FELIX NWANERI writes on the life and times of former Oyo State governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who passed on yesterday
The torrent of tributes for former Oyo State governor and National Deputy Chairman (South) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who passed on yesterday at 70, obviously justifies the conviction that the quality of life is best measured by how much and well it impacts humanity. Born in Oja Oba, Ibadan, Oyo State on 16 December 1949 to Ganiyu and Sikiratu Ajimobi, the former governor was the first of his father’s 23 children. He started his education at Saint Patricks Primary School, Oke-Padre in Ibadan, but completed it at Ibadan City Council Primary School, Aperin. His secondary education was at Lagelu Grammar School. He later proceeded to the United States, where he studied Business Administration and Finance at the State University of New York.
He started his working career at Equitable Life Assurance in Buffalo, United States. 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 Ajimobi returned to Nigeria and it did not take 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.After six 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 Ajimobi was recruited.
In two years, he rose rapidly from Credit Manager to Consumer and Product Manager. In 1986, National Oil restructured; it created eight major districts for effective performance: Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Kaduna, Ilorin, Jos, Enugu and Port Harcourt. Ajimobi was made the first District Manager in Ibadan. He also at various times held the positions of Lubricants Manager as well as Aviation Manager. His performance later earned him the position of Executive Director Operations and posted as a representative of National Oil in Shell Togo.
The privatization process of National Oil that saw it transforming to Conoil, saw Ajimobi emerged as its Managing Director. Two years later, he left the organization and his next move was politics. After due consultations with relevant political stakeholders in Oyo State and beyond, Ajimobi joined the Alliance for Democracy (AD). In 2003, he contested the senatorial election to represent Oyo South Senatorial District and won. He was a principal officer in the Senate, serving as the Deputy Minority Leader.
After one term in the Senate, Ajimobi contested the 2007 governorship election on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), but lost. The loss did not deterred him as he staged a comeback during the 2011 elections on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN); this time he was elected governor of the “Pace Setter State.” In 2015, Ajimobi sought re-election as governor on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC). Among those he battled were two of his predecessors in office, Christopher Alao-Akala and Rashidi Ladoja. He made history as the first person to occupy the seat twice and as well in succession, following his victory at the polls.
Though he courted several controversies during his eight-year reign as governor, Ajimobi succeeded in entrenching his name in the annals of Oyo State given the various landmark achievements traversing every sector of the state – education, health, security and infrastructure. He is known as ‘Constituted Authority’, a phrase he made when he was addressing protesting youths in Ibadan. After serving out the two constitutionally allowed two terms for governors, Ajimobi bided to represent Oyo South Senatorial District for a second time in the 2019 elections.
He, however, lost his bid to return to Red Chamber to the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kola Balogun. Also, his bid to have his anointed candidate, Chief Adebayo Adelabu, succeed him failed as the candidate of the PDP, Engr. Seyi Makinde, won the governorship election. But after months off the political radar, Ajimobi bounced back in March this year, when he emerged as Deputy National Chairman (South) of the APC, a position he held until his demise yesterday.