Nigeria: Abiola Ajimobi's Widow and the Politics of Death

9 July 2020
opinion

Ibadan — It would be unnecessary to dwell on the circumstances surrounding the demise of the immediate-past Oyo State governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi. I would be reflecting on the way his death has been dragged into the circus of politics by some persons who should be respectfully mourning him. Unfortunately, the senator's widow, Mrs. Florence Ajimobi, was at the centre of the media storm that disturbed the sensibility of the public during the funeral of her husband in Ibadan on June 28.

The other actors in the melodrama were Governor Seyi Makinde and his deputy, Rauf Olaniyan, and Oyo State politics was the stage of the show. When I saw the online video and reports that portrayed Mrs. Ajimobi's tantrum at the funeral, I was disappointed but not surprised. I understand Mrs. Ajimobi's loss, but that does not authorise her to berate the governor and his deputy, especially on camera. There are other appropriate ways of expressing these emotions. Not on her husband's funeral.

It seems Mrs. Ajimobi is critically vocal like her late husband. In the video, she brought to the fore the appalling culture of entitlement that has eaten deep into the fabric of Nigerian politics and government. Is it in the Constitution that a serving governor must contact the spouse of a former governor in the event of illness or death? Though courtesy may demand that, it is not compulsory.

Hear Mrs Ajimobi: "After he (Ajimobi) died, not even you, Mr. Deputy Governor, called. You should have sent a text message... I'm a wife of a politician. I don't pick numbers I don't know... Everybody is going to die... " Had it been that she answered the phone call, aware of the deputy governor's phone number or not, what would have been her narrative? On the other hand, as regards the senator's illness and death, there were speculations that Governor Makinde tried contacting Mrs Ajimobi on several occasions, even through other means and persons, but she allegedly chose not to oblige.

Given the highly delicate political situation rocking the late senator's political party during his illness, the secrecy surrounding his illness and the controversies associated with his death, any prudent opposition government would not be quick to issue official statements that could be misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Mrs. Ajimobi was right in the video when she said: "We should allow God to guide us in whatever we do... I don't want any controversy." But few days after the interment of the senator, the controversy was aggravated by the senator's daughter-in-law, Fatima Ganduje-Ajimobi, who also doubles as the daughter of the Kano State governor. Mrs Ganduje-Ajimobi, through her social media handle, said Governor Makinde can never surpass Ajimobi's achievements. Without mincing words, the Ajimobi family and their in-laws are, consciously or unconsciously, making the death of Senator Ajimobi more controversial than that of the former chief of staff of President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari, over some mundane politics.

If that was not enough, one week after the senator's funeral, the Oyo State deputy governor and some commissioners of the state were prevented from entering the venue of eighth day Islamic 'Fidau' prayer for the deceased. The late Ajimobi's spokesperson, Bolaji Tunji, said the event was strictly a family affair. "Everything happened within a spate of 10 minutes," he said, adding that the deputy governor arrived at the venue after the prayer had started and that no one was aware that he was coming to the prayer.

On the other hand, there were reports that the deputy governor's aides introduced their principal to the policemen and members of other security agencies manning the gate, but the aides were told that the gate had been locked and that Mrs. Ajimobi was in possession of the key. It seems the drama between the Ajimobi's and the Oyo State government is just getting started.

I read Mrs. Ajimobi's poetic tribute to her husband in the newspapers. I rate her high on that poetic rendition. In the tribute entitled 'My hero, my soul mate is gone', she wrote: "You were not only my husband, you were my father, brother, friend and lover... We were married for 40 years and they were the best years of my life." I find it difficult to reconcile Mrs Ajimobi's actions at her soul mate's funeral with this moving tribute. Perhaps, if she reviews that video in the future, she would be filled with angst.

One of the areas the late senator did not perform well as a two-term Oyo State governor (2011-2019) was in the health sector. Dr. Festus Adedayo, one of his media aides during the late senator's first tenure as governor, in his June 28 Sunday Tribune column article, faulted him for this. Hear Adedayo: "He (Ajimobi) must be regretting while he was stuck in those machines of the Lagos hospital that he didn't make Oyo a health tourism destination as he did for road infrastructure."

Governor Makinde contracted coronavirus, but he did not abscond from the state for treatment. He fought and defeated the virus in the state. Mrs. Ajimobi wanted to know the kind of politics Makinde was playing. This is it - politics and leadership by example. But when the senator contracted the same virus, he opted for one of the best hospitals in Lagos - that makes the public ones he was in charge for eight years look like abandoned abattoirs - and did not make it there, unfortunately. In Physics 101, Sir Isaac Newton tells us that actions and reactions are equal and opposite. Interestingly, this law is applicable to politics, life and death.

The demise of Senator Ajimobi exposed many things unsaid and undone in Oyo State and Nigerian governments. That death is a private matter. Government only caters for the living. Mrs. Ajimobi rightly said in that video that "life is short". So, there is no need wasting time and energy on the dead. If the dead could speak, he would not be happy that his 'soul mate' is inheriting his enemies or making enemies out of his friends.

The late senator, just like any other person, got nothing short of what fate had in stock for him. But while death is the end of earthly life, it is a necessary transition into another form of life and existence. We hope the grievances and misunderstanding between the two contending parties would wane with time, and everybody would move on for the betterment of the state. Mrs. Ajimobi was quoted to have said: "We are all working for the growth, development and progress of Oyo State. Although our party may be different, we are working for the same goal."

The United States media entrepreneur Ted Turner said: "Know what I want them to put on my tombstone? Do not disturb." The late senator was a good man in his own way and right, and he would be remembered according to his deeds. The least anyone could do is to disturb his tombstone with frivolous politics. May the soul of Senator Abiola Ajimobi find peace in the great beyond, and may the Almighty grant his family, friends and the Oyo State government the fortitude to bear the loss.

Alumona, a social commentator, wrote from Ibadan

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