By Rotimi Fasan
ABIOLA Ajimobi, governor of Oyo State, has been in the news of late. Only weeks ago he was honoured with a chieftaincy along side his wife by the Olubadan, Oba Odulana Odugade. There has been much talk before and since then about how well the Governor has transformed Oyo State, particularly, Ibadan, the state capital, into a working city.
The first and only time I have seen the Governor was on a flight from Ibadan to Abuja in November 2011. This was just six months into his administration. Passengers on this flight had no idea the Governor was on the flight until the pilot made this announcement. As he alighted in Abuja, he greeted passengers quietly and received their greetings in response.
This quiet mien would be ruffled minutes later when I sighted him in a quiet part of the arrival lounge where, looking quite upset, he made angry remarks surrounded by his aides. Apparently, some important thing which should have accompanied him to Abuja had been left in Ibadan.
At least so it appeared to me. I had the impression he let his anger took the better part of him at that moment. I haven’t had the opportunity to observe him at close quarters or in flesh and blood ever since but I have seen far happier images of him in the media since that first sighting.
Since nothing much seems to be happening I have not paid much attention to his administration until lately. Once or twice though I have wondered at what seemed an uncreative attempt by the administration to imitate the Rauf Aregbesola youth empowerment programme, OYES.
Nothing, for me, indicated this blind and uncreative cloning of OYES than the name the Ajimobi administration chose to call its own programme, an inversion of the Osun label- YESO. I soon learned to look beyond the administration- until lately, I repeat. And it does seem that something is happening which goes beyond media propaganda and should not be overlooked. The Governor himself hinted at this some months earlier.
Six months ago, Ajimobi took stock of his administration in an interview with a team of editors from the Sun. In this interview, the Governor spoke on what he considered his achievements in office up to that point.
Development in the infrastructure of the state which is noticeable in the construction of roads and bridges across the state, urban renewal and beautification of projects on well-known parts of the state capital, Ibadan, among others and improved transport system, were among the achievements he listed.
The Governor chronicled his achievements in this manner even when he was only six months into his administration. He went on in this interview to predict his would be the first administration to enjoy a second term in the modern history of Oyo State. It is a notorious fact that no governor has ever served a second term in Oyo State.
For both good and bad reasons, the people of Oyo have not been generous enough to extend a second mandate to any of their past governors. It’s either they are rigged or genuinely voted out of office or they are simply stampeded by local power houses too strong to be controlled.
Nigeria is that country where public office holders are celebrated and praised for doing what they promised and sought the peoples’ mandate to do. This may be understandable since the norm is for politicians to turn the commonwealth into personal estates for their own use. For this reason, the few who appear to be different are often celebrated.
It is in this context that the likes of Fashola, Oshiomhole, Mimiko, Aregbesola and co are held up for praise or excoriation by both their supporters and opponents. Ajimobi seems to have joined this league of achieving public officers. There must be more substantial evidence of the Governor’s performance but his effort at improving the road network in Ibadan and reportedly in other parts of the State is obvious.
Ibadan, especially spots such as Iwo Road, Beere and company, used to look like the proverbial Esu crossroad of confusion . Places like Iwo Road were Ibadan versions of Oshodi. They were centres of disorder which defied any remedy. But this is no longer the case.
The nightmare these places represented seems over. Vehicular movement in and around Ibadan has improved greatly and Ajimobi’s YESO has taken more than a back bench in this effort. More motor parks have been created around Ibadan and away from the roads, making it possible for other road users to go about their business without delay.
The Ajimobi administration has proven in Ibadan that where there is the will to effect change in attitude there is always a way. It has also shown that politicians have a lot to answer for the outlaw activities of members of the road transport workers that controlled motor parks and held different parts of the state hostage for many years.
Today, they’ve been dislodged and there are fewer miscreants and less cannabis fumes assaulting passersby in the different motor parks in around Oyo State. What is more, the government has introduced mass transit buses it dubs Ajimobi Shuttle. These buses have no dedicated lane and, compared to the Lagos BRT, are quite a very modest effort at addressing the transport needs of Oyo State.
They appear functional but are far fewer and less glamorous or patronised than the BRT at inception. Yet they appear to be taking Oyo State or Ibadan in particular somewhere beyond the blind alley of the past. With these modest effort in two years, Ajimobi’s own dream of a second mandate in 2015 might just turn out to be more than a pipe dream. Who knows!