Ajimobi’s quest for return to Senate
What has a beginning must surely have an end, though just about eight years ago, it seems like neon years ago when the man won the election to become the governor of Oyo State. Defeating the factor of incumbency, Senator Isiaq Abiola Ajimobi, against all odds and in spite of all permutations was sworn in as the state governor on May 29, 2011.
After a successful first term of four years in office, the man, in May 2015, put his name and honour at stake and decided to take another shot at the topmost political office in the state. He rose against the tide, broke all the barriers and the political taboo with which the Pacesetter State had been associated for decades: Ajimobi, against all predictions and, the flurries of criticisms and attacks coming his way notwithstanding, emerged victorious in the 2015 governorship election. He thus became the first ever governor to be elected and sworn in twice in Oyo State.
Down the lane, it has been eight years of the Ajimobi administration and his constitutionally-approved two-term tenure will surely come to an end on May 29, 2019. But the man is not yet done with politics and political offices as he is poised to seek a return to the National Assembly where he was a senator between 2003 and 2007. As a serving governor, Ajimobi will be contesting the election, on Saturday, to represent the Oyo South Senatorial District in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly.
Predictably, the decision of the governor to go into the senatorial contest has set tongues wagging as many analysts, stakeholders and people alike in the state were of the view that he should have had enough of elective offices, having been a former federal lawmaker and a two-term governor of not just an ordinary state, but a state seen and regarded as the political headquarters of the entire South-West region. Those who believe in this line of thought also hold on to a video which went viral, sometimes last year, and in which the governor reportedly said he would not be seeking for any elective office again at the expiration of his second term tenure.
However, for the supporters and loyalists of Ajimobi, the man deserves to take another shot at the Senate, given his vast experience, both as a senator and as a state administrator. For this set of people, it would require a man of Ajimobi’s status and standing to be able to withstand the pressure and rigours of developmental legislative business.
Ajimobi himself said this during one of the campaign rallies of his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC); that his mission in the Senate was to use his vast experience to facilitate lasting projects into his senatorial district.
In making a case for his return to the Senate, a report to Nigerian Tribune has it that, apart from being described as the architect and builder of modern Oyo State, Governor Ajimobi is suitably qualified due to his wealth of legislative experience, not only as a ranking senator during his first time out, but also a former principal officer, having served as the Deputy Minority Leader of the Red Chamber between 2003 and 2007. This thus made him the best placed to represent Oyo South Senatorial District from 2019 to 2023.
While he was in the Senate, he had some achievements and these included: the establishment of the first and the largest free vocational training centre in the history of Oyo State, offering training in computer engineering, computer operations, telephone engineering, fashion designing, hair dressing, tie and dye, among others. The centre turned out over 20,000 students to date that have gained employments in many industries in Nigeria.
As a part of his legislative duties, Senator Ajimobi was also able to identified communities that lacked potable water in his senatorial district, where he sunk boreholes. He also carried out many empowerment and grass-roots programmes for the people of his senatorial district.
As the governor who broke the second term jinx in the state and eventually succeeded in recording some achievements in the past eight years, Governor Ajimobi also succeeded in amassing goodwill within the top hierarchy of his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The report further indicated that the governor had, in the last eight years, elevated Oyo State far beyond what it used to be. His achievements are visible in the areas of peace and security: From 2011 to date, the Ajimobi administration restored sanity, peace, security, law and order by establishing a joint security outfit codenamed ‘Operation Burst’. The governor introduced the ‘Safe City’ project which witnessed the installation of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras across flashpoints in the state, with the aim is to nip criminality in the bud, in line with the saying that prevention is better than cure.
The administration established the Security Trust Fund and also established Oyo State Inter-religious/Ethnic Committee and technology-driven Safe City Project to enhanced premium on lives and properties in the state during the period under scrutiny.
The improved security ambience has also helped in the restoration of night life in the state capital. There has been a renaissance of night economy as there is an increase in the tourism and hospitality sector players by 147 per cent since 2011, with a monumental increase in hotels, event centres, night clubs, restaurants, bars, lounges and cinemas across various parts of the state, especially Ibadan, the state capital. Concomitantly, the Agodi Park and Gardens was fully rehabilitated and the Ibadan Beautification Project was embarked upon resulting in the creation of green areas and parks as part of the efforts to make the state a more aesthetically pleasing environment to boost leisure and relaxation among the citizenry.
The Ajimobi administration, realising that poor environment and dilapidated infrastructure are inimical to sustainable economic growth and human development, put in place measures that have ensured an unparallel level of environmental and infrastructural development across the state. This is clearly manifested in massive construction, beginning from 2011, of quality road networks in Ibadan, as well as across the six zones of the state. The Mokola flyover, the first by a civilian administration, was constructed and completed by the Ajimobi administration. The Restoration Bridge was constructed along the state Secretriat-UI Road and rivers were dredged to permanently put an end to the sad regime of flooding and its attendant loss of lives and property.
There is the on-going construction of 110km Ibadan Circular Road; construction of 49.02km roads and rehabilitation of 684.12km roads by Oyo State Public Works; activation of Ibadan City Master Plan, Ibadan Drainage Master, Ibadan Solid Waste Management Plan and Ibadan Urban Flood Management programme in conjunction with the World Bank.
