Ondo’s Mimiko revives an old sleeping little giant with youth, vitality & technology

February 29, 2012


by Tola Adenle


I prefer good news first but this is different. As I would not want devoted readers to think I’m abandoning my self-appointed role of always trying to ask the questions that most Nigerians would want asked from Nigeria’s power bloc, I’m putting the “bad” part first. The fear of losing devoted readers is never far from me and on this subject, I do not want readers to think I’m promoting my state! Osun and Ekiti are also my states but long-time readers know that since 2003, Osun and Ekiti rulers have come to grief in these essays. Since I entered journalism in 1975 and re-entered it as a journeyman in 2002, I’ve never been anybody’s megaphone and have owed no allegiances except to the masses through whose eyes I try to see everything even when they may be far removed from where life has placed me.

I’ve asked in not less than two essays where four state governors: Lagos’ Fasola; Niger’s Aliyu Babangida, Edo’s Oshiomole and Ondo’s Mimiko stand on the ignoble role of the power-grabbing unconstitutional self-styled “Nigerian Governors’ Forum” (NGF). Babangida “asks Nigerians to rise against the cabal” [Yar Adua’s] last month, got him included. I must ask again: where does our helmsman stand on the Saraki-led “NGF” whose shenanigans are more antithetical to democracy than good governance? Is Dr. Mimiko part of the manipulation by a body not recognized by the Constitution to thwart the people’s wishes re Alhaji Yar Adua (AYA)?

Perhaps with the exception of the above – a huge misstep – Mimiko seems to have hit the ground running since Tuesday, February 24 last year when I had to give up the idea of seeing someone near Oyemekun Road, Akure due to the tumultuous crowds that gave the new governor a sort of triumphant entry to the state. Coming from Iju in the direction of Ado to enter Akure through Alagbaka, the joy of a people finally getting their wishes after almost two years of illegality was palpable. I may be married to an Osogbo guy but I am no Ondo-Abroad; most statements I make are based on first-hand experience. Between mid-December and Easter, for example, I’ve visited the state four times.

Everywhere one looks, it seems the heady post-Murtala’s creation of the state during his whirlwind we-hardly-knew-ye, painfull- short tenure thirty-five years ago, is back. Even in our personal lives, things seem to always work better and easier when we FEEL things are looking up. The present feel-good situation in Ondo is no mirage. With the exception of the military governors and administrators, especially, “Lagos Boy” and Kirikiri Inmate Officer Bode George who left not much discernible positive legacy, the state’s creation has generally moved Ondo from a backwater Province to a modern state. Like most of Nigeria, water is still very scarce and NEPA still has miles to go. The Ajasin Administration, which had as its template Awo’s old Western Region, remains the benchmark by which all administrations in the state will be judged but the Mimiko administration seems to have its eyes firmly beyond the enviable record of Late Papa Ajasin. What is the present administration doing that the previous one was not; how is the Mimiko Administration impacting citizens’ lives and what are its plans for the future that are new takes on governance not only in the state but in the country?

While AYA’s much-ballyhooed 7-Point Agenda at “federal” level has now – thankfully – been scrapped, Mimiko’s 3i-Initiative – infrastructure, institution and industry – is just picking up pace. Designed to take development to rural communities, it’s also to enable each community make decisions about priority projects. Unemployed graduates are trained to work from the communities by asking questions about community needs. Among the tools these youths employ are GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and two cameras for each community so that actual locations of projects are taken. Traditional institutions are also involved.

Considering a single year’s achievements can be taken – at best – as pointers, Ondo seems on the march again. I travelled the Akure-Ekiti boundary road (Iju) on December 10 and the menace of Nigerian roads – federal “Express” or rural routes – had crept in again but by Easter weekend, the scattered small crews that were mending the road as part of Ondo’s new “zero tolerance for port holes” project had finished and left. Ditto the stretch from Akure to around Owena [Akure/Ilesa] and Owo-Ogbese “Federal” Roads. If motor-able roads is a priority for people like me, Dr. Mimiko seems to have been planning for his wider constituency during his long wait to retrieve the people’s stolen mandate.

