The video went viral the night of February 24th…that of Governor Ajimobi talking to a handful of aides and supporters, comforting himself and sensitizing the motley crew of hangers-on to the imminent defeat he was about to be officially handed. In a rare public display of affection, his wife wrapped her arms around his shoulders from behind as Ajimobi patted himself on the back for being the first to be reelected as governor of Oyo State – a feat that birthed the slogan “Koseleri” (It’s Never Happened Before). In that video, he wore an unmistakable disposition of a beaten-down man who was trying to pump whatever was left of his overblown ego; saying that at least, he delivered Oyo State to Buhari – a claim that turned out to be a lie by the time the final tallies came in. The APC had lost Oyo State to Atiku’s PDP!
And by the time we held the gubernatorial election, that narrow presidential election loss turned out to be child’s play – a respectable loss – compared to the shellacking that Ajimobi’s protégé and anointed successor, Bayo Adelabu, received. Oyo State people clearly punished the son for the father’s sins. “Koseleri” quickly became “Koselemo” (Never Again) in Oyo State.
Ajimobi cut a pathetic picture; that of an ingrate who was accidentally elected to a second term (thanks to the Buhari bandwagon of 2015) but who confused the election with coronation. The sycophants with whom he surrounded himself made a career out of lying to him that he was popular among the people; that he was the next best thing since Ibadan discovered Amala with Abula soup; that the people loved him. And it was music to his ears. He allowed that saying, that a State’s Chief Executive is the de facto party leader, to get to his head. He became a monster.
It was his way or the highway – an astonishingly shameful character trait for a man who was a senior executive of an oil company. You wondered how he ruled…sorry, managed National Oil before getting into politics. He had no time for dissention, both in the governing EXCO and the APC machinery in the State. He had Baba Wole Oke, the State’s party Chairman, in his pocket. The now-octogenarian only asked “how high?” whenever Ajimobi asked him to jump.
In short order, as soon as he became Governor, Ajimobi removed those who had and expressed strong opinions in his EXCO and replaced them with Yes-Men and men with little minds who just took directives…essentially errand boys. He ruled (not governed) like a king…like an emperor…like a despot. He was feared but not respected. Get any of his subordinates to one corner, away from Ajimobi’s earshot, and you will hear an earful about how much they detested him. And I always asked them: why then are you working for him? How can you work for someone for whom you have so much hatred? I never got real answers.
Ajimobi became power-drunk. You couldn’t talk to him while seated; unless he explicitly authorized you to sit. You had better risen to your feet when he entered the gathering; unless you wanted to be a victim of his caustic mouth – publicly too! And we are talking here about private citizens. Public servants, especially his political appointees, were not “born well” enough to speak with him without their hands behind their backs. If they wore Buba and Sokoto to work or when they visited him at home during the weekends, they had to wear a cap as well. If they wore an English attire, they had to wear a tie. He demanded that kind of respect. Just because he dressed in complete Agbada to work, everybody had to be formal too…in a democracy!
And to the general public…the citizens, the voters that our party was going to need in 2019…Ajimobi was ruthless as he was downright condescending. His wife too was an Empress in her own way. There were (unconfirmed) allegations of her keeping women on their knees and men in supine positions for hours until they were sufficiently purged of their real or perceived slights on the First Lady. It was also alleged that no commissioner awarded any contract, no matter how little, without her consent. The phrase “First Lady has interest”, it was alleged, hovered over every single contract.
These little things quickly earned his government the sobriquet “Ijoba Ologun Ajimobi” (Ajimobi’s Military Government). And the government did act like a military one at a point…towing people’s vehicles for “illegally” parking in areas that did not have “No Parking” signs and making them pay N30,000-plus before retrieving their vehicles; seizing goods of hawkers and petty traders without providing alternative shops for them, telling parents of protesting pupils that their children’s school would not be re-opened until they (the parents) apologized to him for the insults rained on him and the damage done to some properties during the protest. Then he had his infamous encounter with students of LAUTECH who were peacefully protesting the year-long closure of their school, during which he declared that he was the Constituted Authority in the State…that they should have appreciated the fact that he rose from a meeting to come and listen to them. He basically berated them for not kissing his ring and feet because he was the most-powerful person in Oyo State. For a man who schooled and worked in the Unites States, it was a legendary display of lack of respect for civil rights.
Ajimobi didn’t spare the late Baba Lam Adesina either. The man almost single-handedly built the AD party structure in the State with remittances from his son, Dr. Ayo Lam-Adesina, who lived in the UK. Once Tinubu prevailed on Lam-Adesina to convince members of the ACN to make Ajimobi the flag bearer of the party in 2011, as opposed to Sen. Femi Lanlehin, Ajimobi went ahead and pulled the rug off Lam-Adesina’s feet.
He quickly ostracized Lanlehin and Chief Michael Koleosho, the Saki multi-millionaire who called the shot in the Oke-Ogun area and those two gentlemen eventually withdrew physical and material support for the party. They took with them their foot soldiers. Baba Lam once expressed to me directly his regret for supporting Ajimobi. I am sure he went to his grave with those regrets. If he was so candid with me – a nobody – about such important, internal party issues, he sure must have been even more candid with his foot soldiers who spanned the entire State, particularly Ibadanland and Oke-Ogun. Those foot soldiers did their best to get their pound of flesh from Ajimobi this election cycle.
