•Details Of The New Book On His Life Revealed
These are good times for former Oyo Governor, Chief Abiola Ajimobi who has now become the Deputy National Chairman of the APC. He is one of the new APC national leaders and he is expected to bring to bear on his new role, all his years of experience in Politics. Back in Ibadan, Oyo State, his base where he is a political godfather, the news of Ajimobi’s new role has been well received, because all his supporters have been eager to see their boss take on a new role within the party since he left office to Engr. Seyi Makinde, who is from the opposing party, the PDP.
He had hoped to become a Senator, but his attempt to be a Senator didn’t work out as he lost. But right now he has bounced back. Not only is he now in total control of the party in Oyo State, he now has a say at the National level on all the decisions taken at the national level concerning Oyo State. He will have to approve all the major party decisions as the most senior party chieftain at the centre. Those close to him say he has learnt a lot from all that happened during the last elections, especially how some of those he depended on disappointed him and worked against him.
Regrettably, after he lost the senatorial elections some key members of the party assumed Ajimobi had lost out totally, as he took a low profile. Now, he is back and all those who betrayed him are scared and afraid that Ajimobis coming back to power may spell doom for them, politically.
What will further help him are the lessons he has learnt in politics. Let’s tell you a bit about his life as a thorough Ibadan man. Many don’t know he is an Ibadan man to the core.
There is a new book titled ABIOLA AJIMOBI: Architect & Built of Modern Oyo State which reveals a lot about his Life and Politics. The book reveals how he was born at the popular Oja Oba, in Ibadan, on 16 December 1949 to Ganiyu and Sikiratu Ajimobi. He is the first of 23 children. His father was a Tailor and later a Politician. He married 5 wives. Extremely neat and fashion conscious, his dad made clothes for Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Ladoke Akintola and other notable men in Ibadan. He was essentially a man of modest means. In the First Republic, the father was an active member of the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe while his brother from the same mother, Lasisi Adeyemi, alias Okoro, was in Action Group (AG) led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Uncle Lasisi became a Minister of Works and Housing and the first Parliamentary Secretary in the Western Region. It was when his brother died that Pa Ganiyu moved over to the Action Group, not just as a tribute to his brother but because he was then convinced of the ideas and ideals that AG espoused. He was a very loyal member of the party, respected by Chief Awolowo and trusted by Chief Bola Ige. He won his House of Assembly election in the Second Republic under the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).
Ajimobi attended St. Patrick’s School, Abebi, Seventh-Day Adventist Primary School, Oke Bola, and he finished off at Ibadan City Council Primary School, in Aperin. He excelled in academics and sports, playing lawn tennis, table tennis and football. He was also an excellent sprinter. But his favourite was football. Because of his dexterity as a player, he was nicknamed Super Galanata, Orisco and Archipelago. This grass-root popularity automatically turned him into a leader of his age-mates. He was one of the neatest and stylish in his set. He played all the rascally pranks like other kids of his time. Some of these pranks are recounted in this book. During one of Id-el-Kabir seasons, for instance, he and Tajudeen, his cousin, set up two of the family rams for fights. One of the rams died but the fathers simply forgave the two rascally boys in the spirit of the festival. He attended Quranic School briefly at this time. He then moved to Oke Padre to live with his aunt, Wulemat Ayilara when Uncle Lasisi, the Minister with whom he was living, died. Silifat, the only daughter of his aunt, would later marry Alhaji Kola Animasaun, the veteran journalist.
At Lagelu Grammar School to which he had gained admission in 1962, he quickly made a lot of friends. One of his favourite teachers in the school was late Lam Adesina who taught History, English and Literature. The man was to later play a significant role in Abiola Ajimobi’s political career. At Lagelu Grammar School, he excelled in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and other subjects, even as he blossomed in sports. He was also a powerful debater and a very good actor. Indeed, he played Romeo in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. He was one of the prefects of the school. Extremely popular in Lagelu Grammar School, and this popularity spread like wildfire to Yejide Girls High School, St Anne’s and Queen’s College, because he knew how to be nice to women. Yet he took his studies seriously, making Grade 2 in his West Africa School Certificate Examinations after which he worked for three years at the Lagos Municipal Transport Service before he proceeded in 1970 to the State University of New York at Buffalo, Upstate New York, where he studied Business Administration and Finance. Professor Adebayo Adedeji, who later became Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa from 1975 to 1991, was one of his professors in the university.
Sam Omatseye in this new book describes with empathy the difficulties that the 20 year old Abiola Ajimobi experienced as he tried to settle down in the US. Since he was not on scholarship and had no rich parents to pay the expensive tuition fees of the university, to pay for accommodation, feeding and other essentials, he had to work multiple jobs to make the money. At a point, he worked in the mortuary, washing dead bodies because it was very lucrative to do so.
He was very determined to succeed. He finished his studies in 1974, and shortly got a job at Equitable Life Assurance in Buffalo. The following year, after passing state examinations, he became the first certified Nigerian Insurance underwriter in that city. It was after his master’s degree in 1976 at the Governor’s State University in Chicago that he returned to Nigeria. Now in Nigeria, armed with his certificates, it did not take him a long time before he got a job with Elm consulting firm as a Consultant and then another job as the Finance and Administrative Manager at Modular, a company owned by Architect Layi Balogun. After 6 months in Modular, he moved to Nestle as Operations Controller. In 1979/80, National Oil, which was then 40 per cent Shell and 60 per cent Nigerian, was expanding its Credit Department and the future governor was head-hunted by the then General Manager, Mr Moshood Akanbi. In two years, he rose rapidly from Credit Manager to Consumer and Product Manager. Abiola, the boisterous, highly fashionable, best dressed man in National Oil had found his groove.
