By Richard Elesho
This may well be the peak season for politicians, as the nation gradually moves towards the 2023 general elections. Eruptions within and outside the political parties, in the shape of alignments, realignments and cross carpeting are clear signals that the elections are no longer distant.
The most recent footsteps were those of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, former Governor of Ondo State. He moved from his political brainchild, the Zenith Labour Party, ZLP to the main opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
It was gathered that in the last few months, Mimiko has been like a beautiful damsel being wooed by different suitors. Emissaries from both the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and the PDP have been taking turns in his presence, seeking his fellowship. The suspense has now ended in favour of the opposition party.
Mimiko’s defection, was announced on Thursday, few hours after four PDP Governors led by Chairman of PDP Governors Forum, Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Nyeson Wike of Rivers State and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, visited him in his country home in Ondo town.
Ondo State Chairman of ZLP, Joseph Akinlaja announced the defection in a statement. He said: “Stakeholders of the party from across the 18 Local Government Areas of Ondo State have resolved to join the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP after a meeting held at the residence of the party’s national leader, Dr Olusegun Mimiko in Ondo on Wednesday.
Akinlaja added that ” the meeting which had Dr Olusegun Mimiko, former deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, his running mate, Gboye Adegbenro, former speaker, Jumoke Akindele, the State Chairman of the party, Hon Joseph Akinlaja among other leaders in attendance, resolved after deliberations to pitch their tent with the Peoples Democratic Party to rescue the country from the misrule of the APC and set her on a path of peace and progress for the benefit of all.
He revealed that Mimiko told the stakeholders that the ZLP was being invited to join the PDP, to rescue the country from the brink of insecurity.
“Stakeholders appraised developments across the nation and agreed that the PDP is the most viable platform to work with, to be able to work towards winning future elections in the State, and in the country as a whole.
“After detailed deliberations by leaders across Local Government Areas, Hon Akinlaja, the State Chairman, asked that a motion moved for members of the ZLP in Ondo State to join the PDP be put to vote, to which all present voted yes by popular acclamation.
For Mimiko, it was time to move on, from a party he helped to form and nurture before the last general elections in 2019. After an aborted Presidential aspiration, he eventually ran for the Senate on the party’s platform. But the former two-term Governor suffered a bloody nose in that outing.
Mimiko’s embrace of the PDP, is like tonic to a party which has witnessed considerable flight from its fold. Three of its Governors, namely Ebonyi’s Dave Umahi, Zamfara’s Ibrahim Matawalle and Cross River’s Ben Ayade had jumped ship in quick successions earlier, this year. Mimiko’s membership is therefore a big catch, for a party in search of self realization and return to power.
In a way, the defection is home coming for a man, also known as Iroko, ie strong man of Ondo politics. Like an Abiku, which comes and goes in several seasons, the former Governor is an energetic, and very mobile politician.
In the present dispensation, he first pitched tent with the Alliance for Democracy, AD. He served as Commissioner for Health under former Governor Adebayo Adefarati’s administration. He had served in the same office in the aborted Third Republic under erstwhile Governor Bamidele Olumilua.. in 2003, he dumped the AD and joined forces with late Governor Olusegun Agagu to bring the PDP to power in the State. He served as Secretary to the State Government, SSG before former President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him Minister.
Mimiko resigned his ministerial appointment to contest the 2007 Ondo Governorship election against Agagu, his former boss. Initially he pitched tent with the Party for Social Democrats, PSD, which later transmuted to the Labour Party, LP and finally, ZLP. After more than a year of legal battle, the medical Doctor was inaugurated as Governor in 2008. A grassroots politician, he proceeded to win second term in 2012.
After leaving public office in 2016, the former Governor took active interest in public speaking. That he maintains a viable political structure especially in Ondo State, is beyond debate. But, how his fraternity with the opposition party will shape the race to 2023, will remain a matter of conjecture. Till that time.