From Koseleri To Constituted Authority: Ajimobi, The Son Of ‘Gani Tailor’, Who Governed Oyo

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    “I am a Nigerian with a humble beginning. I came from a humble background like some of you. My father was a tailor, while my mother was a trader. So, your background should not be a hindrance to your success,” Abiola Ajimobi said while addressing the 799 participants at the 2019 Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) conference for emerging entrepreneurs, held at the Ibadan Business School, Bodija, Ibadan.

    Born on the 16th of December 1949, Abiola Ajimobi moved from being the son of a tailor, who washed dead bodies at a mortuary to governing Oyo State and Chairing the largest political party in Africa.

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    A Political Lineage

    Ajimobi’s love for governance and thirst to lead could, if not well studied, be misunderstood.

    During an interview on Ibadan-based radio station Splash FM, Ajimobi revealed that he was initially admitted to study Medicine abroad but he dumped it for Business Administration and Finance because of an experience he had on an excursion to a teaching hospital during his pre-med at the United States.

    According to him, while at the hospital he discovered that Doctors with decades of working experience had very small office while some younger people with lesser working experience in the hospital had very big offices.

    He said that he then asked from their guide why this imbalance exist. The reply he got was that those with bigger offices are those who manage the office and don’t necessarily study medicine.

    He revealed that he decided at that moment that he would change his course of study.

    However, Ajimobi’s desire to mange the affairs of others could be ‘hereditary’ because he is from a long line of individuals who have held leadership position at various period.

    His grandfather was Sobaloju of Ibadan Land (a chief in the royal court of Ibadan).

    His uncle, Hon. N.A. Ajimobi was minister of works and transport in the Western Region.

    His father, Pa Ajimobi, was also an Honourable member of the House of Assembly in the Old Western region.

    A Beautiful Private Sector Career That Ended ‘Controversially’

    Upon his return from the United States [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 and an MBA in Operations Research and Marketing with a concentration in Finance at Governors State University, University Park, Illinois.] Ajimobi had a beautiful career in the private sector that ended on a controversial note.

    Narrating this during the presentation of the book ‘Abiola Ajimobi: Architect and Builder of Modern Oyo State’, Kunle Ajibade the Editor/Director of PM News said, “Now in Nigeria, armed with his certificates, it did not take him a long 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, a company owned by Architect Layi Balogun.

    ” 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 the future governor was head-hunted by the then General Manager, Mr Moshood Akanbi. In two years, he rose rapidly from Credit Manager to Consumer and Product Manager. Abiola, the boisterous, highly fashionable, best dressed man in National Oil had found his groove.

    “We are told in this book that as a turnaround manager, he radiated confidence which some people mistook for arrogance. In 1986, National Oil restructured; it created eight major districts for effective performance: Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Kaduna, Ilorin, Jos, Enugu and Port Harcourt. Abiola Ajimobi was made the first District Manager in Ibadan. Like other District Managers, he was fully empowered to expand the market which he did creditably. Mr. Wahab Abiodun, one of his mentees, who worked with him in National Oil, tells the story eloquently of how Abiola Ajimobi turned himself into a high-flyer of the corporate Nigeria. In no time, he was made Lubricants Manager, a much bigger position that generated 40 per cent of the company’s profits.

    “Because he did so well as Lubricants Manager, he was made Aviation Manager. By virtue of these positions, he travelled extensively around Nigeria. At that time, National Oil was controlling 70 per cent of the market share in the oil and gas sector. The company then added eight retail operations to its expansion portfolio. Ajimobi was later made the manager of all the eight districts and retail regions.

    “Ultimately, Dr Mike Adenuga Jr. bought over the National Oil and gave it his own name: Conoil. After a keen competition, Abiola Ajimobi was made the Managing Director of Conoil. But he was only able to tolerate Dr Adenuga for two years. All the conflicts, all the disagreements that led to the final big clash between Ajimobi and Adenuga are told painstakingly in this book. We do not, however, have the Adenuga side of the story. Ajimobi had to get a court judgment against Adenuga before his severance benefits were partially settled.”

