Why Ajimobi must not come back
By Festus Adedayo
OYO is a very peculiar state in Nigeria. Huge in endowments, natural and human, it also prides itself as a state that had once witnessed the Midas touch of development, while parading the footpaths of iconic figures of modern history. One of such was Obafemi Awolowo who sat in Ibadan to midwife all those milestones that the Yoruba man flaunts today as his pedigree of civilization. Such footpaths include the first television station, the first skyscraper, the first stadium and the Ibadan University, for which Oyo State preens itself as the intellectual capital of Nigeria. Except for handful visionary leaders it has had since inception, Oyo has, however, been a largely unlucky state. Agrarian, with a huge illiterate population, the political class exploits the limitations of the people to the full to hoodwink them. The state’s ill-luck has been largely compounded since the advent of civil rule in 1999. In terms of development, it witnessed Spartan progress and is held on the jugular by the politics and machinations of a few. No calamity could be said to have befallen Oyo’s development as much as the politics of the Lamidi Adedibu era. It was an era marked by politics of violence, tokenism for political followers at the expense of state progress and ascendance of an illiterate clique that determines the contour of state politics.
Unfortunately, what tickles the fancies of this few is not development or societal uplift. Thus, leaders after leaders spend their tenure just giving the people tokens, massaging the mundane egos of the elite and leaving the dais with an impoverished people and a climate barely different from what it used to be.
This is why, until recently, governors came and went but the existential crises of Oyo State remained stagnant, and the state a glorified village. In the last three years, however, a breath of life is wheezing over Oyo; a breeze that has begun to change the mentality of the people, their perception of those at the helms of affairs and their psyche of the future development of the state. First is the state of filth that was the tag on Oyo before 2011. The state was reputed to be the second dirtiest in Nigeria, until this tag became gradually erased and the people could see the latent cleanliness in the people.
Second is the seeming revolution in road construction. Before now, the order was government constructing roads that lasted less than six months.
Right now, anyone who had stayed two years out of Oyo State would certainly not be able to recognise the state capital any longer and many other towns in the state. An aggressive road dualisation is ongoing, which baffles many. The roads and their quality are alien to the geography of Oyo; they are indeed the type our people see in the Federal Capital Territory. This atypical progress is replicated in virtually all sectors of the state.
Perhaps the most instructive of the changes in Oyo State is the style of leadership. The late Adedibu mirrored the minds of the ruling elite when he asked Rashidi Ladoja to bring the state’s security votes to him as he was the numero-uno security. What this means is that the elite’s interest, and not the people’s, dictated the temperature of leadership. Once a leadership is at cross purposes with the elite and those who decide the pendulum of power, it is incinerated without a care in the world. This was why Lam Adesina, in spite of his simplicity, focus and determination to bring development to the state, had his government peremptorily sacrificed for one that would drag back the fortunes of the state.
Abiola Ajimobi is a different ball game from the crop of governors Oyo used to know. Urbane and a hater of violence with passion, he does not suffer fools gladly and is blunt to a fault, while not believing in the politician’s lexicon of dressing a mule to look like a gazelle. His passion for change is legendary, so much that when driving on the streets of Ibadan, he stops by to drive away those desecrating the roads with filth. These and a few others, some of which this writer will itemise presently, constitute the charges against him by the ruling elite for which many have sworn he would not be re-elected.
If you take the time to study the mantra of a few who have either left the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) or declared hostility against the governor, none has faulted the fact that, in the history of Oyo State, no governor has brought this level of massive development to the state as Ajimobi is doing, with the potential that these could quadrupled if he stays in the saddle for the next term in office. The accusations range from the mundane to the selfish; the laughable to the uninformed.
One is that Ajimobi clings to his wife, Florence, too much. This is excusable, however. In the history of Oyo State, especially since civil rule, the state had witnessed the reign of chief executives who were serial polygamists for whom monogamy was like a perfidy. The state even paraded one who was so randy that hundreds of leading city university girls, like the Bill Clinton Monica-gate scandal, could describe his genitalia at the blink of an eye. In a state that is highly patriarchal, many of these leaders cannot stomach a ‘me and my wife’ governor who ‘must have been charmed’ by his wife for always underscoring the sacredness of the conjugal relationship that exists between them. In the estimation of this crop of people, Ajimobi deserves the boot for loving his wife too much.
Second charge and why, in the estimation of this set of people, Ajimobi must not return to Agodi Government House, is that he is not a politician and does not know how to shroud his passion. Simplistic as this may sound, it has drawn the ire of the group so much. Most Nigerian politicians, with due respect, thrive on deceit and subterfuge. Truth is the very first casualty of any association with them. Anyone felt to be straightforward is seen not to possess the wherewithal of a politician. Ajimobi always says that, having been in the corporate world for 32 years where the greatest demand therein is trust and dependability, he could not begin to cultivate the serpentine attitude of politicians.
Third charge is that Ajimobi has failed to democratise the largesse of government. This, in transparency parlance, is corruption. Many of the politicians, who are said to have disagreed with the governor, if you ask them, did so on the allegation of not ‘eating enough.’ Not one of them will say that, for the future development of the state and its positioning on the radar of comity of states that they, their children and children’s children can be proud of, Ajimobi is not the hope of Oyo State. Frustrated that they haven’t ‘eaten enough’, many of them have even moved into political parties where they feel they could muster a pliable candidate who would open the state’s vault for them to feed fat on.
Fourth is that there is a myth that no governor has ever governed Oyo twice and Ajimobi should not be an exception. The mythical arrogance of this claim is fuelled by the opposition, many of who claim that though Ajimobi has done exceptionally well in developing the state, he should not be honoured with breaking this jinx. Former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr. Dejo Raimi, said this much on a recent radio programme.
Fifth reason why it is dangerous for Ajimobi to come back as a second term governor is that it will wipe off the political careers of many governors and politicians before him and bury the political future of many. The refrain in the state, on sighting the various developmental milestones of Ajimobi, is that he must have borrowed the whole world to implement them. When told that the government has not borrowed a dime, residents conclude that he is either a developmental wizard or his predecessors were funneling the state money into a God-knows-where. If such a man comes back for another four-year term, his predecessors risk being pelted with stones. It is the reason all apparatus of decimation, fair or foul, is being deployed to halt the moving machine of Oyo’s development.
But Ajimobi keeps developing the state like a man for whom there is no tomorrow but today. His benchmark is Awolowo and he is hungry to be invested a place in the pantheon of developmental wizards. The question many ask is: would Oyo leave a man who has re-written their name in gold and scamper after the architects of their inglorious recent past?
Adedayo is Special Adviser (Media) to the governor of Oyo State.