No Bobo! No Zobo! (Part One)

Abiola Ajimobi…still unforgettable – Tribune Online

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ANOTHER December 16 is here (tomorrow). It is a significant date for a lot of individuals who have had the opportunity of knowing the former two-term Governor of Oyo State, Senator AbiolaAdeyemi Ajimobi. For thosewho had worked with him, in the Corporate world  and when he was Governor of Oyo State, being with him was a learning curve with life- long impact. The late former Governor with his engaging gap-toothed smile was a man who came into the world with a mission. A mission to touch lives and his environment.  And that he did. Some called him Akandaeniyan, meaning he was a unique creation of God. And when God finished creating him, the mould was not replicated in another human being.Apart from his intellectual capacity, he also had more than a fair share of native intelligence . He understood the nuances and idiosyncrasies of humans. He was perspicuous, with  clear mastery of the English and Yoruba languages through which he enthralled his listeners.

But  Senator Ajimobi’s life went beyond mastery of languages. Born December 16, 1949 in Oja’ba in Ibadan, Oyo State, Ajimobi was former Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company, a subsidiary of Shell Petroleum, Nigeria, he was in the oil industry for 26 years before leaving in 2002. About a year later in 2003, he was elected senator representing Oyo South Senatorial district on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy in the upper chamber. In 2007, he contested for the governorship of the pacesetter State but lost the bid, though a few people claimed he was robbed of victory. At the time, Oyo State politics was under the thumb of the acclaimed strong man of Ibadan politics,  AlhajiAriyibiAdedibu. Both Ajimobi and Adedibu were in diametrically opposed political camps with the former contesting on the platform of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) and the later, a chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) with a stranglehold on Oyo State politics. Undeterred by that loss, he again contested in 2011, his aspiration met with success, he thus emerged Governor of Oyo State on May 29, 2011. With his tenure done after four years, he recontested for a second term in office and emerged victorious, a feat which had remained unprecedented in the political history of Oyo State and which earned him the sobriquet, Koseleri.

As governor of Oyo State, he was dedicated to the course of Oyo State. He had once told a few gathering of cabinet members how, before he became governor, on his numerous visits to Ibadan from his Lagos base, what he would do to change the face of the State, if God gave him the opportunity to become the Governor.  Indeed, a former Special Adviser and my predecessor in office, Dr Festus Adedayo captured Ajimobi thus in one of his essays : ‘Ajimobi is a brilliant, perceptive and articulate leader, the type that any society needs. No one, not even his most bitter critic, would doubt Ajimobi’s patriotism and commitment to the development of Oyo State. He has done more roads than any government in the recent history of that state. More importantly, he enthroned and sustained peace in the state infamously described as a garrison at the height of its security infamy’.

One of the Ajimobi’s mantras as governor was that no development could take place in any society without peace. He met a State where peace had taken a break. It was a lawless period where political war lords had carved out territories in the political landscape. Violence and brigandage was the order of the day. Many areas of the State especially the State Capital, Ibadan, became a no- go area for people desirous of longevity of life. Thus, on assumption of office, he embarked on moves to enthrone peace in Oyo State. He established Operation Burst, a joint task force of security agencies in the State. He also established the State Security Trust fund to ensure a robust security coverage for the State through different intervention projects and assistance for the security agencies. During the period, the trust fund saw to the provision of assistance by equipping the police and the security agencies involved in the joint task force with Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC), patrol vehicles and communication equipment.The  Safe City Project was also embarked upon with the emplacement of CCTV in some black spots in the State capital while there was a central control room to monitor what was going on. The idea was to expand this across the State. The succeeding administration seems to have dumped this laudable vision in the dustbin of abandoned projects as no expansion has taken place since Ajimobi left about three and half years ago. These are just a few of the strategies put in place by the Ajimobi administration.

With peace firmly in place, Oyo State under Ajimobi was set to excel, which it did. Within the period, Oyo State became one of the top five investment-friendly States in Nigeria, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). There was increase in tourism and hospitality sector players by about 147 percent. Hotels, event centres, night clubs, lounges and cinemas increased exponentially. There was a renaissance of nightlife economy as violent armed robbery which could have negative impact on night time movement,  was curtailed.  In 2011 when Ajimobi became governor, Oyo State had only six radio stations, this increased to over 30, the second highest after Lagos. The popular Asiwajuniwa…, Oyo State anthem was created and remains popular among citizens till date.  In areas of social and physical infrastructure, his legacy remains unassailable. During his tenure,  entry into the state from the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Arisekola Alao way, passing through Fresh fm was dualised. This was extended to other entries and exits into each of the major cities in the State. The Eleyele-Dugbe, Jericho-  Aleshinloyeroads weredualised. He inaugurated and began the dualisation and construction of Bashorun- Akobo, Gate-Old Ife-Alakia, OkeAdu- Iwo, Ologuneru– Eruwa roads. The iconic Mokola overhead bridge was constructed by the Ajimobi administration.

In education,  Ajimobi ‘s impact was also felt especially with the introduction of the Schools Governing Board (SGF) which helped in infrastructural rejuvenation of secondary schools in the State. SGB was made up of Teachers, Parents, Students , Religious leaders, Old Students Association who administered the schools. Problems in such schools were quickly tackled by the SGB without necessarily waiting for government’s  intervention thus cutting off red tapism that could have delayed the resolutions of such challenges. Some States in the South West at the period sentdelegations to Oyo State to understudy the policy, for introduction in those States.

The Oyo State civil servants also fared well during the Ajimobi era. Apart from embarking on the restructuring of the Civil Service for better efficiency through the introduction of biometrics, his administration embarked on the payment of 13th month salary to workers and there wasincrease in car loans with a lot of workers benefitting . There was also the implementations of 142 percent pension arrears to the tune of over N2billion.Backlog of workers’ salary from 2008 to 2011 were paid while workers were equally promoted.

Today, the Progressives fold continues to miss this astute, colourful politician. Many believed that the crisis that has bedevilled the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the State level,  which has created a major schism with majority of the Progressives moving to Accord, would not have arisen. Before his death, he had embarked on a major reconciliation drive which had proved successful under his predecessor in office, late former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala. All these came to naught with the death of these political colossus. As a leader,  Ajimobi was not without his flaws, in spite of this,  his greatest critics would readily admit that he was able to transform Oyo State.

What was expected of his successor was to take the State to a higher level than Ajimobi left it, sadly Oyo State has not been so lucky. As family, friends and loyalists continue to celebrate this highly cerebral former Governor on his birthday with an  Annual Abiola Ajimobi Roundtable, with the expectation that all he stood for – good governance –  would continue to live on as captured In his own words: “ I want to be remembered as the Governor that modernised Oyo State. I want to be remembered as the father of modern Oyo State…someone who took Oyo State from the pedestrian level to the peak”.

  • Tunji was Special Adviser, Communication and Strategy to Governor Abiola Ajimobi.

 

 

 


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