ONDO 2012/OUR ENDORSEMENT
Come Saturday, the electorate in Ondo State will decide who would be their governor for the next four years. Towards this end, there has been vigorous campaign for votes. The unhealthy nature of the campaigns in the last several days is an indication that a lot is at stake in the election. In fact, the election has generated a lot of interest beyond the boundaries of the state. Ondo State is the only South-west state entitled to oil derivation from the federation account. So the management of the resources is in serious contention.
Saturday's election is essentially a three-horse contest between the incumbent Governor Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Chief Olusola Oke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). To be sure, the three candidates have been energetically presented by their respective parties for the people of Ondo State to choose from. Manifestoes have been presented and promises have been made to the voters. The promise of a keen competition is in itself a celebration of democracy and the choice that the electorate makes in this election will be crucial to the direction in which the state would move in the next four years.
In the tradition of this newspaper's endorsement of candidates in our quest to promote good governance and democracy, the THISDAY Board of Editors is in support of Mimiko's re-election for a second term in office. Our endorsement is based on our studious monitoring of his performance and leadership style in the last three-and-half years. It is noteworthy that Mimiko's government is the only one controlled by the Labour Party in the country.
Following the restoration of Mimiko's electoral mandate after a two-year legal battle, the political climate in the state was quickly transformed from that of insecurity and rancour to that of peace and order. The relatively peaceful atmosphere leading to Saturday's election is a telling testimony to the new order. It is in this climate that Mimiko's government has recorded remarkable achievements especially in the social sectors, namely education and heath. It is consistent with social democratic ethos that the LP government in Ondo State has invested heavily in quality healthcare delivery as well as primary and secondary education. The most significant thing is that Mimiko's health and education programmes have enabled the poor have access to quality social services. This is the spirit of the Mother and Child Centre and the Abiye projects as well as the mega schools. It is also the spirit in the job-creation content of the massive agriculture programme, urban renewal projects and the rural development projects. The emphasis on genuine poverty alleviation is quite evident in the programme implementation of the Mimiko administration.
Mimiko deserves another four years to consummate a development process already set in motion. The all-round development of the state is certainly a work in progress. For instance, Mimiko's ambitious infrastructure renewal programme will need to be completed within the framework of his administration's policy plans. Having proven himself in giving focused leadership, Mimiko should be trusted by the electorate to consolidate on the achievements of the last four years with better management of limited resources.
Compared to the other candidates, Mimiko is the best man for the job in the circumstance. He had served in federal and state cabinets before his election as governor. Akeredolu was the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the state and subsequently president of the Nigerian Bar Association. However, Akeredolu would be remembered for his thunderous silence when the military regime in which he served hounded a former governor of the state and a leader of the democratic opposition, the revered Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin. He failed the democratic and human rights community in the hour of need. Oke, on the other hand, lacks the experience and charisma. Mimiko is certainly better prepared for the job than he is.
It is this regard, we earnestly urge the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to brace up to the challenge of conducting a free and fair election in the state. The commission should draw useful lessons from recent elections and ensure that the process is made smooth for a credible exercise. The atmosphere should be made conducive for an election that both the winner and loser could attest to its fairness. It is, therefore, reassuring that the Federal Government has promised adequate security so the election would be fraud and violence free.
As we endorse Mimiko for this election, we also believe that in the final analysis, the will of the people should be allowed to prevail in a transparent process.