By STEVE NWOSU, FUNKE EGBEMODE and YINKA FABOWALE
Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi said he would go down in history as the first Chief Executive of the state to rule for a second term. From the civilian governors of the state in the Second Republic, late Chief Bola Ige and Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, through the short-lived regime of Chief Kolapo Ishola in the Third Republic to the incumbent’s immediate predecessors in the Fourth Republic, late Alhaji Lam Adesina, Senator Rashidi Ladoja and Otunba Adebayo Alao Akala, no governor was returned for a second term in office.
They either lost through the ballot at second attempt or had their mandate truncated by coups, a situation that has created a myth about tenure of the office in the state. Although he faces stiff opposition from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Accord Party, Governor Ajimobi, who is ruling on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and in his second year in the saddle, vowed that he would break the one-term jinx.
He pinned his optimism on unprecedented landmark achievements his administration has recorded in the drive to transform Oyo into a neat, peaceful, modern and developed state that would serve as a model to its peers. However, he stressed that he was not desperate for a second term as long as he was able to leave an impressive mark like the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo did as Premier of the defunct Western Region in just five years.
The governor spoke while fielding questions from a senior Editorial team of The Sun at Government House, Agodi, Ibadan on Friday night. His words: “Let me tell you this; those who said that in Oyo State, we don’t do second term are dead. So, we’ll do second term. That’s number one. The number two is that there are many things that we are doing in Oyo State that were never done before, and second term will be one of them.
“Let’s thank God that the current president is a gentleman, decent and not a bully. Even when PDP got to Oyo State, they never won in the State in their life. They were always rigging and this president is not inclined to rig election. I can bet my last penny; in a free and fair election, PDP will not even come second in Oyo State”. He equally dismissed the possible return of Ladoja to PDP as no threat, saying his (Ajimobi) and his party’s popularity had soared due to the people-centered programmes of his government.
But the governor was quick to add that he haboured no over-ambition. “All I want to do is make a difference. How many terms did Awolowo use, and they are still talking about that man? He used only five years! He didn’t use 10 years. How many years did Jesus Christ use to preach? Three years and they are still talking about Him. Muhammed, how many years? “So, it is not the number of years and I’m not afraid of first term or second term. My own is that I want to do well, If I did good, people would appreciate it.
If I want to come back again, I will try. If they say ‘yes’, fine; and if they say ‘no’, no problem. “There are about 10 million people in Oyo State. I’m using four years to rule this state. If you take four years and divide it by 10 million people, that is 2, 500 years. Before each of us gets to be governor, it’s 2,500 years. So, if I’m lucky in my own turn, I shouldn’t be fussing about other people having a chance.”
Ajimobi who identified his greatest challenge as getting the people re-oriented to the goal of entrenching order, security and growth, said government had within barely two years, overhauled and improved the State’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), provided massive infrastructure including construction of roads and bridges and given the state capital, Ibadan, and other towns a face-lift through the government’s urban renewal programme.
On the outcry over the demolition of structures, particularly in Ibadan metropolis, Governor Ajimobi explained that the exercise affected only street traders and those who built under Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) high tension wires which were unsafe to the victims. He maintained that government has the obligation to protect the citizenry, regardless of if it was appreciated or not. He was, however, confident that the people of the state would applaud his regime’s efforts in the nearest future, more so, as it provides alternative neighbourhood markets free of charge to the displaced traders.
He said that some displaced market women in Molete who had wanted him crucified, have been singing his praises after being re-settled at one of such markets in nearby South Camp. In the no-holds barred interview, the first he ever granted any media organization since mounting the saddle, Ajimobi also opened up on why he refused to go the whole hog in implementing the pact he had with the Leader of the Accord Party in the state,
Senator Ladoja; former oil minister and Senator, Prof. Jibril Aminu’s charge of governors as power mongers who hold Nigeria’s democracy hostage and his perceived stubborn personality and ‘know-it-all’ trait. He spoke also on the merger plans by progressive parties to sack the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from power in 2015 and the alleged arrest of his wife by the London Metropolitan Police for alleged money laundering, among other issues. Ajimobi said he would like to be remembered as the father of a modern Oyo State for taking the state to new heights. •Look out for the full interview next week.