Koseleri 1 (Koseleri: Yoruba for unprecedented), was Abiola Ajimobi’s historical stunner: the first-ever Oyo governor to earn re-election; a myth of glory, if ever there was one.
But Koseleri 2 crashed that myth, even before you could mutter ‘Ajimobi!’ — and in less than four years!
In electoral hustle-and-buckle, it is a classic glory-to-gory tale!
The Ajimobi stumble is all the more humbling, as the Senate-as-former-governors’-retirement-coven, is one hubris that has evolved since 1999.
A governor completes his two terms, and feels his immediate constituents, as of right, must serenade him with a senatorial slot. What hubris!
Ajimobi’s spectacular crash could well slow down that gubernatorial conceit. The outgoing governor is only one of a few – if not the only case – of a failed governor-to-senator transition, much to the delight of his traducers.
Those are quite a number, for Ajimobi, like the great Bola Ige before him, doesn’t suffer fools gladly, pressing into service his razor-sharp tongue. But that tongue, his enemies now gaily scream, has become his grand nemesis.
That is true, especially in the passionate present; and in the excitable short-run, when taunts turn free-wheeling jaunts, to further clobber the defeated.
But in the long run, when legacy trumps politics? Ajimobi may yet triumph as spectacularly as he had succumbed. This is because, by miles, Abiola Ajimobi has been Oyo’s best governor since 1999.
In sheer wit, poise, dash and panache, none of his predecessors, since 1999, could hold a candle to Ajimobi.
In all of Oyo history, perhaps only Bola Ige — he too of the famously sharp tongue and cutting wit! — could go toe-to-toe with Ajimobi, in a boxing bout, where wit, poise, dash and panache are the prize belts.
Maybe Adegoke Adelabu too, the famous Penkelemesi, in all Western Region history? Perhaps! Ironically, not a few believe Penkele’s grandson, Bayo Adelabu’s futile gubernatorial bid was collateral damage, from Ajimobi’s most galling political hour.
But then, Penkelemesi, the adjudged master of political dissembling, belonged to a different age, even if at present, his grandson is consumed by a peculiar mess of mixed (mis)fortunes!
Yet, don’t write Ajimobi off. Long after present politics recedes into memory, legacy will emerge from that mist to robustly proclaim his case.
Politics versus legacy! That incidentally is what, in this same Ibadan, capital of this same Oyo, has distinguished the great Awo from Adelabu, and his peculiar mess.
Adelabu, brilliant, pithy, witty and charismatic, among the Ibadan hoi polloi, was dramatic master of the politics of the moment — and he always gave Awo a bloody nose!
But Awo, no less brilliant but more dogged, acute and rigorous, was a policy Leviathan, clinically focused on the next generation.
On that score, Awo’s legacy has clearly trumped Adelabu’s immediate politics, though not a few would argue that was because Adelabu died rather young.
That would explain why Penkelemesi’s own grandson would opt for APC, a party which South West wing claims Awo as avatar; instead of the more ideologically fluid PDP, to which Penkelemesi himself could have been more comfy.
But even if Bayo Adelabu’s choice was only a convenience of the moment — in an age of unfazed vacuum in ideological politics — Awo’s legacy triumph still galvanized Lam Adesina to the Oyo governorship in 1999.
Pre-office, the late Lam was an Awoist, aside from his Ibadan nativity. He left office still proudly Awoist. But he, as governor, added pretty little to that legacy stock. Which was why it was easy to shoo him off, after only one gubernatorial term.
But the band of Ibadan nativists, that shooed Lam off, were barbarians yoked to the past; not reformers primed for the future.
First, was “homeless” President, Olusegun Obasanjo’s 2003 “capture” (to use that inglorious PDP quip) of his native Southwest.
Then, there was Lamidi Adedibu (now dead), his Oyo enforcer-in-chief.
Of course, there was also Rashidi Ladoja, the pitiable gubernatorial sheep led to slaughter, because of his seedy emergence.
So, when Adedibu started laying claim to 30 per cent of Ladoja’s security vote; and the governor owed his tenure, not to the pleasure of his electors but the brute of his irate godfather; and the democratic president growled his garrison commander had the veto in a state governed by law; you knew new anarchy was loosed upon Ibadan, the town Awo’s dutiful policies conferred respectability, despite Penkelemesi’s empty theatrics!
But Oyo would hit its nadir under Adebayo Alao-Akala (2007-2011) — first, rogue governor during Ladoja’s illegal impeachment. Then, “elected” governor, under Adedibu’s absolute suzerainty, in the 2007 elections considered Nigeria’s worst ever.
By this time, Ibadan was mincemeat, whenever Eleweomo, Auxillary and allied local NURTW thugs decided on their turf wars — which were pretty often!
Adedibu’s golden boys were in town; and everyone had better dive for cover!
It was this prehistoric debacle Ajimobi had to clear — and he did so with uncommon brilliance. Security, from near-absolute chaos, is perhaps Ajimobi’s prime legacy.
Then, winsome infrastructure. That started with a simple flyover solution at Mokola, Ibadan, which Ladoja and his pre-historic crowd even tried to bad-mouth.
That soon snowballed into an urban upgrade, never seen since the era of Military Governor, David Jemibewon (Western State: August 1975-March 1976; then, newly created Oyo State, now Oyo and Osun states: March 1976-July 1978).
All of a sudden, the notorious Alesinloye and Mokola traffic gridlocks all but vanished. The Adamasingba-Jericho-Onireke GRA areas received new vim — did anyone ever think, from that corridor, Eleyele was just a flit away? So did Challenge extension, with its expanded four-lane free-way.
Outside Ibadan, the eternally abandoned Oke-Ogun areas were proud beneficiaries of Ajimobi’s infrastructural touch.
And a profile in courage! Ajimobi’s stumble over the Olubadan chieftaincy question is only a future come too soon. If you doubt, there was a time splitting the Ibadan Municipal Council (IMC), at Mapo, was political heresy. Today, that era is gone and forgotten.
Then, the Ayefele Music House crisis, and its eventual resolution, was the quintessential Ajimobi: never shirked tough decisions because of public growls — a profile in courage!
And the environment? In just four short years, Ibadan, almost always the dirtiest of places was striving among the neatest, thanks to Ajimobi’s street cleaning and waste disposal reforms.
When the first-term governor sought a second term, a cynical campaign stirred, to de-market his great infrastructural strides — “Se titi laa je?” — best captured in pidgin: “na road we go chop?”
Koseleri 1 triumphed over all that, as Ajimobi romped to unprecedented victory, on account of policy clarity and brilliant performance.
But Koseleri 2 also sundered all that, as Ajimobi slumped to unprecedented defeat — his tongue as ruthless nemesis!
The gripping epitaph of the Ajimobi era? Policy brain and beauty ruined by a reckless tongue!