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Koronu people in COVID-19 Nigeria | By Festus Adedayo

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Notwithstanding your awareness of how bad things have become with the people of Nigeria, if you watch the documentary Koronu – Where people don’t think, a bead of tear will roll down your cheek.

 

It is on YouTube. Put together by the popular, yet uncommon Ibadan, Nigeria-based broadcaster, Edmund Obilo, Koronu is a shuttle with and into the lives of a people in an area called Academy in the erstwhile capital of Western Nigeria. To put the grim picture in its true perspective, a professor friend from the University of Oxford, while sending a copy of the documentary to me, affixed a damming, yet evocative caption to it: Koronu, in Awo’s Ibadan!

The purport cannot be lost on anyone who knows that Obafemi Awolowo and his team of egg-heads, right in this selfsame Koronu’s Ibadan, with a party slogan they called Life more abundant, sat to banish poverty, lack and ignorance from, if not anywhere else, the precinct of the Western Region of Nigeria.

 

Koronu is a documentary that literally plots the graph of the economic descent with a very sharp-edged pencil, telling the story of how, in no mistakable lingo, life has slipped sharply right down the alley for the people. In that bassy voice, the narrator sharply tells the story of a life of abundance that has become a life of sorrow; that existence-wise, in the hands of successive governments, a people primed to be the best that life could offer have become a people whose inability to fend for themselves has turned into robots incapable of thinking.

In a nutshell, from theirs and the narrator’s accounts, Koronu is like South Africa’s District Six where, in the depiction of writers like Alex La Guma, Alf Wannenburg, James Mathews etc, life was marijuana, violence, merry and alcohol. Hopelessness and joblessness intermixed in Koronu to breed a people who confessed in the documentary that they lived by the day, engaged in no mental exercise and sauce their existence with alcohol and smoke.

 

Government is very far away from Koronu, except as emblem of decay of old infrastructure of ages past. It only pays Koronu visits every four years, when politicians, exploiting their demographics, need their votes.

 

The interesting thing is that every community in Nigeria has its own Koronu. Or put rightly, will have its own Koronu shortly; Koronu, in this wise being a metaphor for the army of Nigerian unemployed youth, faced by the hopelessness of joblessness, with a peripatetic mind and gene of adolescence which are already finding or will find an encore in violence, drug, crime and allied evils of youth desperation.

With an estimated but conservative figure pre-COVID-19 of 40 per cent unemployed, aftermath the pandemic, Nigeria will probably have 70 per cent of such.

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Contemporary or existing reality tells us that we do not need a telescope or a peep into the diviner’s plate to tell us that post-COVID-19, where in Nigeria the locusts have not yet invaded, will be a breeding ground for these colonies of Koronu people. Global economists, like sorcerers that they are, have painted a morbid picture of a post-COVID-19 globe. Putting the sorcery in the mould of Armageddon, they compared what they expect to be in the frame of the Great Depression of the 1920s.

 

The economics behind this grim projection is not rocket science and can be accessed by anyone. The ravaging COVID-19 pandemic has ensured that factories shut down their operations for more than a month now, with its attendant job losses. In America, 22 million jobs are said to have been lost and an unprecedented 57 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits for the first time.

 

The GDP of China fell drastically for the first time in ages, even as governments are throwing their hands up in economic surrenders. Otherwise strong economies are projecting that they would soon hit the canvass, with hunger and famine looming large in the global horizon.

In Nigeria, the picture is grimmer and promises to be more surreal. Her economic heartbeats – Lagos, Port-Harcourt, Kano (for agricultural produces) are locked down. A friend in the agricultural sector told me that due to its inability to transport eggs to states of demand under lockdown, Oyo State poultry industry has accumulated about 150,000 crates of eggs in 7-8 days, worth about N120 million, which will be destroyed presently, with the consequences of jobs flying out through the window.

