A secret society is an organization whose members are sworn to secrecy about its activities. The term usually excludes covert groups, such as intelligence agencies or guerrilla insurgencies, that hide their activities and memberships but maintain a public presence.
This description can be attached to the 8-year administration of Governor Olusegun Mimiko during which things were done in a secret manner. Those who know Governor Mimiko years back when he served as two-term Health Commissioner in Ondo State could be wondering what suddenly changed his behavior to people. Mimiko was given an appellation, ‘Gbasibe’, meaning, ‘put it there’. In case someone doesn’t know what this appellation stands for, it simply describes Mimiko as a cheerful giver. He used to give out money to everyone coming with one problem or the other, even when he was appointed as Minster of Housing and Urban Development under former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. If any past governor of Ondo State had failed to do well, one could have concluded that there is an evil spirit that changes one’s attitude after becoming governor at Ondo Government House. This appellation of ‘Gbasibe’ metamorphosed to ‘Iroko gbasibe’ when the governor contested for the 2007 governorship election.
It is said that power corrupts, but it is more apt to say that power attracts the corruptible. Shortly after Mimiko was declared winner of the 2007 governorship election by the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin, he ordered the freezing of the accounts of the state government. He therefore warned all commercial banks operating in Ondo State against transacting any business with any government official. People thought the governor’s directive was a signal that his administration would be cautious in spending the state’s funds, but the reverse is now the case, as Mimiko failed to give details of his financial spending in the last eight years.
When Governor Mimiko was sworn in to take over from the late former governor Olusegun Agagu in February 24, 2009, his first assignment in office was to sack the 18 Local Government Chairmen across the state. This action was described by the House of Assembly lawmakers as ‘unlawful’. They accused the governor to have taken law into his hands for sacking the LG Chairmen without due process. Mimiko quickly defended his action by faulting the December 15, 2007 election that brought the local government officials to power as illegal.
According to him, there were unresolved legal issues before the then Ondo State Independent National Electoral Commission (ODIEC) went ahead to conduct the election. Efforts made by the LG chairmen to return to their offices never succeeded. It took Dr. Mimiko more than seven years to conduct a local government election. Contrary to the governor’s electioneering campaigns to maintain a transparent government, Mimiko never disclosed how he had managed the Local Government funds for over 7 years.
Precisely February 23, 2009, the late former governor of Ondo State, Dr. Agagu left government house at Alagbaka in a hurry when Court of Appeal dashed his hope to retain power. It is on record that the late governor left a whopping N38.6 billion in the state coffers for Mimiko to inherit. This money generated a lot of controversy between Governor Mimiko, who was then in the Labour Party (LP), and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The ‘Iroko’ claimed that late Agagu left a debt profile of N117 billion when he hurriedly left office, but the PDP described Mimiko’s statement as untrue.
The PDP said that Mimiko failed to give details of how he arrived at the huge debt since he was the one who raised the allegation of the controversial N117 billion.
Addressing journalists at the party’s secretariat in Akure, the state capital, the Chairman, PDP State Publicity Committee Demola Ijabiyi said Mimiko had no proof on the allegation.
Ijabiyi said Agagu handed over the state to the LP with clean hands, adding that the former government did not owe any contractor or loot the treasury.
“When Mimiko first made this allegation in his State of the Finances of the State Address in August 2009, we challenged him through Dr. Tayo Dairo, our state chairman at the time, to give the details. We of the PDP even went as far as petitioning the House of Assembly to ask him for details. And we are aware that the House actually challenged him on this. Till now, no details were given; yet, the administration keeps repeating the allegation.
“What we do know is that, as admitted by the Mimiko administration itself, the total sum of all the capital projects of the Agagu administration was N82 billion. From N30 billion of this, the administration paid 30 per cent mobilisation, leaving a balance of N21 billion. And from the remaining N52 billion, it paid 50 per cent mobilisation, leaving a balance of N26 billion. On both categories, the balance was N47 billion.
“Some of the projects were completed and paid for in full, so that eventually, the outstanding balance is far less than N40 billion. That administration left behind a cash of N38 billion which, when subtracted from the outstanding balance, will leave nothing left as debt but cash asset, instead.
“So, how come the N117 billion? We must declare categorically that the PDP government, under Dr. Olusegun Agagu, never owed a kobo on projects, salaries, pensions, or any other thing whatsoever. It also owed no kobo to any bank. That is why we have been calling on the present administration to come out with details. Mimiko must, therefore, speak out. It is a duty and not a favour.
