by ‘Kunle Adebajo
My edge of the social media was abuzz with conversation yesterday following Sahara Reporters’ upload of a clip which shows Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo state addressing a crowd of students from the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH). Ordinarily, he has been infamous for his unparliamentary – or in this case “ungubernatorial” – language. Yesterday, however, was an all-time record. His utterances to the students of LAUTECH demonstrating close to the state secretariat do not only beggar belief, they beg for great concern.
It has been reported that for up to twenty-two months, no droplet of subvention has touched the soil of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology. Salaries of hard-working lecturers have not been paid for several months and infrastructure lies terminally in utter abandon. One might be tempted to say it lies in an intensive care unit, but that would falsely suggest that it is receiving anything resembling treatment. Without pause, students have spent time at home enough for a fresh pubescent to give birth. And currently, many have spent three years of their lives swaying in exactly the same level, more than sufficient to start and complete a programme of study in other universities. Yet, there is no sparkle of hope from the same governments which unite to form the Pandora’s Box of the disaster.
It is within this tragic context that Ladokites and supporters-in-the-cause, on 13 January 2017, marched in protest to the state of their school and the avertable peril threatening our collective future. But rather than meet a warm embrace, an understanding figure, a pair of listening ears and reassuring words, they were forcibly camped under the sun for several hours by their very good friends: the Nigeria Police. Not only that, when the governor eventually left his comfort zone to see them, his remarks betrayed his white cap and flowing Agbada which presuppose elderly wisdom.
In his words, some of which have been accurately translated from Yoruba language by Sahara TV; “you complain your school is shut since eight months. Am I the person who closed your school? Okay, if this is how you want to talk to me, then go and do your worst. If you want to be troublesome, I dare you. I’m ready for you. Let’s see what happens then… You should have little respect for constituted authority, no matter what. And if somebody of my calibre meets with you … Eight months of what? This is not the first time schools have been shut, so what?”
He further said, “It’s not to come here and sing ‘it will be rough this time.’ To be rough for who … is it for me? Is it for me? Is it for me? [to these the students chorused ‘yes!’]. Wòó [calling on a policeman], bring that boy here for me. [And after 15 seconds of resistance] Leave him, leave him. Let me tell you this, we must face reality. The reality on ground is that, number one, your management, the Oyo State Government and many governments; they lack fund. If they lack fund, they must find a way to help the students. But if you come here and are shouting at me, I am not going to talk to you. And if you want to start trouble, go ahead! This government will not tolerate nonsense from anybody.”
That is not all, the about four-minute long video also captured him saying, “What I want now is, as you’ve come, you should plead, ‘ah oga, they’ve shut our school. Governor o… [students cut in]’… Is this one a student, you there? It’s a pity! [Chuckles derisively]… You know something? With your behaviour, I am not going to talk to you again, okay? So, if you want to do anything, go and do it. We will wait for you … We were at an excos meeting and I came out … Isn’t this all of you? How many are you … This is the constituted authority for Oyo State. Even if I don’t pay salary or I don’t pay this, the fact is that I am the constituted authority. It does not remove that authority.”
Though the translation and transcription have greatly mellowed the vulgarity of his language, the words above should still make a sane mind cringe in discomfort. We should all be embarrassed that someone like Abiola Ajimobi became governor under our watch. We should hide our heads in shame. Though I am not denying that he achieved some level of progress in aspects of his administration which is why he broke second-term jinx in Oyo state, a leader is supposed to give hope and not thrust sharp blades into it as he would a Christmas chicken. What is a leader, or an elder, whose words bring him on a par with brutes? What is a politician who lacks understanding of the politics of words, whose fingers are numb to the pulse of the people and whose greatest achievement is his lengthy stay in office?
There are many who have, as usual, come to the defence of the governor, most without even watching the uploaded clip. They say the students also have a case in the court of morality with respect to the recent 500,000 Naira scandal. Agreed, but certainly off point – nothing but an attempt at red herring. They argue that the clip is just a convenient, maybe sensational, collage of different parts of the address. Again true; but no matter how we look at it, no matter which verbal anaesthetic surrounds his uncouth statements, nothing can rationalise the words quoted above especially coming from an “His Excellency, the Governor.” There are also they who generously agree that the governor was wrong but maintain that to speak bluntly against him is wrong too. In their reasoning, while his office affords him immunity from civil and criminal proceedings, that is not enough; his sizable age should also shield him from being told the bitter truth. To this I say: While respect for our elders is a virtue we should never compromise, it is too costly a price to pay for the suppression of truth and the oppression of the masses. A leader who does not respect his subjects, over whose backs he rode to power, deserves no respect himself.
By virtue of section 185(1) of the nation’s constitution, all elected governors are bound to take and subscribe to the oath of office prescribed in the seventh schedule. This oath is so important the section provides that an elected person shall not perform gubernatorial functions without the ritual. And this oath – which I doubt ever journeys beyond the tongues of those who recite it – states, “I do solemnly swear that … in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour.” In other words, in all circumstances – whether before an election or after, to all manner of people – be they students or godfathers, and without favour – to some select students while ignoring the genuine plight of the vast majority.
Governor Ajimobi has just revealed the dark mentality lurking behind the smiles of the average politician. Skimming through his words, one can tell that his inclination is to have students plead and worship him. One can tell that he considers the students very lucky – and thinks they should too – that he left a meeting to address them. Ordinary students! Not so? Why should they not consider themselves lucky when his daughters are overseas drinking from the best there is of springs of knowledge and throwing wads of crisp currency just as a drunken sailor hurls an empty bottle of gin. Like her father, the one caught had zero shame even with cameras staring at her debauchery.
Proceeding, another thing we can tell is that he sees his “constituted authority” as being above reproach whether or not he performs. Then again, we can tell he would go to any length to protect his ego and quell dissent, including unleashing the police on unarmed, law-abiding students. This sick mentality is the reason our education sector is where it is. And until it is banished, it will be why students of LAUTECH shall still be at home tomorrow and why the nation at large shall still ache at many a joint, wondering where it went wrong.
I urge Nigerians to henceforth remove the speck from their eyes. Our greatest problem is not corruption or recession, or any of our many problems; our greatest problem is our ignorance of their causes. Any person who thinks himself too big to give us due respect is deserving only of our loathing, not our voting. And any office holder for whom power is not an energy drink stimulating him into action, but an alcoholic drink which knocks out his senses, should be checked before he pulls the state with him into the gutters.
Governor Ajimobi has spoken and his words have been recorded by the untiring hands of history. If only he had known, with all his years in politics, that there is a reason the expression “political correctness” begins with the word “political”.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
‘Kunle Adebajo is student of the University of Ibadan, he is a member of the Union of Campus Journalists and may be contacted via his email address: [email protected]