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Governor Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi: I Am The State! By Abiodun Ladepo

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Every right-thinking Nigerian, and especially Oyo State indigenes, should be seriously concerned about (and ashamed of) a modern day elected Governor who questions the right of students to peacefully assemble and protest the closure of their school for reasons not of their own making.

Every parent who has a student at Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH) should be outraged at the conduct of Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi, Governor of Oyo State, when he addressed the protesting students of that school a few days ago. Every lecturer in Oyo State, the home of Nigeria’s premier university – the University of Ibadan, and, in fact, every lecturer across the entire country should get a bullhorn and lambaste this bushman governor for flippantly dismissing the prolonged closure of a tertiary institution. Where, in the whole world, could a governor imply that he didn’t care that students were locked out of schools for almost a year?

“So what?”, Ajimobi queried the students in the video that has now gone viral on the Internet. “…So what if your school has been closed? Is it the first time schools will be closed?”

In another exchange, he challenged the students: “If you want to continue talking to me like that…if you want to resort to violence, go ahead. We shall be waiting for you.” This braggadocio was, of course, in front of a legion of fully armed Police officers.

Every right-thinking Nigerian, and especially Oyo State indigenes, should be seriously concerned about (and ashamed of) a modern day ELECTED Governor who questions the right of students to peacefully assemble and protest the closure of their school for reasons not of their own making. It is the height of irresponsibility for Governor Ajimodi (I am almost ashamed of referring to him as Governor) to point at a student in the crowd and ask police officers to “bring him here”.

That was not one of his children. None of the parents of those students handed their children off to Ajimobi for corporal punishment. And you could actually see the police officers trying to drag the student to Emperor Ajimobi. This bestiality in the year of our Lord 2017!

And if nobody is enraged by Ajimobi’s conduct, the Chancellor of LAUTECH, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (yes, the same Tinubu who led the #Change movement) ought to get off his seat right away and go down to LAUTECH to mollify those students.

Tinubu, I am sure, knows the gravity of pissing off young men and women. Tinubu knows the APC cannot afford to turn off such a large, active and potentially restive section of the electorate. He knows that once LAUTECH students go ahead with the planned “Mega Rally” that they have now threatened in response to Ajimobi’s crudity – he cut such a pathetic picture as a “progressive” on the bed of that truck while addressing the students; once those students begin and they are joined in solidarity by students from across the country, Oyo State will be too hot for Ajimobi and APC to govern. Everybody knows Ajimobi does not care about the people and the State anymore. He is on his last term as Governor and knows he will never seek an elective post after this. Since his White man is leaving, he has no qualms about defecating on the chair. But the APC will need the people of Oyo State in 2019 and beyond.

In my university days, not even a military Governor dared face students and order the arrest of one of them when they were protesting for their rights. But how could Ajimobi have known that when he didn’t attend any tertiary institution in Nigeria? He tried to lecture the students about choosing “engagement” instead of demonstration. Engagement? This man obviously learned nothing from the history and nature of Nigerian students’ activism. If the New York State government had starved the State University in Buffalo, New York, of funds, when Ajimobi studied there, wouldn’t he have joined in demonstrations? Even in the U.S., where salaries of lecturers are paid on time and schools have the basic amenities needed for academics, students still demonstrate all the time. It is a very healthy way to express pent-up anger in a democracy that wants to grow.

In 2014 alone, students of UCLA in California demonstrated many times, blocking streets and all. How can somebody as supposedly enlightened as Ajimobi chide students for expressing their grievances peacefully? And in a democracy too! Where was this man during the “Ali Must Go” era? Where was he during the late Segun Okeowo’s NUNS? Where was he during the robust NANS era? These were largely military eras and Nigerian students were not cowed. So, who is this bloody civilian, this spoilt, insensitive, privileged son of a wealthy man born with a silver spoon in his mouth that will now stand on an elective pedestal to speak so condescendingly to students? Who is this buffoon?

And this obsession with asking for apologies just kills me. This guy thinks by merely doing his job, he is doing favors for the people of Oyo State. Near the end of the video, when the students appeared to have calmed down a bit, he told them that he had spoken to Governor Aregbesola of Osun State (LAUTECH is co-owned by the two states) and they have agreed to put up N250 million each to solve the cash problems facing the school and open the school before the end of January.

Really? And the students were supposed to thank him for that? Why did it take both governors eight months to find money to keep the school afloat? Which of the reasons are the faults of either the students or their parents? How is paying salaries of people who have done the job for which they were hired a favor to them? Who is irresponsible: the students legitimately and peacefully protesting the closure of their school or the governor that failed to manage the state’s resources in a way that would ensure that schools are not closed? Who then owes apologies?

