Oyo: Before Ajimobi Takes A Bow

ADEBAYO WAHEED takes a cursory look at the eight-year tenure of the outgoing governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi and what led to his failure to deliver the state for his All Progressives Congress (APC) in the presidential and gubernatorial elections.

There is no doubt that the tenure of the present administration in Oyo State under the leadership of Senator Ishaq Abiola Akanji Ajimobi will officially expire on May 29. It is however pertinent to know that the people of the state will have one or two things, either good or bad, to say not only about the government, but the governor.

It is official that the man who was given various nick names by the people of the state such as Mr. ‘Constituted Authority,’ ‘Koseleri’, (It has never happened before) and ‘Koselemo’ (It won’t happen again), among others, within his eight-year tenure in office will have to bow out either honourably or unhonourably, depending on which side of divide whoever is making the assessment stands.

Serving a state like Oyo may not be easy or tasking as the people may think, but for eight years, Ajimobi and his government will no doubt be remembered either positively or negatively.

The nicknames given to the governor have meanings. They were also given at and during different occasions. But the fact is that no governor that ever ruled the state, either dead or alive, was given such names.

For instance, the ‘Constituted Authority’ appellation was given when students of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH, Ogbomoso, staged a peaceful demonstration to the governor’s office over the prolonged closure of the institution among other issues, and an argument ensued between the governor and the students.

‘Koseleri’ was given to the governor when he won re-election for a second term in office, making him the first governor to govern the state for two consecutive terms; while ‘Koselemo’ was given to him when he lost his senatorial election and the bid to win the state for his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. The party also lost the presidential election to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in state.

The man, Ajimobi, born on 16, December 1949, is a Nigerian politician from Oyo State in South-Western Nigeria. He was formerly the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company, a subsidiary of Shell Petroleum, Nigeria.

He left the oil sector in 2002 after 26 years of service, and was elected in 2003 as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, representing Oyo South senatorial district on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy, AD.

After one term in the Senate, he contested in 2007 for the governorship of Oyo State under the banner of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, a bid which he lost. He recontested again in the April 2011 elections under the banner of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and was elected governor of Oyo State in a keenly contested poll.

However, Ajimobi , in the last National Assembly election, lost the bid to make a return to the upper chamber of the National Assembly to represent Oyo South senatorial district to little known Kola Balogun.

For that, he has been accused of causing both Adebayo Adelabu and President Muhammadu Buhari to lose the governorship and presidential elections in the state, respectively.

The outgoing governor, who broke a jinx and won an unprecedented second term as governor, was a senator for four years. He was a governor for eight years. And he wants to be a senator again but was denied the opportunity of returning to the Senate and winning the state for the APC.

Reacting to his loss at the poll, Ajimobi, who said he had no regrets losing at the poll, acknowledged that his bluntness may have caused him the political setbacks.

According to him, he had formed the habit of speaking his mind because the corporate world where he started his career always expected one to define and confront issues directly in order to achieve desired goals. His critics and political opponents however believe that was not a good reason to breach political codes or social graces.

Ajimobi, who desires to be seen as a good man, apart from being the most performed governor, was probably misunderstood.

Interestingly, many people in the state believe that the outgoing governor, in truth, delivered the dividends of democracy in terms of security, social services, infrastructure and economic direction, as much as possible.

Other residents of the state admitted that armed robbery practically disappeared from Ibadan during Ajimobi’s tenure, as there was peace and security of lives and property.

Most of the people, especially his political opponents, however described Ajimobi as a “loose cannon, a man that has no respect for anybody.”

A resident, who spoke on Ajimobi’s type of ‘Omoluabi’, Olusola Oladele, wished the governor could have been more restrained in his responses to issues. He urged the governor to consider these words of wisdom from a former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill: “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks (at you).”

