By Akeem Adebiyi
Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State cannot be called a gate crasher in the comity of elites in Nigeria, having paid his dues in the corporate world at the highest level. With a father that played an active part in the politics of the South-west as a lawmaker in the Second Republic, the murky waters of Nigeria’s polity should also not be seen as an unfamiliar terrain to Ajimobi. Having risen to the pinnacle of the corporate ladder as Managing Director of Shell-National Oil after a 26-year distinguished career in the oil industry, the governor brought a wealth of experience into politics. Therefore, his desire to challenge the status quo by bringing his managerial acumen in the corporate world to bear on the governance of Oyo State would expectedly attract resistance from the old guards.
The obvious reason is that his pragmatic approach to issues is alien to them and is therefore regarded as an affront to their authority as wheeler-dealers in the political game. It is crystal clear that courage and sense of purpose are strongly required by any political leader desirous of effecting complete change in a political system as ours in Oyo State. Those bent on business as usual are often wont to confront the game changer with barrage of criticisms, campaign of calumny, blackmail, deliberate falsehood, mudslinging, vilification and the related. Such embarrassing moments oftentimes pit such beleaguered leaders against their immediate and extended family members who, out of fear of the unknown, mount pressures on them to abandon the struggle, no matter how genuine their intentions may be. Governor Abiola Ajimobi may have unwittingly created more enemies for himself in Oyo State as a harbinger of a new social order. His altruistic style of governance attracts negative comments majorly from the opposition political parties. His sophisticated approach to governance is deemed complex and alien to the average citizens who are used to the superficial style of governance. It is indubitable that only the deep minded and far sighted can decipher and interpret correctly the laudable objectives of Ajimobi’s programmes and policies.
For instance, his prudential principle of managing the lean resources of Oyo State leading to the cutting down of unnecessary expenditure and wastages has earned him the nickname “Ajirebi” (harbinger of hunger). Furthermore, his administration’s zero tolerance for street trading and erection of structures under high voltage transmission lines, as well as his insistence on strict adherence to building codes to prevent avoidable deaths, flooding and other environmental hazards are misconstrued as wickedness and acts of political victimisation. These misconceptions are predicated on ignorance and refusal of the citizens to change their old habits, whereas, the government’s intention is targeted at securing clean environments, as well as the protection of lives and property.
The situation becomes more challenging as the opposition elements take advantage of the masses’ resistance to change by distorting facts and firing undeserved salvos in the direction of the governor. It is obvious that the governor’s attempts at changing the status quo in an apparently hostile political environment are daunting, yet, surmountable. I have no doubt in my mind that at the end of his tenure, Governor Abiola Ajimobi shall surely be appreciated by the populace for leaving behind an enduring and befitting legacy.
The recent review of the Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration is another area where Governor Ajimobi has grossly been misunderstood. But, for his resilience, the fierce resistance from familiar quarters almost thwarted the exercise. Till date, it’s on record that only few opposition politicians have been stoking this ember of resistance to the review. Understandably, the revered Olubadan, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Saliu Adetunji, who had earlier disagreed to the review from the clip of a video that has gone viral, later agreed, only to turn back again to disagree with the governor on the move. Had Baba considered the many benefits of the review in the larger interest of the concerned parties, he would have given Ajimobi a pat on the back for elevating the status of the Olubadan chieftaincy. The call for the creation of Ibadan State can now be reinforced given its new status, unlike before when it had Olubadan as the only beaded crown Oba. Unfortunately, Kabiyesi’s misplaced fear of a whittled influence and the involvement of politicians that have axe to grind with Ajimobi have given the whole saga a new coloration.
Little did many armchair critics and commentators on the issue know that the Olubadan Chieftaincy declaration was not cast in iron. For starters, the dynamism of the chieftaincy is manifest in the fact that between 1820 and 1929, the traditional ruler of Ibadanland was known as Baale, until 1930 when Oba Okunola Abass became the first holder of the Olubadan title. And not until 1976 did an Olubadan wear a beaded crown. More so, several attempts had been made by past governors, including ex-Governor Rashidi Ladoja, who set up the Justice Adio Commission of Inquiry, to review the chieftaincy declaration but they could not muster enough courage to see the proposed review through. Again, from what we have read and which has not been debunked, the move by Ajimobi was in response to clarion call by the members of the Olubadan-in-council, eminent citizens, respected elders of the land and the umbrella body of socio-cultural groups in Ibadanland, the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes.
It is worth stating here that any leader desirous of changing the status quo must not only be daring, but must also be prepared to pay the price. Such a leader also needs courage, focus and perseverance, all of which, interestingly, are possessed by the governor. It is also gladdening to note that majority of the citizens have appreciated Governor Ajimobi’s efforts, which are directed at improving their lot in the state.
The conflict of interests among members of the political class has always pitted the masses against the government, with the latter cashing in on the gullibility of the former. As Governor Ajimobi labours hard to give Oyo State a new lease of life, my appeal to the citizens, including political opponents, is to view his programmes, policies and projects from a wider compass rather than from a narrow compass of politicking. Let those beating the drum of war sheathe their swords in the interest of the generality of the people.
Adebiyi , a public affairs analyst, writes from Ibadan.