By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, the cookie finally crumbled days ago. After many years of speculations about the true political calculations and permutations of Ondo State Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, the lone Iroko tree standing for the Labour Party, the man finally defected back to where he came from, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). As aptly described by the defector himself, it was a homecoming. And the PDP, desperate to retain power, by any means, at the centre next year, wasted no time in welcoming back the proverbial prodigal son.
The party was in such a hurry that Dr Mimiko could not even enjoy the honour and privilege of being personally received by his new political godfather, President Goodluck Jonathan. He was welcomed by the Vice President, Architect Namadi Sambo, who was quick to admonish him to return home and join hands with the PDP loyalists who held fort while he went AWOL. The charismatic Chairman of the party, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, was also visibly absent. He would have made an eloquent speech as usual rhapsodising about the greatness of Iroko in Nigerian politics. I did not read anywhere that the father of all godfathers, Chief Anthony Anenih, Chairman Board of Trustees of PDP, made himself available on this occasion to welcome back their lost sheep. Baba would have waxed lyrical about how difficult it is to find a better party than PDP. Therefore, Mimiko was received by a second eleven, and what should have been a major photo-opportunity became an anti-climax. Such is the price you pay for making the wrong moves at the wrong times in the wrong places.
I regard Dr Mimiko as one of the politicians I genuinely love in Nigeria but he must be told the home truth for this misadventure. I’m disappointed not because he joined the PDP but because he didn’t have to jump ship. To do an adaptation of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, what the Governor did was tantamount to reigning in hell when it would have been better to serve in heaven. Our great Brother had the opportunity of helping Nigeria build a formidable workers’ party but he preferred to use and dump his Party in total disregard for history and posterity. Nigeria is seriously desirous of a people’s Party. It may not happen overnight but it is very doable through dint of hard work and meticulous planning by accidental heroes like Mimiko. Despite the chicanery of the Labour Party leadership, the party was already forging ahead, albeit slowly but steadily, and it was only a matter of time before it became a force to reckon with. Sadly, Dr Mimiko has sacrificed that forward march with this selfish and unnecessary decision.
Just in case he has forgotten, let me remind our Brother of a few instances in the past. I vividly remember that beautiful afternoon when I visited his home, opposite the American Embassy in Abuja, in the company of our mutual friend, Tokunbo Modupe. Dr Mimiko was home with only a few of his die-hard boys, including my good friend, Oluranti Akerele, of blessed memory. The house was devoid of any big man, contractors and the general parasites that litter the corridor of power. Oga’s gentle wife was not at home and he had to personally rummage the refrigerator to scavenge some drinks for us. The reason for the Sahara-like ambience of the premises was easy to guess-ticulate, Dr Mimiko was not yet in power. He was fighting tooth and nail to rescue his mandate from the PDP candidate, Dr Olusegun Kokumo Agagu, also of blessed memory. And nothing fails like failure. I recollect how we engaged Dr Mimiko on his plans for the good people of Ondo State should he secure victory in the courts. Tokunbo Modupe and I sat with him for long hours. When we eventually left him, I passed a comment to Tokunbo about the nature of winner-takes-all politics in our dear beloved nation. I said there would have been nowhere to park our car if the man was already Governor. I always find such lessons very compelling, instructive and indelible.
Let’s now fast forward this salacious tale. By some stroke of providence, miracle or merit, our Brother retrieves his hard-earned victory from the artful dodgers. All his well-wishers including me were ostensibly happy that the hocus-pocus was over. Our joy knew no bounds. Our Brother rode triumphantly into the New Jerusalem called Akure. We all called PDP unprintable names. One of my first few encounters with the Governor was when he graced the Global Excellence Achievement Awards. I gladly received him at the entrance of the magnificent event centre, The Balmorals in Oregun Lagos, as we walked hand in hand into the venue. The first thing I told him was the awesomeness of God in restoring hope where there was none. I pleaded with him not to go back to PDP after the dust finally calms down and he said he had no such plans.
His victory on the platform of Labour Party had rekindled hope in the possibility of political Davids defeating the behemoth of PDP gladiators. There was every chance that there could be a Nigerian party free from the stranglehold, and not dangerously controlled by the irascible moneybags. In fact, I got the confidence to join the Labour Party fully from that inspiration. I was very idealistic about offering my modest support to those bold enough to create an alternative platform to those so-called mega-parties. I fervently believed in the Labour Party to mobilise and galvanise workers nationwide for political emancipation. Nigeria can only continue to wobble and fumble with the present crop of big-players who have no iota of regard for the plight of the ordinary man.
One of my tall dreams was for Nigeria’s Labour Party to link up with the British Labour Party for fraternal relationship and concrete support and I worked assiduously on that linkage. Unfortunately, the party leadership was less ambitious and more comfortable with milking their sole Governor and any disgruntled big man that absconded from embattled parties. Even at that, the party could have seized the opportunity to build itself into a very powerful force in the political firmament but the party soon became a dumping ground and junkyard for all-comers. Before my exit, when I found the party virtually irredeemable, I made spirited effort to persuade and encourage the leadership to stay strong and try to build a virile political machinery. But all those efforts went up in smoke.
