Once again, Mimiko alters game in Ondo senatorial race
Less than three months to the 2019 general elections, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko has tampered with the political template of Ondo State. He has dropped his Presidential ambition. He did not just abandon the idea to become president under the aegis of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), he has now decided to contest the Ondo Central Senatorial election, taking over the ticket of Engr. Gboye Adegbenro.
The political space of Ondo Central District, comprising Akure North, Akure South, Ifedore, Idanre, Ondo East and Ondo West is now undergoing freh reconfiguration. This is where the former governor bestrides politically like Colossus.
The race for the Red Chamber had been a chess game between Senator Tayo Alasoadura of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who is seeking another term and the PDP candidate, Ayo Akinyelure, who was dislodged by APC in the 2015 election.
Recently, after wide consultations, Adegbenro, a former Commissioner for Works under Mimiko had picked the senatorial ticket after following his former boss to ZLP; to become a third force in the race. According to analysts, the former commissioner had an edge to take ZLP to victory in the manner Mimiko had always done with strange political parties that neither had state nor national affiliation.
They explained that if the former commissioner could garner votes from his own Ifedore home front and his boss, Mimiko delivers block votes for him in Ondo East and West councils he could coast home to sweet victory.
It was said that the large votes from the three councils, in addition to whatever he could get from Akinyelure’s Idanre, Alasoadura’s Akure North and the spoil from the metropolitan Akure South, might do the magic for ZLP. But Mimiko has come again with his typical joker as the master of the game, according to observers, “always taking bold steps to achieve the impossible.”
The erstwhile governor had finished his two terms under the aegis of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), though he first became governor after reclaiming his mandate in a 31month-legal tussle as LP candidate and went back to the party in June to contest the Presidential election. Meanwhile, Mimiko won his first term election under LP in 2007 barely four months after he resigned from the PDP as Minister of Housing under the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. He scaled all hurdles to defeat an incumbent PDP governor, late Dr. Olusegun Agagu.
Rejoining the Labour Party, he disclosed that he left the major opposition party, PDP, to realise a political ideology relevant to the needs of the present day Nigeria. He added that other parties were devoid of people-oriented ideologies. Dr. Mimiko justified his return to the party based on “the need to catalyse a greater focus on the ideological content of the Nigerian political firmament. 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.”But his return ego punctured by dissenting voices from the workers party, who rejected him and kicked against his declaration in Abuja two months ago. They raised a hue that the party was not for sale.
The former governor did not relent in his search for a more ideological party till he found ZLP, saying: “We have also come with the conviction, consequent upon several years of practical involvement in the nation’s political process, that the need for ideologically focused political engagement is now more pressing than ever before.
“Virtually all the existing political parties in Nigeria 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.“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 refused to mainstreamed the interest and welfare of the weak and poor in our society.
“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.“We would begin to sharpen the ideological divide in Nigerian politics, with a view to mainstreaming the welfare and interest of our people,” he said.
Some commentators felt Mimiko was using his presidential ambition to negotiate for positions and relevance at the national level, either with the ruling APC or the major opposition party, PDP. Others said his target was Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), which would definitely be zoned to the South West; and he was using his cordial relationship with the Pan Yoruba group, Afenifere, to negotiate the position.
Surprisingly, the former governor discarded the presidential bid and made a u-turn for the Senate, now to slug it out with Alasoadura and Akinyelure, dashing the high hopes of Adegbenro and his teeming followers.Since the Iroko’s senatorial bid was made public, he has consciously avoided media exposure, but has embarked on smart moves to dismantle the structures of his opponents.
The Guardian learnt he has reached out to aggrieved members and aspirants of the major opposition parties in the last primaries, PDP and APC, making steady inroads to cash in on their internal crisis.
As speculated by some political observers, the senatorial ambition might be a quick move to gun for the exalted position of Senate President if PDP wins the presidential election and the slot in the upper chamber is conceded to the South West.
However, some think he would lose the election and this might be the end of his political relevance and career in the state and country at large. An analyst, Eniola Onuwaje said the former governor is not consistent politically and that has diminished his popularity and following in the state.
His words: “Mimiko, the Maradonna has been dribbling people for a very long time and now is the time for him to dribble himself. People are tired of having former governors going to the Senate.”A close source to the former governor revealed they were still not sure if INEC would eventually substitute Adegbenro’s name that of his boss, Mimiko. According to him, the hope of the former governor to run for the Senate will be clear when INEC releases the final list of candidates.
The Central District remains the only ticket conceded to Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC, meaning that the state government and party leadership may not toy with it, not minding that Mimiko and Akeredolu are friends. Adegbenro has announced his withdrawal from the race, revealing that it was after wide consultation with family, friends and constituents.
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