Amosun at 65: Examining a People-centered Leader

Adewale Ogunyomade examines the political life of former Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, as he turns 65

On January 15, 2023, Ibadan, Oyo State’s most prominent radio station, Fresh FM, tersely but unintentionally, periscoped the life of Ibikunle Amosun, former Ogun State governor. It was on its flagship programme called Opeyemi, handled by its founder and ace musician, Yinka Ayefele. Opeyemi, literally translated to mean It

Is My Turn To Testify, is patterned after Christendom’s congregational gratitude session to the Almighty.

Testimony is a major feature of church programmes in Nigeria and aside gratitude, it is also an opportunity to offer supplications to God for greater blessings.

During Ayefele’s Opeyemi, held late in the evening on Sundays, “testifiers” who have gone through earth-shaking vicissitudes of life share their horrific and providence interventions which shape their lives and keep them from being swept offshore by the vagaries and turmoil of life.

On this day appeared an apparently old man whose shaky voice spoke of the travails he had undergone in life. He had been sentenced to death for murder but had his fate with the hangman commuted to life imprisonment. Since 1994, he stayed in an Ogun State prison as a lifer. This day, however, he said on Opeyemi, Senator Amosun decided to celebrate his birthday with prisoners at Abeokuta Prisons. This particular convict was given the task of handling the Islamic prayers by prison officials. After the Islamic prayer session, the man, according to him,  smartly informed his audience, pointing at the prison gallows, that he would have been executed in that house of horror but he was grateful to God that he escaped death. Then he appealed to the pity of all present, including Amosun, pleading that he should be considered for amnesty, having been in jail for almost three decades.

Senator Amosun, the convict said, entreated him to intensify his prayers to Almighty Allah but asked the prison officials for details of his imprisonment.

Thereafter, Amosun, said the man, took his matter to Abuja. Not long after, he was pardoned. In tears, the man showered profuse prayers and eulogies on the former governor for giving him a new lease of life.

Today is another birthday celebration of this celebrated politician and humanist whose life is summarized by the testimony of that former prison lifer.

Born January 25, 1958, young Ibikunle attended the African Church Primary School,  Abeokuta from 1965 to1970 and proceeded to the African Church Grammar school, Abeokuta where he studied between 1971 and 1977.

For his higher education, Ibikunle attended the Ogun State Polytechnic and bagged a Higher National Diploma in 1983. Convinced that he had an exemplary ability in financial accounting, Ibikunle studied hard for and secured the Associate membership of the

Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and in 1996, secured its fellowship. He capped these up by also becoming an Associate member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria in 1998.

A year after his graduation from the polytechnic, Amosun began to hone his skills in the career in which he would later gain renown and wealth.

With the Lanre Aremu & Co. (Chartered Accountants) did he start as an audit trainee. Six years after, he transferred his service to XtraEdge Consulting where he was appointed a Managing Consultant of the highly rated firm. This same year, Ibikunle founded his own firm which he named Ibikunle Amosun & Co. (Chartered Accountants) with its headquarters in Lagos and he became the Principal partner of this firm that was to later shoot him into prominence and plot the graph of his becoming one of the major players in the accounting world in Nigeria.

Still convinced that he needed to populate his brain in the knowledge of accounting and finance, in 2000, Amosun applied for and secured admission to the University of Westminster in London where he studied and bagged a Masters of Arts degree in International Finance.

Now established, wealthy and having bent over backwards to work his way into being a major octopus in the Nigerian accounting and finance world, Amosun thought about the next step in life.

Aged 45 at this time, it would seem that Amosun was engaged in an existential interrogation of what is called midlife crisis.

He began to interrogate the purpose and essence of life. Is wealth for wealth sake the purpose that man came to this world to achieve? Is man fulfilled simply by being able to fend for his family and capable of affording anything his heart desires? Is life not a total ruin if man spends his life merely tending to and attending to his own existential needs alone?

Ibikunle Amosun then surveyed the horizon. The corporate world, he reasoned, had very limited avenues to better the lives of the people, other than its corporate social responsibility programme.

Limited in scope and restrained in the number of beneficiaries, CSR has only tokenism to offer to the teeming, suffering people in a developing world.

Then the young accountant’s mind hovered over the landscape of politics. Reflexively, he suddenly clenched his fist and exclaimed Eureka!, the same way Archimedes, Ancient Greek mathematician and inventor, must have exclaimed Eureka! Eureka! When he discovered the principle of measuring with precision the volume of irregular objects.

Before Archimedes, it was an intractable problem. Immediately he stepped into a bath and discovered that the water level rose, Archimedes knew that the world would never be the same again. With this discovery, Archimedes realized that the volume of water that was displaced was certainly equal to “the volume of the part of his body he had submerged.”

Till today, this discovery, known as the Archimedes Principle, offers a scientific explanation of the upthrust that a body immersed in fluid experiences.

