Auwal Shanono was a med school finalist. But he never finalised his academic pursuit. He was shot dead in Iwo Road. June 7, 2011. It was Ibadan week of dagger, bullets and deaths.
Today, in a way, a similar atmosphere of death and bullets looms over Ibadan.
1. First, a caveat: Oyo state governor-elect, Engineer Seyi Makinde, has never appealed to me. The grounds are clear: one, he is quite boring as a speaker and two, he has no verifiable PUBLIC records against which one can measure his antecedents in terms of performance delivery. With little or no public records and a below average oratory prowess, he has always been for me a difficult option. There is but only one path to the minds of a few of us; the path of discourse. So when he ran for the senate seat in 2007, it was difficult to even listen to him speak in Eruwa. But in the last guber election, at least until he struck that last minute deal with Rashidi Ladoja and his disciples, he was for me the lesser evil. And the reason was simple.
2. Clearly, if his rhetoric was anything to go by, APC candidate Bayo Adelabu would not be able to contain the specter of his benefactor, Abiola Ajimobi. Oyo does not need such “feeding bottle” arrangement at this juncture of its ‘state-hood’. Adelabu himself had no serious track records of performance and, during electioneering, I found his supporters’ desperate move to shut down conversations on his ethical crisis (read: EFCC case) quite funny. Equally amusing was the violent contradiction inherent in their desire to sell him using the old “Awo/Progressive” rhetoric. Never mind that his old man, Adegoke Adelabu, by far one of Ibadan’s greatest, was Awo’s harshest critic in his days.
3. In the absence of genuine records of public performance, Adelabu and Makinde’s greatest selling points were steeped in the language of philanthropy. While that’s clearly not a bad thing in itself, I think Oyo deserves much more than that. What’s more, the statue moulder in Owerri has shown us that philantropic gestures do not ordinarily make a good administrator. But then our people think otherwise, shutting a few others out of the conversation, and eventually embracing Makinde.
4. I am tempted to conclude that outside of Ajimobi’s indecorous statements, which turned out to be Adelabu’s Achilles heel, Makinde’s popularity had more to do with pity. He has been by far the most visible spender in Oyo in the last decade, despite his serial failures at the poll since 2007, going about with this gentlemanly, pity-inducing mien. With the final displacement of the old guards (Akala, Ajimobi, Ladoja), the people could not but look in his direction and that explains the pitiful rhetoric that is at the core of his popularity. But will pitiable mien address the issues plaguing Oyo? Maybe not.
5. In the last few days, Mukaila Auxilliary and his disciples, including that old relic, Akinsola Tokyo, have been indirectly threatening fire and brimstone. To deny their involvement in the emergence of Makinde is to be politically naive. But Mr Makinde’s handling of this looming danger may turn out to be his administration’s litmus test.
6. The relic, Tokyo, it was who fought a proxy war of bullets and dagger with Ojewunmi, via Tawa, another artifact of history, in the early noughties. He would be relegated to the dustbin of history in the years after the emergence of this new Agodi returnee, Auxilliary, and Elewe-omo, another merchant of violence murdered in the heat of the Alao Akala-Teslim Folarin kerfufle. Auwal Shanono and scores of Ibadan resident died at the height of that Auxilliary-Eleweomo madness. The proscription of the union, clearly Ajimobi’s master stroke, ushered in Fele Taofiki and the peaceful atmosphere witnessed in Ibadan in the last seven years. Fele died last year.
7. Because with relative comfort comes selective amnesia, it is easier for people to deride Ajimobi today. But whatever misgivings anyone has about him, it is near-difficult, impossible almost, to erase his achievements in urban renewal—especially in his first term—and in security. And I think a part of Ajimobi’s success in security, particularly his handling of the NURTW crisis, is a reflection of his major character flaw: that trademark I-don’t-give-a-damn posture. His proscription of the union, a section of which worked for him in 2011, has no better explanation. That posture is what a few of his latter day hagiographers describe as “will power”, a major strength. But given his inability to identify where and how to apply it, it’s for me a flaw. You don’t treat Olubadan Chieftaincy issue the same way you’d address the NURTW crisis. In any case, the headache is now that of Seyi, who, at least for now, does not show that “I don’t care” swagger.
8. On the political front, a mischievous part of me thinks that as we speak, Seyi Makinde would prefer a victory secured without the input of the Ladoja forces. If anything, the looming NURTW crisis, and the headaches that would come with ‘settlement’ of his now complex political camps, are plausible reasons. Frankly, he now has a huge burden to shoulder.
9. If Ajimobi recorded any success in his eight-year run, half of it would be attributed to his “daring” posture. And whatever the verdict of history looks like for him, residents and indigenes of Oyo State know quite well that only a “crazy” fellow can effect developmental changes in Oyo, especially the conservative part of Ibadan. That craze, however, must be exhibited with caution—-a point Ajimobi clearly missed. Seyi does not appear like one with any such “craze”, at least for now. But it will be foolhardy to judge a book by its cover.
10. Going forward, it will be interesting to watch Seyi go beyond Ajimobi’s pre-2011 rhetoric on judicious exploitation of UI and the numerous research institutes surrounding Oyo, beyond the platitudes of that Gowon-led education summit in Mokola circa 2012, beyond other mouth-watering yet empty promises on Oyo’s economic potentials and job opportunities. It will be great seeing him fix education and health care; two key areas Oyo need to urgently declare a “state of emergency”. But ALL of these will NEVER happen under an atmosphere of chaos. And how he chooses to handle the NURTW madness will be the sole determinant.
This, clearly, is his litmus test.
Oladeinde Olawoyin writes from Ibadan, Oyo state capital.