As a turnaround manager, he radiated confidence which some people mistook for arrogance. In 1986, National Oil restructured; it created 8 major districts for effective performance: Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Kaduna, Ilorin, Jos, Enugu and Port Harcourt.
Abiola Ajimobi was made the first District Manager in Ibadan. Like other District Managers, he was fully empowered to expand the market which he did creditably. Mr. Wahab Abiodun, one of his mentees, who worked with him in National Oil, tells the story eloquently of how Abiola Ajimobi turned himself into a high-flyer of the corporate Nigeria. In no time, he was made Lubricants Manager, a much bigger position that generated 40 percent of the company’s profits. Because he did so well as Lubricants Manager, he was made Aviation Manager. By virtue of these positions, he travelled extensively around Nigeria. At that time, National Oil was controlling 70 percent of the market share in the oil and gas sector. The company then added eight retail operations to its expansion portfolio. Ajimobi was later made the manager of all the 8 districts and retail regions.
Not long after that, he was made an Executive Director Operations and posted as a representative of the National Oil in Shell Togo. By the time he was asked to wind up in Togo and return to Nigeria, the privatization process of the National Oil was in full swing. So was its Boardroom politics. Ultimately, Dr Mike Adenuga Jr. bought over the National Oil and gave it his own name: Conoil. After a keen competition, Abiola Ajimobi was made the Managing Director of Conoil. But he was only able to tolerate Dr Adenuga for two years.
In the wake of the boardroom crisis at Conoil, Ajimobi decided to go into the politics of Oyo State. His politician- father had always wanted him to play politics. Though he was interested, his passion was elsewhere. In 2001, he was now ready to give it a shot. He left behind a comforting familiarity to embrace politics. He studied the books of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the well-beloved first Premier of the Western Region who worked so hard and took himself seriously as a political leader; he studied the books of Winston Churchill, British statesman and a former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; and he studied the books of Mohammed Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai, more closely for ideas and practical inspiration. As he found himself a new cause, as he found himself a new mission, as he found himself a new purpose rooted in serving more people, he, who loved to wear nice shirts and trousers, who loved to wear bespoke suits, gradually learnt to clad himself in caps and flowing gowns learnt to wear enormous smiles and learnt to get used to many long nights of political meetings instead of long hours of night clubbing which he used to enjoy in Lagos and Ibadan.
He consulted widely before he joined the Alliance for Democracy and sought and got the support of the elders in the party like Alhaji Lam Adesina for his bid for the Senate. The contest for the ticket was very keen but he won. In the Senate he managed to pull his weight though his party was one of the parties in the minority. He sponsored 7 bills. Far more significantly, he did not support the Third Term bid proposed by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. While Obasanjo in his memoir, My Watch, spent 11 pages to deny that he ever nursed the idea of Third Term in office, Abiola Ajimobi, in this book spends about 4 short sentences to puncture the balloon of our former president’s lies. He says in this book: “Obasanjo himself called me that I should support what they were doing and I said he must talk to my elders in Ibadan, that I would not support Third Term unless my elders in Ibadan told me to do so. Later, some people brought money and I turned it down. They brought N50 million and I said no. I don’t want to start mentioning names.”
After one term as Senator, Ajimobi wanted to be governor but he did not get the nod of his party. Chief Bisi Akande, in his Foreword to his new book, tells us why: “I told him that I was going to preside over the meeting but I warned him not to be forward but to be calm and tolerant in such a manner that he should not resent some of the possible insinuations that might even appear rubbing on or blurring his ego. I told him the names of the Oligarchs who would be at the meeting, and that the meeting would be arranged for Abuja.
At a pre-meeting of the oligarchs, we had prevailed on Alhaji Lam Adesina to cooperate with our decision to adopt Biola Ajimobi as governorship candidate for Oyo State and convinced him that Biola would be totally submissive to the party’s political tradition. Biola was thereafter invited to the meeting. I was amazed when he came and was accompanied by a crowd of his supporters that included Dr Adebisi, Hon Bayo Shittu and some others. As Chief Segun Osoba was trying to introduce the purpose of the meeting and to talk on credibility of the leaders, Abiola Ajimobi cantankerously flared up to ask, “What do you mean by credibility? Who then is not credible? Am I and my associates here too not credible?” and on and on and on! Led by Senator Bola Tinubu, the party leaders angrily walked out of the meeting and the boy and his crowd of supporters too filed out of the venue.”
Senator Abiola Ajimobi eventually dumped the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) for the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in 2007 to contest for governorship. He lost that election to massive rigging. When he tried again in 2011 he won, and won for the second term in 2015. The state he met, figuratively, needed blood transfusions; it needed a broad spectrum of medications to be on the mend, to be healthy. Like a medical doctor that he had the ambition in Legelu Grammar School of becoming he applied the scalpel and prescribed the drugs. In the past eight years that he has been in the saddle, this book tells us, the Ajimobi administration modernization agenda has been propelled by three questions: how do we restore the past glory of our state? How do we transform it? And how do we reposition it for greater glory? All his modernization programmes are elaborately discussed in this book backed with facts and figures. But have these facts and figures translated into better life for the majority of the citizens of Oyo State? Governor Abiola Ajimobi believes very strongly that his experiences in the corporate world have helped him and his team to conceive and build a comparatively modern Oyo State.
–Adapted from the review of the book Abiola Ajimobi: Architect and Builder of Modern Oyo State done by Mr. Kunle Ajibade.