    The Struggle To Become ‘Constituted

    After leaving the private sector, Ajimobi entered the murky waters of politics, first as a Senator between 2003 and 2007.

    However, After one term as Senator, Ajimobi wanted to be governor but he did not get the nod of his party, ACN.

    Chief Bisi Akande, in his foreword to the book on Ajimobi edited by Sam Omatseye, tells us why.

    Hear him: “I told him that I was going to preside over the meeting but I warned him not to be forward but to be calm and tolerant in such a manner that he should not resent some of the possible insinuations that might even appear rubbing on or blurring his ego. I told him the names of the oligarchs who would be at the meeting, and that the meeting would be arranged for Abuja.

    ” At a pre-meeting of the oligarchs, we had prevailed on Alhaji Lam Adesina to cooperate with our decision to adopt Biola Ajimobi as governorship candidate for Oyo State and convinced him that Biola would be totally submissive to the party’s political tradition. Biola was thereafter invited to the meeting. I was amazed when he came and was accompanied by a crowd of his supporters that included Dr Adebisi, Hon Bayo Shittu and some others.

    “As Chief Segun Osoba was trying to introduce the purpose of the meeting and to talk on credibility of the leaders, Abiola Ajimobi cantankerously flared up to ask, ‘What do you mean by credibility? Who then is not credible? Am I and my associates here too not credible?’ and on and on and on! Led by Senator Bola Tinubu, the party leaders angrily walked out of the meeting and the boy and his crowd of supporters too filed out of the venue.”

    He eventually dumped the ACN for the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP in 2007 to contest for the gubernatorial seat in Oyo.

    Even though he secured the ticket of the ANPP, he lost that election in a style some analysts tagged ‘questionable’.

    The Birth Of ‘Constituted Authority’

    After polling 420, 852 to defeat his closest rival the incumbent, Alao Akala, who polled 387, 132 in arguably the most ‘hotly contested’ election in the history of the state, Ajimobi was declared winner of the 2011 gubernatorial election in Oyo State.

    On the 29th of May, 2011, Ajimobi was sworn-in as the new governor of the state for his first term.

    From ‘Koseleri’ To Constituted Authority

    In May 2015, Ajimobi was sworn-in for the second time. He became the first person to win a re-election bid in Oyo State two.

    His Jinx-breaking victory at the polls earned him Koseleri (which literally means unprecedented).

    However, his second term, unlike the first, was filled with a lot of controversies and ‘needless fights’.

    One of such earned him the nickname “Constituted Authority”.

    It was in January 2017, students of Ladoke Akintola University marched to the Government House to protest the lock of their school due to the strike by the institution’s staff.
    Ajimobi, in reply to the students said, “You are here to protest, am I the one who locked your school?

    “Your school being locked for eight months is no big deal. Is your school the first to be locked, if this is how you will come to talk to me, go and do your worst, I dare you.”

    As the atmosphere of the protest grew tense and restless, Ajimobi added, “Every government lacks funds; even we lack fund; if you want to be troublesome, go ahead, I am ready for you. You are coming here to say that it will be tough this time, tough with me, if someone of my calibre has come here to address you,you should have respect for constituted authority, your school locked for eight months what, did I lock your school.”

    A failed Senatorial Bid

    In 2019, Ajimobi contested for the senatorial seat of Oyo South senatorial district.

    However, he, monumentally, lost the electoral bid to Muhammed Kola Balogun of the PDP.

    ‘I want To Die At 96’

    During a Splash FM interview in 2019, Ajimobi, who is the first man in his lineage to clock 70, revealed that he want to die at 96.
    However, on the 25th of June, 2020, at the age of 70, Abiola Ajimobi was pronounced dead after a brief illness.

    Adieu, Omo Baba Tailor.

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