Alien to data and statistics, job losses in Nigeria as a result of COVID-19 will expectedly soar. The companies that reluctantly paid salaries at the outset of the pandemic last month while asking workers to go home may not pay henceforth since they have shut down production. Banks and other economic concerns are only operating skeletally.
With successive governments whose officials had consistently and persistently Abachalized (pray, why is that word not yet in the dictionary?) the nation’s patrimony and a glut in global oil sale, with price of a barrel of crude going for as low as $20; and more importantly, with a Nigerian government known for its tendency to spiritualize governance, the stage is set for, parodying football commentator Ernest Okonkwo, the mother of all Koronu.
If antecedents are to be factored in, soon, Aso Rock would witness a convergence of prayer warriors, in concert with their Muslim marabout allies, in an orgy of spiritual intercessions for the imminent cup of economic depression to pass over Nigeria. Already, with the shadow of things to come flashing in its face, the Nigerian government, faced with a 2020 budget it might not be able to finance, had cut budgetary allocations in its perceived “useless” sectors of education and health drastically. It is the right way to go for any Koronu government superintending over a Koronu people.
Proactive governments have put on their thinking caps to avert the transmutation of their lands into a haven for Koronu people, in the aftermath of COVID-19. As flippant and dissembling as Donald Trump is, he is looking beyond the health of COVID-19 into its economics. His thinking ostensibly is, the pandemic has come and will go like its calamitous predecessors of earlier centuries but what will be the fates of those who escape death in its aftermath? In the face of her melancholy of losing 30,000 nationals, America’s Trump has outlined a 3-phase guidelines of how to defreeze an already frozen economy that could begin to gasp for breath if no rescue comes its way.

In Nigeria, rather than grapple with the economic Armageddon that will surely come, we are still battling the genetic cronyism resident in the being of our government that is said to have voted a large chunk of palliatives cash to its own people. Allegedly, government has literally deployed that selfsame accursed 95 to 5% sharing modem which the Fuhrer let slip in America at the outset of this government.

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Even the palliatives are polluted by corrupt officials who allegedly hand over N20,000 to these “Poorest of the Poor,” take photo-shoots of the money with the recipients and coercively collect the money back, later handing over N5,000 to their victims. Pray, in what part of the globe, in a technological 21st century, with a government perceived to be grossly deficient in trust, do officials heave untracked and untrack-able cash to far-flung homes of people like this, without a corresponding system of accountability? Politicians and government appointees, as well as aspirants for 2023 are also exploiting COVID-19 to begin a junket of self-underscore and advertisement, with a rat race among themselves in sharing negligible tokens to the people. On these tokens, they affix almost yard-sized banners.

 

The foretaste of Koronu is already here with us. In states locked down by government, victims of governments in time past that didn’t think and the one at the moment that is incapable of thinking, are rebelling against the system. Because peaceful living is impossible for a starved people, the latent animalism, disorder and chaos in the Koronu people are climbing to the fore. Crime rates have quadrupled with criminals robbing in the daylight.

 

Rate of scavengers has reached for the zenith of the curves and very many people have turned into beggars, literally abandoning the pride of their manhood and dignity. These are the rehearsals for the sharp realities of post-COVID-19.

For a thinking government, however, all hope is not lost. It should be the time for economic wizards of whom Nigeria doesn’t have a shortfall, to converge in boardrooms or in virtual rooms to brainstorm on available oases. Thinking caps are an absolute necessity now, or else we will all be consumed by the economic epidemic and devastation to come. The consuming anger of a post- COVID-19 world economy is impervious to cronyism, is colour or race-blind; it is blind to Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba and is certainly political party-blind. It will consume agnostics, atheists, religionists as it will make mincemeat of PDP and APC. The time to start thinking is now.

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Photo credit: Winning side photography, Twinkle

 

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Opinion

Ajimobi’s Image and Likeness of a True Aare of Ibadanland and That Picture I Never Took | By Wole Adejumo

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All Souls Church, Bodija was capacity filled. It was Bimbo Adekanmbi’s wedding and it attracted those who mattered in Oyo State and beyond. The groom was the Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Abiola Ajimobi, he was also more or less a godson to Aare Abdulazeez Arisekola-Alao. It therefore involved government functionaries as well as the business and social establishments.

 

My business there was two-pronged; to cover the even for The Street Journal where I worked and show the crew from Podium TV around since they were not familiar with the Ibadan establishment. When the Podium Crew was denied entry at the traditional wedding at Fun Factory, Bodija the previous day, my ID card and a simple conversation with the security operatives made the difference. That gave me a somewhat higher rating from the crew. I didn’t envisage what was to come.

Five years of celebrity reporting at City People had taught me that some pictures would not only sell stories but could be found tremendously useful in the future. I saw a good opportunity for one when I noticed Aare Arisekola-Alao and Governor Ajimobi sitting side by side and chatting like good old buddies. ‘This picture will tell a million gists’, my instinct told me, especially as Aare was without his trademark abeti aja cap.

