THOSE close to him said he was not known to keep malice, anger or displeasure against those who offended him because like the Holy Book says, for him not to go to bed with his anger, he would speak his mind thereby registering his position on any issue. Senator Isiaq Abiola Ajimobi was one governor that residents of Oyo State and Ibadan in particular would not forget even as his untimely and unexpected exit back to his creator continues to elicit painful memories from foes and friends alike. The man nicknamed ‘Constituted Authority’ (because of his insistence that students must imbibe and exhibit the culture of courtesy and respect for elders and authority figures if they desire to attain such heights in future) was a disciplinarian whose foray into governance as a senator and then governor of Oyo State resulted in very many positive developments in the state.
Handsome with a gap-tooth that gave his face a boyish look when he smiled, Senator Ajimobi had a likeable and cheerful personality which endeared him to people. His emergence as the governor of Oyo State in 2011 under the All Progressives Congress (APC) paved the way for a massive urban renewal programme. The beautification projects cut across the state with Ibadan, the state capital wearing a new look that was especially geared towards ridding the state of dirt which was responsible for Ibadan being named once as the dirtiest city in Nigeria. The Ajimobi administration was able to change the narrative with the innovative strategies put in place to encourage the residents to imbibe a culture of waste disposal hitherto unknown. There were instances of people parking their cars beside the massive waste bins located within strategic places in the city and carefully disposing their garbage. This engineered the consciousness by the residents on the importance of proper waste disposal.
While the urban renewal project as well as others might have their shortcomings, the fact remains that the art of governance by the late Ajimobi was redefined to suit his own personality. He was an unusual politician who abhored deadly politics of hounding political opponents. He never believed in politics of bitterness.
The introduction of mass transit (Ajumise) buses was another major policy that changed the face of the city of Ibadan, as the buses became the choice of many commuters moving across the city. This novelty in public transport system in the state enjoyed wide patronage from citizens who appreciated the efforts of the Ajimobi government. Apart from the fares being heavily subsidised, the buses were equipped with facilities that made passengers comfortable.
Whenever he was asked about what he considered as his major achievement, Ajimobi usually had one ready answer, which was security of lives and properties of the people of the state. Security-wise, Oyo State enjoyed an ambience of safety and peace. The rancorous and acrimonious transport unions fracas which often led to loss of lives was well-managed by the Ajimobi government, putting an end to the notoriety the state had enjoyed under previous administrations.
Senator Ajimobi’s visible achievements during his first term as governor definitely contributed to his re-election for a second term as governor in the state. Thus, he made history as the first person to be re-elected to govern the state.
Another major achievement of the Ajimobi’s administration was the sanitization of the education sector. Conscious of the importance of education and the key role of teachers in achieving the goal of repositioning the state to its pride of place in Nigeria, the governor set in motion a process of verifying the qualifications of teachers in the public schools and to rid the system of teachers with fake credentials. This was one policy that drew the ire of many people for reasons best known to them. The governor marched on with the process which later was extended to the civil service. The Ajimobi’s sanitisation and monitoring process helped to shore up the educational system as teachers and students alike took their duties and responsibilities seriously.
In the civil service, the story is told of an elderly man who is a driver and known by the governor who asked for the man’s file. The governor was surprised to see that the man claimed his age was in the mid-fifties, and wondered that the disparity was too much because the man is in his sixties. He had to take the decision that affected others who falsified their age to relieve the man of the position while he would provide assistance in an unofficial capacity.
Since the news of his death broke, warm and superlative accolades have been pouring in for the departed former governor in form of tributes and condolence messages. A national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, said with Ajimobi’s death, the party, Oyo State and indeed the Yoruba nation have lost one of its leading lights. Tinubu said the former governor’s death hurts, adding that he has lost a dedicated friend, brother and ally.
“He was reputed to be the best and most productive governor Oyo State has had. In his assessment, I concur as do many others…At his core, Senator Ajimobi was a family man. He was a loving husband and father. My heart grieves for his wife, Florence and their children…Ajimobi’s death hurts. Yet, we must all find strength in the good way he lived his life and in the fine and good ideals for which he fought,” Tinubu said.
The Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji, said words are not enough to describe the untimely exit of the former governor whom he described as “an illustrious son and Aare of Ibadanland.” In tribute signed by his media aide, Adeola Oloko, the Olubadan said “Nobody had the slightest idea that death would come calling to him so quickly. Ajimobi was vibrant and full of life. Our prayer has always been that our children should outlive us. But who are we to challenge the sovereignty of Almighty God who gives and takes without question.”
A former Senator and governorship candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the 2019 elections in the state, Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, while expressing sadness at the death of the former governor, lauded him as “a patriot, statesman and democrat…intellectual and colourful personality,” adding that the country has lost one of its leading lights.
“Right from his first term, he displayed the uncommon courage to take very hard decisions, not hiding behind any populist agenda. That didn’t prevent him from getting re-elected,” Lanlehin said, praying to God to grant the wife and the children the strength to bear the loss.
In his tribute, legal icon, Chief Niyi Akintola, described his death as a colossal loss not only to the country but also to the entire Black race in the global community. “At a time democracy was heading for the rock in 2006, when an individual planned to place his personal interest above that of the whole country, Senator Ajimobi was among the courageous federal lawmakers who stood their ground and thwarted the ill-advised third term agenda of the then civilian president. This was in addition to his brilliant contributions to legislative activities and robust engagement at the fifth National Assembly,” Akintola said.
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