News Column

Mimiko's Planned Defection - Gainers, Losers and the Battle Ahead

August 31, 2014

Yemi Akintomide

The planned return of Ondo State Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which he abandoned eight years ago for the then unknown, and relatively new Labour Party (LP) to contest the governorship seat of Ondo State, against his boss and seating governor, late Dr. Olusegun Agagu, the then candidate of ruling PDP, has continued to generate intrigues and controversies across the country generally, and in Ondo state in particular.

In the last one week, Mimiko had met with different interest groups in the state to intimate them of his planned defection to PDP, the party he described as national ruling party.

Although the LP has since said it is not aware its only palm nut on fire (Mimiko) has jumped ship, the governor indeed met with members of his State Executive Council, comprising commissioners and special advisers; as well as members of the State House of Assembly, traditional rulers, religious leaders, captains of industries, workers' unions and artisans among others.

Though, the stakeholders at the different consultative meetings with the governor, organised to review Mimiko's decision were presumed to have supported the governor's new move; a large percentage of party men are believed not to comfortable with the move.

However, the carpet crossing of Mimiko to PDP is yet to be finalised due to disagreement over sharing of political offices and appointments, both in the party and government with leaders of PDP in the state.

It was also gathered that the governor has concluded on a deal with President Goodluck Jonathan to fully support the latter's 2015 re-election bid.

However, Mimiko is allegedly asking the PDP in the state for a 60 percent stake when he eventually takes over its leadership as governor, while the party's present structure retains the remaining 40 per cent.

But the PDP wants it the other way, insisting also that the governor must collapse all government and LP structures in Ondo into the state chapter of PDP, and have 40 percent of the new structure in return.

According to a source within the state government circle, "Mimiko will declare in a 'matter of days', but the term of reference for the new marriage is what is still holding the governor's back."

Ahead of his eventual move, Mimiko had recently collapsed his political structure known as 'Iroko Frontiers' into a President Jonathan re-election group called 'Believe Nigeria, Trust Goodluck,' as part of his bid to work towards the re-election of the President.

But apparently not satisfied with Mimiko political chess game; the presidency is said to have asked the governor to 'formally move in with the PDP to consolidate both Jonathan's re-election bid and also up the ante of the PDP onslaught against it rival, All Progressive Congress (APC) in the South-West Geo-political zone," a sources further told Sunday Independent.

Earlier moves:

Another intrigue that led to the quick decision of Mimiko to abandon his 'baby', the LP by the roadside was the alleged defection of his deputy, Alhaji Ali Olanusi to PDP without the governor's knowledge. This action reportedly infuriated the governor and he vowed to impeach the deputy governor.

But, the deputy governor quickly moved against his boss and reported to his fellow Akoko kinsman and Chief of Staff to the President, Dehinde Arogbofa who forwarded the compliant to President Jonathan.

Acting on this information, President Jonathan reportedly put a call across to governor Mimiko, given the later directive and ultimatum to formally join PDP or face the consequence.

However, since early this year, politicians like former representative on the board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Benson Enikuomehin have defected from LP to PDP, and some of them based their decisions on their disagreement with Governor Mimiko.

He is not alone, as an uneasy calm now pervades the entire state, especially with the Senator representing Ondo Southern, Boluwaji Kunlere, confirming that he has dumped the Labour Party (LP) on whose platform he secured a seat at the upper chamber of the National Assembly in May 2011, after defeating his former boss and kinsman, late Olusegun Agagu of PDP.

Kunlere is returning to his former party, of which he was the State Secretary for six years during Agagu's administration. He had dumped the party along with his then State Chairman, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, who became running mate to Mimiko in the 2007 governorship poll in the state.

With this latest move, Kunlere becomes the second senator to dump the LP, after hs colleague representing Ondo North Senatorial District, Ajayi Boroffice. Boroffice left LP for the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2012, before it fused into the APC along with others.

For Kunlere, parting ways with LP which he described as "dead and buried", was a matter of principle.

"I left PDP as state secretary and as member representing the South-West on the board of Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC); but it came to matter of principle and I decided then to leave. So, now as a matter of principle too, I have decided to leave LP which to the glory of God, I happened to be one of the founding fathers."

According to him, anybody still displaying LP's flag in the state is "a dead politician waiting to be buried".

While pouring out some of his grievances on why he decided to return to his former party, the senator said he was being envied by some aides of Governor Olusegun Mimiko due to his performance as a senator, which has put him in leadership position in the Southern Senatorial District of the state.

His words: "I have received invitations, appointments and I have received encouragement long time ago and I intend to ask questions from all stakeholders but we're not receiving genuine response as leaders of our people. Before age 40, I was never a fool, so several years after attaining 40 years of age; I can never be a fool.

"I have received representation of PDP from top to bottom. I went to Igbotako ward two and those in ward one joined in the meeting and I have met with the State Secretary of the party who is from my local government, I have met with Chief Barrister Olusola Oke, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, and so many of them. Agboola Ajayi was in my house to come and invite me early this year. The leadership of the senate is not left behind my plan to return to PDP.

"I have met with Jimoh Ibrahim. Myself and the leadership of the party were in his house. It is not a matter of today. It is a personal decision. But I will still like to talk on some issues. There is one boy who was appointed as SA, he went on Social media three weeks ago (to say) that Kunlere left because of lacklustre performance, and the same guy was in my house for his house rent which I gave to him. Though he was replied by those who know much about my achievements... "

Why I left:

"Before I left LP, it had come to a situation that people who are close to you can no longer be ward or local government executives and I said to myself that as a politician, I have already been given a quit notice, properly served and that I have accepted it.

