By Festus Adedayo
Oyo is a very peculiar state in Nigeria. Huge in endowments, natural and human, it also prides itself as a state that had once witnessed the midas-touch of development, while parading the footpaths of iconic figures of modern history. One of such was Obafemi Awolowo who sat in Ibadan to midwife all those milestones that the Yoruba man flaunts today as his pedigree of civilization.
Except for handful visionary leaders it has had since inception, Oyo has, however, been a largely unlucky state. Agrarian, with a huge illiterate population, the political class exploits the limitations of the people to the full to hoodwink them. The state’s ill-luck has been largely compounded since the advent of civil rule in 1999. In terms of development, it witnessed Spartan progress and is held on the jugular by the politics and machinations of a few.
No calamity could be said to have befallen Oyo’s development as much as the politics of the PDP era. It was an era marked by violence, tokenism for political followers at the expense of state progress and ascendance of an illiterate clique that determines the contour of state politics. What tickles the fancies of these few is not development or societal uplift. Thus, leaders after leaders spend their tenure just giving the people tokens, massaging the mundane egos of the elite and leaving the dais with an impoverished people as well as a climate barely different from what it used to be.
Governors come and go but the existential crises of Oyo State remained stagnant, and the state a glorified village. In the last three years however, a breath of life is wheezing over Oyo, a breeze that has begun to change the mentality of the people and their perception of those at the helms of affairs.
The most fundamental of this breeze is the seeming revolution in road construction. Even though the Ladoja/Akala governments constructed roads, they lasted less than six months. Right now, anyone who had stayed two years out of Oyo State would certainly not be able to recognize the state again. A bafflingly aggressive road dualization is ongoing and the quality alien to the geography of Oyo; they are indeed the type our people see in the Federal Capital Territory. This unusual progress is replicated in virtually all sectors of the state.
Perhaps the most instructive of the changes in Oyo State is the style of leadership. The late Adedibu mirrored the minds of the ruling elite when he asked Rashidi Ladoja to bring the state’s security votes to him as he was the numero-uno security. What this means is that the elite’s interest, and not the people’s, dictated the temperature of leadership.
Abiola Ajimobi is a different ball game from the crop of governors Oyo used to know. Urbane and a hater of violence with passion, he does not suffer fools gladly and is blunt to a fault, while not believing in the politician’s lexicon of dressing a mule to look like a gazelle. His passion for change is legendary, so much that when driving on the streets of Ibadan, he stops by to drive away those desecrating the roads with filth. These and a few others, some of which this writer will itemize presently, constitute the charges against him by the ruling elite for which many have sworn he would not be re-elected.
If you take the time to study the mantra of a few who have either left the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) or declared hostility against the governor, none has faulted the fact that, in the history of Oyo State, no governor had brought this level of massive development to the state as Ajimobi is doing, with the potentials that these could quadruple if he stays in the saddle for the next term in office. The accusations range from the mundane to the selfish, the laughable to the uninformed.
One is that Ajimobi clings to his wife, Florence too much. This is excusable, however. In the history of Oyo State, especially since civil rule, the state had witnessed the reign of Chief Executives who were serial polygamists for whom monogamy was like a perfidy. The state even paraded one who was allegedly so randy that hundreds of leading city university girls, like the Bill Clinton Monica-gate scandal, could describe his genitalia at the blink of an eye. Another is a famous snatcher of married women. In a state that is highly patriarchal, many of these leaders cannot stomach a ‘me and my wife’ governor who ‘must have been charmed’ by his wife for always underscoring the sacredness of the conjugal relationship. In the estimation of this crop of people, Ajimobi deserves the boot for loving his wife too much.
Second charge and why, in the estimation of this set of people, Ajimobi must not return to Agodi Government House, is that he is not a politician and does not know how to shroud his passion. Simplistic as this may sound, it has provoked the ire of the group so much. Most Nigerian politicians, with due respect, thrive on deceit and subterfuge. Truth is the very first casualty of any association with them. Anyone felt to be straightforward is seen not to possess the wherewithal of a politician. Ajimobi always says that, having been in the corporate world for 32 years where the greatest demand therein is trust and dependability, he could not begin to cultivate the serpentine attitude of politicians.
Third charge is that Ajimobi has failed to democratize the largesse of government. This, in transparency parlance, is corruption. Many of the politicians, who are said to have disagreed with the governor, if you ask them, did so on the allegation of not ‘eating enough.’ Not one of them will say that, for the future development of the state and its positioning on the radar of comity of states that they, their children and children’s children can be proud of, Ajimobi is not the hope of Oyo State. Frustrated that they haven’t ‘eaten enough’, many of them have even moved into political parties where they feel they could muster a pliable candidate who would open the state’s vault for them to feed fat on.
Fourth is that there is a myth that no governor has ever governed Oyo twice and Ajimobi should not be an exception. The mythical arrogance of this claim is fuelled by the opposition, many of whom claim that though Ajimobi has done exceptionally well in developing the state, he should not be honoured with breaking this jinx. Former SSG, Dr. Dejo Raimi, said this much on a recent radio programme.
Fifth reason why Ajimobi should not come back is that his government is elitist and drove traders from the streets. The man who has the patent of this invidious lie dressed to look like an allegation is Ekerin Olubadan, His Excellency Rashidi Ladoja. Indeed however, Ajimobi’s guilt is that he has transformed the erstwhile filthy state of Oyo into a metropole, so much that unsolicited commendations from those who used to know Ibadan as a pig-sty pour in like rain. Yes, Ajimobi drove street traders off the road as it is done in all civilized societies. In any case, it would be downright impossible for Oyo State people to have this aesthetic transfiguration without a little sacrifice of inconvenience. Even Ladoja drove traders away from and demolished shops at Orita Aperin, Ogunpa and a church on Ring Road. However, no government in Oyo’s history had ever constructed a single stall for traders. At the moment, no government in the history of the state has constructed as much markets and stalls as he has done. Indeed, the scout Camp market which has thousands of stalls, was handed out to traders free of charge. Yet, Ladoja and his spin doctors go on a junket of lies to the contrary to hoodwink the electorate.
Another reason why it is dangerous for Ajimobi to come back as a second term governor is that it will wipe off the political careers of many governors and politicians before him and bury the political future of many. The refrain in the state, on sighting the various developmental milestones of Ajimobi, is that he must have borrowed the whole world to implement them. When told that the government has not borrowed a dime, residents conclude that he is either a developmental wizard or his predecessors were funneling the state money into a God-knows-where. If such a man comes back for another four-year term, his predecessors risk being pelted with stones. It is the reason why all apparatus of decimation, fair or foul, is being deployed to halt the moving machine of Oyo’s development.
But Ajimobi keeps developing the state like a man for whom there is no tomorrow but today. His benchmark is Awolowo and he is hungry to be invested a place in the pantheon of developmental wizards. The question many ask is, would Oyo leave a man who has re-written their name in gold and scamper after the architects of their inglorious recent past?
*Adedayo is Special Adviser (Media) to the governor of Oyo State.