On Behalf of King Isiaka Louis Abiola Ajimobi XIV and APC, I apologize to the students and parents of LAUTECH for the disgraceful manner the government of Oyo State has treated them.

I AM the STATE!

I know Ajimobi is too obtuse to make the connection between his “you-have-to-respect-me-because-I-am-the-Constituted-Authority-of-Oyo State” statement and that of France’s 17th century King Louis XIV’s “L’Etat, C’est Moi” (I AM THE STATE) statement.

If he could, he would see that he now sounds very much like the arrogant dictator many in Oyo State now publicly say he has become. None of his appointees could address him as Governor.

They must address him as “Oga” (Boss). You can even hear him in that LAUTECH video telling the students that if they had started their conversation with him by saying “Oga….” he might have been more receptive to them. He routinely barks at his political appointees and orders them to shut up at meetings. He publicly humiliates them by chiding them for standing or sitting before him during meetings.

Ajimobi is irredeemably obsessed with age. He doesn’t miss any opportunity to throw his age out there and lord it over those junior to him, no matter the occasion and no matter the audience. Now, I know this part of the article sounds petty and personal and the reader probably thinks it detracts from the main issue. But I believe Ajimobi’s overall attitude is a function of that “short man’s syndrome”…always eager to bully others because he has to compensate for his diminutive stature. And he has so cowed many in Oyo State APC and even the civil service that none could look him in the eye.

Well, I am not an employee of the State. So, I can afford to tell it like it is. There is widespread grumbling and disaffection in the leadership of the state, across the many political spectra…grumblings and disaffection about being conned by a loquacious and garrulous despot in Agbada. And all the stakeholders, regardless of party affiliations, including traditional rulers, need to call this man to order.

Now, to the students and parents of LAUTECH, here is what Ajimobi wanted to tell you that he so much lacked the capacity, tact and respect to say:

The government of Oyo State can no longer fund LAUTECH or any of its other tertiary institution without raising fees. The reason is that the State’s recurrent expenditure has outgrown its revenues, to the point that it is demonstrably unable to fully pay salaries, let alone embark on capital projects. Yes, this embarrassing situation is the result of lack of foresight and political will by this administration and all the ones before it when they relied almost exclusively on subventions from the Federation Account to conduct State matters. So, the reality is that we are where we are. Oyo State government must increase its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in order to be able to meet its obligations. Some of the ways to increase IGRs include raising taxes, expanding tax base, enforcing taxation, charging fees and instituting levies.

The era of heavy subsidization of tertiary education is gone. And, I am here to tell you that it should have long been gone. I am not too familiar with the British system, but I can tell you that even in public universities in the Unites States, students pay. All students pay. Now, there are government and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs)’ programs out there that help make it easier for children of the poor to pay for their own education. Those programs delineate children whose parents can pay from those whose parents cannot. And help comes in different forms…reduced fees, deferred payment program, scholarships, low-rate student loans etc. However the society does it, the schools are able to draw up budgets and implement those budgets because the funds they expect will come in.

This is what we lack in Nigeria as a whole and it is what Ajimobi wanted to explain to you before his overblown ego took the better of him. For instance, how many of your parents (LAUTECH students) pay taxes? How many of them pay their fair share of taxes to the coffers of Oyo State government? How many parents of LAUTECH students can easily afford to pay the proposed increase in fees? And how many cannot? If my child attends LAUTECH and the government is subsidizing his/her education, it will be unfair to the State because I can afford to pay my child’s fees! And if I am not paying taxes at all, or not paying what is commensurate with my earnings, I am cheating the State. It means I am taking food, medical care and all sorts of social and infrastructural amenities away from the rest of the State. Do me a favor, LAUTECH student, before you embark on that planned “Mega Rally”, and before you go spit in Ajimobi’s face, go home and pull your parents to the side and ask to see evidence that they pay taxes regularly. If you are a student in a tertiary institution, I am sure you know that governments run on taxation, not just on natural resources. I am also sure that you are well-read enough to objectively analyse issues. That’s one of the things university education inculcates in you. If your parents have not been paying their taxes, or they have not been paying their fair share of taxes, the blame game should start from home.

Your protests should really start with your parents. Tell them that one Biodun Ladepo said…because you can’t say it to them directly and not get in trouble…that they ought to be ashamed of themselves for free-loading on the society.

Abiodun Ladepo writes from Ibadan, Oyo State. You can reach him at Oluyole2@yahoo.com.

A Learner

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