When On October 3, 1954, a son was born to the family of Pa & Mrs Atiku Bamidele Mimiko in the then sleepy town of Ondo crowned with the moderate characteristics of the city from where The Iroko that would eventually change the course of history and lead the people of Ondo State into their God-ordained destinies, they did not know that a great man had just been brought forth from their bosom.
Having graduated as a medical doctor from the great University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Olusegun Rahman Mimiko, had stints twice with public hospitals under the Ondo State Health Management Board. He also had a stint with the Nigerian Naval College (NNS Onura), Onne, Port Harcourt and then moved on to work with some leading private clinics.
All this time, the burning desire to serve humanity in an environment unencumbered by bureaucracy and profiteering kept burning him, and despite the risks involved then, Mimiko took the bold step to use his profession to serve humanity by leaving the lucrative engagements of being a practicing medical doctor in both public and private service to set up his own Mona Mediclinic whose headquarters was located in Ondo Town.
Rather than have clients, Mimiko had beneficiaries, yes, beneficiaries, as his private hospital became a Mecca of some sort for all manner of people and classes particularly the poor who thronged his hospital from far and near to get quality medical care for free, not because Mimiko was running a charity facility but because those who had no money to attend both public and private hospitals ran to Mimiko’s Mona Mediclinic where they were treated free of charge and allowed to go even with full dosage of drugs they needed.
The number of people who got treatment but lacked the financial power to pay for his services got Mimiko thinking. He knew that there could be many others out there who needed his services but might not be able to make it to his hospital either because they were too weak to move or the cost of transportation to get to his clinic from their different places of abode was too high for them or such other similar factors inhibited them, Mimiko thought of ways of bringing world class medical care and other welfare packages to a greater number of the people without them having to pay through their noses. He was also worried that pregnancy, ordinarily a thing of joy, was increasingly becoming a “death sentence” for the women.
In search of a vehicle to impact more people, Mimiko took the decision, which many considered not only unwise but risky and dangerous, of abandoning his hospital in his prime age, his only source of livelihood then, for politics. But a lot of people did not know what was driving this young man. Some thought he had been enchanted. “How can you go into politics when you do not have money?” “Politics is for moneybags and those who have godfathers. You would surely regret this action and be forced to start all over again”, they taunted.
As if the people that taunted him were right, Mimiko had to sell his only car at some point then just to support his party’s candidates and help them achieve their political mission. It appeared he was leaving his family stranded, but when a man is blessed with a wife who sees far beyond what the crowd can see about her daring and darling husband, she acts as a catalyst to the fulfillment of the man’s dreams irrespective of what people might say.
This is where Mimiko’s adorable wife, Mrs Olukemi Mimiko, stands out as a pillar upon which God nested her husband’s destiny. It is not every wife that would have allowed such a nest to rest on them. It was like an eagle’s neat built on the delicate stem of the hibiscus flower. Some, in that circumstance would have “escaped”. But she stayed glued to her man and his vision even when it did not appear that there would be any roof over the pillar soon.
When a man discovers his purpose in life, nothing can stop him from going after it. Even Prophet Elisha slaughtered his yoke of oxen, burnt his plowing equipment to cook the meat and then set out to follow Elijah after he discovered his purpose in life was tied to the great prophet.
All men of destinies have had to make extreme sacrifices that sounded crazy to the carnal mind, but deep down, a compelling force, sometimes in the mould of a heart flowing with milk of kindness, drives them to their God-ordained purposes.
With this path set, Iroko, as he is fondly called, was appointed the Commissioner for Health in Ondo State in 1992 at the age of 38 years under the former governor Bamidele Olumilua. Although that republic was truncated by the incursion of the military, Mimiko’s legacies and humanitarian services in the medical profession was too strong to be ignored, he was appointed Commissioner for Health for the State a second time at the emergence of the fourth republic in 1999.
He had also served as Secretary to the State Government and later appointed as Minister of Housing and Urban Development under the Obasanjo administration. But his experiences as a medical practitioner and commissioner for health twice in Ondo State left him without a doubt that his services were desperately needed back home.
He therefore resigned as minister to contest the 2007 gubernatorial election which he won through the validation of the courts after conspiracy by the powers that be then to cheat him out of his well deserved victory at the polls.
From then, Dr Mimiko has not looked back. After 8 years of meritorious service to the people of Ondo State, Mimiko can look back with satisfaction and relish in the celestial peace that engulfs a man that has fulfilled to a very large extent, his call to serve humanity.
His legacies in Ondo State health sector has put the State in the consciousness of the world to the extent that the UN and other highly reputable international bodies have recommended the health delivery system which Mimiko initiated and executed in Ondo State as a model for the whole world to emulate.
Under him, pregnant women were given first class medical care from conception to delivery free of charge. Even those who had cause to inevitably go through caesarean section had it done for them free of charge at the expense of Mimiko-led Ondo State government. In addition to this, all Ondo children were entitled to free medical service from age 0 -5 years.
These deliberate health policies of the former governor powered by the one-of-its-kind kaadi igbeayo and the Mother & Child Hospitals built by Mimiko and dotted the length and breadth of the state made Ondo State have the lowest infant and maternal mortality rates in Nigeria, a feat achieved in record time after he assumed office.
A believer in young men and women, Mimiko had the youngest set of appointees across board in the nation mixed with elderly appointees thereby drove his government on the intricate balance of experience and energy.
A very strong Awoist, Mimiko is still in the business of mentoring young men and women in leadership as his own way of ensuring that the seed of genuine progressivism does not die but also grows to a forest of Irokos.
It is this progressive ideology of putting the people first that also influenced the systematic massive urban renewal of Akure, the Ondo State capital, and other towns in the State without depriving the people their means of livelihood unlike what happens in other places where the masses are hardly considered to be direct beneficiaries of government policies and actions.
In demolishing old markets and building ultra modern ones, he ensured that market men and women were not shortchanged by vested interests and that they were given priority in the allocation of the new markets.
The same principle applied in the building and relocation of roadside mechanics to ultra modern mechanic villages around the state.
Known as the “People-First” governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko also ensured that all pupils and students of both public and private schools in the state were daily conveyed to and fro school in public buses free of charge without fail. How he managed to achieve this without the usual excuses of vehicle breakdown, accidents or such other reasons usually associated with the civil service is as good as a miracle!
This helped to increase not just school enrolment but also attendance for obvious reasons. In addition to this are the model schools which drastically improved ambience and learning facilities across board in the state.
Mimiko is one kind-hearted, highly considerate and cerebral leader, father and mentor whose approach to governance, leadership and politics are worthy of emulation and rigorous academic study. Little wonder he has been invited to mount renowned and prestigious podiums all over the world leading peoples of diverse cultures and leanings into the miracle wand that turned Ondo State from a third world State to a highly advanced society.
As he turns 63 today, people of goodwill everywhere are grateful to God that he is still so young to carry on his good works in higher offices in the nearest future and continue to touch more lives even beyond Nigeria as he raises another generation of Mimikites to carry on from where he would eventually stop.
Congratulations to the people’s Excellency!
Jude Ndukwe is a political analyst who lives and works in Abuja, Nigeria. He is a member of The Trent’s Elite Columnists. His column is published every Friday. He tweets from @stjudendukwe.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.