by Waheed Bakare
Iroko is a large hardwood tree found mostly in the west coast of tropical Africa. According to the Yoruba tradition, any man who cuts down an Iroko tree risks devastating misfortune on himself and members of his family. They also claim that Iroko’s spirit can be heard in houses which use the wood specie, as the spirit of the Iroko is trapped in the wood. This is one of the myths associated with Yoruba traditions.
Although the Yoruba do not name their children Iroko, some use it as sobriquet. Since the Yoruba also have a tradition that “a man’s name paves the way for him,” it is not surprising then that the supporters of the re-elected Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, chose the sobriquet Iroko for him when he first declared his intention to vie for the governorship of the state in 2007.
There were indications that the national leadership of the PDP put pressure on Mimiko who was at that the Minister of Housing to put his ambition on hold and allow Agagu to go for another term. But Mimiko ignored entreaties and resigned his appointment as a minister.
While it was expected that Mimiko, who served under Agagu as the Secretary to the State Government, would challenge his former boss, the expectation was that both men would slug it out at the PDP primaries.
But against expectation, Mimiko dumped the PDP and chose the platform of a relatively unknown Labour Party to try his political luck.
To many political watchers and analysts, this was suicidal, especially in a country where people cast their votes based mostly on party affiliations. Besides, Mimiko only declared his interest four months to the election.
According to the result of the April 14, 2007 gubernatorial election declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mimiko lost the election to Agagu of the PDP.
Since the judiciary remains the last hope of a “common man,” Mimiko took his case to the election petitions tribunal and won. But the PDP went on an appeal. Since truth is constant, the Court of Appeal in Benin, Edo State, reasoned along with the tribunal and declared Mimiko the duly elected governor of Ondo State on February 23, 2009. The court, which was the final arbiter, argued that the election of Agagu could not stand because it was marred with irregularities.
The election thus proved political pundits wrong that Nigerian could vote based on personalities rather than party affiliations.
If Mimiko had it tough in 2007, it is expected that he would find it tougher when he declared his intention to seek re-election in 2012. This belief was rooted in the determination of the Action Congress of Nigeria to bring Ondo State to its fold to complete its dominance of the “progressives” in the South-West.
In one of his campaigns, Mimiko told the people of the state, “If you vote for me again, I will continue to work for you. You all know me, I am not a stranger in your midst; I have been your commissioner and when I was your commissioner, I did well for you; I was your Secretary to State Government ; when I was SSG, I did well for you. I was a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and when I was there, I did well for you so you all know my antecedents unlike some people who want to now govern you out of the blues.
“God is our godfather; we won’t bow before any other god.”
While godfatherism may not be ruled out of Nigerian politics, the people of Ondo have once again proved that the power of the ballot lies with them. They overwhelmingly once again chose Mimiko as their governor for the next four years in the result declared by INEC on Sunday.
The result declared by INEC showed that Iroko won in 14 local governments, while both Olusola Oke of the PDP and Rotimi Akeredolu of the ACN won two local governments each. Specifically, Mimiko polled 260, 199, Oke, 155, 961, while Akeredolu got 143,512 votes.
Speaking shortly after his re-election, Mimiko said, “We shall engage in all-inclusive development of all segments of our state. Nobody and no sector shall be excluded. By this I don’t mean that I would bring in opposition political parties into my government.”
On regional integration, he said, “I believe in the integration of all the states in the South-West through the development of a workable template that would launch the zone into prosperity.
“My idea of regional integration is not in terms of coming under one political party. It is based on leveraging on our geographical structure. There can be a developing template that everybody and every sector can key into.”
Born on October 3, 1954, to Pa and Mrs. Atiku Bamidele Mimiko, his great, great grandfather was the High Chief Adaja Gbegbaje of Ondo. His great grandfather, Chief Akinmeji, was the revered Ruwase of Ondo. His grandfather, Famimikomi, was an achiever, who was well respected in the community.
The respect people had for Famimikomi, many people believe, rubbed-off on his own son, the late Pa A. B. Mimiko, who was also an achiever in his own right as a manager of men and materials, a successful cocoa farmer and merchant, who had interest in reading and monitoring global developments.
The governor’s mother is of the prominent Ogunsulie family of Ondo Kingdom.
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