One of the administration’s first actions was payment of a backlog of N1.4 billion owed to pensioners, including the “federal” portion which had long been neglected. A man was owed 16 year-arrears! It’s criminal. It also instituted “at least two locations in each of the senatorial zones” where pensioners can always collect payments instead of everybody travelling to Akure as an alternative to pensioners slumping to their deaths at so-called verification and payment centers all over Nigeria. The huge disbursements must have provided quite a lift to commerce in the state because a septuagenarian would not collect such a backlog to be banked but would spend it on immediate needs or past needs purchased on credit.

Of all the innovations that the Mimiko Administration has embarked upon, the ones in health care delivery brings his background as a medical officer AND his determination to make a difference to the fore. Plans for online patient information? Tricycle ambulance for rural locations? Trained Health Rangers for rural areas? These unrivalled multi-prong approach must be emulated for health care delivery in this country, and point to the benefit of putting square pegs in square holes. No state should have pregnancies spell death sentences but that’s the tale of the tape in highly-educated Ondo. It ranks highest in mother and child mortality rate in the Southwest according to the World Bank which has provided funding to the tune of $3.4 million.
We grew up knowing about Ile Abiye, a maternity center at Ado-Ekiti, Abiye being a common female name in Ondo and Ekiti, and colloquially, a child born to live. As part of its plans to meet the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), Ondo State now has The Abiye Project (safe motherhood) as one of its 3i-initiative. The test project is at Ifedore Local Government and is being extended to other LGAs. The most laudable of the health-related plans, however, is the Mother and Child Hospital which came into existence within a month of the administration’s life. While there is only one hospital right now at Akure, there are others under construction and plans for others.

The provision of communication gadgets like mobile phones and GPRS for Health Rangers who work in rural communities as monitors as well as free phones for pregnant women has taken health care to the modern age in the Sunshine State. I understand that the administration, working with a telecoms firm, has provided 5,000 lines for expectant mothers to make free calls to their Health Rangers who can report threatened pregnancies to the Mother and Child Hospital. These steps should help take Ondo State, an oil producer, out of the embarrassing World Bank statistics. I shivered like a leaf in a rainstorm the day I was to have my first child in 1970 and when I was asked at the University of Florida Teaching Hospital why I was so scared, I told them I was afraid I might die. The female doctor put both hands around me and said, “nobody dies in child birth anymore”! That’s a taken-for-granted fact which Mimiko is determined to bring to Nigeria four decades on.

The scourge of street traders is also within the radar of the administration which has started neighborhood markets two of which are already in use at Adekunle Ajasin Road near the Secretariat (which I visited) and at Eru Oba along Afunbiowo. A 350-shop market of which 310 has been completed is on at Ikare. Street trading is so pervasive all over the country that it would take more than this to get our people to be law-abiding and security-conscious; everywhere, there are building materials like iron rods waiting to topple over.

A resurgence in agriculture and what may prove a veritable tool for development: residency card, are ongoing. The card should aid the state know how many people it has to plan for because the abracadabra General Obasanjo Census is a travesty to Yoruba states. It is to aid in service delivery and – like it or not – tax collection. Ondo hosted a first ever “Cocoa Convention” in Akure in February attended by ALL cocoa producing states which interests me, a part inheritor of my father’s cocoa farm! It subsidized farmers for seedlings last year barely some weeks after Dr. Mimiko got into office.

I believe the singular act of having Ondo’s Deputy Governor physically leading a team that took 18-seater buses to rescue Ondo students at UniJos, FedPoly and Corpers during the recent religious/ethnic massacre is a commendable departure from the mindset of Nigerian political office holders. The State’s new logo includes the title of an old long Yoruba poem, Ise loogun ise which extols hard work’s virtue: “Mura si’se ore mi/Ise l’a fi ndi eni giga/ … Ma f’aro s’ere ore mi/Mu’ra si’se ojo nlo” [Make hay while the sun shines; take your destiny in your hands …]. The title was on the Ibadan Polytechnic logo in the 60s. I think it belongs on ALL Odua logos. We must grow what we eat. Yoruba language must be emphasized in Odua States. The poem and others should be in Yoruba syllabus. Most of us who memorized it over 50 years ago can still recall most of it.

Let’s pass it on.

I think Governor Mimiko is well on his way to achieving his goal: “to make Ondo the best administered state in Nigeria …”

The Nation on Sunday, April 2010.



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