Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, former and first two-term governor of Ondo State, fondly called the Iroko, also has the distinction of being the first Labour Party (LP) governor in Nigeria. On September 13, 2018, watched carefully by both friends and foes, this sedate scientist made another significant move in his already compelling political odyssey. At the Abuja National Secretariat of the Labour Party (LP), he formally declared his intention to run for the office of president in the 2019 election, on that platform.
In a rather quirky 91-political party field overflowing with political centurions, Young Turks, proxies, pretenders and quite a number of genuine visionaries, Mimiko looms large as a personality who has demonstrated that governance is a field that requires leadership of a certain stature. He enters the fray many Nigerians see as the last frontier not as a rookie but one steeped in the philosophy and scientific appreciation of leadership.
Not one given to beating about the bush, he captures the ‘WHY’ of his entering the presidential fray with words that speak to Nigeria’s dilemma and grave existential challenges. Mimiko said, in his declaratory proclamation of September 13: “There comes a moment in the life of a nation when every patriot must stand up to be counted! At such a moment, no person worthy of a place in history can afford to remain ensconced in their comfort zone. When the totality of our being and the very essence of our humanity are in violation, patriots must advance to recapture the present; and commit to re-defining the future.
“For our country, Nigeria, the moment is now! The times are marked by rapid tumbling of our core values. These are times in our country when a decision has become imperative for those we have for too long pretentiously told, ‘the future belongs to you,’ but for whom we have created only the basis for disillusionment in the present, and hopelessness in the future. They are times of growing frustration for the old; and bleakness of life for all.”
It is beyond any debate that the challenge for all societies is to create a system of governance that promotes, supports and sustains human development. This is simply because governance is crucial in the pace and direction of human progression. It involves a web of networks – including public and private sectors, institutions, organisations and individual actors – that can influence the development journey.
Governance can also be seen as the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a state’s affairs at all levels. It comprises the mechanisms, processes and institutions, through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences. Not surprisingly, these were at the core of Mimiko’s eight-year transformative administration in Ondo State.
It is worth recalling that during Mimiko’s first three years in office, his reforms in health, education, and urban renewal won him national and international recognition. In 2012, his Abiye (Safe Motherhood) Programme was recognized by the World Bank, and his free education programmes were commended by the UNICEF. Mimiko, in 2012, became the second Nigerian to win the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour Award. After winning re-election by defeating the PDP candidate, Olusola Oke, and the APC candidate, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, Mimiko was sworn in for a second term in 2013.
Clearly, deficits in the critical arena of discipline, accountable and transparent governance birth impediments to genuine development and create human stagnation. Given his demonstrated courage, conceptual and practical grasp of democratic governance, unencumbered by the baggage of ethno-religious and parochial proclivity, Mimiko is certainly a leader with the stature Nigeria needs at this critical political juncture.
He fetchingly reinforces this image with his message to Nigerians, at his declaration in Abuja: “The truth, however, is that bad as these times are, they will not pass away, if we choose to remain on this same old path. The wanton killings currently enveloping the Middle Belt, and many other parts of the country, can indeed become the lot of the entire country. The excruciating economic pains of today can indeed become a mere introduction to what lies in the bosom of time for us all.
“The unprecedented level of division, and distrust at individual and communal levels, with which we are faced today, can indeed spin out of control, and consume this dear country of ours. As a country, we are sitting right now on the edge of a cliff. Below is a massive inferno. Just a little push in the wrong direction will see us fall over the cliff into utter damnation! Our present circumstances as individuals, communities, and country, have now made one thing clear. Ability to envision great ideas, and demonstrable track record, rather than place and circumstances of birth, must be the most compelling basis for investing candidates with power.”
Flowing from his grasp of history and understanding of leadership, he further observes that, “This is the time for all Nigerians who love this country to wake up, to get up, to take our future into our hands, and do the needful, to eradicate the scandals that haunt our daily existence. It is high time we eradicated the scandal of seeing or reading about fellow Nigerians having to take their own lives because of total loss of hope on how to make ends meet, and about what the future holds in stock for them.
“It is time to do away with the national shame of being called the extreme poverty capital of the world; and being rated the 125th least competitive economy in the world out of the 137 countries surveyed for 2017/2018, by the World Economic Forum. We have had enough of our youths perish in the Mediterranean, in search of better lives in other lands, some of them not as endowed as our own country. Nigeria has for so long been a graveyard of dreams. It is high time we made of it an incubation hub for great ideas! That time is NOW! It is why I am running for president.”
Clearly recognising the challenges ahead in confronting the so-called ‘majority parties,’ Mimiko called on Nigerians he referred to as “independents” who may already be disillusioned with the way politics is played in the country to wake up and take their destiny their hands. His words: “If you belong in any of these categories, I call you the Independents in our emerging democratic system, and call on you to join hands with me. I come to you with humility, but confidence in God, and the requisite institutional experience, discipline of mind, clarity of thought, broadness of scope, and cosmopolitan outlook, needed for effectiveness as president of Nigeria.”
Because he had upset impossible odds before on the Labour Party platform, he correctly told the “independents” that LP was the platform to beat: “Without an iota of doubt, the Labour Party is the most compelling platform for unleashing the creativity and vitality of our people, and engendering individual prosperity, security, and national greatness.”
It was the former French president, Giscard D’Estaing’s who counseled statesmen and world leaders that, “There can be no response to history without effort.” D’Estaing’s sagacious counsel was clearly inspired by the environment of the human crisis that defined his era. He was born during the First World War and fought in the second bloody, global conflagration.
Today, Nigeria’s political leadership has clearly been incapable or unwilling to make the necessary effort to respond to the challenges encapsulated in its peculiar history. This scenario pushes the imperative for a change of guards and Mimiko clearly fits the bill.