Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity of returning to the Agodi Governor’s Office in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo state, where I was tenanted for four years. Like every mortal, nostalgia became my shawl. I remembered my late boss, Governor Abiola Ajimobi and his passion to chisel a new Oyo state out of the dross he had in 2011. Ajimobi was actually one of the species of people who Yoruba call the sanmonri – the elite. He disdained disorder and disobedience to methods. He was finicky and spent his time tutoring on the aesthetics of the environment. If Ajimobi entered your room or office and disorder ruled, he would unconsciously begin to rearrange it before he realised he was governor.
I remember his first visit to this same office in June 2011 after being sworn in. His face puckered into a mask of a frown at what he saw. I followed him in tow to this office where his predecessor occupied. We saw the red, dusty threadbare rug, a set of furniture that had seen better times and he was thoroughly displeased at what he saw. I remember that when we peered into the loo room of the office the governor occupied and saw a black bowl filled with water, where the governor was to scoop water after a bout of executive poo, Ajimobi was inconsolably miffed. How can we give people water if the governor’s office has no running water for the use of the governor? he asked, nonplussed. Inside the office of the staff of the office, Ajimobi characteristically peered into the back of a chair and picked up a small live snail.
It was thus no wonder that he wouldn’t occupy the office until it was completely upgraded. At least, if a governor would make his state modern, he must be seen as modern in idea and taste. If you would dash me a skirt, you must not be shirtless. And he did it to the satisfaction of even his most vicious critics. I thought that was the zenith in aesthetics anyone could take the office.
Two Thursdays ago, I entered the governor’s office again as a guest of the incumbent and I was transfixed in awe of the beauty in perfection. What I saw bested the picture I snapped in my mind the last time I was there in 2015. The executive council chambers offered me the greatest introspection. On the walls were pictures of former premiers, governors and administrators – military and civilian – who once reigned there. The well-curated collection is a valuable service to history. Kaduna and Enugu states should be the only rivals of Oyo in having such an array of men of timber and calibre long gone. My boss, Ajimobi’s photo, was there, hung delectably on the row. It tells me a lot about the place of remembrance in human memory. I doubt if anyone remembers these men again, except when their works during their time as governors were affixed to their names as historiography. This, as the backyard of history, should remind leaders, north to south, that they, someday, will be history too and that the most imperishable legacy they should seek is positive contributions to human development.
Then I saw other intangible transformations that gladdened my heart. There was no rabble at the gate, no tang of “boys’” marijuana smoke hanging in the sky. Then, from the reception, up the stairs, to the Exco Chambers’ restrooms and the newly fashioned Coffee Room, Oyo’s seat of power spoke excellently of a physical representation of the core line in the state’s anthem; “asiwaju ni wa” – we are pacesetters.
What I used to know as the Press Centre is now christened Briefing Room. It glitters on the wall, floor and furniture of the beauty of tomorrow
If photographs teach introspection and transformed physical structures teach aesthetics, the absence of the rabble – a crop of people who used to be perpetually stationed around political power at the seat of power – in today’s Agodi effectively complements the ambience of serenity.