Like Archimedes, Amosun discovered that only politics could properly measure and stem the tide of irregular poverty that afflicts the Nigerian people and specifically, his people in Ogun State.

Since his coming on board politics of his native Ogun, politics therein has not been the same again. It is either you are for Amosun or you are against him, Amosun being emblematic of change and positive governance. In the same vein, it also occurred to Amosun that, no matter the strides he made in the corporate world, he might never be able to positively affect the lives of five percent of his teeming poor constituents.

So, into the murky rivers of water, with its multifarious challenges and tendencies, did Ibikunle Amosun delve.

And the senatorial seat of his Ogun Central district he began with. After a competitive, energy-sapping process of electioneering, in April 2003, Amosun was elected senator under the political canopy of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) succeeding erstwhile senator who represented the district – Femi Okurounmu.

Having had a successful first taste of political power during which he benefited multiple of thousands of his constituents, Amosun then decided to upscale his relevance and impact in the lives of his people.

His first shot at political office as a senator benefitted only a third of his Ogun people, he reckoned. Couldn’t he escalate it to a higher pedestal?

So, in 2007, Amosun attempted to contest for the Ogun State governorship, under the ANPP. Unfortunately, he lost the election. Though he challenged the result of that election which was dismissed in August 2009 by the Ogun State Election Petitions Tribunal, an election which went ahead to trump up Gbenga Daniel as governor, Amosun was not deterred by this political setback.

In the April, 2011 gubernatorial election which he again contested under the banner of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, (ACN) Amosun won with 377,489 votes, as against the votes of his closest opponent, the late retired military General, Adetunji Olurin of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who polled 188,698 votes and Gboyega Isiaka of the PPN, who, coming third in the election, scored 137,051 votes.

In the 2015 poll again, Amosun won again, thus serving the people of Ogun State for a second term.Amosun’s eight years in office were unprecedented in the annals of the history of governance in the western part of Nigeria.

Not only did he change the face of governance and the architecture of governmental intervention in the lives of the people, Ogun State became a byword for infrastructural revolution. At every point he turned to interface with the people, he always told them that the power God had given him was the power to do good for the greatest number of the people.

It was as if he was a student of the utilitarian school of Jeremy Bentham which holds that a leader must calculate the degree or amount of pleasure that a specific action of its leadership is likely to induce on the people. Bentham, an ethical hedonist, was renowned for believing that the moral rightness or wrongness of an action is a function of the amount of pleasure or pain that it produces in the followers.

Amosun manifested this in every department of his administration of office, seeking the people’s pleasure and good over pain. It was as if those who administered the state before him were merely having naps in office.

He exhibited a boundless energy for changing the landscape and worked till the last minute he spent in office at Oke Mosan.

Even though intangible, one other underrated bit about Amosun is that he brought high level of morality into governance.

He was like Chief Obafemi Awolowo who submitted that while his colleagues were cavorting with women of easy virtues, he was engaged with serious matters of governance. Highly religious and almost in communion with his Creator through fasting almost all the seven days of the week, never in Amosun was found the blemish noticeable in many political leaders, of entangling self with illicit bodily pleasure.

Perhaps the most outstanding of Amosun’s infrastructural achievements is the construction of roads, bridges and flyovers with which he littered the landscape of Ogun State with.

He also prioritized security in such a way that you would think that he was aware that if he didn’t do this, his people would be under siege. It is to Amosun’s credit that Ogun State opened its doors to multinational companies, businesses, entrepreneurs and investors who suddenly found an inroad into Ogun State under the clement governmental administration provided by his government.

He created massive wealth, employment, prioritized the uplift of schools and their development as centers of teaching and learning, while upgrading hospitals with massive provision of facilities and equipment. The infrastructural revolution he achieved in the state was so massive that Amosun was given the sobriquet of ‘Father of modern Ogun State’.

It is instructive to note that the Ogun State which later became the sugar that political ants fight tooth and nail to lick was a troubled economy by the time Amosun took over. In 2011, he met an economy that boasted only a paltry N700 million as monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). It is to his credit that, within eight years in office, this celebrated finance expert increased this revenue base by over 1,000 per cent, landing the IGR at N7 billion Naira monthly.

On 29 May 2019, Amosun however handed over to some political revanchists who thought they had vanquished him by their ascendance into office.

However, it is on record that Amosun, who was later elected again as Senator for the Ogun Central senatorial district at the National Assembly, has a political aura which momentous governance cannot sidestep. Ogun State people have, since May 2019, been going comparative between the then under Amosun and now, nostalgic for the Amosun years and locating a gaping and embarrassing hiatus in governmental interventions in their lives today.

Here is wishing Senator Amosun a happy 65th birthday celebration and many more years of interventions in the lives of his people.

-Ogunyomade writes from Lagos

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