By Imefv Efuda
The piece by Louis Odion is emblematic of the new low to which journalism has fallen in Nigeria. This is a piece penned by a senior journalist who, evidently bereft of facts, decided to regale himself with fiction. He used that as a basis to drive a pre-conceived notion of the persona of the individual, Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, on whom he wrote. It is obvious from the lines of his argument, the cherry-picking of information, the latching onto clichés such as, ‘as the story goes’, Odion was simply on a hatchet job to serve as mouthpiece for some despicable personalities that evidently paid for his journalistic conscience. In his piece, Odion tried to push a number of perspectives to which I try to respond here, showing in the process the hollowness of what he would like innocent readers to see as an objective narrative on the Iroko phenomenon.
The basis of Odion’s gloating was the Ondo State gubernatorial election of November 26, 2016. He commented on a heist of an election that even some of the key dramatis personae have openly put down by the nature of the role they were procured to play therein. That the characters got the buy-in of INEC, an electoral umpire that openly and unabashedly undermined its on guidelines and the Electoral Act, the custodian of which it was supposed to be, is the rather unfortunate part of this all.
Yes, the election has come and gone, but the nature of the dishonourale acts of the electoral umpire stinks to the heavens, but perhaps not to charlatans like Odion. His analysis of the same election ignored those odious things an Odion is hard put to see in the service of those who paid him to take down Mimiko. The first critical one is the unabashed deployment of money to buy votes by a government that has made the fight against corruption its mantra. Everybody on the streets of Ondo State towns and villages has stories to tell of how money was freely used by the APC. Now, this does not seem important to a public commentator like Odion as he strives to make his readers to assume that he has some concern for democracy.
Secondly, it is of no consequence to Odion that Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, the leading candidate in the election, was shunted aside by INEC on the basis of a judgment the Appeal Court referred to as a fraud. It did not matter to Odion that Jimoh Ibrahim, the man who procured the High Court judgment that INEC relied upon, was not representing PDP; but was described as an impostor by the Appeal Court. Yet Odion would not shudder to parrot and gleefully quote such a character whose reputation is so bad that it was a useful tool of campaign against PDP in the election.
INEC refused to adjust the dates of the election as it gladly did in Edo State. Rather, it did not deem it fit to allow Jegede, the man who won at the Appeal and Supreme Courts, to campaign for more than one day. It denied him the privilege of having his agents monitor the elections. He was not allowed access to the Voters Register until a few hours to the election. All these are fair enough for the moral framework of an Odion. Small wonder, he is quick to celebrate such travesty of an election in his eagerness to attack Mimiko. In doing so, it was Jimoh Ibrahim, a man so clearly berated by the courts of the land as unworthy that Odion felt comfortable to quote and parrot repeatedly.
By the way, what does the Odions of this world take democracy to mean? How does it become the norm that failing to get your preferred candidate elected into office has become a crime? How does a man who contested election against Obasanjo’s preferred candidate and defeated him when the former’s rascality was at its apogee; and won re-election against the onslaught of an ACN behemoth in the Southwest in 2012 suddenly become a failure?
A failure in the estimation of an Odion, who not being able to offer himself for election was quick to take invitation to serve as Commissioner in his own State? Isn’t it trite that elections are meant to be won or lost? Why then the anticipation, clearly evident in Odion’s piece, that Dr. Mimiko should win at every election? Isn’t alternation of power between political parties and/or tendencies the very hallmark of democracy? It is understandable though, for an Odion with his modest pedigree, and not too remarkable foray into governance, not to take kindly to somebody whom he had described as dominating the political firmament of Ondo State for more than one decade.
Odion berated Mimiko for abandoning the Labour Party (LP) soon after his second term election to join the PDP. It is convenient for Odion and his ilk to disregard Mimiko’s profound philosophical explication of what informed his decision to move over to the PDP to help shield the country from the type of embarrassment that governance has become today in the country. First, he spoke about the fact that building a third force like LP from the scratch to contend for power in a historically two-party dominant system was an expensive enterprise, one that could ensure that such a party remains on the fringe forever.
Now, for someone whose goal is social transformation through the instrumentality of state power, continual engagement with a fringe party was not an enterprise of choice. What is more, Dr. Mimiko also gave a hint as to how expensive it would be for such a party to be built to such national stature as could make it make a credible claim for federal power.
More importantly, Odion chose to forget that Dr. Mimiko was indeed a member of the PDP before he chose to pick up a Labour Party that was non-existent in Ondo State in 2006, to prosecute his gubernatorial ambition, having been practically shut out by those who had seized control of PDP by then. It is to be noted that while for Odion, it was inappropriate for Mimiko to change party; same was perfectly in order for others who for personal reasons had to move from PDP to the fledgling APC then.
