By Kenechi Okenyi

I have taken at least five hours to read tributes heaped on the late governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi – mostly by those speaking from the first page of Nigeria’s political obituary cookbook. Then, I read those of the people who were at the receiving end of Ajimobi’s conquest while he served as governor. And the gap is wide enough to swallow an ocean.

As an amateur journalist swimming the uncertain waters of Rivers State, climbing the hills of the state’s political high tension to get the next story, I oftentimes than not stumbled upon politicians and spoke with them. One of my widely asked closing questions was “What would be your legacy when you leave this world; what will you be remembered for?”. Most Politicians find it difficult to answer these questions and try as much to avoid saying things they fear might be used to pin them down. I remember a NASS member telling me after much pressuring to answer the question that he had never thought it through what people would remember him mostly for. He is not alone in that confusion.

People join politics for the money in Nigeria, not necessarily because there is an anomaly which they want to correct. Those who even want to be remembered for something join the bad gang of those who are just there for being there. And as someone once said, Nigerian politicians are like sperms; only a few get to fertilize an egg.

I have continuously asked President Buhari in most of my writings what he would be mostly remembered for; the man who promised so much but delivered nothing? Or the man who belonged to no one but his ethnic group? Do your actions while in office tick all the boxes of the promises you made during your campaigns?

On the night of 18th of June, the internet was abuzz with the news of the passing of Ajimobi. An investigative journalist, Fisayo Soyombo, had tweeted the news citing sources in Lagos. The report was not at least surprising to some of us who follow updates on Nigeria’s political space on a day-by-day basis as three days before, Saharareporters had reported that the former governor was in a critical condition. But a few hours after, the rebuttal came, bearing more force than the news of his death.

Dele Momodu, & Tunji Bolaji– an aide to the now officially deceased ex-governor took to social media to discredit his reported death. Then his family, represented by his daughter-in-law, the daughter of Kano State governor, claimed the deceased did not die until when the national working committee of the party of which he became a factional acting chairman after the suspension of Adams Oshiomhole was dissolved.

Ajimobi’s street fighting type of governance caught national attention when he addressed protesting students of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH, who were angry that their school had been under lock and keys for months as if they had come to beg him for money, saying the prolonged closure of their school “was no big deal. Standing on a raised platform, he told the students that they did not have respect for constituted authority, then reminding them that there was no money to fund the school despite his daughter being filmed throwing bundles and wands of pounds at a party in London earlier.

In a video published by Sahara Reporters, the governor was shown furiously telling students to “do their worst” and that he could not be blamed for the school’s shutdown.
“You are here to protest, am I the one who locked your school?” Mr Ajimobi queried.
“Your school being locked for eight months is no big deal. Is your school the first to be locked, if this is how you will come to talk to me, go and do your worst, I dare you.”
“Every government lacks funds; even we lack fund; if you want to be troublesome, go ahead, I am ready for you. You are coming here to say that it will be tough this time, tough with me, if someone of my calibre has come here to address you, you should have respect for constituted authority, your school locked for eight months so what, did I lock your school?”

Only a few public office holders who died during this COVID-19 period has had the privilege of public sympathy. The late chief of staff to president Buhari, Abba Kyari, had people rejoicing in the streets after he was pronounced dead. When the death of Ajimobi was initially announced, it was greeted by public excitement. Not even the hyper religious Nigerians could hold themselves back from rejoicing over the death of someone whom they perceived as a tormentor, someone who shut schools down, owed salaries while swimming in exalted opulence. This is a lesson to those who currently supervise the ruin called Nigeria and those whose dream it is to replace them – the good deeds you did to the ordinary people will always be reminded to your children whenever they are seen.

I remember Ajimobi, not as the man who built and equipped the best hospitals in Nigeria, or the man who built and equipped the best schools, developed human capital in a bid to reduce poverty. Not at all. I remember him as the man who demolished Yinka Ayefele’s radio station in Ibadan because his ego was bruised.