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 themselves into the hearts of the electorate. As they mounted the rostrum, all you hear then was ‘we will build roads; low-cost houses will be yours for the asking; it will be life in abundance for citizens and sojourners…’ In fact, some chose to revile past holders of the office or frontline opponents in the war of attrition. Like Jesus Christ, in one of his parables to the Pharisees in John, Chapter 10, some of these politicians, who could hardly win in their polling units, would say, “All who came before me were thieves and robbers…The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they (you) may have life and have it in all its fullness.”
Rather than malign his predecessors or adopt vainglory approach, Senator Abiola Ajimobi chose a different path. He would always tell his teeming supporters that “if I will not make a remarkable difference as governor, may God abort this ambition. But, if my becoming governor will turn around the fortunes of this state may God assist me to surmount every obstacle towards realizing my ambition.” He did not only win in 2011, but broke the second term jinx in 2015 with the support of the appreciative citizens of the state.
In retrospect, it is on record that 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 virtually made the state ungovernable. At the height of the impunity, one 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 their redemption. 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, as well as the fading glory of the pacesetter state in all spheres. 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.
Ajimobi’s pyramid of development bears semblance to the theory of human needs espoused by the American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, in his 1954 book, Motivation and Personality. In hierarchical order, Maslow had rated safety and security needs highly, next to physiological needs (air, water, food, shelter, clothing and other basic physical requirements), which are the sine qua non of human existence.
In six years, the governor’s scorecard in peace and security suggest 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 forward-looking governor had recently embraced the safe city project. The project will proffer cutting edge solutions that will nip crime and criminality in the bud, especially in Ibadan, the state capital. 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 to monitor the activities of criminals. Although, the recent onslaught of the self-styled one million boys in Ibadan would suggest that it is not yet Uhuru, the rapid force with which they were crushed confirms that law enforcement agencies are equal to the task of tackling and ultimately ridding Oyo State of undesirable elements. The incident, however, points to the fact that no society, not even the developed ones, is insulated from crime. Eternal vigilance among citizens and cooperation with law enforcement agencies by blowing whistles on criminals will, no doubt, complement the efforts of the government in this regard.
Before the advent of the Ajimobi-led administration, 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. Similarly, residents of Ibadan can attest to the poor network of roads in existence before the governor mounted the saddle. Not that his predecessors did not construct roads, but the quality of these roads left much to be desired.
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 Ajimobi cleaned up the city. For starters, investors don’t take their money to an environment where the safety and security of their workers and investment would be jeopardised; where there is poor network of roads or where the environment is filthy and uncongenial for business
At the last count, 36 new companies have been attracted to the state in the last six years, with close to 4000 direct employees, according to figures obtained from the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. Further proof of this upsurge in industrialisation is the rating of Oyo as the fifth most investment friendly state by the National Bureau of Statistics, which also credited the governor as having attracted more than $61m (N22.4bn) foreign direct investment to the state so far.
The governor recently opened a new vista of industrial development with the acquisition of large expanse of land on both sides of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway to accommodate the Polaris-Pacesetter Free Trade Zone and an Industrial Park. The free trade zone is one of the dividends of Ajimobi’s many shuttles to China, where Oyo State is now very popular, because of the governor’s relentlessness and spirited efforts to attract investors into the state. Exuding confidence at a recent event, the governor enthused that seven of the more than 157 companies expected to populate the free trade zone would be inaugurated by the end of this year.
Within the first six years of his administration, Ajimobi constructed the Mokola flyover, which was the first by any civilian governor in the state. Although it may sound exaggerated, some travellers coming into Ibadan through the Challenge/Orita axis for the first time in six years have been said to miss their ways due to the transformation brought to the area with the new network of six-lane roads. Apart from Challenge, the once decrepit Alesinloye, Dugbe-Magazine-Eleyele Roads have been expanded to six lanes, complete with modern furniture and built to last.
The governor’s road revolution was extended to the other five major 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, to improve the condition of the road network across the state a total of 850km roads were rehabilitated and maintained in the last six years.
In his determination to bequeath a lasting road legacy on 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. To the delight of citizens, the governor had during the flag off ceremony explained that the project was awarded to the ENL Consortium Limited at the cost of N70bn, under a build, operate and transfer arrangement. He emphasised that it would be entirely financed by the contractor through a facility sourced from the China Exim Bank. When completed, the road is poised to decongest the city and enhance its aesthetics, apart from its unquantifiable commercial value. To demonstrate the importance attached to these projects, the governor had told the contractors that they must be completed before he leaves office.
Again, in order to restore sanity to the state, the governor recently inaugurated the first of its kind master plan for Ibadan, the state capital, in conjunction with the World Bank, while he also established the Bureau of Physical Planning and Development control. All these are tailored towards ending the regime of indiscriminate and haphazard constructions in Ibadan. But for the Ajimobi-inspired World Bank-assisted Ibadan Urban Flood Management initiative, the perennial flooding that had consumed lives and property in Ibadan prior to his regime would have again wreaked havoc this year. In the last six years, extensive dredging and channelization efforts had taken place in the Ogunpa and other rivers in Ibadan, while drainages are being desilted for free flow of water.
As the Yoruba will say, ‘Oro po ninu iwe kobo‘ (there are far too many words to encounter in a penny-worth newspaper!). There is so much to reel out about the Ajimobi success story…it will amount to a disservice to the governor, popularly called the game changer, to attempt to lump all his achievements in this single piece. Thus Ajimobi’s indelible footprints in education, agriculture, health, housing, social infrastructure, transportation, governance and service matters will have to be told another day soon. What is for sure and unarguable is that 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. Undoubtedly, Ajimobi’s regime was ordained by God.
Oyedele is Senior Special Assistant (Media) to Oyo State Governor