Saturday May 25, 2019, just three days and six hours to the exit of the Outgoing Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, the governor’s supporters, royal fathers, scholars, writers, journalists and clergymen, filled up the hall of the Civic Centre situated at Idi Ape, Ibadan, capital of Oyo State. The hall was full to the brim, with several people having to stand outside while the programme lasted. Among them was a woman of about 35 years of age who fainted while awaiting the arrival of the governor and his team, who had earlier gone to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, for the commissioning of the institute’s Agricultural Transformation Building, and 10.5km Ring Road named after him. However, the lady was revived and later gulped a 35 cl bottle of soft drink bought for her by a good Samaritan. At the occasion, political jobbers unleashed terror on the political leaders, for failing to give them money. They abused and cursed the politicians for using them and dumping them without anything to show for the acclaimed ‘jobs’ done for them. One of them said, “For eight years, we served you. We followed you. But you did not give us anything, even now that you’re exiting. God will judge you”.
The occasion was the public presentation of two biographies: Abiola Ajimobi: Legacy of a Transformer, written by a medical doctor, former member of House of Representatives in Abuja and a prolific fictional writer, Dr Wale Okediran and Abiola Ajimobi: Architect and Builder of Modern Oyo State, written by the Chairman, Editorial Board, Nation Newspapers, Sam Omatseye. The occasion was chaired by the foremost and intellectually sound paramount monarch from the South West, Nigeria, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi 111, the Alaafin of Oyo Town. Among other traditional rulers that graced the occasion were members of the Ibadan Obas-in-Council including Otun Olubadan, Oba Lekan Balogun, Ashipa Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Eddy Oyewole, Balogun of Ibadanland, Akinloye Owolabi Olakuleyin and Balogun of Ibadanland, Oba Abiodun Kola-Daisi. Other obas in Ibadan are: Onijaye of Ijaye, Oba Lasisi Akano, Oniroko of Iroko, Ismaila Olasunkanmi, Onikereku of Ikereku, Oba Moses Olasunkanmi, Olodo of Olodo, Oba Mudasiru Omodele Adebayo and Baale Olodo, Onido of Ido, Oba Gbolagade Muritala Babalola. Outside Ibadan, Oba S. Amidu Ajibade Olugbon of Ile Igbon, Oba Francis Alao and Onjo of Okeho, His Royal Majesty, Oba Rafiu Osuolale Mustapha, Adeitan II were in attendance.
Also in attendance were members of the state judiciary led by the state Chief Judge, Justice Muntar Abimbola, who was represented by Justice Iyabo Yerima. Others were: Justice Laniran Akintola, Justice Nurudeen Adekola and Justice M. L. Owolabi.
Others in attendance were Chairman, Governing Council, Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, members of the state legislators led by the state Speaker, Rt. Hon. Olagunju Ojo, Oyo State Chairman of All Progressive Congress, APC, Chief Akin Oke, Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Mr. Ismaila Olalekan Alli, the newly inaugurated state Head of Service, HoS, Abidat Ololade Agboola, state Commissioners including, Toye Arulogun, Information, Culture & Tourism, Barr. Abayomi Oke, Youth and Sports, Mrs. Atinuke Oshunkoya, Women Affairs, Community Development & Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Azeez Popoola Adeduntan, Health, Hon. Abimbola Kolade, Local Government & Chieftaincy Matters, Former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Chief Iyiola Oladokun, 2019 APC Governorship Candidate in the state, Chief Adebayo Adelabu, APC South West Publicity Secretary, Mr. Ayo Afolabi, members of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON, Oyo State Chapter, led by its Chairmen, Ayodeji Abass-Aleshinloye and Chief Lamidi Ajadi.
The occasion was spiced with musical performance by the Golden Stars and award presentation to Governor Ajimobi by the Junior Chamber International, JCI, Oluyole Lom, and gift presentation of a silver wall clock by the market traders as well as presentation of sport men and women, majority are physically challenged persons, who got many medals at the 9th National Sports Festival, NSF held in Abuja. Specifically, they clinched 9th position with 16 gold, 35 silver and 44 bronze medals.
In his remark, Governor Ajimobi, who noted that his eight years’ administration would wind up specifically in three days, thanked virtually everyone for the opportunity given him to serve the state saying, “I stand before you today as a very grateful man to God for His benevolence and kindness. Despite my travail in life, despite my background, he brought me this far in life”.
Appreciating his supporters, Ajimobi said, “Permit me to publicly thank my wife, Florence and my children. One of them, Abimbola is here. They all tolerated me because I am a very difficult man to manage because I find it difficult to manage mediocrity. I thank all the royal fathers. If I have offended them in anyway, I ask for their forgiveness and if they have offended me in anyway, I forgive them. I thank all the people of Oyo State for standing by me. Oyo State will not give you a second term. I had 27 predecessors, who were in office between one month and four years. It was only late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who served for five years but I have served two terms of eight years. Thank you for accepting me with my deficiencies. I thank my supporters in Oyo State and Ibadan. Out of five times I voted in Ibadan, I won four times. That is a pass mark of 80 percent. I also thank the opposition because they made me realize that this is the best government ever produced in Oyo State”.
