By this time exactly a year ago, political pundits within and outside Oyo State had begun to pile pressure on the Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, to mull over having another shot at the Senate. This is against the backdrop of his public pronouncements that he was calling time on active politics, climaxed by his jinx-breaking election as governor for two uninterrupted tenures.
He had vowed not to mount the soap box again, except to canvas for votes on behalf of his protégés. In the governor’s reckoning, 2019 is the destination point for his illustrious political career, having also served Oyo South Senatorial District in the Senate between 2003 and 2007 under the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD).
In the February 19, 2018 edition of the Punch Newspaper, a respected Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Adeniyi Akintola, said, “Ido Local Government is launching the campaign to endorse him (Ajimobi) to go to the Senate and by the grace of God, he shall make it. Of course, this isn’t his first time; he wasn’t a bench warmer there as he gave quality representation. In the Senate, he will be a pride to Oyo State and the South West.”
Having surrendered to the superior argument of his supporters, the governor participated in the October 2, 2018 National Assembly primaries of the All Progressives Congress. To underscore the beauty of democracy, his main challenger, Dr Fola Akinosun, refused all entreaties by party stalwarts to step down for the governor in deference to the political tradition that respects position and experience in such circumstance. But Akinosun eventually lost by 168 votes to Ajimobi’s 2659, as announced by the Chief Ademola Seriki-led electoral panel.
The proponents of Ajimobi’s for senate have predicated their position on the governor’s enviable corporate and political experience, integrity, record of achievements, clout, robust political capital, inexhaustible physical agility, intelligence and most importantly because of his mettlesome disposition. Although, the uninitiated have derisively dubbed the Senate as the retirement place for two-term governors, but in advanced climes the Senate is populated by senior citizens who are regarded as the bulwark of democracy. Advanced age is seen in western democracy as an asset rather than liability.
For instance, since 1981, the average age of representatives and senators in the US Congress has jumped from 49 and 53, respectively, to 57 and 61, according to Quorum. In the today’s 116th Congress of the US, Dianne Feinstein of California is the oldest sitting member of the Senate at 84 years old. She is known for being a liberal, left-leaning politician who has dedicated her life to serving the people of California.
Another asset that Ajimobi possesses is his impeccable educational attainment, having bagged a BSc in Business Administration and Finance from The State University of New York, Buffalo. He also obtained an MBA in Operations Research and Marketing, with a concentration in Finance, from the Governor’s State University, Park Forest, Illinois.
In 1979, Ajimobi became the youngest Manager at the National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company in Nigeria, and rose to the position of the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company. As Managing Director he substantially improved the profitability of the company and the shareholders’ fortunes. In 2003, he voluntarily retired after 26 years of meritorious service in the Oil and Gas industry.
Whether at the regional, national or international platforms, Ajimobi is consistently acknowledged as one of Nigeria’s most gifted and effective leaders with the ennobling characteristics of great and noble statesmen.
During his first spell at the Senate in 2003, the governor and his AD colleagues, who were just six in number (with three others from Lagos State and one each from Ondo and Ekiti States), were hampered by their numerical disadvantage. In a sharp contrast, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had an overwhelming majority of 78 members, while the All Nigeria Peoples Party had 25 members.
To underscore the respect his colleagues had for him, he was appointed the Deputy Minority Leader of the 5th Senate.
In addition to his ably-discharged primary responsibility as a lawmaker, Governor Ajimobi deployed his personal resources and goodwill to carry out several grassroots projects in Oyo State, including the establishment of the first and the largest free vocational training center. The centre offers training in computer engineering, computer operations, telephone engineering, fashion designing, hair dressing, tie and dye etc. So far, the centre has turned out over 20,000 students. It has also been recognized and certified as a partner and training centre by the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) of the Federal Government.
Between 2003 and 2007 Senator Ajimobi also identified communities that lacked potable water, where he sunk boreholes. He also carried out many empowerment and grassroots programmes for his Senatorial District.
During the infamous ‘third term agenda’ of the third republic it was alleged that some political jobbers, including National Assembly members, fell for the filthy lucre transported in the wee hours of the night in hefty Ghana Must Go bag by agents of the evil plot. It is on record that Ajimobi was among the very few that resisted the allure of the mint N50m doled to each pliant lawmaker to oil the botched civilian coup. Ajimobi was and is never afraid to speak truth to power no matter whose ox may be gored. When you talk about a contended man of integrity and patriotic zeal, Ajimobi stands tall. In the Senate, his views will be respected and he will not be in the league of absentee lawmakers or those who will only heard during voice votes.
Today, Ajimobi is a leading light of the APC at the national, regional and state levels judging by the several assignments he had been saddled with. Most recently, he was appointed as chairman of the APC national convention committee and chairman of the party’s 2018 presidential primaries national convention. The governor is highly connected to the centre, having been robbing minds with the topmost echelon of the leadership of the country and the APC in the last eight years.
Akin Oyedele is the Senior Special Assistant on Media to Oyo State Governor