The objective reasons that informed the fallout between Mimiko and some of the political personalities that he had worked with before he won his governorship election, which had been adequately accounted for, were conveniently left unaddressed by Odion, a man who was simply on a damaging mission. He spoke of huge financial support to Mimiko without any scintilla of evidence whatsoever to back up his claim, other than the infantile ‘so the saying goes’! Can you imagine that of somebody of the status of an editor, talking so cavalierly about the reputation of another person?
In deference to those who had procured his service, Odion failed to take note of the fact that Dr. Mimiko remains one of the very few Nigerians that have used political power most responsibly in the current democratic dispensation. This is a man whose accomplishment, especially in the critical health, education, and urban renewal sectors had been variously celebrated by credible international agencies as constituting benchmarks for not just Nigeria, but the developing world at large. One would have expected a man with minimal pretentions to commitment to good governance to take account of such; but not an Odion who evidently is on a hatchet job.
Still talking of the so-called abandonment of LP, how does one explaincriticisms of Mimiko’s decision to quit LP by a man who readily accepted to serve as Commissioner under foremost labor leader,Governor Adams Oshiomhale, a man who had himself probably came to the same conclusion Dr. Mimiko was to come to later.
It is that trying to nurture a fringe party to central power in a two-party dominant system was a herculean task. When Oshiomhale got to this juncture, he decided to quit LP and contest on the platform of then ACN? It is exciting that Odion who is quick to blame Iroko for quitting LP had no qualms serving as Commissioner under Adams, who himself had left the same LP much earlier. That much for the double standard of an Odion, who incidentally was asked out of government at the appropriate time by Governor Oshiomhale, supposedly for some perfidious acts.
Without any iota of fact whatsoever, Odion assumes Iroko was motivated in his political engagement by the desire for material acquisition. Alas, there is nothing on ground in the eight years that Governor Mimiko has spent in office that supports such an impression. Yet, without any iota of evidence, Odion did not think it unworthy of himself to make such a spurious claim. He simply assumed that everyone in government is driven by rent-seeking proclivity. Or could it be that that is what his own personal foray into government and why he left unceremoniously demonstrated? What indeed has journalism come to?
It is laughable for anyone to suggest that Governor Mimiko is intolerant of opposition. Most people who have anything to do with Ondo State would know that it is either Odion does not know what he is talking about or does not care about his own reputation seeing that he is so far off the mark. The notoriety of the particular radio station he mentioned, and how Dr. Mimiko has insisted that it be allowed to be in spite of that is one of the defining features of his governance. Yet, it is the same issue that a hatchet writer would seek to use to put down this quintessential democrat and public servant. What an irony!
For the information of the Odions of this world. We the constituents of Dr. Mimiko are very proud of his accomplishment in those long years that he has served, and especially during his eight years as Governor. That his preferred candidate did not win in an election, which any decent person knows was officially skewed against him,does not detract from this. No amount of vituperations by elements like Odion is going to change that. At any event, these are characters who a little above a year ago poured vitriolic on whosoever caught their fancy in the morbid desire for a ‘change’agenda that has amounted now to changing Nigeria from the steady course it was pursuing to a walk in a blind alley, a blind alley of incompetence and intolerance.
It bears repetition for the Odions of this world that there is nothing for Dr. Mimiko to lose any sleep over because his preferred candidate lost an election. This is a man who trained as a medical doctor; chose the instrumentality of political power to bring succor to a much blighted society; ran for office and won in very excruciating circumstances; put in place enduring programmes and structures, already benchmarked by international agencies; and would leave office in a blaze of glory. Let those who feel inclined to gloat because Dr. Mimiko’s candidate for office lost an election go and put themselves up for elective offices and demonstrate that election is always about winning. By the way, do such elements like Odion know anything about the political forays of an Abraham Lincoln; or even closer home, of a Mohammadu Buhari who ran for the presidency four times before he became successful on his fourth attempt?
These being said, it is rather unfortunate what becomes of younger journalists people like Odion have a duty to show the way, if what comes from their stable this late in the day are inanities like the one he did on Mimiko. It is pathetic that an otherwise good journalist would be so unsparing in his vitriol on a very decent and most accomplished man, and readily patronize a charlatan in the same write-up – just for personal gratification. With characters like this, isn’t the country really in trouble?
Mr. Efuda writes from Abuja.
His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org