Again, Nigeria's democratic maturity was tested with Ondo Election 2012

On October 20 2012, Ondo State went to the poll and successfully re-elected the incumbent Governor, Dr. Olusegun Rahman Mimiko in an election that observers consider an improvement over previous ones in conduct and fairness. When with the last governorship election in Edo State on July 14, it becomes apparent that the nation’s electoral processes are improving. Considering that both elections were won by opposition parties to the ruling party in the country, albeit from incumbency positions, also suggests that the nation’s democracy is maturing.

The oppositions faced a lost battle

Mimiko, the incumbent and flag bearer of Labour party (LP), faced two major contenders for his seat. The first is Olusola Oke of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), a barrister at law with diverse public sector experience and a one-time honourable member of the Federal house of Assembly in the aborted third republic in 1992. He offered the voter a rescue from what he considered an underdevelopment of the State and waste by the incumbent. Mr. Oke had the PDP machinery behind him which was enviably deployed with the President and the entire PDP personalities at the national and states level supported him at wooing the voters. The in-fighting that characterised his emergence as the party flagbearer is probably the low point of his outing.

The second major contender, Rotimi Akeredolu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is also a lawyer. Mr. Akeredolu is a one-time Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State between 1997 and 1999 and a past president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Lawyers’ trade union. With a five point agenda and cardinal principles of Agriculture, Knowledge, Entrepreneurship, Technology and Infrastructure, Mr. Akeredolu perhaps offered the voters nothing they are not already getting. His emergence as flagbearer of his party was also dotted by internal party objections.

Governor Mimiko won a landslide victory in twelve of the eighteen local government areas (LGAs). Mr. Oke won in two LGAs while Mr. Akeredolu won in three LGAs including his hometown of Owo. Of course the incumbent popularly refers to as ‘Iroko’ considering the level of popularity his government enjoys among the voters, was a strong contender. It therefore appears that the oppositions were only fighting a lost battle.

Mimiko’s first term performance was believed to be outstanding, comparable only to Ajasin

The performance of Governor Mimiko in his first term involved appreciable intervention in education, agriculture, infrastructure, healthcare, job creation, empowerment and security, among others. Over 250 projects spanning education, health, urban renewal, agriculture and community development has been credited to his administration in a spate of four years. Analysts, who have visited the state during his first term and are conversant with the State, opined that no governor has attained the range and quality of achievements in the sectors listed above within a spate of a four year tenor since the government of Pa Adekunle Ajasin in 1979-1983.

The much lauded innovative Abiye (Safe Motherhood) Programme and the Mother and Child Hospital is worthy of highlight here among others. With a measurable target of 75% reduction in maternal and child mortality by 2015, the facilities provided have delivered 1,217 babies in one year with only 1 maternal mortality incidence as at July 2012. By extrapolation, that will give a mortality rate of 100 per 100,000 live births compared to a nationwide average maternal mortality ratio of 545 per 100,000 live births. And to improve on the number that patronises professional birth attendants, a baseline study revealed that of all the women that attend the basic health centres, only 16% went back to deliver at the facilities, the state government through Abiye safe motherhood project and the mother and child hospital projects decided to track the women by distributing mobile phones to every registered pregnant women in the state as a way of tracking and attracting them back to the facilities. The project received the endorsement of the World Bank.

But does the maths really add up?

That is not to say there have not been those with opposing opinion. The oppositions argue that the resources at the governor’s disposal (N38 billion met in the treasury on assumption of office, over N600 billion received in allocation over the period and additional N27 billion Ondo Bond proceeds) are not be justified by only the 19 mega schools, the mother and child hospitals and the infrastructure and urban upgrades projects carried out by the administrator. This newspaper is of the opinion that the Ondo State Government has demonstrated strong capacity and appreciable willingness to deliver on promises to the electorates and must be encouraged. Within the South West region, Ondo may be comparable only to the Lagos State Government in terms of performance. This is however not to say that he’s been sterling in the financial administration of the state.

For instance, it is arguable that unlike Lagos State, the state is still heavy in recurrent expenditure proposed at 43% in 2012 (2011: 41%) and at 5.5% of total revenue, internally generated revenue (IGR) drive remain slightly above the generally low average across the country. With increased borrowing, the recurrent spending may rise further; eroding the capital expenditure space. Mimiko needs to utilise the second term to expand the IGR base of the state as well as keep an eye on the rising level of recurrent expenditure.

Sustaining the development steam with an open arm

Looking ahead, Governor Mimiko must not allow the inertia that characterises second term administration in Nigeria to catch up with him. He must use his second term to complete the establishment of the Abiye mother and child hospital in every senatorial district as promised while delivering on the mega schools. Citizen empowerment in Ondo State, like a typical South Western State, requires impactful provision of access to health and education and to give special attention to women. Hence, given that the administration is performing creditably on health and education front, focus on agriculture and food security should focus on opening up the rural Ondo State through the provision of roads and specialised financial institutions for women. This is also the door to reduction in employment and poverty.

At the political front, the position of Ondo State in the regional equation will remain a turf the governor needs to look into. As Nigerian democracy matures, States will tend to compete more on regional front and integration will deepens. Hence, while we agree political ideology may differ along party line with the other governors in the region from the ACN, putting aside party differences for the benefit of common regional goals of integrated development- hopefully, it could be true to the words- would be more statesman-like. There is really nothing the governor need to start working at from now than being a better statesman. 

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