My most regrettable experience was the way Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) allowed the party to pass off and leverage on its super-brand without having any influence whatsoever on its shilly-shally operations. The party wanted to cook its soup without sourcing the requisite ingredients. I had watched with incredible dismay and utter disbelief as the hopes of erecting a respectable worker’s party evaporated in a jiffy. I found it strange that a country that paraded many famous unionists could not boast of a serious Labour Party. Even the Comrade Governor Adams Oshiomhole had to find his fortune elsewhere. Just imagine Adams Oshiomhole seeking his Presidential ambition on the scale of that massive party. He would have had ready foot-soldiers in most of the workers in every ward across Nigeria. Had Governors Oshiomhole, Mimiko and other influential politicians been interested in such onerous task, they won’t have to labour in vain in different parties today.
On my part, I had humbly resigned and moved on to an even smaller party, the National Conscience Party, conceived 20 years ago by the Senior Advocate of the Masses, Chief Abdul-Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi (He lives forever) where I fought hard to get my Presidential ticket. My idea was to join a party similar or closer in configuration to the ideology of a people’s party. I saw the light early enough that the Labour Party was going to suffer a monumental implosion and disintegrate so catastrophically. It was obvious that Governor Mimiko had always been a Federal player and would soon be tired of being a local champion. The truth about where his heart truly belonged has now come out. While Dr Mimiko is certainly capable of determining his own future, it is necessary for his major fan like me to undergo this type of lamentation and mourning exercise as a way of consoling those who feel totally let down by this latest escapade in our political history. What is there for Dr Mimiko to gain again in politics? God has been very kind to him. He has been Federal Minister. He contested against his former party from a very insignificant party and won. He sought a second term and successfully fought both PDP and ACN to standstill and still won. We know he loves President Goodluck Jonathan, either for genuine or fake personal reasons, including the fear of EFCC, he could still have carried on his crusade through the Labour Party. He would have been able to kill two birds with one shot. He would have spared himself and the President the kind of unforeseen crisis that may soon erupt and enrapture PDP in Ondo State.
No matter what happens, not every Labour Party member would agree with his reasons and follow him blindly to PDP. Many will start kicking like victims of epilepsy when they discover they can’t realise or fulfil their life ambitions under the umbrella of PDP. Some of them would soon pale into irrelevance after being swamped up by PDP chieftains. Conversely, many PDP members will reject the supremacy of new-comers to their party. And they’ve started already. Can you blame them? After working so hard against a man who had tried to obliterate their party in Ondo State, they would now be forced to chew the humble pie by calling a cow uncle in order to eat beef. Please, tell me what would become of the original party leaders and elders who built the party through sweat and blood. All those who had planned to contest elections into various positions on opposing platforms would be seeing double by now because of the personal decision of one man, Dr Mimiko. Even Mimiko has shot himself in the foot. By the time his tenure is over, he would have missed the chance of being a Senator like other former Governors who use the Senate as their retirement benefit. What then is the soul and purpose of this brouhaha? This is grossly unfair when we recollect that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu donated the bulk of South West votes to the same love-child without decamping from his own party.
I would have understood this game better if President Jonathan had agreed to hand over in 2015 to Dr Mimiko but there is no such evidence and we all know that won’t happen. I appreciate Dr Mimiko working actively for the re-election of President Jonathan in his personal capacity. It is his right as an individual to support whatever candidate he likes. However, he didn’t have to deal so fatally against the party that brought him back from the shadows of death. Without the Labour Party, PDP would not have found him useful today. He would have vanished into total oblivion from our merciless political landscape. At best he would have enjoyed relative obscurity. In short without the Labour Party his star was dimming and his political career was almost at curtains drawn as depicted by the ghost town feeling of his Abuja home when I visited with Tokunbo Modupe. I believe Iroko didn’t consider many things before taking this disastrous action. The collective destinies of many of his supporters have been mortgaged so recklessly. The teeming populace who supported him because they believed that he had been hard done by and deserved a measure of solidarity have been left to roast in their own juice.
Iroko has jettisoned loyal Labour Party members who felt his leadership was necessary in their bid to start the process of effective opposition like jetsam and flotsam. He has given no consideration as to the hiatus he has created. As for most of those who followed him to Abuja like objects of mass hypnotism, they will soon awake from their somnambulism when they realise how much they’ve been short-changed in the new equation that may never add up. As if I knew. I had spoken with Tokunbo Modupe on the eve of this riotous defection, asking him to convey my message to the Governor not to defect. I was ready to concede to his support for anyone he likes but didn’t share in this overkill. Tokunbo’s deafening silence should have forewarned me that the deed was already done and I was merely wasting my saliva. It is such a calamity that one of my favourite politicians has somersaulted again like many tragic heroes before him.
I worry no more for Mimiko. I worry for his hapless followers who have seen him off to Golgotha. May they return in peace and not in pieces.
Dele Momodu contributed this piece on his Thisday Backpage column, Pendulum. He can be followed on Twitter at @DeleMomodu