The achievements included: repositioning of education sector in the key areas of management, infrastructure, improved students’ performance, capacity building for teachers and increased budgetary allocation; introduction of Schools Governing Boards (SGB) management system in 628 secondary schools which has injected over N2bn into infrastructure development in schools. The Oyo SGB has reportedly been adopted for understudy by other South West states; commencement of academic activities at the country’s first technical university, the Technical University, Ibadan.
The agriculture sector was not left out as the administration has ensured the following in the sector: establishment of Oyo State Agricultural Initiative (AgricOyo); purchase of 388 units of tractors and implements for mechanised farming as 6,282hectares of arable land was operated resulting in 40 per cent increase in land cultivation by farmers; establishment of Oyo State Pace Setter integrated organic Farm, (Songhai Model); provision of 250,000 hectares of farm land to agric investors in the state new agricultural land policy; N9bn investment in rice production by Dangote Group of Companies; construction of 10,000mt mega silo in Oyo; establishment of two fertilizer blending plants in Oke Ogun and Ibarapa; construction and rehabilitation of 8,032.92km access roads across 28 agrarian local government areas with 5,023,060 beneficiaries in the Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP) across the state; ongoing construction of 500km of rural roads to promote agric economy; disbursement of N1.0bn soft loans and grant to farmers and N250m for anchor borrowers’ programme. In the solid minerals sector, the Ajimobi administration has established the Mineral Development Agency and incorporated the Pacesetter Mineral Development Company. It also resuscitated the moribund Nigeria Marble Mining Company, Igbeti and while there is an ongoing geological and geophysical exploration of Talc Deposit in Ilero and environs.
For youths and sports development, the government put the following in place: equipping 2,000 beneficiaries of entrepreneurial training and skills; inauguration of the NYSC Permanent Site at Agbakuta, Iseyin; empowerment of 20,000 youths empowered through YESSO; training of 5,000 through the Oyo Ajumose Business Leadership programme (OYO ABLE); release of N200m for youth empowerment through the Bank of Industry (BoI); supported 300 artisans and tradesmen supported through the Oyo Nise Oyo Leko initiative; restructuring, reorganisation and inauguration of all sporting associations to enable them achieve the desired result and support the ‘Catch Them Young’ initiative of the government which has led to the increase in under age sporting activities; Oyo emerged the winners of u12/14 CBN cups both in the boys and girls category.
In the health sector, Oyo became the first state, under the Ajimobi administration, to introduce Health Insurance Scheme. The state government also launched the N50bn health endowment fund; it established free health missions across the state, while medical equipment worth $2m were distributed to health facilities across the state.
During the period under review, Oyo State became an industrial and investment hub. It ensured the establishment of 36 new companies with 3,884 employees (according to MAN, 2016) and also attracted Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) worth N22.8bn (NBS 2016). Subsequently, Oyo was rated as the fourth investment-friendly state in Nigeria (NBS 2016).
In the area of transportation, the Ajimobi administration repositioned the state transport system with 90 units of 63-seater buses at subsidized rates and the provision of another 100 units of 18-seater buses facilitated by Industrial Development Bank. It also constructed of modern motor parks and garages at Temidire and Podo.
To ensure adequate water supply, it began the rehabilitation of the existing water supply schemes at Eleyele and Asejire, resulting in 72 per cent water production in Ibadan and environs as well as improved water supply generally across the state. It has completed the Iganna, Ayete, Ogbomoso, Asejire Waterworks and Eleyele mini waterworks as well as the rehabilitation of Eleyele Dam, while six booster stations were constructed to boost urban water supply.
The Ajimobi administration has repositioned the state’s land, housing and survey from manual operations, land grabbing, speculations and allocations based methods through automation, resulting in 60 days processing of electronic Certificate of Occupancy (C of O); Home Owners Charter; Geographic Information System (Data Capturing); Land and House Enumeration in conjunction with the Nigeria Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV); enactment of the Land Grabbing Law; development of private housing estates and the establishment of GRAs.
As regards women affairs, community development, social welfare and poverty alleviation, the administration, among others, empowered 129,961 women including widows, aged and indigent women across the 33 LGAs in the state under the Women Empowerment Programme; passed a law to prohibit violence against women; instituted poverty alleviation for 1,555 people through the provision of Keke Ajumose tricycles; trained and empowered 198 unemployed young person with relevant equipment and start-up grants in photography and video production, barbing, hand-made jewelry, computer centre operations and bakery/confectionery; 355 self-help projects across the 33 local government areas to encourage grassroots participation and community development projects; provided 19 rural communities with palm oil and garri processing machines in the sum of N15.5m.
It is an indubitable fact that Governor Abiola Ajimobi has upped the stake in the race for the Oyo South Senatorial District seat. As it is the case with the coming governorship election in the state, it is going to be a keen contest between Ajimobi and the other contestants for the seat, especially the serving senator from the district, Senator Soji Akanbi who, until recently, was a member of the ruling APC in the state. Would the governor’s experience as a former lawmaker and his vaunted achievements work in his favour and ensure victory for him at the polls? The decision of the electorate from the senatorial district, in four days’ time, would be the ultimate decider.