By this time exactly a year ago, political pundits within and outside Oyo State had begun to pile pressure on the Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, to mull over having another shot at the Senate. This is against the backdrop of his public pronouncements that he was calling time on active politics, climaxed by his jinx-breaking election as governor for two uninterrupted tenures.
He had vowed not to mount the soap box again, except to canvas for votes on behalf of his protégés. In the governor’s reckoning, 2019 is the destination point for his illustrious political career, having also served Oyo South Senatorial District in the Senate between 2003 and 2007 under the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD).
In the February 19, 2018 edition of the Punch Newspaper, a respected Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Adeniyi Akintola, said, “Ido Local Government is launching the campaign to endorse him (Ajimobi) to go to the Senate and by the grace of God, he shall make it. Of course, this isn’t his first time; he wasn’t a bench warmer there as he gave quality representation. In the Senate, he will be a pride to Oyo State and the South West.”
And since this move by the patriotic Ido elders and leaders, many other groups and individuals have asked the governor to take another shot at the Senate in the best interest of the state and the region. Having surrendered to the superior argument of his supporters, the governor participated in the October 2, 2018 National Assembly primaries of the All Progressives Congress. To underscore the beauty of democracy, his main challenger, Dr Fola Akinosun, refused all entreaties by party stalwarts to step down for the governor in deference to the political tradition that respects position and experience in such circumstance. But Akinosun eventually lost by 168 votes to Ajimobi’s 2659 as announced by the Chief Ademola Seriki-led electoral panel. Thus began another journey to the hallowed Red Chamber for the governor to represent Oyo South Senatorial District.
In a short acceptance speech after the primaries, Ajimobi had said, “I look forward to going back to the Red Chamber to contribute my quota to the national debate and the progress of the nation. I wish to bring to fore my parliamentary experience to grow a Nigeria that the next generation will be proud of.”
Many reasons had been adduced by the proponents of Ajimobi should go to the senate, ranging from his enviable corporate and political experience, integrity, record of achievements, clout, robust political capital, inexhaustible physical agility, intelligence, gift of the gab and most importantly because of his mettlesome disposition. Although, the uninitiated have derisively dubbed the Senate as the retirement home for two-term governors, but in advanced climes the Senate is populated by senior citizens who are regarded as the bulwark of democracy. Advanced age is seen in western democracy as an asset rather than liability.
For instance, since 1981, the average age of representatives and senators in the US Congress has jumped from 49 and 53, respectively, to 57 and 61, according to Quorum. In the today’s 116th Congress of the US, Dianne Feinstein of California is the oldest sitting member of the Senate at 84 years old. She is known for being a liberal, left-leaning politician who has dedicated her life to serving the people of California.
Another asset that Ajimobi possesses is his impeccable educational attainment, having bagged a BSc in Business Administration and Finance from The State University of New York, Buffalo. He also obtained an MBA in Operations Research and Marketing, with a concentration in Finance, from the Governor’s State University, Park Forest, Illinois.
In 1979, Ajimobi became the youngest Manager at the National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company in Nigeria, and rose to the position of the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company. As Managing Director he substantially improved the profitability of the company and the shareholders’ fortunes. In 2003, he voluntarily retired after 26 years of meritorious service in the Oil and Gas industry.
Whether at the regional, national or international platforms, Ajimobi is consistently acknowledged as one of Nigeria’s most gifted and effective leaders with the ennobling characteristics of great and noble statesmen.
During his first spell at the Senate in 2003, the governor and his AD colleagues, who were just six in number (with three others from Lagos State and one each from Ondo and Ekiti States), were hampered by their numerical disadvantage. In a sharp contrast, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had an overwhelming majority of 78 members, while the All Nigeria Peoples Party had 25 members.
To underscore the respect his colleagues had for him, he was appointed the Deputy Minority Leader of the 5th Senate.