I drew near, leveled the camera, took aim, my index finger was on the shutter button and in a split second, the Governor looked in my direction and pointed. I heard him say “what is this one doing here? My friend will you get away from there?” He looked towards the security detail behind him and a guy in suit ran towards me. I simply respected myself and took my leave. Some of the members of the Governor’s Press Crew saw what happened and asked if there was something wrong. They were quick to assume that it was because I didn’t stand close to them. The Podium guys too came to ‘commiserate’.

My mind immediately flashed back to the first time I met Senator Ajimobi. My Bureau Chief then, Bola Davies (now of blessed memory) had scheduled an interview with him shortly after he became Senator in 2003 and she insisted I should accompany her. Aside politics, he told us about his experience in the corporate world then he delved into the story of how he met his wife. He spoke glowingly about her and even told us she was in charge of his wardrobe.

By the time I joined The Street Journal in 2008, it became a norm to give complementary copies to the Ajimobis. It was an instruction from the Publisher, Mr. Wole Arisekola, so most times; I would personally drive to drop the copies. My boss called him “Broda”, I knew he had tremendous respect for Senator Ajimobi and I had cause to follow him on a number of visits. One of such was the day I carried the two cartons of a particular herbal drink my boss bought from Ghana in 2010 for Senator Ajimobi. When he told Senator Ajimobi the ‘wonders’ the drink could do, he smiled and said ‘o se aburo mi (thank you my brother)’. Turning in my direction, he said “the next time your boss is coming here and you don’t remind him to bring this thing, I will tell them not to let you in”.
Years have gone by and that picture on Bimbo Adekanmbi’s wedding day would have told a thousand and one tales; especially on what Arisekola Alao and Senator Ajimobi had in common – the Aare title inclusive. They were typical Aares of Ibadan with the characteristic traits of the Aare intact in both of them.

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It is worthy of note that before Oluyedun, no Ibadan man ever bore the Aare title. Being the son of Afonja ‘L’aiya L’oko’ the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland and ruler of Ilorin, Oluyedun took the title Aare Ona Kakanfo of Ibadan when he became Baale shortly after the Gbanamu War. Ibadan’s first Aare was thus not just from an aristocratic background; he worked his way to the top by distinguishing himself in Ibadan, which became his new home.

 

Next to take the Aare title was Obadoke Iyanda Latoosa, one of the bravest soldiers of his time. On ascending the throne as ruler of Ibadan, Latoosa did the unimaginable. In a show of uncommon boldness, he asked to be installed as the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland while the then Kakanfo was still alive. Since Yorubaland could not have two Aare Ona Kakanfos, the Alaafin didn’t have a choice but to withdraw the paraphernalia of office from Ojo Olanipa Aburumaku of Ogbomoso and hand them over to Iyanda Latoosa.

 

If Oluyedun broke the record by becoming the first Aare, Latoosa brought a new twist by usurping the title and becoming the first man to become Kakanfo while his predecessor was alive. He ruled like a true Aare and he knew how to deal with anyone who dared flout his orders. His war chiefs plotted to overthrow him twice and twice they went back to beg him. Latoosa’s wealth was unfathomable. It became the unit of measurement for things that couldn’t be quantified. ‘O lo rere bi ola Aare’ (as expansive as the Aare’s riches) became a common saying back then. Till today, one of Aare Latoosa’s landed properties is still a subject of litigation.

Not only was Obadoke Latoosa a man of war, his words were prophetic. Before setting out for the Kiriji War which incidentally was his last, Aare was quoted as saying by the time he was done; there would be no more war in Yorubaland. It came to pass. The 16-year war was the last in Yorubaland. Not only did it mark the end of an era, it ushered in a new one.

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Bishop Alexander Babatunde Akinyele who became the next Aare was a man of history too. Not only was he the first Ibadan man to obtain a university degree, he was also the city’s first Anglican bishop. After facilitating the establishment of Ibadan Grammar School, Ibadan’s first secondary school in March, 1913, Bishop Akinyele became its first principal.

Nine years after Bishop Akinyele’s transition, his son in-law, Pa Emmanuel Alayande became the Aare of Ibadanland in 1977. He was known for his uprightness. He didn’t just excel as a clergyman; he was an exemplary political bridge builder. Pa Alayande tried all he could to prevent the impeachment of Governor Rashidi Ladoja. His transition in October, 2006 marked the end of an era. Weeks after it, one of his last wishes came to pass; the return of Senator Ladoja as Governor after an 11-month interregnum.

