Friday, 26 June 2020 05:50

Abiola Ajimobi: Life and times of the ‘Constituted Authority’

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Before he was eventually declared dead on Thursday, Mr Abiola Ajimobi, ex-Oyo governor’s death rumour was on social media last week.

For several hours, commentators argued over the veracity of the former governor’s health status and rumoured death.

Eventually, his spokesperson, Mr Bolaji Tunji, debunked the rumour that Ajimobi had died at an undisclosed hospital in Lagos.

Nearly everyone with the death post on their social media platforms especially on Facebook, Twitter and different WhatsApp status pulled down their condolences.

The controversy came at a period when he was asked to take up the position of acting chairman of the embattled All Progressives Congress (APC). His appointment was marred with controversies which eventually ended in the dissolution of APC National Working Committee on Thursday.

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Ajimobi was born on December 16, 1949, in Oyo State, South-west Nigeria.

His grandfather was Sobaloju of Ibadan Land (a chief in the royal court of Ibadan). His uncle, N.A. Ajimobi was minister of works and transport in the Western Region. His father, Pa Ajimobi, was also a member of the House of Assembly in the Old Western Region.

He started his education at Saint Patricks Primary School, Oke-Padre in Ibadan. He completed his primary education at Ibadan City Council Primary School, Aperin. His secondary education was at Lagelu Grammar School. As a high school student, he was active in athletics, table tennis, and football, including serving as the school’s games prefect.

His education contiued in the United States of America, where he studied Business Administration and Finance at the State University of New York, in Buffalo, New York graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree.

In 1980, he married Florence Ajimobi. They have five children.

Career, politics

After 26 years in the oil industry working with the National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company – a subsidiary of Shell Petroleum, Nigeria, he was elected a Nigerian senator representing Oyo South Senatorial District on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD) between 2003 and 2007. During this period, he was the deputy minority leader of the Senate.

Immediately he finished his tenure as a senator, he contested for the governorship of his state under the banner of All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) but lost. The outspoken politician did not give up.

He tried the second time in 2011 under the banner of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He won.

After his first tenure, he was able to gather the support of many residents of the state and that gave him a boost to set new record in the state.

He contested again under APC in 2015 and got re-elected. He defeated the duo of Alao Akala and Rashidi Ladoja, both former governors.

By that feat, he became ‘kosheleri’ governor – the first and only governor to rule the state twice and in succession.

Controversies

Ajimobi earned a few foes for his confrontational mien and aggressive style of leadership.

He was, however, seen as a favoured member of his party, APC, so he was able to weather many political storms.

A typical example was the conflict between him and the ex-Minister of Communications, Mr Adebayo Shittu, which attracted national attention.

He also had issues with some influential persons in the state when he made efforts to review the chieftaincy policies of the state. His perceived attempt to whittle the powers of some traditional leaders was seen as an affront by many people.

In 2018, Oyo State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners filed a suit against Ajimobi and others over unpaid N42.3 billion pensions and gratuities to its members. Also, workers of Oyo-owned schools and students clashed with the APC led government in the state.

One of the most interesting periods of Mr Ajimobi’s life was when he was nicknamed “constituted authority” after several months of closure of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (a school co-owned by Oyo and Osun states).

The school was shut because the two states governments could not properly fund the institution.

When students took their protest to Ibadan, Oyo State capital, Ajimobi said he was a ‘constituted authority’ and “may not reopen the school if he likes”. This earned him a new nickname: Constituted Authority.

The late Ajimobi had said the students did not respect ‘constituted authority’ and told them “to do their worst”. After the protest, Ajimobi demanded an apology from the students saying they were rude to him.

Even secondary school students in Oyo State protested over the educational policies of the state. Some protesting students destroyed a billboard of the state governor in 2016.

The demolition of Yinka Ayefele’s Fresh FM radio station remains fresh in the memory of Oyo residents. He reportedly mocked Mr Ayefele as “cripple breaching state’s law”.

He eventually lost his bid to go to the Senate after the 2019 polls.

He lost to Kola Balogun of the PDP – now representing Oyo South senatorial district. PDP also won the governorship seat after an acrimonious poll.

Ajimobi was later appointed deputy national chairman (south) of his party, a position he held before he was diagnosed of the dreaded coronavirus.

During the tussle that characterised the ruling APC in the aftermath of the suspension of the ex-national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, Ajimobi was given the nod by the party’s National Working Committee to lead the party, even on his sickbed.

He died on Thursday.

 

PT