Debriefing Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State by Lekan Sote
Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State will end his tenure on May 29, 2019, and there is nothing wrong with that. The only problem is that his critics say that the losses the All Progressives Congress suffered in the state were the wages of his political sins.
Ajimobi lost the contest for 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.
A man, who broke a jinx and won an unprecedented second term as governor became so vilified that some maidens composed a cheeky Yoruba song for him. Translated into English, the song goes, “Were Ajimobi a river, we’d scoop him out. He was a senator for four years. He was a governor for eight years. And he wants to be a senator again. Were Ajimobi a river, we’d scoop him out.”
At a parley that may be described as a debriefing — usually done after a person has concluded his tour of duty — the governor acknowledged that his bluntness may have caused him the political setbacks.
He explained that 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. But his critics didn’t think that was a good reason to breach political codes or social graces.
Ajimobi, who desires to be seen as a good man, is probably misunderstood. He is of the Winston Churchill school of thought, which says that a man, who wants history to be kind to him, will have to write his own history.
Interestingly, folk on the streets of Ibadan acknowledged 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.
A certain Ibadan resident admitted that armed robbery practically disappeared from Ibadan during Ajimobi’s tenure. The same person, however, describes Ajimobi’s tongue as a “loose cannon.”
The fellow wished the governor should be more restrained in his responses to issues.
Also, reacting to Ajimobi’s tendency to respond to nearly everything, 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, who mentioned the improved urban landscape in Ibadan as one of Ajimobi’s achievements, said, “We didn’t say he hasn’t worked. Let him just mind the way he talks to people. Then what is ‘Constituted Authority?’”
Yet another Ibadan resident 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 in his response to this earlier, Ajimobi almost swore that many prominent Ibadan indigenes counselled him to upgrade the chiefs.
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 a 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.
Maybe 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 visible high point of Ajimobi’s tenure seems to be his ability to change the political narrative of Ibadan, and the rest of Oyo State, from that of warlords and garrison fiefdoms, to that of peaceful and law-abiding citizens.
Many residents of Ibadan agree that he achieved that substantially, even if there are 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.
Ajimobi’s take on education, especially technical education, as he put 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 must have informed the introduction of the brilliant Oyo State Model Education System Interventions, a holistic educational policy, which should provide a sure footing for sound education for Oyo State children.
The OYOMESI scheme is 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 are 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 a credit 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.
The Oyo State healthcare delivery system comes with 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 the farm produce that should be the input for an agriculture based economy. But the sceptical 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.
Ajimobi will be the first to admit that it is no longer just enough for Nigerian politicians, especially from the Yoruba stock, to merely deliver in deed; they must also acquit themselves in demeanour. But far more important is the fact that the governor agrees with this Omoluabi credo.