Tribute: 62 Candles for Mimiko

GOVERNOR Olusegun Otaibayomi Mimiko is 62 years old tomorrow, (Monday, 3 October 2016). Language deconstructionists would no doubt agree with our matching of Mimiko’s names (Olusegun Otaibayomi or “God-given victory to shame ill will”) with his persona, struggles and life achievements.

The Ondo governor is not your typical sissy of a public officer.  In other words, he is a veteran of many wars, victor in uncountable fracas and survivor of many titanic political skirmishes. Whenever he fought his battles, not a few of his loyalists would think that it was all over for him. It was at the point when he was given up for dead that an invisible hand would come to his rescue and he would rise to send a jab, cross, hook and upper cut to the solar plexus of his enemy who would land on the canvass, panting like a beached whale. A man whose philosophy of altruism comes from a pure heart cannot but enjoy the intervention of God. Thus, an opponent underrates Mimiko, whose seemingly fragile physique and harmless mien, harbours a steely core, at his own peril.

When Dr. Olusegun Mimiko competed in the gubernatorial elections on April 14, 2007, former President Olusegun Obasanjo threatened to set the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission loose on him. A politician who has skeleton in his wardrobe would have run away like a scared hound with its tail between its hind quarters. With nose-thumping determination, he contested against the incumbent Olusegun Agagu but was rigged out. Not a man to say die, Mimiko contested this decision at the election tribunal. When the verdict was given at last, Agagu lost office on February 23, 2009. He was replaced by Mimiko as governor.

And in the October 20, 2012 election, Mimiko contested on the platform of the Labour Party against Rotimi Akeredolu of Action Congress of Nigeria (supported by many party bigwigs from outside the state); the candidate of the PDP, Olusola Alexander Oke; and the candidate of the CPC, Olusoji Ehinlanwo. Mimiko won and became governor for a second term. The medical doctor turned politician is not called Iroko, king of trees in the forest, for the fun of it! However, he, on Thursday October 2, 2014, officially decamped to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from the Labour Party.

The good thing is that Mimiko’s life struggles are not just ends in themselves but means of providing service, comfort and happiness for the greatest number. Suffice it to state that he is a socialist to the core operating though within a political party comprising legions of conservative elements.

This leftist orientation has a long ancestry. In other words, selflessness runs in Mimiko’s blood. His great grandfather, Chief Akinmeji was the famous Runsawe of Ondo; his grandfather, Pa Famimikomi was also successful, brave and kind man. His son, Atiku Bamidele Mimiko, the governor’s father, also inherited the virtues. No wonder Olusegun Mimiko the son, adopted the progressive ideas and sharpened them at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in the 1970s. On campus, he was a member of the Pan-African and Socialist Student Organisation, the “Wantu Wazuri” and the Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Young Socialist Movement. No wonder the welfarism philosophy he gathered from his leftist orientation blossomed when he became a medical doctor and later as governor.

First, when he established his MONA MEDICLINIC in Ondo town in 1985, his charges were so low that he sustained that institution on shoe string. It is safe to say that Mimiko is service, sympathy and empathy walking on two legs! And he has demonstrated this in the last eight years of governing Ondo State. True. Since 2007, Mimiko has used the instrumentality of government to help the poor.

In the area of health, the Abiye programme is one of the cardinal programmes of Mimiko who conceived it so that pregnancy would no longer be like signing one’s own death warrant. Through it, government provides free and qualitative healthcare for pregnant women and children of zero to five years of age.

To ensure its effectiveness, the Mimiko government assigns Health Rangers to pregnant women for proper monitoring from conception to birth; provides mobile phones for the women for them to contact their Healthcare Providers. Moreover, government provided (and still does) four-wheel and tricycle ambulances; renovated existing basic health centres, constructed new ones and provides drugs and other consumables. It was for these reasons that the World Bank officially listed Ondo State’s Abiye programme on its website as, according to a writer, “one of the success stories coming out of Africa.”

Mimiko did not stop at that. There is the Mother and Child Hospital, Akure; the Medical Village, Ondo, comprising the Trauma Centre, Kidney Care Centre, Gani Fawehinmi Diagnostic Centre and Mother and Child Hospital. People come from outside the state to avail themselves of the opportunities provided at the centres.

Dr Mimiko has made a statement in the area of education that everybody irrespective of social or economic status has a right to quality education with his Mega School initiative. It is not only the monstrous structures that are mind-boggling; the standard of teaching is also high, there is quality control while the service is literally free. It is not for nothing that even the well-to-do in the society have been withdrawing their children from the so-called high profile private schools and putting them in public schools. With about 54 of the Mega Schools already built across the state and more in the pipeline, every community is soon to have one.