Alhaji Azeez Arisekola Alao was not keen on taking the Aare title but was prevailed upon by Ibadan elders. What more could one possibly want? Not only was he a billionaire by any standard, he held a prominent Islamic title. He became the first Ibadan man to have the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland and Aare of Ibadanland titles simultaneously. Like other Aares before him, Ibadan people revered him greatly. His friendship with General Sani Abacha, however, pitched him against many but till he died, Aare stayed unapologetically loyal to his friend.

 

Though he was not a card carrying member of any party, Arisekola Alao was seen as the last standing political godfather. His death more or less made the governorship race that followed more open. With High Chief Lamidi Adedibu’s passage years before then, the coast was clear for politics without godfathers in Oyo State.

Not only did Abiola Adeyemi Ajimobi win a second term as Governor, Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji decided that Ajimobi should get more than the Aare Atunluse title which his predecessor, Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade conferred on him. And in came Aare Ajimobi.

 

Not all Aares of Ibadan were loved by everyone. So those who complained of Ajimobi’s unpretentious bluntness probably never met Arisekola at very close quarters. He never suffered fools gladly. One of his close relatives once recounted an experience with the multibillionaire businessman. After boxing Arisekola to a corner with superior argument, the young man had a delightful look until Arisekola asked him ‘ngba ti ‘wo wa ni ‘ru opolo bayi, ki lo de t’Olorun o fun o l’owo? (when you have this much sense, why didn’t God bless you with money?). On many occasions people asked him how he made his billions and he had one readymade answer, he was always quick to tell them to go and start selling Gamalin 20.

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Ajimobi combined the traits of all the Aares that preceded him; Oluyedun’s trail blazing capability, Latoosa’s uncommon respect, Akinyele’s brilliance and Alayande’s administrative sense as well as Arisekola’s witty humour and sheer bluntness.

 

Many people had issues with him; so it was with his predecessors. In all, Senator Ajimobi lived well, did his bit and left legacies for which he would be remembered. He renovated the Oyo State Governor’s office to a befitting standard. The dualization of the Jericho-Eleyele-Agbarigo Road is to his credit. The First Technical University, Ibadan, a centre for qualitative technical education with emphasis on practical knowledge for job creation, entrepreneurship and manpower development was conceived and established by the Ajimobi administration. The Mokola Bridge brought a change, so also did the Eleyele-Eruwa Road. The 110km Ibadan Circular Road commenced by the Ajimobi administration will reduce travel times by up to 48 percent by the time it is completed. The peace Oyo State enjoyed in his time was a remarkably convincing proof of his administration’s commitment to securing the state.

Like the Aares before him, Ajimobi will be spoken about for some time to come and as a former Governor and the first to serve for eight years; the success level of his administration will be a yardstick for measuring impactful governance.

While comments continue to flow on social media whether he was good or evil, one thing cannot be wished away; Senator Ajimobi was a thought leader in his field. His death will no doubt affect his party’s permutations for the next election. What we may need to remember is that everyone alive has a chance to leave lasting legacies. However, that chance is ticking away, with time, begging to be used.

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The Abiola Ajimobi I knew | By Adeolu Akande

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Senator Abiola Ajimobi went the way of all flesh on June 25, 2020. I had the privilege of serving as Chief of Staff to Governor Ajimobi in the first half of his first term in office. I parted ways with him politically some years ago.

Nevertheless, I feel obliged to record my knowledge of him for posterity.

I met Senator Ajimobi for the first time in 2006. I was involved in a project to develop a blueprint for the development of Nigeria, and I was detailed to invite Senator Ajimobi who was then the Chairman of Senate Committee on Environment to speak on the subject. We related briefly again shortly after at the formation of the Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) before he finally opted to contest the 2007 gubernatorial election on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). In 2009, we worked more closely as he struggled to reclaim the mandate he believed he won in the 2007 election. We met virtually every evening in Abuja and threw our contacts into the effort to reclaim the mandate. Expectedly, some of the meetings segued into a discussion about the path to the development of Oyo State, and there was absolutely no doubt that he was prepared to give the state a different paradigm of leadership. The quest for the mandate also brought out his innate qualities as an organiser and a believer in probity.

