Even on his sick bed, dying of complications arising from the deadly coronavirus, Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi’s influence dominated the political space and dictated the tone of events in his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). The party, in a manner of speaking, was tottering on the edge of a precipice in dire need of a strong hand to retrieve it from what was beginning to appear like certain collapse. In that condition, with his life unsure, his party still handed over its affairs to him as every member prayed for his quick recovery to take over its management, try and rescue it from the perceived mis-governance and steer it away from the path of self-sabotage. But it was not meant to be. Actually, it was when it became obvious that he was not likely to make it that President Muhammadu Buhari stepped in and saved the day.
Since his death, earlier rumoured and later confirmed late last week, it has been a flurry of glowing tributes from his political associates, friends and even political foes. They all agree that he was a committed friend, dependable ally and a tolerant foe. All agree that he was a consummate politician with the Midas touch and a strong will to turn things around for the better.
It is on record that he was the first politician to be re-elected as Governor in Oyo State thus breaking the jinx of one term syndrome that was the fate of his predecessors in office.
Oyo State, with Ibadan as capital, was and still is the hotbed of Yoruba politics. It retained that role even after it was carved out from the old Western Region as a separate administrative entity. Notwithstanding, it retained that powerful pull and it played out in the determination of who becomes a governor and for how long. That Ajimobi survived the highly competitive electoral struggle of the state as a two term governor is a testimony, an acknowledgment as well as a demonstration of his political sagacity and acceptance as a leader who can be trusted any time to deliver on his mandate.
His death to many brings to a close an illustrious, albeit, significant chapter in the progressive and sophisticated politics of Yorubaland.
To many, it happened at a time the wisdom and doggedness of leaders like him were urgently required as concerns begin to surface regarding the survival of the nation’s 21 year old democratic experiment. To others it means that at 70 years, he left a mark of selfless service to humanity in general and his people of Oyo State in particular.
Born on 16 December 1949, he came into political limelight when in 2003, he contested for and was elected a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Ajimobi was a principal officer in the Senate and served as the Deputy Minority leader.
It was not as if the National Assembly was not a turf big enough for him to direct his immense political energy. It was, instead, that craving for an opportunity to give his people effective leadership at the grassroots that motivated him to seek to serve as a governor. Ajimobi contested the gubernatorial election under the umbrella of the All Nigeria Peoples Party but lost. He contested again in 2011 under the Action Congress of Nigeria and won.
Ajimobi contested a second term in an election that took place in 2015 on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He ran for re-election against two of his predecessors in office, Christopher Alao Akala and Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja. With his successful re-election into office as the Governor, Ajimobi became the first person to occupy the seat twice as well as in succession.
When the terms allowed for him ended, he made a second attempt to go back to the senate but that effort though wasted, did not diminish his political relevance as on June 16, 2020, he was appointed as the acting national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
Before his foray into the murky waters of Nigerian politics, Ajimobi had a brilliant career in the private sector rising to become the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company, a subsidiary of Shell Petroleum, Nigeria. He left the oil sector in 2002 after 26 years.
Abiola Ajimobi was born on 16 December 1949 to the Ajimobi family of Ibadan at Oja-Iba, Ibadan. He started his education at Saint Patrick’s Primary School, Oke-Padre in Ibadan. He completed his primary education at Ibadan City Council Primary School, Aperin. His secondary education was at Lagelu Grammar School. As a high school student, he was active in athletics, table tennis, and football including serving as the school’s games prefect.
Ajimobi’s university education was in the United States of America, where he studied Business Administration and Finance at the State University of New York, in Buffalo, New York graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree. His MBA was in Operations Research and Marketing with specialization in Finance at Governors State University, University Park, Illinois.
As his life comes to a close, the legacies he left behind will continue to serve as a beacon guiding and directing succeeding generations as they strive to ensure that the democratic culture endures.
This newspaper joins other Nigerians to mourn the passing of this towering political personality. As we pray that God grants his family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss, we also wish his soul a peaceful repose.
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