The eternal words of English Playwright, William Shakespeare ring true of the late Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi. ‘Some are born great, others achieve greatness while the rest have greatness thrust upon them.’ Ajimobi was the epitome of the second type of greatness as he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
It was the same Shakespeare who said that ‘When beggars die no comets are seen but the Heavens themselves blaze forth at the death of Princes.’ As said earlier on, he wasn’t of rich or noble birth but his actions in his lifetime made his death one of the biggest highlights of 2020.
The corona virus pandemic has overtaken the news and airwaves especially since the lockdown was held in March with many businesses still shut down till now. Ajimobi’s death is one of those grand news stories which aims at diverting the minds of Nigerians from the ailment that has claimed the lives of the high and mighty including Ajimobi himself as he was said to have succumbed to the cold hands of deaths through a covid 19 related complication.
Ajimobi has his formative years in the ancient city of Ibadan before he sojourned to the United States of America for the proverbial Golden Fleece. While in Uncle Sam as the US is also fondly called, he had to pull himself by the bootstraps to face the grinding poverty that was the lot of most black students by becoming a mortuary attendant. The job made him kill the fear of death as he washed the bodies of the high and low who were leveled down by the inevitability of the grim reaper.
He excelled in his studies and resisted the temptation to remain in the US on economic exile by returning back to his motherland to diligently serve her.
His triumphal entry back to the country coincided with when the nation was at the peak of the oil boom when former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon made a famous statement that there was ‘much money without knowing how to spend it.’ He joined the then government owned National Oil and rose through the ranks to ending up as its Managing Director. As a corporate guru and boardroom impresario, he dined and wined with the high and mighty and his views were well sought after by the financial media.
After the sale of National Oil to Dr. Mike Adenuga in a privatization round, he invariably became redundant. Rather than go into private business as was the path that was the norm for someone of his caliber, he decided to do something totally differently by heeding the call to public service.
In 2003, he got elected into the Nigerian Senate. As a member of the red chamber and the nation’s highest law making body, he contributed his quota to his fatherland by sponsoring some bills especially with regards to the development of the oil and gas sector which was his previous forte.
In 2007, he went into political limbo as he lost his re-election bid to represent Oyo South in the Red Chamber. ‘Winners never quit and quitters never win’ seemed to be his mantra as he bounced back into political reckoning with his election as the Governor of Oyo State in 2011.
His legacy as Governor is mixed. On the one hand, some of his die-hard fans opine that he was a stellar performer who broke the jinx of being elected for two terms – something that even the legendary Late Chief Bola Ige couldn’t do in 1983 when he surprisingly lost to Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo, his critics contended that his administrative style brought pains to the people of Oyo state. They pointed out to his humiliation of the Olubadan of Ibadan by attempting to elevate some High Chiefs to beaded traditional rulers, the demolition of the studio of popular artiste, Yinka Ayefele, his haughtiness when addressing the students of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) when he referred to himself as the ‘constituted authority’ whom the students had no right to disrespect amongst a litany of ‘mortal sins.’ His critics contended that his unpopularity cost him to lose the Oyo South Senatorial seat when he attempted to return to the Senate and the All Progressives Congress (APC) losing to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He subsequently became the Deputy National Chairman South of the APC and was appointed the Party Chairman after the judicial ouster of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. His ill health where he was battling for his life at the First Cardiology Consultants Hospital in Lagos prevented him from physically taking over the highly esteemed office.
Like many great men, his death was initially shrouded in mystery. We recall in the late 1980’s when Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was said to have passed on. He had to debunk the ill founded rumour and was said to have said that he will attend the funerals of all those who masterminded it.
Popular investigative journalist, Fisayo Soyombo said he had joined his ancestors much earlier than the date of the official announcement of his death. His daughter-in-law, Fatima Ganduje-Ajimobi debunked it as well as his media aide, Bolaji Tunji.
Even after it was confirmed that he had paid the supreme price, his wife, Florence said that he was abandoned by the state government led by his successor, Seyi Makinde. It was later discovered that the government tried to reach out to her but she rebuffed their overtures for reasons best known to her. The alarm raised by her was totally unnecessary as there was no need to politicize his demise. She may have said it out of emotional anguish as she was mourning her life partner so once can conveniently excuse her outburst.
From conquering both the private and public sectors, one can say that indeed Ajimobi came, saw and conquered as he bestrode both sectors like a Colossus with the swagger of a General in the days of the Roman Empire of yore.
Death – the only debt no mortal can escape will come when it will come but the most important thing is to leave legacies for the incoming generation to reflect on so that your stay can be aptly said to be ‘The celebration of life.’
Rest in peace Ajimobi; sleep well and eternally rest from life’s labours. May his legacies speak for him since he has no voice to echo his achievements!
Sun re o!
Tony Ademiluyi wrote from Lagos and edits www.africanbard.com