As Ondo prepares for sunshine without Iroko

Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State

This might not be the best of times to ask about who fell the Iroko. But in a few days time the Sunshine State would be left with the exit of Dr. Olusegun Rahman Mimiko, who stood out in the politics of the state as an Iroko.

Although the Holy book states that better is the end of a matter than its beginning, the fall of the Iroko in Ondo politics began midway into his eight year reign. Mimiko was doing well as a lone governor produced on the platform of the Labour Party (LP), until he sought shelter in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in apparent move to shore up support for the then President Goodluck Jonathan, who was getting set for the 2015 electoral defeat.

The recent fracas in the State House of Assembly, which led to the impeachment of its Speaker, Mrs. Jumoke Akindele, seems to be a precursor of the stone throwing protest against the outgoing governor in his bid to deliver his valedictory 2017 Appropriation Bill to the lawmakers.

It was not the first time an attempt was made to remove the Speaker, who her colleagues accused of exclusively enjoying executive protection and privilege from Alagbaka House. But the impeachment at the tail end of the Iroko administration and the exile of seven PDP lawmakers, to a large extent, mirrors the breach of the 60-40 power sharing arrangement Mimiko secured with national leaders of PDP before he joined the party.

Before the deal to cede the control of the PDP structure in Ondo to Mimiko was struck, party faithful in the state complained that the governor did not carry them along, alleging that he went overboard to hold discussions with the national leaders at Wadata Plaza, without involving the state executive.

Although his political appointees from the Labour Party were directed to move over to PDP in their wards, Mimiko did not succeed in blending LP and PDP members into one cohesive political organisation.

That disjointed and jaundiced political base continued to mar the governor’s every move up to the November debacle where his preferred governorship candidate Eyitayo Jegede failed to breast the tape in victory at the finish line of the succession race. Ever since, whatever Iroko was doing in the Sunshine lacked depth and life.

But whatever went wrong with Mimiko’s politics pales into insignificance when placed side by side with the fact that under his watch workers are in salary deficit for as much as seven months.

Experts say it is not easy to divorce politics from economics, yet the achievements of the outgoing governor may not be recognised when the citizens could not get their legitimate earning as and at when due.

Could it be that the imbroglio over the 2014 budget impacted negatively on the state’s finances? Whatever happened to the finances of the state, the unstable leadership in the House of Assembly did not help matters. As such the hardship and economic crunch in the state seemed to have exacerbated the political crisis of interest.

Even though the outgoing governor was accused of interfering with the internal affairs of the Legislature, there are enough reasons to believe that the latest unrest in the House of Assembly have outside influence. That may be why reason could not prevail, because as the governor pointed out, it sounds absurd that 13 out of the 26 members should appropriate the constitutional or legal powers they do not have to impeach the Speaker.

The attempt to situate the Assembly on the geopolitics of the leadership distribution does not hold water, because even if Speaker Akindele hails from the same zone as the incoming Deputy Governor, her offer to willingly vacate the office should have pacified such craving. Moreover, the life of the Assembly would not terminate on February 24 when Iroko departs Alagbaka House; the lawmakers had ample time to rejig the leadership of the House, by getting somebody from Ondo Central to step into the shoes of Akindele as Speaker.

No doubt the removal of Madam Speaker could be seen as an indirect attack on the governor as part of the frustrations of not perfecting his succession plan. The hurry to change the leadership structure of the Assembly could also be seen as a potent sign that the outgoing governor’s troubles out of office would emanate from the divided Assembly.

Probe Or No Probe
Recall that early this year, the incoming All Progressives Congress (APC), accused Mimiko of siphoning the sum of N1.5b being grants accruing from foreign donors through fictitious contract awards.

Although Mimiko’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Kayode Oyemade, dismissed the allegation as fable concocted by the APC to distract or tie the hands of the governor from exercising his mandate, which lasts till February 24, 2017.

But, knowing that politics is the art of the possible, nothing stops the Assembly from exhuming the issue, if nothing else, to disparage the governor after leaving office.

A pointer to such a possibility is that the allegation of fund diversion by APC was contained in a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Abayomi Adesanya, detailing how the sum was arrived at.

Just like the Speaker was accused of attempting to loot N15m cash, APC alleged that on January 4, 2017, the State Government under Mimiko scooped N1.2b cash, which was deposited in the account of Multilateral Relations Department of the Governor’s Office as accumulated grants from international donors to the State Wealth Creation Agency (WECA).

While noting that N385m was credited to the account of WECA, APC further alleged that some unscrupulous elements at the highest echelon of the government have perfected plans to drain off the money into private accounts.

Part of the plan, the statement said, was to transfer N1.2b to WECA as the final exit point of the funds, adding that dubious contracts award papers were already being processed to defray the total sum of N1.585b.

APC informed Governor Mimiko in the statement that “all accusing fingers are pointing at him”, because he directly supervises the two agencies. Apparently to unmask the future intent of the alarm, the statement had added: “Mimiko, his political appointees, as well as, civil servants should be put on notice that already the incoming government of our party is in possession of past, current and daily records of financial misdeeds of high elements of the outgoing government.’’

Is there a possibility that the incoming administration of Rotimi Akeredolu would consider an inquest into the financial and administrative dealings of the outgoing governor? Such extreme measure, even if it does not come early enough in the life of the new administration, seems to be on the awaiting tray.

However, a lot depends on what deals the Iroko entered into during and after the 2016 governorship election. The fact that the outgoing prevailed on his anointed candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, and the PDP not to challenge Aketi’s return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), despite the preponderance of breach of the Electoral Act; suggests that Mimiko must have thought about his post-exit political peace.

To Defect Or Not
With the curious turn events after the 2015 Presidential election, especially the intrigues surrounding the 2016 governorship poll in the Sunshine State, there is no slight possibility that Iroko could not have reflected on the fact that in Nigeria politics, there can be no permanent foes, but permanent interests.

But what could the Medical Doctor-turned politician want after eight years in office as governor and stint as federal minister? Does he want to step up to the Senate or preparing the ground to serve as Presidential running mate to a northern Presidential aspirant in 2019?

Whatever; but the choice he makes in the days, weeks or even months after leaving office will go a long way.

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