He justified naming roads and other projects after some worthy sons and daughters of the state, stressing that it is good to honour the worthy citizens of the state. “Oyo State doesn’t remember those that have done well. They don’t remember Baba Adelabu. Do you want to say that Senator Rashidi Ladoja did not do well? He did well. Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala did well. They all did one thing or the other. I did better than my predecessors. I constructed over 200 roads and people are complaining that I named a road after myself”, he added.
He also revealed how he became the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company, stressing that he was appointed into the position because of his honesty. Scoring himself high, Ajimobi said, “We came with a tripod of restoration, transformation and reposition. We have restored, we have transformed and we have repositioned the state. We met Oyo State in bricks and we are leaving it in marble”.
In his chairmanship remark, Oba Adeyemi, who point blank opined that the only thing that could save Nigeria from collapsing is when true federal system of government is adopted in the running of the country, described Ajimobi as a trailblazer and a governor who truly keyed into the vision of a former Yoruba leader, late Awolowo.
He commended Ajimobi for restoring peace in the state reminiscencing: “During Ladoja’s administration, 2/3 parliamentarians were needed to impeach him. When they couldn’t get the 2/3, they imported vagabonds and members of National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW and dressed for them as legislators. They came to the House and drove the original legislators out of the House and carried out impeachment on Ladoja. However, the judiciary reversed that and brought back sanity into the system. Oyo State was once a garrison state where ‘Amala’ and ‘Gbegiri’ politics was practiced. Governor Ajimobi restored peace in the land”.
According to the monarch, Governor Ajimobi has left a mark as well as a record that would be difficult to break by his successors.
Giving the overview of one of the books, “Legacy of a Transformer”, the author, Okediran could not hide his elation for being allowed to document the history of the governor. Revealing the herculean process involved in writing Ajimobi’s biography, Okediran said, “I interviewed 60 people. I travelled to six towns to gather materials that I used in writing this book. To write on a person of Ajimobi is not easy. Ajimobi has links with six towns including Ibadan, Ilorin, Oyo, Iseyin and Osogbo. I put together a tip of what Ajimobi has done. I consider this the beginning of books on Ajimobi.
Reviewing it, the former Director of Distance Learning Centre, DLC, University of Ibadan, UI, and a Professor of Linguistics, Francis Egbokhare, stated, “I don’t like reviewing the biographies of soldiers and politicians… In Nigeria, biographies are often like testimonies at wake keep. People become saints once they pass on, not because they are truly so, but because culturally, it is wrong to speak ill of the dead. Political death occurs as well and at political burials, no one speaks ill of the victim. Sometimes, biographies of politicians are like a letter of recommendation by superiors or praise singing treatise by subordinates”.
Still, the don accepted the review because of the pedigree of the writer, saying the request came from a distinguished writer and exceptional individual. “I was confident that whatever comes from his pen would be worth of my time…I was curious about a work of art and great narrative from one of Nigeria’s most distinguished writers. Perhaps, I wanted to know more about the political enigma in modern day Oyo State politics. The person, who broke two traditions in Oyo State politics and changed the city landscape, by being the first to be re-elected governor and second, by uniting the opposition against himself. He brought peace to Ibadan, but lost it in APC, transformed the urban environment but was deformed by tradition. A bridge builder but not a bridge himself; he developed infrastructure everywhere but not for the stomach. Today, we are gathered to unveil the biography of a primus inter pares, Samper Optimum, the one and only Archipelago, Koseleri, aka Constituted Authority”.
Egbkhare is of the opinion that to get the best out of the book, there is a need to read the lines and read between the lines, stressing that a biography is like an abstract painting that “we should stand back from to appreciate”. According to him, “The narratives are like currents of rivers in an ocean, with their thematic channels flowing with ideologies and mindsets. We need to interrogate the narratives by asking the right questions. Like an Oraclist, a biography will respond only to the questions that are asked. The foreword by His Excellency, Dr Kayode Fayemi and the preface by Dr Wale Okediran provide the framing ideology and the fundamental principle that enable us interrogate and navigate the biography”.
He quoted Fayemi in the foreword saying, “A ki waye ka ma larun kan lara, Ija igboro larun Ibadan”, meaning no one comes to earth without a defect”, opined that ‘resistance’ is better used in place of ‘civil disobedience’ He said, “’Ijagboro’ is both a metaphor and a lens. It is a metaphor for life and its challenges, the struggles of man to prevail over the forces against him. It is a lens for viewing the political engagements in Oyo as well as a framing principle for interrogating the current biography. I would like to add to the above framing ideology a complementary fundamental principle of society, which may inform the nature of engagement and resistance that confronted the subject and informed some of the events so well elucidated in the biography”.
