition of his works.
For the records, the bulk of these awards for Mimiko's excellent performance came from distinguished professional bodies including the national body of the society watchdog, the Nigeria Union of Journalists, and the Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria (SOGON) which decorated the governor as a Honorary Fellow for his contributions to safe motherhood in Nigeria. It is the same safe motherhood (Abiye) programme, which cut infant and maternal mortality in Ondo by about 80 percent, that the World Bank is so impressed about that it stopped short of giving an award to the state government for the ingenuity.
This same motherhood programme has been adopted by the Federal Government with an advice that all the states in the country should adopt it. The Brettonwoods institution has also recommended the programme as a model for Africa. Another of the ACN aspirants made a questionable statement.
He said:" ... But in Ondo, (gubernatorial) aspirants and ordinary members are joining (the ACN) to achieve a common goal, which is to drive away Dr Olusegun Rahman Mimiko." This statement is at best illusory. Transporters in the state, who are the beneficiaries of the 290 vehicles procured by the Mimiko administration to facilitate transportation, as late as two weeks ago, cannot be in the league of those wishing to drive the governor away.
Neither are the traders who have been moved away by the Labour Party government from the scotching sun in the streets to world class shopping complexes nor the less privileged who now have access to affordable but qualitative health care and education. Also count out the youths who are being empowered and used to feed the people through the agricultural villages in Ore and Epe, as well as community leaders who now have a say on what projects are sited in their areas, courtesy of the Mimiko 'bottom-up' developmental model.
So, who is left in the league of those wanting to drive Mimiko away? Could they be the happy sporting people of the state that Mimiko has put smiles on their faces? Only the motley crowd of 30 ACN gubernatorial aspirants, their supporters and master from outside Ondo State. But they will meet their match in the enlightened people of the state who have tasted good governance under the Labour Party government and are waiting for more beyond the October election.
Civil servants in the state who get the highest monthly take home pay of N22,000 in the country have vowed to ensure the governor continues in office, ditto for the market women whose lives have experienced a turnaround for the better.
The artisans are not left out in the quest to ensure Mimiko gets his mandate renewed. Religious leaders in and out of the state have not hidden their preference for the performing governor either. Its obvious this Iroko can only continue to grow in strength.