Another Ibadan resident, Akinsola Idowu, who mentioned the improved urban landscape in Ibadan as one of Ajimobi’s achievements, said, “We didn’t say he hasn’t worked. In fact, he has performed creditably well when compared to past governors who have ruled the state, but let him just mind the way he talks to people.”

Idowu, who identified the elevation of high chiefs to monarchs as one of Ajimobi’s sins, said, “The only thing he did that pained me was that he turned those chiefs into obas (or kings) without respect to our culture.”

But Ajimobi almost swore that many prominent Ibadan indigenes counselled him to upgrade the chiefs.

Defending his action, the governor claimed that his advisers cited a book, written by a respected Ibadan indigene, where a case was made to elevate the chiefs to Obas in order to enhance the throne of the Olubadan.

He claimed that the counsellors, many of them very enlightened, had argued that the retinue of the Olubadan were not always accorded due respect because they were not royalty.

They suggested that an usually very old Olubadan could take advantage of the relative youth of the new Obas, who could represent him with the prestige of an oba whenever old age prevented him from attending public functions.

Political observers believed that may be Ajimobi should have merely provided the legal backing and allowed the Olubadan, as the consenting authority, to perform the traditional and ceremonial rites. After all, he had said that the Olubadan himself had openly accepted and approved of the policy.

The high point of Ajimobi’s tenure seems to be his ability to change the political narrative of Oyo State, from that of warlords and garrison fiefdoms, to that of peaceful and law-abiding citizens.

Apart from changing the political narrative, the eight-year tenure of the outgoing governor, no doubt, witnessed tremendous achievements especially in the area of peace and security, education and infrastructural development.

In fact, there is no part of the state that has not benefited from the development. Some of the residents agreed that he achieved that substantially, even if there were still pockets of lawlessness in the state capital. The security trust fund, which is contributed and administered by corporate organisations in Oyo State, is evidence of the buy-in of the public.

On education, especially technical education, as the governor puts it, very likely meant that he thinks education must be functional. He thinks that too many Nigerian university graduates seem to be unable to hold their own intellectually and professionally. This gives a cause for concern.

The need to address this gap informed the introduction of the brilliant Oyo State Model Education System Interventions OYOMESI, a holistic educational policy, which should provide a sure footing for sound education for the students and children.

The OYOMESI scheme was designed to improve educational infrastructure, provide a structured school curriculum and upgrade school facilities, via the innovative School Governing Boards of stakeholders that run the schools almost independently.

The inclusion of a boot camp where high school students were kept back in school during the holidays to receive extra lessons led to Oyo State candidates excelling in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination.

There was a quantum improvement in the general performance of WASSCE candidates in the state between 2016 and 2017. The increase in the number of Oyo State candidates who had credits in at least five subjects, including Mathematics and English language, was dramatic.

The new Technical University in Ibadan, which the governor insists is not a university of technology, is expected to expose students to a two-year exchange programme in a university overseas.

It will also ensure practical work in industry. This should prepare the graduates as hands-on entrepreneurs.

On healthcare, Ajimobi introduced an insurance scheme that caters for all at a modest premium of N650 per annum, a health endowment fund, a scheme that periodically takes hospitals to the doorsteps of the people, and constantly upgrades existing health care facilities.

The Integrated Agricultural Scheme, which is intended to make Oyo the food basket of Nigeria, is expected to provide farm produces that should be the input for an agriculture-based economy. But the skeptical Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, thinks that state governors are generally not interested in agriculture.

These are some of the planks of the Ajimobi Agenda of Restoration of old values, transformation of the society and repositioning of government agencies and personnel for improved governance, designed to make the entire state safer and prosperous.

But the issue is that the people of Oyo have advanced from merely expecting delivery of governance to demanding to be treated with respect by public officers whom they voted into office.

Ajimobi’s clever political opponents have exploited the dynamics of this new psychology of politics to devastating effect. The governor simply walked into a political windstorm that seriously affected his political career and nearly eclipsed his achievements.

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