In addition to his ably-discharged primary responsibility as a Senator, Governor Ajimobi deployed his personal resources and goodwill to carry out several grassroots projects in Oyo State, including the establishment of the first and the largest free vocational training center. The centre offers training in computer engineering, computer operations, telephone engineering, fashion designing, hair dressing, tie and dye etc. So far, the centre has turned out over 20,000 students. It has also been recognized and certified as a partner and training centre by the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) of the Federal Government.
Between 2003 and 2007 Senator Ajimobi also identified communities that lacked potable water, where he sunk boreholes. He also carried out many empowerment and grassroots programmes for his Senatorial District.
During the infamous ‘third term agenda’ of the third republic it was alleged that some political jobbers, including National Assembly members, fell for the filthy lucre transported in the wee hours of the night in hefty Ghana Must Go bags by agents of the evil plot. It is on record that Ajimobi was among the very few that resisted the allure of the mint N50m doled to each pliant lawmaker to oil the botched civilian coup. Ajimobi was and is never afraid to speak truth to power no matter whose ox may be gored. When you talk about a contended man of integrity and patriotic zeal, Ajimobi stands tall. In the Senate, his views will be respected and he will not be in the league of absentee lawmakers or those who will only be heard during voice votes.
Apart from his unprecedented achievements in the past eight years, Ajimobi has also amassed enormous goodwill and respect within the top hierarchy of the APC. Today, he is a leading light of the party at the national, regional and state levels judging by the several assignments he had been saddled with in the recent past. These include his appointment as chairman of the APC national convention committee and chairman of the party’s 2018 well-organised presidential primaries national convention. The governor is highly connected to the centre, having been rubbing shoulders with the topmost echelon of the APC and the leadership of the country in the last eight years.
It was not merely fortuitous that Ajimobi broke the second term jinx in Oyo State, having been the first governor to be re-elected by the good people of Oyo State and for two successive tenures. The governor had unwittingly wormed himself into the hearts of the people when on assumption of office in 2011, he decided to challenge the status quo of mediocre leadership. He braved the odds to tame the roughnecks disturbing the peace of the land, while he embarked on infrastructural revolution that changed the entire landscape of Ibadan, the state capital. He did not stop there; the governor took the road revolution agenda to the six zones of the state, where dual carriage roads were constructed for the first time in their histories.
That the respected Vanguard Newspaper named Ajimobi as the Governor of the year 2018 is not by happenstance, but in recognition of his hard work. According to the newspaper, he was given the award “for his outstanding unfurling of infrastructural revolution in the state and his numerous accomplishments in the education sector.”
In 2011 when Governor Abiola Ajimobi took over the reins of power, the state of affairs in the state was aptly captured in Thomas Hobbes state of nature, where there was perpetual fear and strives. Pre-2011, the rule of brawn superseded the rule of law; live was simply “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
Brigandage and violence was the order of the day, headlined by incessant attacks and killings by rapacious drivers’ unions, as well as fatal bank robberies.
Between 2011 and 2019, Governor Ajimobi restored sanity, peace, security, law and order by establishing a well-kitted and equipped joint security outfit codenamed ‘Operation Burst.’ Not intent on resting on his laurels, the governor introduced the Safe City project, which witnessed the installation of Closed Circuit Television cameras across flash points in the state. The latest initiative is, of course, meant to nip criminality in the bud.
And to the credit of the Ajimobi-led administration, not a single incident of bank robbery has been recorded in the last five years unlike before. The establishment of a Security Trust Fund, which has donated multi-million naira worth of equipment to security outfits and refurbished many grounded patrol vans, has also boosted these efforts.
Ajimobi has also in the last eight years impacted on the environment, education, health, civil service, a feat that has earned him the appellation of the builder of modern Oyo State. Sentiments apart, it is now up to the good people of Ibarapa North, Ibarapa East, Ibarapa Central, Ido, Ibadan North, Ibadan South-East, Ibadan South-West, Ibadan North-East and Ibadan North-West to reward Ajimobi for his eight years of service to the good people of Oyo State by voting him as their next Senator. Undoubtedly, it is a person of his stature and track record that has what it takes to take Oyo State to the next level of development.
Akin Oyedele is the Senior Special Assistant on Media to Oyo State Governor