By Remigius Akinbinu|
Two major events that shook the nation and probably changed its fortunes happened in the month of February 1976.
One was heartwarming and brought joy to the generality of Nigerians while the other was sad, tragic and changed the leadership of the nation in such a manner that reminded us of the civil war that ended five years before.
Both events were ten days apart from each other.
Both events revolved around one man who made the first one happened and who became a victim of the brutality that was the other.
That man was Gen. Murtala Ramat Muhammed who became Head of State by ousting his predecessor, Gen. Yakubu Gowon in a bloodless coup d’état on the 29th of July 1975, but who was himself ousted by an abortive but bloody coup d’état led by a certain Col. Buka Suka Dimka which coup claimed Murtala Muhammed’s life.
But the late Gen. Muhammed who was succeeded by Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo made history for himself and for the country ten days before his gruesome murder on the streets of Lagos, the then Federal capital of the Nation.
He created nineteen states out of the existing twelve states created by Gen. Gowon in 1971.
One of those twelve states is the present Ondo state, the Sunshine state which was one of the three states excised out of the then Western state.
The other two states were Ogun and Oyo states which retained Ibadan, capital of the defunct Western State as its capital while Abeokuta became the capital of Ogun state.
Ondo state which appeared to be of same geographical expression as the old Ondo province of the Western region had Akure as its capital city.
Of the three states carved out of the Western state,only Ogun still retains its size as it was in February1976.
Osun state was carved out of Oyo state in 1991 by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida with Osogbo as its capital while Ondo state had Ekiti state carved out from it in 1996 by General Sani Abacha.
Thus, the history of Ondo state will never be complete without reference to the era when the Ekitis were still with us.
It was the era of military rulers like Wing Commander Ita David Ikpeme and Col. Esijolomi Tuoyo who handed over to the state’s first executive civilian governor, Owo born Michael Adekunle Ajasin who was removed after the Buhari coup of December 31, 1983 which ended Nigeria’s shortlived democratic experience.
Thereafter, many other military governors like Olabode Ibiyinka George, Bamidele Mike Otiko, Mike Akhigbe, Ahmed Usman, Abiodun Opaleye, Olukoya, Fasanya, ruled the state in succession until 1992 when Bamidele Olumilua became the second civilian governor of the state by reason of Ibrahim Babangida’s pseudo democracy whereby he still remained a military Head of State while allowing democratically elected governors in the states.
Bamidele Olumilua was the only Ekiti indigene who had the opportunity of ruling the state while the Ekitis were still part of Ondo state.
He was however eased out by General Sani Abacha in 1994 when he took over from the Ernest Shonekan-led interim regime preposterously foisted on the Nation by Babangida.
Military governors Lucky Torey, Ahmed Usman and Anthony Ibe Onyearugbulem until the return of normal civil rule in 1999.
Gen. Abacha in 1996 created Ekiti state and appointed Col. Lucky Torey as the first governor of Ondo state as presently constituted.
1999 witnessed the return of civilian rule after Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar who took over from Abacha handed over the reins of power to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as Nigeria’s first President of the Third Republic.
On same day, 29th of May 1999, as Olusegun Obasanjo was being sworn-in in Abuja, Chief Adebayo Adefarati was also being sworn-in as the new governor of Ondo state.
Adefarati emerged governor after winning the gubernatorial election which he contested on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD).
Akungba-Akoko born Adefarati who had Afolabi Iyantan as his deputy ruled for four years as his re-election bid in 2003 crumbled in that year’s gubernatorial election which produced Dr. Olusegun Agagu from Iju-Odo in Okitipupa local government area.
Dr. Agagu’s deputy was Akure born Omolade Oluwateru.
Dr. Agagu ruled for four years and sought re-election in 2007. His victory at the polls of April 7 of that year was pyrrhic and shrouded in such controversy reminiscent of Akin Omoboriowo’s of 1983.
Just like the Ajasin/Omoboriowo saga, Dr. Agagu was eventually removed by the Court of Appeal on the 23rd of February 2009 as Dr. Olusegun Mimiko from Ondo City who contested on the platform of Labour Party was declared to be the rightful winner of the election in the Justice Umar Abdulahi-appellate court’s unanimous decision which confirmed the earlier verdict of the Justice Nabaruma Tribunal.
But unlike the Ajasin/Omoboriowo situation where Omoboriowo, the winner declared by the electoral commission was not sworn in before the final court decision, Agagu who was declared winner by INEC was sworn in for a shortlived second term which came to an abrupt end two years after upon the final court verdict.
Dr. Olusegun Mimiko’s first term ended on the 23rd of February 2013 but he was again sworn in on the following day having won the gubernatorial election held on the 20th of October 2012 by defeating Olusola Oke of PDP and Rotimi Akeredolu of ACN.
The attempt of the duo to stop Mimiko’s popular victory though the judiciary failed woefully as there was no single dissenting judgement in their support from the Tribunal, through the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court.
Dr. Mimiko who crossed from Labour Party to the PDP in November 2014 remains the Governor of Ondo state till date.
By the 24th of February, Dr. Mimiko,otherwise popularly known as Iroko will be concluding his seventh year as the Governor making him the longest serving Governor the state has ever had since it was founded forty years ago.
(To be continued next week)