For obvious reasons, I will not here be listing the achievements of Dr Olusegun Mimiko, the Ondo State governor who today turns 62. That will present a daunting challenge. Happily, the United Nations, WHO, Federal Government, NANS, and countless other bodies have testified about the revolution in Ondo State. Rather, I choose to restate a salient national point using the Mimiko praxis as a reference point.
Dr Mimiko, judging by the Obafemi Awolowo parameters, remains Nigeria’s quintessential governor, second to none. It is easy these days, because moneybags and neo-Fascists have taken over the political space, to ignore the fact that the states in the country would have unleashed their full potentiality and become centres of verifiable, and uplifting, development had Nigeria chosen the path of what Governor Olusegun Mimiko has often tagged “the irreducible minimum” of the democratic enterprise, namely the ability of people to choose their leadership and governance framework within the socio-pragmatics of their own existence, which would recommend, in the case of Nigeria, the federalist framework, a framework which would allow every region to develop using its God-given resources and actively borrowing from neighbouring paradigms.
However, in 2014, Nigeria took a giant step forward, a step that by far outclassed Dr Goodluck Jonathan’s giant strides in education and the economy—and please ignore the loud mouths who seek to ascribe legitimacy to their illiteracy by excoriating Jonathan on a daily basis while offering no basis for rational governance—because it touched on the very basis of Nigeria’s existence. It convoked a National Conference, assembling some of Nigeria’s finest minds and turning out a report that is truly revolutionary in its federalist purport. A true son of Awolowo, Governor Mimiko gave active support to that conference, and even organised several post National Conference assemblies geared towards sensitizing Nigerians on the implications for the 2015 presidential election.
At those events, disciples of the sage like Ayo Adebanjo, Seinde Arogbofa and Femi Okurounmu detailed the struggles of the past decades and pointed the way forward. But the nation chose damnation and, since then the political space has been polluted with empty shouts of corruption/anti-corruption, themselves merely poignant in restating the thesis that Mimiko and other patriots had always posited. It is indeed a tragedy that instead of implementing the recommendations of that conference, the Federal Government is busy doing exactly nothing.
In 2004, General Sani Abacha was listed as the fourth most corrupt leader in history, but the man who said Abacha did not steal money wants us to believe that corruption begins and ends with Jonathan’s government. Yet, only last week, the nation and international observers saw a complete charade in Edo. Now, make no mistake about it: there was corruption in the Jonathan government. But so was there corruption in every other government since Independence, and so will there be even worse corruption in the present government and those to come unless Nigerians take the crucial step of unravelling the behemoth that is currently tagged Nigeria. May I state boldly that any anti-corruption fight which preserves Nigeria’s current iniquitous structure whereby the resources of the Niger Delta are used to develop the North while it (North) contributes nothing to the federal purse is an exercise in futility.
A true visionary, Mimiko insists that unless and until Nigeria adopts the federalist framework, the component units making up Nigeria cannot unleash their potentiality. Certainly, Nigeria today is nothing but a superstructure erected on Niger Delta oil. The agricultural, maritime and other energies of the component units have been subsumed under an unworkable and thoroughly hopeless unitary structure. Pray, who profits from the North’s cattle rearing other than the northerners themselves, and in fact at the expense of southern lives? Why it is that Niger Delta oil money has produced generations of billionaire northern Generals and business moguls, and suddenly the owners of the oil are thieves and rogues?
Chief Obafemi Awolowo spent the larger part of his political life preaching a federalist Nigeria. In the same vein, Dr Mimiko has stood out as a lone voice among the governors, advocating federalism. He has recorded firsts in virtually all sectors, yet he recognises the limitations of the current structure. Happily, however, there is now a ready weapon of war: the 2014 Conference report. That is why, as he turns 62 today, the struggle continues. Here’s wishing the Iroko 62 hearty cheers.
- Awolaja is on the staff of Nigerian Tribune.