As the October 20th governorship election in Ondo state approaches, our reporter, Ayodele Samuel,
in this report takes a look at the impending political battle, raising the questions on the a
bility of Governor Olusegun Mimiko to break the second term myth in the state just as he underscores the importance of the ancient city on who produces the next governor of the Sunshine state.
The ancient city of Owo is famous for being the cradle of politics and struggle of liberation in the South West region of Nigeria. The town came under British rule in 1893. After the nation's independence in 1960, it was part of the Western Region until 1967 when it became part of the Western State.
History of progressive politics in the country would not be complete without making reference to Owo, where the Action Group (AG), believed to be the first political party with progressive ideas and ideology, was formed. Those who propagated the idea of forming the AG, which later contributed to the transformation of the region, were believed to have first gathered at Owo.
Starting from hosting the meeting of the Action Group led by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo , the city has continued to remain relevant to politics of the region generally and Ondo State in particular.
Also in the struggle for democracy, the town also became very popular during the darkest days of the military rule in the country when progressive politicians regularly gathered to review the administration of the late Gen. Sani Abacha's military government. Its famous son and first governor of Ondo state, late Pa. Adekunle Ajasin had at that time, assumed the leadership of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere and as well as the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO).
Without doubt, the ancient town occupies an important position when it comes to the social, economic and political development of the old western region.
Ahead of the October 20th gubernatorial election, Ondo state's incumbent governor, and Labour Party candidate Olusegun Mimiko last week took the battle for the control of the state to the ancient city and hometown of the Action Congress of Nigeria ACN candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), when he flagged off his re-election campaign with a pledge to work with renewed vigour towards a better state just as he took a swipe at those who are aspiring to capture the state to perish the thought.
Storming the city strategically with thousands of people who came from all over the state chanting the praises of Iroko, as he is fondly called, to show his popularity and acceptance by the people, was however described as political miscalculation by oppositions in the state. The opposition in the state based their argument on the town's popular myth that no one ever brings war of any kind to the city and goes back home victorious.
"Mimiko has just failed, coming to Owo to declare war is very wrong and time would judge because Owo people hate threats of war" Addressing the supporters, Mimiko said Ondo state will never worship on the altar of any foreign god adding that one million godfathers and their District Officers would meet their match on October 20, when the people shall once again speak loudly with their votes as they did in 2007.
Mimiko, who lampooned ACN candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu, whom he accused of being a foreigner in the state; who did not register to vote and never even voted in the state before but suddenly woke up with the idea of governing the state, insisted that the people want a committed Governor, not a District Officer. "In 2007, we promised to work for you; we promised that your concerns shall be our concern; that in all seasons, we will work for you; that we shall unleash our incredible creative ingenuity to develop the state. In the last three and a half years, there are empirical facts on the ground that we have delivered on our promises and Ondo state is working again, and we are happier. We have in place over 350 projects in all our rural communities dictated by our people themselves.
"Today, we are here again to solicit for your votes, we want you to vote for us and I sincerely assure you that we shall continue to work for you with renewed vigour. We have been with you; we know your concerns and aspirations and we have been meeting. We know that you want your children to have quality education without you selling your properties. We will continue to work to make Ondo state a real place of pride in Nigeria; we will continue to develop Agriculture, build more roads, build more mega schools for our children, markets for our women, more hospitals, our cities shall be the best cities in Nigeria"
While noting that the choice of Owo town as the venue of his campaign flag- off was symbolic, Mimiko said that Owo was the de facto home of the progressives in Nigeria because in 1951, the Action Group (AG) was founded in Owo, making it the home of brave progressives when many towns were reluctant to host the group. "And we as inheritors of progressivism in Nigeria, have latched onto this proud heritage and we have taken hook line and sinker the ethos of progressivism in Nigeria and today, Ondo State is a model and the real progressives, as opposed to those who just mouth progressivism by mere words of mouths and not in deeds," Mimiko said.
The governor appealed to the leaders of the Afenifere, who have been lampooned by some so called leaders in recent times for daring to identify with him by describing him as following the footsteps of Pa Obafemi Awolowo saying that the whole world salute them for being the proud inheritors of progressivism in Nigeria.
In his address, the national Chairman of Labour Party (LP), Dan Nwanyawu, urged the people to vote for Mimiko who he noted had performed beyond even the expectations of the party pointing out that going by his landmark achievements in the state, he deserved to be voted for. While urging the people to be wary of those whom he noted had vowed to capture the state, Nwanyawu stated that they had no plans for the people as they only wanted to share the peoples' common resources for their god fathers.
"I must warn you not to vote for these people who are very desperate even when they are not on ground but say they will do everything to capture Ondo state. In LP, we did not impose Mimiko unlike some people who sat in their mansion in Lagos state and selected for their party. In fact, one of their leaders openly stated recently that they don't believe in primaries.
"All they are looking for is to increase their territories; they want to expand and they have not said that Mimiko has not performed but they just want to grab. Please, don't vote for them because they will ferry your wealth to feather their nests outside Ondo state and destroy the good legacies that Mimiko and other governors have done in Ondo state as they are doing in the states that they are now governing," he said.
But responding to the allegation that its candidate is a foreigner in the state, the ACN said ""For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to assert that Rotimi Akeredolu is a registered voter in his home town, Owo, and this is verifiable. The ACN candidate, with intimidating credentials coupled with his credible pedigree, no doubt, is the candidate to beat in this election, hence all antics to pull him down at all cost."
Winning Owo remain a key political calculation if Mimiko must return to Alagbaka House as the first governor to serve two tenure in the state