What is more, the Mimiko administration provided 100 buses for student to ride to and fro their schools free and  also established a specialized medical university (Ondo State University of Medical Sciences), first in Nigeria and the second in Africa.

True to his promise, Mimiko has been able to make the state an event destination through its much  sought after  International Cultural and Event Centre, christened ‘The Dome’, and sited on a large expanse of about 34,000 hectares of land in Akure.

A product of great thinking, the initiative is as a result of the drive to reposition the state for core investments and tourism attraction.

A three-in-one dome with a 6,000 capacity hall, a gallery for art, and a discothèque, it is the first of its type in the country.

The Dome, Mimiko had projected, will put Ondo State among the states in the country that can hold any international conference without hassles about the venue, a projection which has come to pass.

With complimentary facilities in the Dome are proposed nearby Africa Village and a five-star hotel.

The Mimiko Cocoa Revolution has also gone a long way to project his belief in economic diversification. The Oda Cocoa Plantation symbolises Mimiko›s on-going silent revolution in the state. This should surprise no one going by the background of the state as a top cocoa producing one. The revolution is premised on the bid by the administration to retain Ondo State in the number one spot in cocoa production in the country. Farmers get high-yielding cocoa seedlings from the plantation to increase their produce. On top of this is the value-addition initiative that will put cocoa farmers in the state in the position to process their produce into chocolate and cocoa butter.

To this end, the state government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a United States concern, SPAGnVOLA Chocolatie LLC, on the establishment of Cocoa Academy where farmers will be trained on the value added initiative. It is also on record that Cocoa from Ondo won a silver medal at the Chocolate Academy award in the United Kingdom.

The Mimiko administration is equally boosting cassava production across Ondo State and has put in place the machinery for high scale production of rice in Ogbese area of the state in order to put food on the table of the people while also empowering farmers.

Mimiko also introduced the Kaadi Igbe Ayo smartcard technology that helps government to have the database of all residents of the state. Through it, citizens have access to all the good things of life, “it facilitates the systematic development of databases for efficient security and surveillance purposes, the categorisation of citizens for employment, taxation and financial palliatives, the use/management of public facilities (public transport, subsidised consumer products, even fertiliser).”

Mimiko has also achieved a lot in the realm of industrialisation. The Guardian, on 31 August, published a report on how the Federal Government commended Ondo State, ranking it as one of the fastest growing economies in Nigeria. That was by way of a statement by the Minister of Environment, Mrs. Amina Mohammed during a courtesy visit to Mimiko in Akure after an Environmental Impact Assessment of the Ilaje Free Trade Zone in the Southern Senatorial District of the state. It is on record actually that southern part of Ondo State harbours the longest coast line in the West African sub-region.

The minister had mentioned at the visit that the target of the project is to match the achievements of the present federal administration towards diversifying the economy.

Head of the Technical Review Panel, Engr. Funso Makanjuola, according to the report, explained that the project if completed in time would place the Mimiko-led administration in an enviable pedestal.

But the industrialisation of a state will be a huge joke without power supply and the Mimiko government is aware of that. According to a 20 March 2016 Thisdayonline report, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has issued a generation licence to Ondo state government and its partners, Kingline Development Company, a South Korean firm, to generate 550 megawatts (MW) of electricity in the state’s Independent Power Project (IPP) plant.

Mimiko, after coming into office also embarked upon an urban renewal programme in all the three senatorial zones. In Akure, he upgraded the road from Fiwasaye through Oba Adesida, Oyemekun down to Ilesha-Benin Expressway.  There is the dualisation of Arakale road in the city; dualisation of Mobil junction in Akure through Oba Ile to Airport. Also the Fiwasaye-Oba Ile Adesida-Oyemekun down to Ilesha-Benin Expressway, axis has about thirteen mini car parks and a central car park behind Akure Central Mosque named Democracy Park. It can accommodate 2,000 vehicles at a time.  There are two special roundabouts constructed in the state capital: the fountain roundabout at Alagbaka and the new roundabout at the Fiwasaye end of the road.

In Ondo town, some major roads were awarded for dualisation: Itanla junction through Ademulegun road to Ife Garage roundabout; roads from Akure garage through Yaba to Idi-Ishin and form Idi-Ishin through Surulere to Ife garage roundabout.

In the southern Senatorial District, government reconstructed and rehabilitated Ilu-titun to Omotoso road; Irele township road; Okitipupa roads; Ajagba-Iyasan road and others.

As he marks 62 years on earth, Mimiko’s life is like a hidden treasure which is beginning to unveil gradually as he still has a lot to offer his immediate community, state, the nation and the world at large even as his life and selflessness remain a benchmark for people who will occupy public office. Here is wishing the Ondo State Governor happy birthday.

  • Akinmade is the Commissioner for Information in Ondo State.