Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan
When Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State recently rolled out the drums to celebrate his 69th birthday anniversary, it was certainly the case of a prophet being honoured in his hometown. His kinsmen under the umbrella body of the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII), apart from being part of the celebrations which lasted for about three days, also hosted the governor to a lavish reception to appreciate what they referred to as his uncommon contributions to the development of the ancient city of Ibadan in particular and Oyo State as a whole.
The birthday programme started with the organisation of the maiden Abiola Ajimobi Roundtable with the theme, “The imperatives of Building lnstitutions for Lasting Legacies”, where eminent personalities, notable politicians and scholars agreed on the need for the country to move away from building strong individuals to building strong institutions, as a means of achieving sustaintable national development.
Present at the event included a former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd.), who was the father of the day/chairman; National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was the special guest of honour; the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Stuart Symington and wife of the governor, Dr. (Mrs) Florence Ajimobi. Others were former Interim National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande; former Governor of Osun State, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola; Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan; the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III; the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi and an industrialist, Chief Kola Daisi.
Various speakers while harping on the theme of the roundtable affirmed that while strong individuals were necessary for visionary leadership, it was only strong institutions that could enhance proactive leadership, good governance, effectiveness of the rule of law and inclusiveness of the citizenry.
General Gowon in his contribution, identified the civil service as one of the key institutions that any government must strengthen, noting that “protecting the integrity, confidentiality and impartiality of civil servants would enable them give political leaders the right advices”.
On his part, the APC National Leader, who insisted that institutions are important, said a leader cannot be deemed to have succeeded, no matter how much he has achieved infrastructural renewal and other areas of development until he develops people who can succeed him and nurture the institutions that he had built.
He said; “We have seen infrastructural renewal across the state; we have seen demolitions, emotions, expressions, reforms of traditional institutions. You have proved that you don’t lack courage but you can be successful as a leader not only in terms of bricks and mortars but how many other leaders you have developed who can succeed you and build on your legacies; otherwise, as you leave, the empire crumbles; the institutions you have built will go into ruins.”
Talking about Ajimobi, the former Lagos State governor declared him as a leader who demonstrated the rare combination of thinking and doing, maintaining that he had exhibited the quality of a good leader who had the courage of not only taking actions, but being ready to face the consequences of his actions.
Chief Akande who agreed on the need to build strong institutions, however warned against what he called the growing institution of bullies who, he said, derived satisfaction in benefitting from the public purse without providing the commensurate value.
He said: “Regardless of your profession, if you take money for the job you have not done, you are a thief. In other countries, when people go on strike, they do not take salary for the period. All you leaders who allow people to steal from public purse should henceforth watch it.”
In the submission of the immediate past governor of Osun State, he recalled that one of the reasons why a former US President, Barack Obama shunned Nigeria and chose to visit Ghana during his visit to Africa was due to the lack of will by our leaders at the time to support the growth of institutions.
He said: “During that visit, Obama observed that African leaders should look at building institutions and not individuals. And for me also, even though we need strong, thoughtful, resilient, idealistic and iconic people to look up to as pace setters, but Africa can only be great if we shift our focus to building institutions which will outlive these individuals.”
The US ambassador, who addressed the gathering via an amplified telephone call from Abuja, said it was time for the people of Oyo State, Nigeria, development partners and business associates to shift attention from sustainable development to profitable development because without profit, development cannot be sustained.
He further noted that oil and land were not the important asset of the country but the people of Nigeria themselves, stating that “how the people of Nigeria, working together to transform and strengthen institutions from inside out is the only way for creating trust that will ensure development, trust for people to take their hard earned capital and their very lives and invest in the country because they will be welcomed and well treated.” The envoy added that institutions don’t have memories and reputations, it is the leaders that drive them.
The Senate Leader, Lawan, in his own submission, said strong institutions were created and nurtured by strong men; leaders of vision and integrity who were focused, noting that after Tinubu had created strong institutions in Lagos, he made sure that strong and competent leaders succeeded him to make the institutions sustainable.
He said, “We also have such a leader in Governor Ajimobi. He came with a vision; he had courage and competence; he believes in probity and that is why Oyo State has had a smooth primary; the governor is more interested in people who can sustain his institutional reforms and other legacies and not in his own personal preferences.”
Oba Adeyemi while speaking about the governor, said “Ajimobi is the 20th governor that I have worked with. I have worked intimately as a son and as governor. If you are brilliant, truthful and hardworking, he will work with you. He runs an inclusive government but you can only get something from him if you key into his vision of RTR, meaning reformation, transformation and repositioning”.
During the panel discussion that was moderated by Prof. I. A. Adeyemi, the discussants including Prof. Tunji Olaopa, a retired federal permanent secretary and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Prof. (Mrs.) Oluyemisi Bamgbose, also harped on the need for building institutions that would ensure sustainable development.
