Except something else occurs that grabs the headlines and dominates Nigerian social media, the big news of the past week would probably be the death of Senator Abiola Ajimobi and the political drama that it has generated. Senator Ajimobi served as a Senator between 2003 -2007. He was Governor of Oyo State between 2011 – 2015, 2015- 2019. He achieved the distinction of being the first Governor in that state to be elected for a second term in office. He broke the jinx. His tenure as Governor was quite controversial with mixed results and divided opinions. He was a very frank and outspoken Governor who was also very conscious of his social status and the powers attached to his office. He was also quite audacious. He engaged the Olubadan in an open battle when he chose in one instance to transform some high chiefs of the Olubadan-in-council into beaded kings.
There was also his infamous confrontation with students of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) who had stormed Government House to protest the prolonged closure of their school. Ajimobi hushed the students up and told them harshly that they should remember that they were in the presence of “the Constituted Authority” of Oyo State. The Oyo State Government under his watch owed arrears of salaries. By the general election of 2019, his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) stood no chance in the elections. It was generally believed that the “Constituted Authority” had alienated the people he governed so much they were bound to reject the country’s ruling party in the state. As expected, the APC lost the Gubernatorial election to the rival, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) whose flag-bearer Engr. Seyi Makinde is the incumbent Governor of the state.
In 2019, Ajimobi also sought election into the Senate. Nigeria’s Upper Chamber is increasingly an old people’s home for retired Governors. But he lost the Oyo South Senatorial bid to the candidate, again, of the PDP. He took his case to the Election Petition Tribunal. He lost again. In the face of this rejection, the APC consoled itself with the conclusion that the performance of their party in Oyo state did not amount to a rejection of the APC by the people, but a rejection of Ajimobi’s politics! The same party would later reward Ajimobi with the position of Deputy National Chairman, South West. His admirers insist that he was a hero, a bridge-builder, and an illustrious Ibadan son and politician who made his own contributions to the development of his state and country. His style may just have been a bit brash, they admit.
Man lives. He dies. It is in the nature of all living things to die. Human experiences like love, achievements, social status can bring an individual much fulfilment, but death is the biggest event of our lives. It defines our mortality. It is arbitrary and tragic, because it marks the end of everything. It is not a form of completion, because nobody ever completes life, even a man of 100 still nurses hope, but with death, everything is finished. Death does not grant the dead a say in what happens to him or her: but there is a form of survival to it. The dead survive in social contexts: in the memory of those who love or hate them, and each recollection is absolutely beyond the control of the dead. The dead exist only as social identities. Culturally, we are expected to respect and honour them. This is seen as a moral obligation. We are also likely to feel offended if the people besmirch their memory.
But what we often see is that this moral obligation is merely socially constructed. It cannot be imposed. It is determined by context and relationships. We have seen this at play with two recent high profile deaths: that of former Presidential Chief of Staff, Malam Abba Kyari, whose death generated so much emotion that it has now formed the substance of a book titled: Abba Kyari –Portrait of a Loyalist: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Side