I recall a particular incident. One of the associates in the effort to reclaim the mandate had introduced Senator Ajimobi to a prominent Nigerian. At the meeting held in the Abuja residence of the businessman, he left no one in doubt of his capacity to deliver on the project as he made telephone calls to some individuals who were to play a critical role in the determination of the matter. But this was to be at a cost. Ajimobi was to sign an Irrevocable Standing Order for the deduction of N1.5 Billion from the monthly federal allocation to the state for one year as fee for the service. Even with the almost absolute assurance that he would become the Governor, he declined. As we drove out of the Asokoro residence of the highly connected businessman, one of those in the backseat of the car exasperatingly wondered aloud “is this man (Ajimobi) ok?. It was later that I realised that Ajimobi heard the offensive comment but chose to ignore it. “Is this how they govern Nigeria?,” he repeatedly asked as he told the contact who took us to the businessman that he would never sign off the money of the state to become the Governor. When we returned home to review the meeting, he insisted that although he craved the office of Governor, he would not sign off the resources of the state to satisfy his ambition. He recalled how he was one of the very few senators who rejected the N50 Million offer to amend the constitution to remove the tenure limit on the office of the president in 2006 and how much he knew his father would be proud of him in his grave.

It was judgement day in 2009. We crowded into the living room of one of his supporters to watch the television broadcast of the judgement of the Court of Appeal, which was the final court in gubernatorial disputes at the time. There was a power outage, and we hurriedly headed to the residence of another of Ajimobi’s supporters, on the other side of Abuja. Within five minutes of the commencement of the judgement, it was evident that we had lost the case. It was a deeply humbling and disconcerting experience to see adults crying and howling as the reality dawned on all of us. Down the drain went the ambitions and aspirations of many of us who were already occupying positions in the imaginary government. The only person who remained calm was Ajimobi as he joked about the contorted mouths of crying adults. He cheered us up with jokes and assurances that we lost because it was not yet God’s time for him to be Governor.

At the next meeting of the group, he came with his diary and his notes on why he thought we lost the case. He shared his ideas about what we needed to begin to do in earnest if we were going to win in the next election. I recall that the most important of the factors were the choice of political party and funds for political engagement. He argued that if he had contested on the platform of either of the biggest parties of the time, the PDP and AC, he would have either won at the polls or successfully reclaimed his mandate in the court. He went to work immediately and got himself on the ticket of the Action Congress (AC) for the 2011 gubernatorial election. He never considered the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) at any point in his political career because he said his father, as a progressive, will never forgive him if he joined the PDP, which he regarded as a conservative party.

ELECTION AND THE FORMATION OF THE AJUMOSE GOVERNMENT

Ajimobi’s prognosis of the 2011 elections was correct with prophetic exactitude. He was a very strategic person. He put together the building blocks of his plans years ahead of the destination. He won the election and went on to form his government. I worked with him closely in the weeks leading to the election. He was a man committed to endless meetings. He resumed at every meeting with his diary full of notes from interactions with politicians and power brokers in the state and as I later found out, his nightly reflections. He was never shy of revisiting issues and changing his position in the face of superior logic. He was good at defining problems and proffering solutions. “You can solve any problem if you define it accurately. If need be, you only need to re-context the problem”, he would say.

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He interviewed many people for the principal offices in his government, notably those of Secretary to the Government, Chief of Staff, Head of Service, Commissioner for Finance, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Commissioner for Works and Commissioner for Education, among others. I sat in on some of the meetings as I played the role of coordinator of the nascent Governor’s Office in his Oluyole Estate residence. For each of the offices, he had defined the roles he would assign to them and the personal qualities he wanted in the appointees. For the appointment of Commissioners, Special Advisers and Senior Special Assistants, he requested the party at the local government level to make nominations into a pool from which he filled the offices. He ended up with over 1000 Curricula Vitae to scrutinise to fill those offices. I recall that on the deadline he set for himself on the appointment of commissioners, we worked in the office till 5.30 a.m. He made telephone calls to some nominees in those early hours to make clarifications on their CVs. Many of the successful nominees made the list because the Governor was impressed that they could make coherent clarifications in those hours of the day, where many others didn’t pick their calls or had switched off their phones. In one particular instance, he changed his choice for an office because someone unknown to him had presented an incredibly intimidating CV. At about 3 a.m., he put a call to the nominee and the nominee unexpectedly picked his call. The Governor introduced himself and sought clarification on some of the claims in the CV. Then he asked him why he was awake at that hour of the day, and the nominee responded that he had a deadline to meet in another two days but preferred to complete his task ahead of time. He offered him the post immediately. When we reminded him that he had rejected some other nominees because he claimed to have made up his mind on someone for that office, which was truly critical to his priorities, he retorted “Kama paro fun’rawa, CV eyan wa o da to eleyi, A ma wa nkan mi fun. (Don’t let us deceive ourselves; the CV of my preferred candidate is not as good as that of this person. We will give our candidate something else.”)