“Talking of this N38 billion cash, the Mimiko administration has claimed that the amount left behind by the Agagu administration was N34 billion. Whether 38 or 34, we demand to know how the money was spent by Governor Mimiko. A rumour has it that a substantial part of it was lost in a deal with a new generation bank. Mimiko must speak out on this,” said Ijabiyi.
Ijabiyi alleged that the government had been spending Ondo State resources recklessly by “inflating some of the projects it embarked upon”.
He added: “For instance, each of the bus stops in Akure cost N50 million; the Alagbaka Roundabout and its water fountain cost N480 million; the electric poles on the Oba Adesida Road (in Akure) costs N3.9 million each; the cost of repairing the damaged 100-metre portion of the Akure-Owo Road at Ogbese was N118 million.
“The Mother and Child Hospital, originally meant to cost about N100 million, has gulped over N1 billion; N1.5 billion was spent on the Dome project before the project was abandoned; the cost of a new mega school has risen from the N365 million estimated for each to over N800 million, even when they all remain uncompleted.”
By February 23, 2017, Mimiko will hand over the state government to Chief Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The outgoing governor will be leaving behind 8-9 months salary arrears owed to workers and pensioners in the state. Nobody knows how much Dr. Mimiko will leave at the state treasury. It is also on record that the late Agagu did not owe any contractor, but one is not sure the number of contractors Mimiko will owe, as his outgoing government keeps on awarding and executing projects at late hours.
It would be recalled that the autocratic leadership style of Mimiko caused the former Chairman of the Labour Party (LP), Chief Olaiya Oni, and other key leaders of the party to resign and defect to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Specifically, the late Oni, who was a Minister of Education popularly referred to as ‘Garrison Commander’ in the LP circle, in his resignation letter on August, 2011, accused Mimiko of making appointments into key positions without consulting him, underfunding the party, not carrying him along in state functions, nonchalance towards his (Oni’s) personal welfare, not supporting his bid to remove the king of his town from the throne, and outright disrespect for his office as the state party chairman.
The letter reads in part, “Dr. Olusegun Agagu spited me by installing a pretender on the stool of my forefathers. You asked me to lie low and when we get into government, the issue would be reversed. What did I get? Late Hon. Alademehin and Mr. Dare Adebiyi, the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission asked me to go and hang!
“To date, I have spent over N2m as legal fees on the matter. You left me to swim the tide alone. I disposed of my assets — landed property, shares in blue-chip companies and banks — to support the struggle. What have I got in return since February 2009 when we got our mandate? The leader of the party sends only N450,000 to me every month, an amount which covers only salaries of staff. How have I been feeding as the state chairman of the party in power? And you know I am too proud to beg for money and I have told you so severally. Is that fair to a person like me who spearheaded the struggle that gave us power?
“Appointments into positions have been done mostly without reference to the party, as a result of this, many of the political appointees do not know where the party secretariat is located nor do they defer to me as the chairman. The final straw was the issue of submitting names in Abuja for political positions. I have been Minister of the Federal Republic with a distinguished record and you know I will never ask you to nominate me. But what about our party leaders who worked to make the success story of Mr. President?”
It is glaring that Governor Mimiko ruled the state alone for 8 years without allowing anybody to interfere with his governmental affairs. No wonder the governor reportedly betrayed the All Progressives Congress national leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The former Lagos State governor, who contributed exceedingly to Mimiko’s victory both at the Election Petition Tribunal and Court of Appeal, described the governor as an ingrate who deceived him into believing that he would join the ACN.
Tinubu, who stated this while addressing journalists in Lagos ahead of his 62nd birthday in March 2012, said, “When Mimiko was cheated, he cried to me in this house. I was a governor then. My advice was that we should fight the injustice through democratic means if he believes he has been cheated. I said let’s fight electoral irregularity together. Then the understanding was that we were one party and part of the progressives. Mimiko said he was coming to ACN given that he could not change as a candidate of the Labour Party while fighting a matter in court. It doesn’t make sense: why should I be working for Labour Party? That promise was betrayed, reneged and broken.”
“I hate to have been used. If you say you belong to Labour and Labour is not part of us in any alliance are you saying my party cannot compete? They contested election in Lagos, we didn’t quarrel with that. So, why are they quarreling with the fact that ACN is contesting election in Ondo? So, even if there was not a written agreement, is that how you reward the goodness done to you?”