In his meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari last Tuesday, Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State served what looked like a specially brewed Ibadan chieftaincy storm in a tea cup before the inscrutable Nigerian president. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the governor said he mentioned the chieftaincy crisis to the president and hinted at the concomitant security implications of the tug of war going on in the city. He was, however, silent on what responses he got from his passive host. He did not also tell reporters that the president asked about the matter first nor fretted over any security lapses. It was clear to reporters that intimating the president of what was afoot in Ibadan was the governor’s initiative.

Hear him: “I mentioned the issue of security to the President. Recall that Oyo State has been in the news because of the issue of Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration. So, I came to let him know that the Olubadan is my father. He is a younger brother to my own father and we have had a very long relationship, which has been a father-son relationship. I assured him (Buhari) that come rain, come shine, I will never depose the Olubadan because he is my father; a son does not depose his father. Though he has done so many things that can constitute the basis for his removal, I will never remove him. We have to continue to show respect. I also made him to realise that that particular chieftaincy declaration is being politicised. Politicians have hijacked it. Out of 11 council members, two of them are dead now and we have only nine left. It is only one that is not supporting it; and that one is a politician. He wants to run after I leave office.”

Gov Ajimobi did not tell reporters why he needed to bother the president with the chieftaincy trivia he created, nor seemed to even appreciate the illogic in the justifications he gave reporters. It is even clearer that his sense of history may be a little troubling while his appreciation of the role of the Southwest in national affairs at a time of great and turbulent political events may also be off-key. If his account of the interaction he had with the president is accurate, then it is safe to conclude that the president did not ask him about the Ibadan chieftaincy matter, and, more tellingly, did not comment on it after the unsolicited briefing. If that does not tell the governor something, then he is even more imperceptive than the Nigerian judges, among them two Supreme Court justices, who published drivelling exculpatory accounts unworthy of a magistrate after their residences were raided last October by the secret service.

Many months ago, this column had fussed that most Southwest governors were third-rate, not only in their demonstrable lack of assiduity in projects conception and implementation, but also more disconcertingly in their lack of understanding of the forces and dynamics shaping and skewing the so-called Nigerian federation. Gov Ajimobi, from his actions and reactions to the Ibadan chieftaincy issue and his depiction of same to the president, is obviously one of the gubernatorial archetypes in reference in the Southwest. The governors are less inclined to the philosophical underpinnings that shaped the governments of their predecessors, and, as their abysmal reactions to the Kogi electoral conundrum of November 2015 shows, are even less strategic in their thinking than their contemporaries, particularly from some states in the North.

Gov Ajimobi may be close to the Olubadan throne, he has, however, not shown any understanding of the city’s proud history and heritage. First, the chieftaincy crisis was avoidable. But in addition, had he a sense of the historical significance of the role the city played in Yoruba history, despite its modern weaknesses and troubles, and notwithstanding the consequences of the Yoruba wars of the 19th century, he would have done everything to strengthen the institution rather than threaten it, not to talk of needlessly dragging the reputation of its monarch before the president in a futile show of self-importance. Has the governor asked himself how many other governors have toed his line and then proceeded to Abuja to report the monarchs of their great cities?

But Gov Ajimobi’s lack of historical consciousness and strategic thinking is replicated in nearly all parts of the Southwest where most of the governors swoon over the president. The region is in decline, and despite the best efforts of regionalists and the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), its competitive edge has become considerably blunted. Worse, the region is now also deeply divided. It is not a hidden fact that crisis is brewing below the surface in the ongoing and bitter struggle for the soul of the region.

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Oludare J. Olusan
Oludare J. Olusan 249 posts

Publisher, Entrepreneur, Author and founder of The African portal / Presenter at The African Portal Radio / TV

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