Chuks Okocha, Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja, Martins Ifijeh in Lagos, Seriki Adinoyi in Jos and Victor Ogunje in Ekiti
Tributes poured in thursday for former Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who passed on earlier in the day at the age of 70.
Until his death, he was the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and picked as the party’s acting national chairman in the wake of the Court of Appeal’s ratification of the suspension of the incumbent, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole.
Ajimobi passed away the same day the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party dissolved the National Working Committee (NWC), which he headed, albeit through the party’s National Vice Chairman (South-south), Chief Hilliard Eta, while he was receiving treatment in a Lagos hospital for COVID-19.
President Muhammadu Buhari, the governors of the 36 states and a top chieftain of APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, expressed shock over the death of Ajimobi, whom they described as a man of integrity.
Among the governors who sent condolence messages over Ajimobi’s death were his successor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Prince Dapo Abiodun (Ogun) and Mr. Gboyega Oyetola (Osun).
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also condoled with the Ajimobis, the Oyo State Government and the nation.
A source close to the former governor informed THISDAY last night that he died from COVID-19 complications.
According to the source, Ajimobi, along with his wife, Florence, had tested positive for COVID-19 in May, but his wife beat the virus while he had, for weeks, been battling complications associated with the disease.
This, it was gathered, made him to fall into coma at the private hospital in Lagos, where he was receiving treatment.
He was transferred to the intensive care unit of the hospital where prominent Nigerians have been receiving treatment for COVID-19.
In his condolences, the president said Ajimobi’s contributions to the development of Oyo State and the nation would always be remembered.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Buhari commiserated with the family of the former governor, whom he said served the country as a senator in 2003, before becoming governor in 2011.
The president said Ajimobi remained steadfast and consistent in his progressive views, and worked assiduously for the creation of the APC.
The statement added: “As the party chieftain bows out, President Buhari believes he left the world at a crucial moment when the party and the country needed his counsels to heal, and grow, noting that his absence will be sorely felt by all associates, particularly in the APC.”
Fayemi, in a statement issued in his capacity as the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), said the late Ajimobi was not just their colleague as governors, but was also a pillar of support to the NGF whose contributions to the forum’s debates were filled with wisdom besides their depth.
Fayemi said that while he was governor of Oyo State, the late Ajimobi was not just one member of the NGF who left indelible impressions in the minds of all members who served during his time, but also provided valuable counsel to the NGF secretariat.
According to the NGF chairman, “With insight and foresight, the late Abiola Ajimobi encouraged the strengthening of ties between governors and served as a counsellor to other governors including my humble self.”
Another statement by the Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum and Governor of Plateau State, Hon. Simon Lalong, described Ajimobi as a man of integrity who served the people of Oyo State and Nigeria with excellence.
Lalong said: “The sterling leadership qualities of the late Ajimobi and his role in the formation of the All Progressives Congress endeared him to many party members which led to his appointment as deputy national chairman, South.”
Makinde, on his part, expressed sadness at the demise of his predecessor.
The governor, in a condolence message to the Ajimobi family and the people of Oyo State, also directed that the state’s flag flies at half mast today.
“I cannot begin to imagine the pain the family must be going through at this time because of the loss of their patriarch. It is my prayer that God grants them all the strength to bear this great loss.
“I join the good people of Oyo State as we mourn the death of a statesman. Surely, he will be remembered for leaving a blueprint for some of the activities that our administration is now undertaking,” he added.
In another statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Yinka Oyebode, Fayemi described Ajimobi’s death as a personal loss to him, and a huge loss to the people of Oyo State in particular and Nigeria in general.
“We have lost a star’ said Fayemi who added that Ajimobi’s death was a painful one not only to the family but to the APC.
Fayemi described Ajimobi as an accomplished professional, a respected politician and astute administrator, who reached the pinnacle of his professional and political careers by dint of hard work, courage and brilliance.
In his message, Abiodun described as end of an era the death of Ajimobi.
He said the former governor died when his services were most needed and at a time his sagacity would have made a critical difference in statecraft and political engineering.
He said his death was not only a loss to his immediate family and Oyo State that he governed for two unprecedented terms, adding that “it marked the end of an era for Nigeria because of the circumstances of the present time.”
Also in his condolence message, Oyetola commiserated with the family of Ajimobi.
Oyetola, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Ismail Omipidan, described the former governor’s death as unfortunate, painful and a great loss.
Sanwo-Olu also described the death of Ajimobi as a great loss to his family, the people of the Oyo State and the country as a whole.
The governor added that he is saddened by the loss.
Sanwo-Olu, in a statement, by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, said Ajimobi’s demise, after all efforts by medical professionals to stabilise him when he took ill, had opened a deep sore in the hearts of millions of Nigerians, who looked up to him as a rallying point and a political stabiliser.
He said: “the passage of Senator Ajimobi hurts me. My heart was filled with grief when I was informed that I had lost another political icon to our battle against the coronavirus.
“Senator Ajimobi was more than a politician, he was a man of many parts, whose managerial skills and experience are required at this critical period in our national life.”
While commiserating with the deceased’s family, Sanwo-Olu urged them to take heart, saying ‘‘the death of loved ones is usually one of the most painful episodes in peoples’ lives but we must realise that death is inevitable. We all will die someday. Therefore we must gather enough strength to carry on.”
On his part, Tinubu said with Ajimobi’s departure, Nigeria had lost an outstanding statesman and one of its most able politicians.
“Our party, the All Progressives Congress, has lost one of its leading lights. The Yoruba race and Oyo State have lost a favourite son. I have lost a dedicated friend, brother and ally,” Tinubu said in a statement by his Media Office.
“The pain we feel at his passing is beyond what words can describe. This good and excellent man has left us but his energy, activism and commitment to Nigeria and its people shall always be with us,” Tinubu added.
Also, the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) described Ajimobi’s death as a national tragedy and a huge loss not only to the APC and his state, Oyo but also to the entire nation.
A statement by the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan said: “Indeed, our party is still in shock and deeply saddened over the news of the death of Senator Ajimobi, especially at this time, when our nation needed his wealth of experience and statesmanship the most.”
PDP said Ajimobi was an exceptionally brilliant administrator, outstanding legislator and a man of peace, who made immense contributions and sacrifices towards the unity as well as political stability and development of Nigeria.