Even the Olubadan was not spared! Under the bogus claim of reforming the chieftaincy system in Ibadanland, Ajimobi watered down the influence and authority of the Olubadan by crowning some of his chiefs and Baales. Everybody alleges that he went after the Olubadan because the man disagreed with him politically. Such a vengeful, small-minded man! I won’t be surprised if he sends his people to come and demolish my house in Ibadan for criticizing him here. A man who could send bulldozers to Yinka Ayefele’s radio station and pull parts of it down simply because the presenters there were critical of his government would do anything to those he considers beneath him.
I have always asked myself what gave the man the audacity to think he was better than everybody in the State. Here was a man who governed for eight years and still could not pay salaries and pensions strictly from the State’s Internally Generated Revenues (IGRs). How did he get up in the morning, look himself in the mirror and think he was superior to everybody when he could not resolve the LAUTECH issues for eight years? What is the definition of Leadership outside of one’s ability to provide purpose, direction and motivation to subordinates?
And then the greed…the palpable selfishness! He had spent four years in the Senate immediately preceding two terms of governorship. Then during the primaries last year, he flexed his power, bullied sitting Senator Soji Akanbi into submission and basically took the party’s Senatorial ticket from the poor guy. Akanbi had no fighting chance. Naturally, that sent Akanbi out of the party with his supporters. Akanbi had done more for party members as a first-time Senator than Ajimobi did for them in the eight years he was Governor. Who does that? At 70 years, who does that if not a callous and greedy person? Is that leadership?
How many people did Ajimobi mentor to take over the mantle of leadership from him? Which House of Assembly member did he mentor to move to the House of Representatives? Which House of Representatives member did he mentor to move to the Senate? Which party member did Ajimobi hook up with a federal appointment? Which Commissioner did he mentor? It was all about him. It was about consigning party members to lives of servitude under his Imperial Majesty-ship so that they would forever depend on him for survival. If you are Governor for eight years and you did not grow anybody from among your subordinates to succeed you…and you had to conjure up one Bayo Adelabu, a political neophyte whom nobody in the party ever heard of as your successor, you are a terrible leader. You are an unmitigated disaster.
And just a couple of miles south of Ibadan…in Lagos…where younger Governors were performing wonders and growing subordinates into positions of leadership, they were not rubbishing their traditional rulers. They were not treating students like the phlegm. They did not localize development in just one city. They had masterplans for the State. They pooled human resources and made everyone stakeholder. But in Oyo State, we had a tin god with exaggerated opinions of himself, a baseless ego; just an uncouth blowhard that made people wonder the sort of upbringing he had. We had a man to whom Pa Lam Adesina handed the machinery of a truly Progressive party but who only succeeded in shredding it.
I know nobody wants to say it publicly. But they say it privately. And I will say it publicly here: Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi and Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi alone is responsible for the humiliation that our party received this election cycle. He single-handedly destroyed our party and the political careers of many who toiled to build the party. Let nobody begin to apportion blames where blames do not belong. We are Oyo State people. We tell it as it is. Ajimobi ruined our APC.
But the party is not going to go into oblivion. We should re-group. And we are going to re-group. We must come together. And we are going to come together. But before we can even have the first reconciliation/re-organization meeting, we must first apologize to the people of Oyo State for the horrendous leadership that Ajimobi foisted on them for the past eight years. And who is better-suited for such an apology that the culprit himself?
Ajimobi needs to atone for his sins by issuing a televised address to the citizens of our State during which he should show enough candor by acknowledging his many misdeeds and asking for their forgiveness. There can’t be any rationalizing; there can’t be any buck-passing – two things alien to the psyche of Ajimobi. On this, he must show humility and contrition.
Then he must convene a meeting of key leaders from all the factions of the party and even those that left to form other parties, and hand over the leadership…the entire machinery of the party to them. I suggest he woos back Senator Lanlehin, Prof Adeolu Akande, Barrister Bayo Shittu, Dr. Ayo Lam-Adesina along with other leaders of the Lamists/Unity Forum and hand over to them; after which he should disappear forever from party politics except when called upon to provide financial support. That is the only way he can receive forgiveness and salvage whatever is left of his reputation. Baba Wole Oke too should go and rest.
Now, let the PDP in Oyo State know this; let them hear this from me: Ajimobi’s political demise began in Ibadan. Ibadan people don’t play favorites. We are always fair to whoever is fair to us. We do not surrender…ever. We fight back once you catch our ire. And we win. Ajimobi forgot that. The PDP should know that if Seyi Makinde had been an Oke-Ogun man; if he had been an Ogbomosho man, once Ibadan people resolved to cut Ajimobi to size, no amount of money was enough to change their minds. We still would have voted for Makinde. Awa o ki n se alatenuje. Therefore, the PDP will do well to know that if Makinde gets there and starts to behave remotely like Ajimobi, Ibadan people will retrieve the whip from the rafter and whip him into shape in 2023.
By Abiodun Ladepo
Ibadan, Oyo State