He ended up with an outstanding cabinet and one of the most resourceful teams I have ever worked with. Cabinet meetings were always very engaging, and members had to work hard on their papers before coming into the chambers for presentation. He introduced many members to PowerPoint and the rudiments of high-level presentations. He abhorred mediocrity and ruffled the feathers of some members with his blunt and brutal assessments. When the exigencies of politics made it ill-advised to remove some commissioners, he introduced the committee system to carry out some assignment which he felt one or two members of the cabinet could not successfully carry out.

He came into government with a clear vision to return Oyo State to her previous position as a major economic player in the Nigerian federation. To accomplish this, his priorities were security, infrastructure development, functional free education and revitalisation of agriculture with emphasis on large-scale commercial farming driven by the private sector. He set up a policy advisory council with members drawn from the academia and the private sector. He prioritised the Ibadan Circular Road that was initiated by Governor Rasidi Ladoja and sought to execute it in a modular form beginning from the Lagos-Ibadan

Express Road /Ibadan-Ife Road axis. It was to be executed by a private investor, and the proceeds from the toll collection would be deployed to develop the second half of the project. He planned to open up the state through the dualisation of entry- points to the state capital and major towns in the state. He placed the establishment of a technical university on the same pedestal and envisioned the resolution of the crisis between Osun and Oyo States on the ownership of Ladoke Akintola University. He was part of the initiative to make Asiwaju Bola Tinubu the Chancellor of the University believing that being the political leader of the incumbent governors of both states, he could authoritatively help resolve the crisis on the matter.

HIS WORK ETHIC

He was a hard taskmaster who expected everyone to work at his speed and with the same attention to detail. He worked late into the night. He came to the office about 9 a.m. and hardly left before midnight to consult with critical stakeholders in the state on issues under consideration or resume his daily nightly meetings at the Government House. What many regarded as one of his shortcomings early in the administration was his preference for endless meetings. Ajimobi would schedule meetings with different groups on the same matter even when commissioners felt the issues were not as complex as to warrant so many meetings. He always argued that the essence of such meetings was not only to arrive at a consensus but to let the people know that government decisions were taken after due consultation. He had an incredible energy for meetings and an equally incredible intellect to synthesize diverse and divergent outcomes of such meetings.

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He was an avid reader. His experience at Shell Petroleum exposed him to many specialties, and he complemented the knowledge by reading wide. He would take his time to read on any subject under the consideration of government and was never shy of asking for the guidance of those he believed were knowledgeable in the field. Even before commissioners at cabinet meetings, he would place calls to governors in other states who had tackled the problems before and ask them how they handled such situations. In many instances, he dispatched his commissioners and top officials to other states to understudy how certain programmes were executed. I recall when we attended the launch of the OponImo project in Osun State. He expressed his displeasure and agony sitting through such a laudable programme while he would have preferred to host the other states as the initiator of such a project. “Anyway, if you cannot initiate such a programme, you should at the minimum be able to replicate it. At least, let us know we are paying you for something”, he charged openly at his commissioners in the Coaster bus taking members of the cabinet back to Ibadan from the Osun State capital. He sent his commissioner and top officials to Lagos State to understudy town planning and housing estate development. He led a delegation to Rivers and Imo States to understudy certain programmes of the states. He asked his commissioners to replicate and improve upon the initiative on the management of the property ownership in Ogun State among many others. Beyond Governors, he was always in constant touch with critical stakeholders in decision making. He never shied away from contacting people with requisite academic and professional experience to guide his thoughts on any matter he was contemplating. One of such people that he was always in contact with was the late Alhaji Arisekola Alao, the highly influential Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland. We visited his Oluwo Nla residence regularly at night where the Governor had scheduled meetings with prominent traditional rulers and indigenes of the state on contentious issues before the government.

HIS CAPACITY TO SAY “NO”

One major attribute of Ajimobi was his ability to look many prominent people in the eye and say “No” to their requests. His argument was always that he would be shortchanging the people of the state if he acceded to many of such requests, which he considered self-serving. I recall when some elders visited him in the Governor’s Office with what they called an “urgent and important message”. The message was that Ibadan people were not happy with his government over certain issues, which they outlined. “Who are the Ibadan people that are angry?” he asked them in Yoruba language and before they could answer, he continued,” I am an Ibadan man and I am not angry with the government”. He dismissed their requests, which he said were disguised in the garb of Ibadan interest whereas they were purely personal. On one other occasion, in the aftermath of the sacking of some civil servants who were indicted for falsifying their academic and birth certificates, some elders came to complain that majority of those sacked were from Ibadan. He looked at them for a moment and replied: “Baba, you know that majority of the civil servants are from Ibadan, and by law of proportion, they will form a larger percentage of those we are sacking especially if the same proportion is reflected in the number of those who committed the offence.

