TODAY, the immediate past governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi will celebrate his 70th birthday. There’s no doubt that this is a major, significant milestone in the life of any individual and worthy of celebration. No one knows this better than my boss, the celebrant who never fails to inform friends and associates that attaining age 70 is significant for him and to some of us, another broken jinx as most of the male members in his family never achieved that 70 years age feat.
That is not the only reason that makes this enviable age significant. In the Holy Bible, the figure 70 is used on 56 different occasions. The number seven represents perfection while the ten represents completeness and God’s law, symbolizing perfect spiritual order. In Numbers 11:16, Moses, shortly after receiving and reading the Covenant that God gave to him for the Israelites, appointed 70 elders who he took up to Mount Sinai to have a special meal with God (Exodus 24: 9-11). Also, the Israelites spent a total number of 70 years in captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 29: 10) before freedom came. Seventy years is that year when shackles are broken. For an individual at 70 years, you look back and count the number of your years for a fulfilling three scores and ten and expressing appreciation to the Almighty.
Indeed, for my boss, one would his has been a fulfilled and complete life. He has achieved many things that one could ever desire in life. He is blessed with children to be proud of. He climbed to the highest level of corporate ladder by becoming the Managing Director and Chief Executive of a multinational oil company, National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company before his foray into politics where he also earned an unprecedented two terms as Governor of Oyo State. Significantly at age 70, Senator Ajimobi who has earned the sobriquet, Koseleri (unprecedented) is still going strong, most people would evince surprise that he is 70 years old, because he does not look that age. He still has the vigour and the look of someone much younger and he’s still very active in the affairs of Oyo State and the nation. The term over-the-hill does not apply here. Like other world leaders before him, he is still an active participant in writing the history of the state and the country. He has thus joined the pantheon of other world leaders who continued going strong at age 70. Benjamin Franklin, was one of the founding fathers of the United States of America and he helped draft the US constitution at 70. Winston Churchill was also 70 years old when he led the United Kingdom to victory in World War II, Gold Meir became the Prime Minister of Israel at 70 while actress Helen Hayes won a second Oscar awards at age 70 years. Writer Mark Twain sums up the significance of the 70th year when he said, ‘the seventieth birthday. It is the time of life when you arrive at a new and awful dignity; when you may throw aside the decent reserves which have oppressed you for a generation and stand unafraid and unabashed upon your seven-terraced summit and look down and teach—unrebuked’. Clearly, the later part of Mark Twain statement sums up the person of Senator Abiola Ajimobi, he has always stood unafraid, if there is anything said about him, it is his boldness and the unpopular (in our society) way of saying it the way it is, age 70 now further confers on him that characteristics of saying it the way it is, unrebuked. He has earned it.
To most of us that served with him in the administration, he was not only a boss, he was also a father figure who never missed any opportunity to teach one or two things about life to people around him. He would jokingly say, ‘although I do not have a Ph.D in academics, I have a Ph.D about life’s experiences’. He would prefer to say it the way it is believing it is better to get it off your chest and give yourself a catharsis rather than keep what you have in you bottled up, he says it is also one of the secrets of his youthful look.
As governor of Oyo State, from 2011-2019, Senator Ajimobi made a great impact during his stewardship, even his critics are quick to acknowledge that fact. He has been able to set a standard that other administration will find difficult to match in years to come. His unprecedented achievement stems from his preparedness for governance and for that matter, anything he sets his mind to do. One thing I learnt early enough in my association with him is his global view of issues and a firm grasp and understanding of human nature. Thus, you must be adequately prepared before you make any presentation to him. He expects you to be painstaking. This probably stemmed from his highly successful adventure in the private sector. As governor, he laid a solid foundation for peace and security of life in the state. The brigandage and arson that earned Oyo State, the unsavoury sobriquet of ‘wild, wild west’ became history. He believed that the provision of peace and security would create an atmosphere for the State’s economy to thrive. This manifested during his administration. The hospitality industry grew by 147 percent with hotels and event centres springing up across the State. There was a renaissance of the nighttime economy. For eight years, there was no known case of bank robbery, which before his tenure, was a major issue. Giants Strides were created in infrastructural development, the administration constructed and rehabilitated the highest number of roads in the history of modern Oyo state. In primary health care, the Ajimobi made a major impact. Oyo state became the first to introduce free health care for its citizenry in the country. With less than N1000 per month, you are covered for health benefits. The greatest impact of that administration was more felt in the area of education with the introduction of the School Governing Board (SGB) policy which attracted various stakeholders to participate in running the affairs of their schools. This attracted over N2.8billion into the school system for upgrading of facilities and renovation. The policy was then adopted for understudy by other Southwest States. There was also the cancellation of automatic promotion which earned Oyo State the best WAEC result in 18 years. The establishment of the First Technical University in the Country, having realized that skilled labour was becoming a thing of the past in the country.
People have described him as a brilliant man, no one knows this better than those who have worked closely with him, with his attention to details, he takes in everything presented to him. You cannot present a figure today and you come back with a different figure on the same issue on the following day, thinking he never noticed, he would ask you why it changed, this in spite of the numerous files and memos that have passed across his table.
Do i need to state his love for speaking directly to the people without going through laborious and elaborate speeches that could make you go to sleep and that had been written by his team. Once he is at a function, he captures everything within that environment and that becomes the subject of his speech which he delivers effortlessly as if he had had days to write.
Also worthy of emulation is his sartorial elegance, whether he’s spotting his trade mark Agbada which has created a brand that is uniquely his, in corporate attire or in casuals, those clothes look as if tailored specially for him. And if you work closely with him, you are also either a tulip of fashion or you try your best to match up, else…you may go home to change.
And as he clocks this enviable milestone of 70 years, one can only wish him more robust health which he enjoys presently.
•Tunji is Media Adviser to the ex-governor