"Even those we brought into the game, are being sponsored to be blackmailing me. I have never being to any department of agency to demand for any money and I have been fair to all manners of people that come my way."

Kunlere however, lamented that some political jobbers even lied against the Deputy Governor, Ali Olanusi and Chief of Staff to the President, Oladehinde Arogbofa, who he claimed never acknowledged his invitation during his son's wedding, that they held a meeting against LP and the state government during the ceremony.

"I was the one that invited the deputy governor to come and sleep in a hotel very close to the venue of the wedding. For people to misinterpret that, then the matter has gone beyond politics. When I called the deputy governor to confirm; the old man was moved to tears and I cut-off the line.

"But, I said this man (deputy governor) came around to honour me on my day of glory and people are using that to blackmail him for no reason; I placed a curse on those people responsible for such wicked act."

Kunlere also denied using his office as senator to curry personal favours, denying that he owns any property overseas, and that his decision to return to PDP has been received as a welcome development by both PDP in the State and National level.

"I have been able to provide classrooms and water in all the southern senatorial district local government areas. My senatorial treasury per annual is N222 million and they don't give to you but my people will recommend the locations. I have bought vehicles for not less than over 40 people, over 200 motorcycles, not to talk of paying house rent, school fees, hospital bills, (money to roof people's houses) among others, tickets for American Visa abroad".

Mimiko's defection, a rumour:

Ondo State Commissioner for Information, Kayode Akinmade, made spirited efforts to refute media reports of Governor Mimiko's defection to the PDP last weekend, stressing that the Governor remains in the LP at the moment.

He said the Governor has not decided on whether to dump the LP for PDP, despite overture from the leadership of the PDP at the national level to woo him to their camp.

"We cannot deny the fact that there were pressures from various political parties that Governor Mimiko should join them. But the fact still remains that the Governor remains in the LP and he remains a leader of the party both at the state and national levels."

He said the Governor was still making consultations with relevant stakeholders in the state on whether to join another political party or remain in the LP.

The commissioner lamented that the report of the planned defection of Mimiko was based on rumour being peddled by some individuals in the state, saying "the Governor has not made up his mind on the next step to take on his membership of any political party."

He added that both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP were making overtures to the Governor, adding that various political leaders had also been consulted by Mimiko.

Many people believed that Mimiko is dumping LP for PDP because his party is not enjoying the huge support it had at the grassroots. There had been concerns in the LP over next year's general elections, with the opposition parties touted to win two third of the State House of Assembly, which may make it difficult for the governor to go beyond 2015.

Maximising move:

However, the APC in Ondo State says it would take maximum advantage of the governor's defection.

Speaking at the inauguration of the APC Elders' Assembly and Reconciliation Committee, the State Chairman, Isaac Kekemeke, said the governor's decision was a divine arrangement that would ensure victory for the party in the next elections in the state.

Kekemeke described Mimiko as a liability instead of an asset to any political party, stating that the governor had exhausted his political relevance in the state, considering his waning popularity.

He assured that "APC in Ondo State has the largest assemblage of accomplished, respected, progress-minded, comfortable and resourceful elders. Our elders must be our knowledge bank from which we should be able to recharge and refill."

Even then, the state PDP chapter says it is unaware of the governor's defection. State Publicity Secretary, Wale Ozogoro, said: "We are aware that he (Mimiko) has spoken to some of his aides and colleagues in the Labour Party that he would be leaving for the PDP. But as at the moment I am talking to you, we have not received any formal information from the governor. The leadership of the party is yet to be informed. Even if he has informed the PDP at the national level, there is still the need for him to inform the state leadership of the party. It is that information that will bring about round table discussions that will eventually facilitate soft landing for him.

"If eventually the party receives formal information from the governor, there is the tendency that we are going to manage Mimiko to fit into the philosophy of the PDP. The philosophy of the LP is different from that of the PDP. So, that is why we will need to make him fit properly into the party.

"We are aware that he will bring people who may be willing to contest elections in 2015 under our party. So, there will be the need to be asking for waiver for them at all levels. Secondly, there will be need for synergy between our party and the LP. There will be a need for a working paper for the marriage to be suitable.

"One thing that is very important is that Mimiko must be ready to key into the philosophy of the PDP under the transformation agenda of the president. Nobody is contending the leadership of the party in Ondo state. The trend in the party recently is collective leadership and I think by the time Mimiko comes in, we may continue with collective leadership or choose a leader eventually.

"We are well-prepared for his return. The elders of the party have met and liaised with the national leaders who have also said they were yet to be aware of his planned defection. So, we have prepared to receive him and those coming with him if they are ready to jettison the philosophy of the LP for that of the PDP. We know he will add colour to our party and increase our chances of winning elections in the state. He is welcome, because we believe in free entry to the party. A lot of the LP members have been calling us; you know that they are now shouting the slogans of the PDP.

The party spokesman said the purported 60-40 agreement on sharing of positions reportedly reached with the PDP national leadership is not true.

According to him, "in a discussion with one of our leaders, Dr. Bode Olajumoke, Mimiko said he was coming to the PDP with an open mind. So, I believe the party exco at all levels will still be intact. We have respect for Mimiko. Party politics is about winning elections and serving the people. I know that his coming to the PDP will change his style of leadership and the way he serves the people of the state."

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Source: AllAfrica

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