Besides, I’m sorry to ask, Baba, did they get the approval of Ibadan people before they falsified their certificates?Once,when some elders from the Oke Ogun area of the state met the governor about the underdevelopment of the area, he told them that there were some areas in Ibadan that were so underdeveloped that they would need 50 years of government attention to attain the same level of development in parts of Oke Ogun. It was not unusual to witness the Governor half prostrating for elders but yet affirming his rejection of their request at the same time. “E ma binu sir. Ko seese sir” (Don’t be angry sir, I cannot accede to your request, sir), he would say as he would repeatedly bow to the elders.

HIS GIFT OF THE GAB

Ajimobi had a facility for words. This was one of his strongest strengths. As Chief of Staff, it was my responsibility to prepare his Talking Points ahead of any major public appearance, where we reckoned that a formal speech was not necessary or when he so directed. I did this in concert with the relevant ministry or government agency and the duo of the Special Assistant (Media and Publicity), Dr Festus Adedayo and Senior Special Assistant (Public Affairs), Mr Toye Arulogun. The Governor would go through such notes shortly before stepping out of his office for the event if within the Government Secretariat or in his car while driving to the event. Every single time, he would leave us wondering whether he had previous knowledge of the event and had done extensive research on the subject. He would recall relevant life experiences, throw in related jokes and pass innuendos about some of the important dignitaries in the audience and then delve into the subject with the depth and dexterity of an expert in that field.

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Ajimobi was a faithful student of Thomas Huxley, the 19th century English biologist famous for his maxim: “Learn something about everything and everything about something”

HIS UBIQUITOUS AGBADA

Ajimobi was a sartorialist. He was always impeccably dressed and eager to regale in the quality of his appearance. He tutored me on the importance of always having a cap on caftan each time I adorn one. He was always blunt to chastise a government official who appeared shabilly and once looked into the eye of a top official and asked him if he had just finished a bowl of fish. “ It is most appropriate to make utterances after a bowl of fish because you will leave the whole environment smelling”, he mildly complained when the official answered in affirmation. I remember many occasions when the Governor was reminded in the wee hours of the day to change from his flowing Agbada, and he would respond that he needed the Agbada to look good for his meetings, even at 3 a.m! He was always conscious of his stature and the need to look good at all times. “I have a small stature, and I am always the smallest in every gathering. What has helped me is my intellect and hard work”, he would say. He cared about his image and treated the media with particular respect. Although his automatic response to any request for money was a frowning “No”, he was always ready to accommodate requests of the media department and was regularly available to play role of a good host to visiting journalists to the state.

HIS JOKES

Ajimobi was a natural raconteur. He enjoyed jokes and always had bubbling belly laughs at good jokes. He equally liked to unwind after a hectic day. “Let us share a bottle of wine”, he would begin a process that could lead to hours of debates, controversies and brainstorming. He would have a good laugh when a guest or a cabinet member didn’t know what glass to use for which drink. “This is because you worked with …B and Sons (he would insert the name of an indigenous company in Ibadan to provoke protests from Ibadan businessmen in attendance). He would throw jabs at guests who became loose-tongued after a few glasses of wine. He would teach a guest which cutlery to use for which food, revealing how he had to learn all of this while he worked with Shell Petroleum.” I didn’t work with B and Sons..”, provoking another round of protest from indigenous Ibadan businessmen in attendance and the Governor would burst into hilarious laughter. He was good at putting people at ease. He would throw banter at the dress sense of officials, helping them to adorn the dress appropriately, regaling his audience how Mr Akanbi, his boss at National Oil, taught him the same lesson.

His sparring partner in many of his jokes was his wife whom he adoringly called “Florie”. Once in the early days of the administration, he returned home and surged forward to give his wife, who had come to the doorstep to receive him, a kiss. She walked away as if embarrassed by the gesture in the presence of aides in tow of the governor and the Governor retorted,” you mean you want to reject an executive kiss?; How many women have the privilege of being kissed by a governor”. The wife said he was right and officials who were in the Governor’s tow looked away, not knowing whether the kiss took place or not…

He had two favourite jokes. The first was about his wife setting up a motherless babies home. He always recalled telling his wife that while he appreciated the philanthropy behind the gesture, he had advised her to let him procreate the babies while she took care of them. “At least we will know their father if we don’t know their mothers!”, he would say to a bemused look from the wife.