Adeyemi while expressing gratitude to the guests, said, “all developments are sustained by visions, intellectualism, principle and the courage we need to implement what we have envisoned; we started this roundtable because we believe no social or physical development can be achieved without intellectual and human capital development. No leader is successful until he has chosen a worthy successor; all actions that I have taken were guided by God and the determination to make a difference. When we came, we saw broken bricks but we are leaving Oyo State with marbles.”
Another activity organised to mark the birthday was the commissioning of a Central Mosque built by the governor at the Oke Ado area of Ibadan, the state capital, where he was turbaned the Basorun Musulumi of Oyo State.
Present at the commissioning and turbaning include the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar; Aare Musulumi of Yoruba land, Edo and Delta States, Alhaji Duad Akinola Makanjuola; Chairman Muslim Community of Oyo State, Alhaji Kunle Sanni; Prof. Kamil Oloso, Alhaji Lateef Oyelade and Chairman of the state Pilgrims Welfare Board (Muslim wing), Alhaji Taofeek Akewugbagold.
Others are the Executive Secretary, Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN), Prof. Daud Noibi, APC gubernatorial candidate in the 2019 general elections, Mr. Adebayo Adelabu and Sheik Muideen Bello.
The Aare Musulumi, Alhaji Akinola Makanjuola, while presenting a gift to Ajimobi on behalf of the Muslim Ummah, said the gesture was for his contributions to the religion while also eulogising him for remaining committed to the development of the state.
The Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Olalekan Alli, who welcomed guests to the event, said it was organised in recognition of his achievements in the last seven years.
He said, “His legacy, we are taking about sustainable development which has taken the state to the next level. Governor Ajimobi is the architect of modern day Oyo State, thus celebrating his birthday is celebrating a man who has committed himself to the development of Oyo State.”
At the birthday reception hosted by the CCII held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, it was a roll call of who is who in Ibadanland led by the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji; the Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba (Senator) Lekan Balogun; the Balogun of Ibadanland, Oba Akinloye Owolabi Olakuleyin and the Ashipa Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Eddy Oyewole.
Others include former governor of old Oyo State, Dr. Omololu Olunloyo; Prelate Emeritus Dr. S. Ola Makinde, Chief (Mrs.) Nike Akande, Asiwaju Bode Amao, Chief Yekini Adeojo, Chief Bayo Oyero, Alhaji Lamidi Ajadi, Brig. General Raji Rasaki (rtd.) the President General, CCII, Chief Yemi Soladoye and members of the executive council of the organisation.
While welcoming dignitaries to the event, Soladoye said the organisation in hosting the governor to reception to mark his birthday was not been partisan, stating that dubbing the gathering as campaign for the senatorial ambition of Ajimobi is uncalled for coming from those he described as having pull him down mentality.
According to him, the achievements of the governor in the last seven and half years qualified him to be so honoured, insisting that he has performed so well that he has set the pace for others who want to govern the state in the future.
He said, “The CCII did not organise any ceremony for him before becoming the governor in 2011 and neither did we gather here before he won a second term in 2015. I know for sure that we, Ibadan people are so independent-minded that every day of eating food here till the election day will not make any difference in our voting decision – other things may.
“We are only showing appreciation and setting the pace for the next governor in Oyo State that he must have Ibadan agenda — flood, improper town planning, impending population explosion are some issues of particular application to Ibadan city in addition to the general dividends of democracy to our people.
“This ceremony is to celebrate and thank one of our own who in six months’ time will be completing his second term in office as the executive governor of Oyo State. To Governor Ajimobi and his team, we say thank you – for initiating and reasonably executing the following programs in Oyo State. The agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, the secondary school reforms, the free/cheap mass transit buses, the youth empowerment scheme.
“We also say thank you very much for the Technical University, the modernisation of our markets and abattoirs, the resuscitation of Agodi Gardens, the modernisation of Inter-state bus garages, the crisis-free relationship between the three arms of government and the up-scaling of the Customary Justice system to Appeal Court level.
“Furthermore, we say thank you very much indeed for the Ibadan Circular road, the Ibadan Master plan, the Ibadan intra-city roads, your significant support to the CCII since 2012, your initiating the building of a befitting Olubadan Palace, ensuring security of lives and properties in Ibadanland and the world-class crowning ceremony of our Olubadan in 2016 among many other landmark achievements of your tenure as the governor of Oyo State, all of which have made us proud as your kinsmen.”
Other highlights of the reception include cultural show, royal blessing by the Olubadan of Ibadanland, initiation of the writing of a book “Koseleri”, launching of Ajimobi Foundation for Advanced Democracy (AFAD), testimonies by the family presented by the wife of the governor; Ibadan Elders presented by Hon. Justice Nurudeen Adekola, rtd., and Ibadan Elites presented by Chief Bayo Oyero.