During the electioneering for the 2011 governorship election, nearly all the political parties and their candidates jostling for the coveted office in Oyo State employed the usual refrain to worm their way into the hearts of the electorate. In fact, some chose to revile past governors and frontline opponents in the war of attrition.
Rather than malign anyone or adopt vainglorious approach, Senator Abiola Ajimobi would always tell his teeming supporters, “If I will not make a remarkable difference as governor, may God abort this ambition.” He did not only win, he also broke the second term jinx in 2015.
In retrospect, the Oyo State Ajimobi inherited in 2011 was an entity in complete tumult. Murder, brigandage, rape, arson and other forms of violence qualified Oyo then as a Hobbesian state where life was short, brutish and nasty. Motor Park czars and political jobbers, who have been canonised by incorrigible local overlords with connection in high places, had made the state ungovernable. At the height of the impunity, the people’s tormentor-in-chief was described at a public event as a “dried fish that cannot be bent” by the very key figure the hapless citizens looked up to for salvation. As the stupefied audience exchanged glances, he assailed them with the clincher, ‘you have to live with his excesses.’
No doubt, the job of government is to protect and promote the socio-economic wellbeing of the citizenry, through the provision of an enabling environment. It was with this in mind that Ajimobi premised his administration’s policy thrust on the restoration of peace and security. It was not mere happenstance that on assumption of office, the governor introduced eight pyramids of development, among which safety, peace and security were pivotal.
In six years, the governor’s scorecard in peace and security suggests that he did not only dream about his desire to make the people of the state sleep with their two eyes firmly shut, he walked his talk. First, he reined in the rapacious drivers’ unions before clamping down on other bands of brigands. Next, the governor inaugurated a joint security outfit codenamed ‘operation burst’ with six zonal commands to whip into line the errant scallywags disturbing the peace of the land. To give the outfit the needed bite, the governor procured armoured personnel carriers, a fleet of patrol vehicles and state-of-the-art communication equipment for its operation. To enlist the support of stakeholders and forestall encumbrances in its running, the governor went a step further by floating a security trust fund to raise funds for its operations. The result of these efforts is a drastic reduction in crime rate and civil unrest manifesting in no major crime or robbery in the last six years.
Today, nightlife that was hitherto at zero level is now witnessing a new hustle and bustle, with night clubs and drinking joints dotting the landscape. Residents can now freely pass through the once dreaded Iwo Road interchange, formerly the den of armed robbers, drug addicts and rapists, who hid under the cover of darkness to bare their fangs.
For the furtherance of his agenda on safety and security, the governor had recently embraced the safe city project. The project is expected to proffer cutting edge solutions to crime and criminality, especially in Ibadan. To this end, Ajimobi recently declared that plans were afoot to install closed circuit television (CCTV) in black spots and business districts in the city.
Before 2011, Ibadan was touted as one of the dirtiest cities in the country because of the mountain of refuse indiscriminately dumped in open places. The city had no clear cut solid waste management policy, while it constantly suffered environmental hazard and degradation. But, Ajimobi took up the gauntlet and cleaned up the city in a well thought out urban renewal and physical infrastructure development programmes.
That the pristine state capital had now become the next investors’ destination will not be an overstatement judging by the number of blue chip companies that have berthed in Ibadan since the governor cleaned up the city.
At the last count, Ajimobi had wooed 36 new companies to the state, with close to 4000 direct employees, according to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. A proof of this upsurge in industrialisation is the rating of Oyo as the fifth most investment friendly state by the National Bureau of Statistics. The NBS also credited the governor as having so far attracted more than $61m (N22.4bn) foreign direct investment to the state.
Within the first two years of his administration, Ajimobi constructed the Mokola flyover, which was the first by any civilian governor. The Challenge/Orita axis of Ibadan has been transformed with a new network of six-lane roads. Similarly, the once decrepit Alesinloye, Dugbe-Magazine-Eleyele Roads have been expanded to six solid lanes, complete with modern furniture.
The governor’s road revolution was extended to the other five zones of the state. Thus, Oyo, Ogbomoso, Ibarapa, as well as Oke-Ogun I (Iseyin axis) and Oke-Ogun II (Saki axis) now boast of six-lane roads for the first time in their histories. The administration also constructed 183 roads and seven bridges, totalling 590km. Similarly, a total of 850km roads were rehabilitated and maintained in the last six years across the state.
In his determination to bequeath a lasting road legacy to the state, the governor had in the past few weeks flagged off the Eleyele-Ologuneru-Eruwa; Idi- Ape-Basorun-Akobo-Odogbo Barracks junction; Gate-Old Ife Road-Alakia, as well as Oke Adu-Iwo Roads for construction into standard and six-lane roads. In Ajimobi’s avowed determination to enlist Ibadan among the elite state capitals and mega cities, the governor had also revived the Ibadan Circular Road, which had remained a dream in the past 15 years under successive administrations. The road is poised to decongest the city and enhance its aesthetics, apart from its unquantifiable commercial value
Unarguably, Ajimobi has already etched his name in the sands of time and would most certainly be remembered as the builder of the modern Oyo State by generations to come.
Oyedele is Senior Special Assistant (Media) to Oyo State Governor