Prominent Nigerians, including governors, federal and state lawmakers as well as captains of industry, yesterday thronged Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, for the burial of the immediate past Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who died last Thursday in Lagos at the age of 70.
However, the funereal atmosphere at the Ajimobi’s home was punctuated by his widow, Florence’s tirade against his successor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, whom she accused of playing politics with the former governor’s death.
But in a swift response, the state government denied her accusations, saying the Makinde administration made the necessary concession to the family, within the ambit of the law, despite the fact the the family kept the administration in the dark right from the hospitalisation of the former governor and even after his death.
The burial rites of the late Deputy National Chairman (South) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which held yesterday morning, was performed by the Chief Imam of Ibadanland, Sheikh AbdulGaniyy Abubakar Agbotomokekere, with the support of the renowned Islamic preacher, Sheikh Muyideen Bello, and the Chairman, Muslim Community of Oyo State, Alhaji Kunle Sanni.
Among the dignitaries at the funeral were Governor Umar Ganduje of Kano State; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State; Lagos State Deputy Governor, Mr. Obafemi Hamzat; Oyo State Deputy Governor, Mr. Rauf Olaniyan; Senator Teslim Folarin; Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare, as well as the APC governorship candidate in the 2019 general election, Dr. Adebayo Adelabu.
Others include Chief Kola Daisi; Mrs. Kemi Alao-Akala, wife of former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala; Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, Hon. Shina Peller, Prince Ayodeji Abass-Aleshinloye, Olamiju Alao-Akala and some former members of the Ajimobi cabinet.
Speaking on behalf of the governors, Fayemi, who chairs the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), described Ajimobi as a rallying-point pillar in APC.
The NGF delegation was led to the Ajimobi’s home by the Oyo State Deputy Governor, Mr. Rauf Olaniyan.
“He governed this state for eight years and in this sense, you can call him the architect of modern Oyo State. I am not only the chairman of governors’ forum here with my colleagues, but I am also an Ibadan resident; so, I know this state. I can tell you without any shadow of doubt that he was the best governor of this state.
“But that was not what sells him to the generality of his brothers; it was his unique character. He was the ultimate bridge builder. He was a connector at all time. He was an advisor to us all. He was always seeking a way to pull people together to organise a better country and build bridge across divides.
“As a delegation of governors that have come to honour him, and honour his family, we know that it would be very difficult to fill his gap that he occupied in our party. As somebody that we could always call upon to help build a more peaceful, more purposeful and a more result-oriented party. He excelled in private sector and also excelled in public sector. He was one who successfully demystified the notion that technocrats are not good in politics. He was a technocrat,” Fayemi stated.
My Husband Deserves Better, Wife Tells Makinde
Responding to the governors’ condolences, the widow expressed anger at the treatment meted out to her late husband by the Makinde administration, in the last one month of his illness.
She appealed to Makinde not to play politics with the death of her husband and to allow him to rest in peace.
According to her, Makinde has neither visited the family nor sent them a message since her husband was hospitalised and even after the burial.
She said she would set the record straight because of what she described as the stories allegedly being sponsored by the state government over the death and burial of her husband.
“My husband took ill on May 22, and he was hospitalised and I was reading in the papers that the Governor of Oyo State, His Excellency, Seyi Makinde, claimed he called me. But he didn’t.”
Referring to the deputy governor, she said: “I don’t have your number and I have never spoken with you on phone. But it’s important we put the records straight because this is a family of politicians and I don’t want anybody to tarnish my husband’s name and well my husband is gone. It could be me or anyone else tomorrow.
“Life in itself is vanity upon vanity. Either you are PDP or APC, the man is dead and he has been buried.
“But the governor didn’t call me. Even if he had called me and I didn’t pick his calls, I don’t have his number and I have never spoken with him on the phone. He could have sent me a text message for record purposes.
“And then today again, I read in the papers and saw how the Ajimobi’s family was lying about something again.
“Mr. Deputy (Governor), my husband never had anything against the governor or anyone else. We were in different parties but he was an elder statesman and he slept on the ground.”
She called on the state government to stop peddling lies about him and the family because he is no longer available to defend himself.
But a top government official said that contrary to the claim of the widow, the Makinde administration did not play politics with his death.
The source said right from when the former governor was diagnosed of COVID-19 till his death, the Ajimobi family did not officially inform the state government as demanded by protocols.
According to him, all the state government knew about the illness and the subsequent death was either through the media or third parties.
On the controversy over the burial site, he said the governor was first contacted by a top presidency official if the remains of Ajimobi could be interred at the disputed Agodi property, but the governor demurred on the ground that there is a pending case in court, filed by the late Ajimobi, challenging government’s decision to revoke the former governor’s decision to allocate the property, owned by the state, to himself.
He explained that shortly after Ajimobi’s death last Thursday, the governor had given the approval for his burial at the home of the deceased in Oluyole Estate, Ibadan, and was therefore shocked when it learnt that the family mulled the idea of burying him at the Ajimobi Central Mosque, Ibadan.
“In close consultation with the governments of Lagos and Oyo states, the date for the burial ceremony has been announced.
“Barring any changes, his body will be interred at the Senator Ishaq Abiola Ajimobi Central Mosque at Oke Ado, Ibadan, at noon on Sunday, June 28 after the traditional Muslim prayers,” Ajimobi’s media aide, Bolaji Tunji, had said in a statement last Friday.