Ola Ajayi, Ibadan
One of the qualities that make Oyo, the Pacesetter State, unique in the South West zone of the country is the way people play politics there. You may call it crude or ‘amala’ politics, popularised by the late strongman of Ibadan politics, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, Oyo politicians owe nobody any apologies for their politicking. They give little consideration to the period or season. Any move or action they take has its own political coloration.
Recently, the political atmosphere was charged again by the death of a former governor of the state, Senator Abiola Ajimobi. The late governor had carved a niche for himself in the state and beyond for his bluntness and outspokenness. He called a spade a spade no matter whose ox was gored.
When his widow, Mrs Florence Ajimobi, spoke out her mind about perceived cold attitude of Governor Seyi Makinde before and after the death of her husband, people in the state and outside read different meanings to her outburst.
When the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, led by Dr Kayode Fayemi paid a condolence visit to the family of late Ajimobi, Mrs Ajimobi expressed displeasure at the failure of Governor Makinde to condole with the family. She said, “Governor Seyi Makinde never paid Ajimobi’s family a visit since my husband was admitted in hospital, neither has he sent anyone nor sent us a message. Do I need to send an official message to the governor to inform him about the death of my husband before he could send us a condolence message or pay us a condolence visit? What kind of politics are we playing?”
Before, the noise finally subsided, accusations and counter accusations fouled the air and the ember of discord was still burning till the remains of Ajimobi were interred which culminated in the government delegation, led by the Deputy Governor, Engr Rauf Olaniyan, being prevented by security agents from attending the burial programme.
The family hid under the COVID-19 protocols which forbid more than 30 people in a gathering and that they were not informed that the state government would send representatives.
Though, the family of the deceased politician apologized, many observers knew that what was playing out was “the more you look, the less you see”. The bottled anger which was finally released might have started building up immediately after the results of the 2019 elections were released.
Late Ajimobi and Governor Makinde didn’t treat each other like typical Oyo politicians when the former was alive. In 2015, when the state was preparing for gubernatorial election, both late Ajimobi and Governor Makinde never spoke ill of each other unlike other contestants. Then, when the deceased politician kept other contestants at arm’s length, he appeared to prefer Governor Makinde as he was the only one who was granted access to electronic billboards initiated by late Ajimobi. But, in 2019 elections, there was an appreciable distance between the two politicians probably due to alliance with other political parties against Ajimobi.
Vanguard gathered that Ajimobi’s family was not pleased that the state government prevented the family from burying the remains of the former governor, who had served the state meritoriously, on a disputed property in Agodi, GRA. Allowing the body to be buried there would have, to some extent, hindered the litigation on the large expanse of the land.
The governor, on the other hand, was reportedly not happy that he was not contacted when his predecessor was said to be diagnosed with COVID-19. A source told Saturday Vanguard that the governor should have been informed just like other COVID-19 new cases.
Besides, the state government was said to have been surprised at numerous hectares of land allegedly owned by the former governor in highbrow areas of the state. But, the governor still bent backward a bit by allowing his remains to be buried at his Oluyole residence, a concession which had never been granted to anyone before.
Several people believed that Governor Makinde should have at least paid a condolence visit to the family of his predecessor arguing that expecting a formal letter from the distraught family announcing his death was not a good decision. To most people, both parties were merely playing politics.
If the ex-governor had been a PDP member, people said Governor Makinde would have behaved differently and also that if Governor Makinde had been in APC, the widow of his predecessor would not have washed the ‘dirty linen’ publicly.
This is Oyo where anything is possible. Some more politicking will still play out as preparations for 2023 elections draw near.