Egbokhare said, “A a ki wa laaye li ai jogun. Oye ati Ile logun Ibadan”, meaning there is no leverage without identity, chieftaincy and land are the leverage (inheritance) of Ibadan. The idea is that Ibadan polity is defined by identity and resistance. In looking at the political odyssey of the subject, his triumphs and failures, praises and criticisms, take a peek at this principle for measure and balanced perspectives. Now, let us underscore the philosophy that guided the work. Wale Okediran quotes a profound statement by Mary Mcvicker, an American author, who says that “a biography must tell the truth”. As Vicker opines, “There are high and low points in everyone’s life. People are complicated. If your subject made some bad decisions, it is okay to be critical just as you must not deny the subject volumes of accolades for getting things right”.
He spoke further, “The title of this work does not do justice to the fact that it is not a scorecard or statement of account or record of performance in office, not a piece of politics but a work of literature, a biography in the truest sense. It is this and much more. It is a book of records, a record of events. It chronicles the life and work of a man of dictions and contradictions, trailblazer and blazing trail. It is about a man, who stands out and is truly outstanding, one who drew lines, crossed lines and lined political crosses. This work is as incisive as it is informative, brilliantly professional, boldly objective, lucid yet knotty. In it we discover the man, his work, his being, his politics, his life and his love.
“In this work, we see the clash between traditions and modernity, as we see more of the same in the dynamics of politics. We encounter the power of environment, the beauty of the extended family system. Culture and traditions are the form work of the genealogies and relationships described, people are the pillars and the city is the great womb that incubates renewal and change… Time is captured in this biography like an ever rolling stream. It bears great sons and daughters of Oyo politics away as we reminisce, recall events and remember those before whose life and times fuelled ambitions. They are forgotten in time but documented and recognized forever in the bold prints of this biography. Today is the opening day of the story of the life of a great man”.
The scholar affirmed that among the facts that could not be disputed about Ajimobi is that he has a formula for security in Ibadan, tamed the NURTW, and stopped the gun and bullet politics once associated with Ibadan, stressing that at least, for all of his tenure until the last elections, Ibadan became a land of peace.
“He has a caustic tongue, blunt, a wry sense of humour, is very analytical, extremely impatient with fools, methodical, an intellectual, an achiever, a trailblazer. His contributions to infrastructural development in Oyo State are undeniable as his innovative strides in governance. But his critics also accuse him of being self-absorbed and opinionated, if not arrogant, rude, slow in keeping promises. As we said in the beginning, we all have defects. When relationships go sour, the same qualities that make us fall in love may fuel hate. One thing that will help one evaluate the man and his works is: ‘A a ki wa laaye li ai jogun. Oye ati Ile logun Ibadan’, meaning there is no leverage without identity, chieftaincy and land are the leverage of Ibadan”, he added.
He concluded, “I would like to recommend the book to all and sundry, as a work of literature, as a chronicle of events, as a documentary, as a testimony to the legacy and life of a political colossus, an enigma, a man many loved to hate. Both the young and old in Oyo State and beyond should get a copy. I am truly glad that I had the opportunity to review it. I am better informed about Oyo State, Ibadan politics and life and the man, who climbed to the heights of political mythology in Oyo State, Governor Ajimobi-Koseleri aka, ‘Constituted Authority’.
Speaking about the book, “Abiola Ajimobi: Architect and Builder of Modern Oyo State”, the author, Omatseye, revealed that base on his conviction that Ajimobi has unequal leadership qualities, he joined others to encourage the governor to contest for the Oyo governorship position. The decision, he did not regret considering the transformation the governor brought to the state.
He said, “I wanted him to be a governor so that he can address the decay in the system. After finishing his first term, the idea to write a biography came. Ajimobi designed a peace template for the state. With Ajimobi as governor in the state, the door of progress opened in the state”.
Reviewing the book, the Executive Editor of The News Magazine, one of the oldest magazines in Nigeria, Kunle Ajibade, pointed out that the book is a story of how Ajimobi presided over the affairs of Oyo State, the legacies he left behind and impressive account of his childhood in Ibadan and years in Senate, among others.
He said further that the book portrays Ajimobi as a courageous man adding, “This is a story of a man that refused to surrender to fear and intimidation. It is a story of Ajimobi’s insight, loaded with original and interesting stories. The book talked about how great Ajimobi is. He excelled in academics and sports. He is a leader of his mate. He was a powerful debater and powerful actor. He was a prefect and very popular. The governor was not born with a silver spoon as he had to work in the morgue in USA, washing dead bodies to survive.