His other favourite joke was about an armed robbery operation. The robbers had invaded a house, and the leader of the gang took instant notice of an expensive necklace on the lady of the house. At the end of the operation, the gang leader took an inventory of their loot but could not find the expensive necklace. He confronted the lady and she pointed at the member of the gang who yanked the necklace off her neck. They searched the culprit and found the necklace on him. In anger, the gang leader charged at him: “Awa wa sise, iwo wa jale!” (What impudence! We came here to work, and you are here stealing!).

Like every mortal, Governor Ajimobi had his flaws and weaknesses. May God forgive his sins, admit him to Al-jannah Firdaus and grant the family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.

 

 

Professor Akande, chairman of the board of commissioners of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), was chief of staff to Governor Ajimobi between June 2011 and September 2013.

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Opinion

At 70, it’s still sunset at noon for Ajimobi | By Akin Oyedele

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The sudden transition and commitment of the remains of the former Governor of Oyo State, His Excellency, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, to mother earth, at his Oluyole, Ibadan, residence today, evokes a painful reminder of our mortality. Even at 70, I dare say it is sunset at noon for the ebullient, workaholic former governor of our dear state who showed no sign of ageing, weariness or illness.

Although our path first crossed rather on a frosty note some seventeen years ago, during a reception organised in honour of Senator Clement Awoyelu by his kinsfolk, at Olujoda Hotel, Ado-Ekiti, he was later to, by divine arrangement, be my boss and benefactor for five years, having been twice lucky to be appointed a member of his media team.

 

By his death, Ibadanland has lost an illustrious son, Oyo State has lost the architect of its modernity, while the country has lost a patriotic statesman whose contributions to nation building and democratic norms are unequivocal and forthright.

As a senator, he distinguished himself in the real sense of the word. Ajimobi was reputed to be one of the strident campaigners against the infamous third term agenda of a former president, while he was said to be one of the few lawmakers that spurned the N50m per head bait doled out to oil the machinery of the vaulting ambition. Although some pliant members of the 5th National Assembly had allegedly pocketed the filthy lucre without batting an eyelid, Ajimobi famously stood his ground in defence of democracy and sanctity of the Constitution.

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As the first two-term governor of the state, his legacies dot the landscape, while his footprints are indelible on the sands of time. What he did or did not do well should be left for political pundits to pontificate about and for posterity to judge.

At the twilight of his administration, the continued well-being of Oyo State was uppermost on his mind, prompting him to earnestly wish that his successor should surpass his achievements.

He had said: “We have laid a solid foundation for whoever is coming after us to build on. I will expect whoever is going to succeed me to leverage on our achievements in peace and security. When we came in 2011, Ibadan was notorious for criminal activities and brigandage, which earned it the appellation of a garrison.

“You will agree with me that Oyo State of today is a peaceful state, and this peace is the German floor for the unprecedented development of the state. When you look around, you will know that Ibadan and indeed, the entire state have witnessed tremendous turnaround.

“My successor should be able to improve on our achievements in education, health, agriculture, urban renewal and infrastructural revolution. On our own part, we don’t expect everybody to be on our side, otherwise we will be deceiving ourselves. In fact, if you want everybody to like you for everything you are doing, then go and sell ice cream.”

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Gratefully, his successor, His Excellency, Governor Seyi Makinde, has taken up the gauntlet and has indubitably built on the foundation laid by his predecessor, judging by his huge investments aimed at overhauling the security architecture of the state.

In his modesty and quite uncharacteristic of your everyday politician, Makinde had on many occasions alluded to the fact that his forerunner kept his lights bright for him to see and follow.
The governor wrote in his tribute, “Surely, he (Ajimobi) will be remembered for leaving a blueprint for some of the activities that our administration is now undertaking.”

In his book, ‘As you Like it,’ celebrated poet and dramatist, William Shakespeare, waxed philosophical in an allegory of the seven stages of a man’s life cycle, from ‘infancy to second childishness and mere oblivion.’

In a monologue in one of the scenes of the pastoral comedy book, Melancholy Jaques had said, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.”

Although, Ajimobi might not have completed the seven stages, which makes his exit painful, but it pleases His maker to summon him for bigger assignments in Al-jannah. He had played his part on the world’s stage to the best of his ability and had exited in a blaze of glory.

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My thoughts and prayers are with his loving wife and soul mate of several decades, Mrs Florence Ajimobi, the children and family.
May Allah grant him Al-jannah Firdaus and preserve his living and nonliving treasures.

Adieu, YE.

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