This is not politics, this is quite personal. Abiola Ajimobi was like an older brother-in-law. It is no secret that Florence Ajimobi nee Ahmed is more or less my sister. My heart goes out to her, the children and grandchildren. He was truly remarkable and quite frankly a unique person. When he became governor of Oyo state in 2011 or thereabouts he had actually invited me to work with him in some capacity dealing with development partners and planning. I declined for personal reasons including my fairly new posting as Head of DFID Lagos but offered him every support that I could when he asked from me and that was in my capacity to provide.
Though of Lagos parentage I was born in Ibadan and attended primary, secondary, university in that great city. I have my second home there , I know Oyo state like the back of my hand and my 90 year young mum resides there now. One is very familiar with the human, environmental, institutional, security and socioeconomic challenges and opportunities of that state. Politically speaking, one has friends , associates and those I have worked with and admire in virtually all the political parties in Nigeria but i held my own ground in Kowa party as from 2015 when I retired and joined active politics, an act that pitched me against all my APC friends and brothers including Gov Ajimobi.
My tribute to Ajimobi therefore will not be different from public opinions I have aired before and especially as published at the end of his two-term tenure as Governor of Oyo state. Oyo state was a gangsters paradise up till 2011 when Ajimobi assumed office. Under his predecessor, Alao Akala the state was virtually owned by the worst type of NURTW goons you can think of as well as a few armed robbery kingpins. Ibadan was not safe whether at night or by day. Bodija , an elite area of Ibadan witnessed cutlass wielding thugs in broad day light. You needed to be there to know. Secondly apart from the road from Oke Ado and a few others under construction, Ibadan was a mess of bumpy pothole infested roads, heaps of rubbish and dust with no semblance of being the capital city of Western Region except old relics of the past. Approaching the center of Ibadan was like diving headlong into a damp dustbin or a sewer.
By the time Ajimobi was 2 years in the Agodi Government house things started to change drastically. Apart from the massive street repairs and beautifications that the governor had embarked upon, it was clear that the thugs and the criminals that had unleashed mayhem on the citizens of the state had met their match and there was a new governor in town that was not going to tolerate rubbish or allow a few people hold the rest of the city under siege. Within 36 months Ibadan had been transformed to one of the most sane states with notorious gangsters hetherto parading as motor park dons either in jail , out of town or completely sobered up. Without a doubt Ajimobi excelled in the realm of law and order as well as environmental sanity and health. Without a doubt he was more than well deserving of a second term and he got it
Having said, my brother Ajimobi had his short comings born more out of his own experience and defense mechanisms rather than malice or deliberate ill will towards anyone and while he was alive I am glad I tried to point this out to him. Ajimobi was a Director and CEO for several years in a corporate environment that was not exactly based on democracy. To be careful of how he spoke to people was not his strong point. My brother could be blunt to a fault and embarrasingly undiplomatic in conversation. Many thought he was arrogant. His management of students crisis issues could have been managed much better. He was from an elite Ibadan family and grew up giving orders and instructions. It was difficult for him to shed some of these traits and he could have been more sensitive.
I saw him last at his 70th birthday celebration and that is where I saw a Biola Ajimobi that was most humble and most thankful to God. That day he exuded extreme humility and gratitude to all, he knew he was lucky and did not pretend otherwise. A lot has been said and seen about his being content with attaining the age of 70 and going home to meet his maker. It is true he was ready to go. Of course like our Lord Jesus Christ who suggested to his father that he would welcome the cup of anguish passing over him but later correcting himself by saying…not my will but thine oh Lord, so I believe, Ajimobi’s suggest to God that life had some enjoyments that he would like to enjoy beyond 70 did not exclude a caveat from his true Islamic understanding and acceptance that “…not my will but thine oh Allah”
On that note I say good night to my brother and in-law , friend and compatriot. You surpassed most in governance and service delivery and may history never forget that. May God and man forgive you your shortcomings as he forgives us that remain, ours.
Bra Isiaka, Egbon Biola Sun’re o. Thanks for your remarkable contributions to Oyo state