I first met with the late Senator Abiola Ajimobi sometime in 2004 at a private event hosted by my senior colleague and Ajimobi’s long-standing friend, the notable economist, Professor Ademola Ariyo at his Old Bodija residence, in Ibadan. He was then a Senator of the Federal Republic representing the good people of Oyo South. In our brief encounter that beautiful evening the distinguished senator came across as an amiable, suave, cerebral, intelligent, witty and quick- witted individual. I even broached the idea of inviting him to deliver a Postgraduate School Interdisciplinary Discourse but we never got to working out the details till I left as Dean of the Postgraduate School in 2006.
We started seeing him more frequently when he became our State Governor after the 2011 General Elections. He attended many events at the University of Ibadan and even delivered a Convocation lecture during the tenure of my predecessor as Vice-Chancellor, Professor Isaac Folorunso Adewole. He was always claiming, and rightly too, that Ibadan is the intellectual capital of Nigeria. On a lighter note, he would joke that he had many friends and associates at the University of Ibadan and he deserved to be appointed an ‘Associate Professor’. Some of us his audience would just murmur ‘Just like that?’
Where I come from, there is a popular saying that the King during whose reign there was peace and tranquillity, his name would never be forgotten. Governor Ajimobi restored peace during his reign here in Oyo State.
In the field of higher education his achievement was quite commendable. As at the time he assumed office as Governor in May 2011, there were four universities in the State. These include the University of Ibadan (established 1948), Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Ogbomoso (established 1990), Lead City University Ibadan (established 2005) and Ajayi Crowther University Oyo (established 2005). By the time he left office eight years later as Governor, according to information available on the website of the National Universities Commission (https://www.nuc.edu.ng) six additional universities had been established in the state.
He himself founded the First Technical University in 2012 although the effective take off took another few years and he appointed an accomplished academic and former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Professor Ayobami Salami the pioneer Vice-Chancellor in 2017. The star-studded Governing Council is chaired by Distinguished Professor Oye Ibidapo-Obe Former Vice-Chancellor University of Lagos and former President Nigerian Academy of Science.
The other new Universities in Oyo State are privately owned, namely Kola Daisi University Ibadan and Dominican University Ibadan both established in 2016. Precious Cornerstone University Ibadan and Atiba University Oyo were established in 2017 while Dominion University Ibadan was established in 2019. In essence, we currently have 10 Universities in Oyo State, three of which are public universities while the remaining seven are privately owned. This should go a long way toward improving access to university education by our teeming secondary school leavers.
I once asked Governor Ajimobi why he abandoned some aspects of his urban renewal programme through which he cleared all the roadside ‘markets’ on the not so wide roads that had the tendency to slow down vehicular traffic in the metropolis. He replied that it was because there was a lot of resistance to that policy by majority of the residents.
Towards the end of his two-term tenure as Governor, Senator Ajimobi expressed interest in pursuing a doctoral programme at the University of Ibadan. This is a standard practise in many world-class universities in other jurisdictions as it provides an avenue for people who have seen it all in public service and the private sector to interact with the scholars in academia.
Senator Ajimobi subsequently applied for and was offered admission for M.Phil/PhD Sustainable Development Practice by the Postgraduate College, University of Ibadan, tenable at the Centre for Sustainable Development, which is now part of our Faculty of Multidisciplinary Studies. He had already paid the requisite acceptance fee. The following topics were identified for his thesis:
- Executive Performance, Governance and Quality of Democracy at the State level: Perception of the Electorate.
- Public Opinion and Accountability in Political Governance of State governments in Nigeria.
His transition has now prevented the Distinguished Senator Ajimobi the opportunity of embarking on his doctoral research at the University of Ibadan. We pray for the repose of his soul. May the good God forgive his sins and comfort his widow, children, grandchildren, friends and associates.
Good night, your Excellency.
University of Ibadan
Saturday, 4th July 2020