Dr. Olusegun Kokumo Agagu
He was rarely known by his other name, Kokumo, meaning ‘never to die again’. But the sudden death, last week, of a former Ondo State governor, Dr. Olusegun Kokumo Agagu, may have left a vacuum in the politics of the state, writes Omololu Ogunmade
Call it the end of an era, this expression may still not sufficiently capture the essence- talk about the life and times of Dr. Olusegun Agagu, a former governor of Ondo State, who stooped to death last Friday, September 13. Given the robust life he lived, both as an erudite scholar and astute politician, it just might be right to infer that the late politician, like a typical enigma, came, saw and conquered.
Since the creation of Ondo State in 1976, none has had a record of high political profile like Agagu. He started his political sojourn when he served as deputy governor in the Third Republic in the old Ondo State on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), before proceeding to the federal cabinet in the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, where he held two portfolios (Aviation and Power) only to return to his state a few years later as governor on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In Ikale land where he hailed from, he was the first to become a deputy governor and governor in a civilian rule. This is because the late Chief Olu Akinfosile, a First Republic Minister of Communications, another Ikale man had held a ministerial portfolio long ahead of his emergence while Vice Admiral Akin Aduwo, also from the area was military governor of the old Western Region, during the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon.
Agagu’s life as a politician was challenging. He was one politician who exploited all powers within his reach to promote peace and stability when he held sway. He was not known to indulge in violence and vain glory. He believed that governance was not about noise-making or being a media administrator. Rather, his idea of politics and governance was quiet delivery of service to the people. Small wonder in 2010, he told some journalists in Lagos that he was bothered about the noise being made by a certain governor concerning his activities in the media, which contrasted Agagu’s style of governance. “This is a loud administration but ours was a quiet one,” he remarked.
Indeed, much was not known about his administration’s performance through the media while in office. This also explains why his achievements were not appreciated until he left office as governor because unlike many of his peers, he never believed in the use of the media to promote his activities. On the contrary, he believed that his works should speak for themselves.
It is on record that his administration invested heavily in education by building model schools in each of the 18 local government areas of the state; construction of roads across the state; providing jobs for young graduates and ensuring huge improvement in power supply across the state, using his influence as a former Minister of Power.
During his five-year reign as governor, it is on record that he constructed 813 modern blocks of six classrooms in each of the local government areas of the state and they were all completed before he left office.
But one trauma that may have followed Agagu to the world beyond was the abandonment of his Olokola Free Trade Zone project after leaving office. He had conceived the idea with the intention that it would serve as the centre of great industrial activities in Nigeria. The multi-billion dollar project which was part of his idea to industrialise the state, was meant to serve as a major logistical base for the Western axis.
It was also meant to serve as alternative to oil and complement it in improving the economic and operational responsiveness towards the expansion and exploration activities of Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Company.
While evolving the idea in 2004, Agagu had partnered then Ogun State government under former governor Chief Gbenga Daniel, in conjunction with Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Chevron, Shell and British Gas. The project was expected to enjoy uninterrupted power supply from neigbouring Omotosho Plant. Agagu also conceived and established the Ondo State University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa, with the intention that the institution would serve as an intellectual feeder station for the zone.
By June 2004, Agagu had been awarded licence for the development of Olokola deep sea complex and free trade zone. But this project which had the capacity to provide 20,000 jobs seemed jinxed as it was abandoned following his exit and that of Daniel from office, respectively. There was, however, a ray of hope in June when reports had it that the Chairman of Dangote Group of Companies, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, had chosen the OFTZ as the site for the construction of an $8 billion refinery.
Over time, Agagu had become an enigma in Ondo politics. A number of people who had written him off following his ouster by the judiciary in 2009 were shocked when he narrowly lost a senatorial election in Ondo South senatorial district at the 2011 general election. He lost the election by 8,000 votes. Even at that, Agagu who challenged his loss in court believed that he won the election but robbed of victory by forces which feared that his return to political reckoning at that level could threaten their influence and therefore conspired to stop him.
Also, the fact that his candidate, Chief Olusola Oke, came second at the last governorship election in the state after PDP had been pronounced dead, beating the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu, to the third position despite the high level of propaganda that characterised the campaigns further attested to Agagu’s continuous relevance in the state’s politics until his death.
Certainly, his exit will create a vacuum that might be difficult to fill in PDP by 2016 when another governorship election is due in the state.
One other notable factor about Agagu was his simple lifestyle. He was neither given to frivolities nor extravagance. He no doubt led a Spartan lifestyle. While a number of his colleagues acquired stupendous wealth and built mansions at home and abroad using state resources, Agagu did not have more than a small bungalow in Iju-Odo, his home town and an old storey building in Bodija, Ibadan both of which were built long before he became governor. Even in Akure, the state capital, he did not own a house. It was after leaving office, that he seemed pressured to buy a house in Ikoyi, where he had his final lunch on earth and breathed his last that Friday.
THISDAY learnt that while he was in office, some of his commissioners who thought that his Ibadan home was not fashionable for a man of his status had renovated it for him. He believed that primitive accumulation beyond the needs of an individual was vanity. And upon leaving office in 2009, Agagu claimed to have left a whopping sum of N38 billion in the state’s coffer, even though his successor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, disputed the claim and put it at N33 billion.
As Minister of Aviation, he upgraded the Akure Airport, while as Power Minister he established 335 mega watts of power plant in Omotosho; ensured constant power supply in Akoko and the entire South senatorial district. He also established the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) stations in Akure, Ikare and Okitipupa and initiated the electrification of more than 100 communities in Ondo State with several of them completed. Agagu, it was, that initiated the construction of Owena Multi-purpose Dam, among countless other projects.
Born on February 16, 1948 in Iju Odo in present day Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State, Agagu commenced his elementary education at St. Luke’s Anglican School, (now known as St. Paul’s Anglican School) Okitipupa, in 1954. In January 1958, he moved to live with his cousin, Edward Fagbohun, in Ibadan, Oyo State, where he continued his primary education at Ebenezer African Church School, Oke-Ado, Ibadan.
In 1959, he transferred his studies to Kano State, where he studied at Ebenezer Methodist School and Baptist Primary School Sabon-Gari, Kano. He then moved back to Ebenezer African Church School, Ibadan where he completed his primary education in 1960.
He attended Ibadan Grammar School between January 1961 and 1967, where he passed his West African School Certificate (WASC) and the Higher School Certificate examinations. He was admitted to the University of Ibadan in 1968 to study Botany but later changed to Geology, from where he graduated with a B.Sc., Second Class Upper Division, in 1971. As an undergraduate, his academic record was replete with laurels and prizes.
Agagu later proceeded to the University of Texas between 1973 and 1974 for his Masters degree in Geology. Returning to Nigeria, he obtained a Ph.D in Petroleum Geology from the University of Ibadan, in 1978. And until his voyage into politics, he was a lecturer in UI.
Perhaps, if he had lived up his name being Kokumo (never to die again), he would have spent some more years to realising whatever was left of his aspirations. But with his demise last Friday, he has not only left a vacuum in the state’s politics, the PDP in Ondo will also miss him as a rallying point.
However, that Governor Mimiko declared a seven-day mourning period for him this week attested to the beliefs that Agagu was a major political force whose influence cannot be undermined in the state, regardless of the different political leanings.