By Chidi Obineche
The iroko stands resplendent and ubiquitious in the forest. Its awesomeness fills the forest and contributes to its initimidating fortress. In most climes, it is reverred, providing a refuge for kindred guardian spirits. In today’s political parlance in Ondo State, one man has taken the name, Iroko, and assumed it’s sterling potentials, in deed and in words.
The Iroko has become a euphemism for invincibility and amazing size. And for its larger than life presence, it has become the bar, the limits of the race. Cutting down the iroko, automatically approximates to victory at the polls. This metaphor could be likened to the Anambra governorship election in 2010. The governor, Peter Obi, in all defiance, assumed the name and toga of a ‘rock’ and, indeed, stood like a rock in the elections, smashing all opponents to smithereens. Peter Obi (Rock) and Segun Mimiko (Iroko) have so much in common.
An unswerving courage of convinction, abundant energy, a savvy political understanding, guts, fighting spirits and deep working minds that easily translate to heart-touching strides. Like the ‘Rock’, the Iroko sticks out in a small compact party, fearing neither god nor man. The ‘Iroko’ stands still in the grove of cavalier instincts and sharp arrows from the mamoth trees that seek to covet its nutrients. In reticence, it repels the assailants, dropping lessons on its trail. As the shrubs cringe at the feet of the iroko, the leaves ululate to fan its greenery and, indeed, its vibrancy. To the fore, iroko is the project in Ondo polls.
The race to pull it down is fierce. It comes from two different flanks, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the archslaying Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). The PDP which held power in the state for six years is aggregating beliefs that it has the all to win. As a red- herring, Segun Mimiko, the ‘Iroko’, was part of them in all the glory. From being a commissioner, he became secretary to the government and eventually moved up to the centre as Minister of Housing and Urban Development. In popular local parlance, he was in the inner caucus , and knew their details, warts spick, span and all. But when things fell apart with them, he has not like Lot’s wife looked back.
Added to this innate knowledge of the workings of the party, the PDP has since descended into flu; a cesspool of confusing signals. It’s acts in this election is not together. Its arrow head and former governor, Segun Agagu, is steeped in a titanic struggle for the control of the power levers with some chieftains.
This power struggle has left the party bruised and has vitiated its strenght. A few days ago, Agagu got the butt from a faction of the party, a situation that has left it in dire straits. Again, it’s choice of governorship candidate from the less populous Northern senational district, for all its intents and purposes, detracts from the momentum of vote catching calculations Olusola Oke , its candidate in the elections despite his mass appeal, and positioning, has since found out in his campaigns that he is pursuring the shadow of a passing cloud.
The all conquering federal might is in surplus deficiency. Unlike the Olusegun Obasanjo era, President Goodluck Jonathan is holding aloft the mantra of free, fair and credible polls. so far, he has demonstrated aloofness and neutrality, and did not even attend personally the party’s grand finale rally a few weeks ago. This stance, as it did in Anambra, and Edo, has elevated the concept of credibility and ipso- facto energised the Iroko. And for the trenchant ACN, it shot itself in the foot right from the onset it picked what has been generally considered as a political minion as candidate.
That process of selecting a candidate, threw the party into a convulsion it has been battling to recover from, and steady the course of the boat. But the party is throwing everything it has into the election. The five ACN southwest governors were mobilized into the project, raising tension and anxiety. The rallies were tales of power and financial show. They showed pomp and glitz. An undisclosed staggering amount was voted, intothe project from the inclussive states, with the leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in command.
They told the people that Iroko is the stumbling block to South west regional unity and must be uprooted, not cut. They told the people to come clean with them, for the restoraton of their cherished values. They said, Mimiko’s purported achievements were mere cosmetics, and deceptive. And then, the alarm. Another four years for Iroko, will sink the state deeper into the abyss of proverty and neglect. “What will it profit you. If you fail to take advantage of the goodies the ACN governments in your sister states are doling out to the people ? “ Asiwaju told them. They accused Mimiko of failing to do even five Kilometres of road in his three and half years, describing his Urban renewal projects as a miniature project which ought to have been left for local government councils to handle. They said it was distressing to hear the labour party talk about the mother and child hospital, which they claim is an adjunct of the University Teaching hospital.
They said, they cannot identify the mega schools and the farm projects. And since, in their wisdom, the man, Iroko betrayed them, “We will spare nothing to see him off.” But is Iroko rattled? He was in the inner kitchen of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, which metamorphosed in to the present day ACN. He understands the philosophy and background like the back of his palm, and has appropriated their rare positive values. According to Kayode Akinmade, Mimiko’s Information Commissioner, the governor chose to be his own man, when he was assailed and harrassed for a share of the state’s treasury. Beyond, saying that Iroko is a betrayer, they have stopped short in disclosing full blown, the acts of betrayal.
Again, they reckon, that any Iroko that brews evil will be cut. But the question remains, will a blunt axe or matchet be able to fell an Iroko? Felling an Iroko is not a day’s job. It requires the conscientious efforts of all. It demands techniques, courage, and determination. For a clean job, it requires modern day approach, complete with a post era blueprint. The Ondo governorship polls will not be a post card of revanchism, neither will it foreshadow a puerille grip of the nauseating past. It will advance the spirit of a mission, and an abiding strength in the peoples power.
With a background of sophistication, the Ondo electorate will make a discerning choice that will advance the frontiers of the sunshine state. The choice may be hard, the road may be undulating, but the vision of the people will be clear enough to decipher the right and the wrong, and take conscious steps to stand tall, and intimidating, like the Iroko.