Governor Ishaq Abiola Ajimobi emerged as Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, governorship candidate for Oyo State. For him politics is natural having been born to the family of Pa Ajimobi, a Member of the Western House of Assembly in the First Republic. Senator Ajimobi was MD, National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company before his election as Senator in 2003.
Interview with BASHIR ADEFAKA at his Ibadan residence on his life.
How did you get into politics?
Let’s start with ‘why’ and then we can go to the rest. I think the first reason being that I was born into a political dynasty: my grandfather was a politician. He was the first Sobaloju of Ibadan Land. My uncle (my father’s brother), was a Western Region minister and my father was a Member of the House of Assembly and then here I am. I have been a Senator and I am still in politics.
Now, answering your question of why I went into politics, I would say I am into politics to serve and to try to give back to the society. I have been very lucky and, besides, when you get to the age of 50, you should participate in contributing to your society in making life better for the people. Because from the age of 50 you begin to realize that you will die one day.
What legacy do you want to leave behind?
If it’s money, I’m fairly okay. If it’s blessing, I have been blessed by God and there is no better joy than in giving. Like it’s been said by many philosophers: you make a living by what you earn and what you get but you make life by what you give. I want to give, like I have been giving, so that I can make life. And for me, it’s a lot of joy to see that you’ve made a lot of people better and that you’ve contributed to uplifting society development. There is no better joy than that.
It’s like the school I started there, each time I see people who graduated from the school, it gives me a lot of joy. Even when I was in the company in National Oil, in 1985, I was the one who built the new office in Jericho; I was the one who built the largest petrol station at that time in Nigeria which was called 3_in_1 in 1987; I was the one who built Toll Gate and so, at each time I pass by, there is this inner joy-great feeling of accomplishment that, look I have made landmark stations in my town and in the state.
Look, if people who die can still hear and see things, Chief Obafemi Awolowo would be the happiest man in Nigeria today. For me, I would love to do something that would be monumental in terms of making life better for our people.
Q: What was your growing up like?
I was born on December 16, 1949. I was a local boy. I was born in Oja’ba in the centre of Ibadan. I grew up just like any other local boy who ran around naked and played table tennis, went to cafeteria, you know, who rides rented bicycle all over the place. I wasn’t a withdrawn kid. I was playing football, playing table tennis, running races for my school, I was games prefect in my school; I was table tennis captain and I was the second best student in athletics and so on and so forth. Invariably, I was a sportsman as a young person.
As a growing up kid I was okay but sometimes, as a kid, you behave like a kid and I think I played my part as a kid.
What particular role did parenthood play in your life?
I think basically my father was a very contented man and so, I learnt to be contented with whatever I have. I believe that God does everything; you just have to push. That was very fundamental for me. I believe in integrity and if you go anywhere today people will say ‘Oh, your father had integrity!’ I learned that and it impacted on my behaviour. I am a very outspoken person: sometimes people take that to be arrogance but it’s just a misunderstanding because my father too was very outspoken. People would say, ‘ah, you speak like your father!’ So I think I took integrity, I took Godliness and I think contentment from him.
When you were ready for marriage, did you face any challenge from your parents regarding the kind of woman you should marry?
My parents had always been very enlightened and broadminded. They believed that once you have somebody that is not only in love with you but really loves you, you can marry her. It doesn’t matter the tribe, it doesn’t matter the nationality and I never had any problem. And for the son of a man that had five wives from different locations, I don’t think they would be fussy about whom I should marry and so they didn’t bother about that.
And how did you meet your wife?
We met initially in London, then we met in Nigeria; then we met at the bank. It was then I told myself: this is my wife.
How did you communicate that to her?
Oh, I went to her and said hello and she replied hello! The person with whom I went to the place asked, “How did you know the woman you are greeting?” I said go and ask the woman, don’t ask me. She then went away and I went my own way. The third time it was raining and I offered her my umbrella and she accepted my offer of umbrella. I then asked, “Do you remember me?” She said no. I said, “Well, we met before” and she said, “Okay, what’s the problem? You want me to use your umbrella or you want to toast me?” Many things later happened and in the end we got married.The particular attraction I saw in her was honesty, very hardworking and that, she still has.
How much of the good character you imbibed from your parents have you been able to pass on to your own children?
I have done that already. I have passed it on to them. You would not believe this: I visited my daughter three days ago and that was for the first time after her wedding.
And when I got to her house, the first thing I did when I entered was to tell my wife, “Yes, this is my daughter!” Because the house was neat! Simple furnishing but very neat! It reminded me of my style and I think my daughter and all my other children took it from me. You know, keeping the house clean, taking care of your husband or wife and making sure that all things are in their right places. That, I think it’s very important and I saw that when I visited her for the first time. And of course, the respect she has, the good character, I think it’s very important.
What startling event happened at your birth that you must have been told?
I think one of them was that The Nigerian Tribune was established about the time I was born. I won’t know many of those startling things but I was told that many great things happened during the time I was born; I think it was that time, I am not really sure, that India got its independence and many other countries too did.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as a man that came and left the world better than he met it.