There are different ills militating against the Nigerian nation, and chief these is atrocious corruption. Most often, our definition of corruptions stops at looting or stealing of public funds. That is good but it is not all. Transparency International (TI) has adopted a concise and focused definition of the term, as it defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Now, there are limitless numbers of ways to further private gains – from packing cabinets full of cronies, to directing state resources to favour one’s town, village, state or local government of origin at the expense of others. The list is endless – even if they are “according to rule” (where due-process have been followed) or “against the rule”.
The late Dr. Olusegun Agagu was governor of Ondo State between May 29, 2003 and February 23, 2009. I worked closely with him as the Coordinator of the Ondo State Information Technology Development Centre (SITDEC), office of the governor, now known as State Information Technology Agency (SITA). I witnessed certain events first-hand which I wish to share with the Nigerian public on the occasion of the second anniversary of his death.
One day I was with him in the Governor’s Lodge when a few leaders visited to lobby him to relocate the Adekunle Ajasin University from Akungba Akoko to either Ikare Akoko or his home town. We just took over government at the time. I remember vividly that they argued that it had to be done because the previous governor (Papa Adebayo Adefarati) took advantage of being governor to favour his small town of Akungba over Ikare, which had been the de facto Akoko headquarters for ages. They equally impressed it upon the governor that the university was yet to properly take off as the most crucial infrastructure required in a proper university were still missing. They claimed that the university was just a glorified secondary school at it were and that relocating it would afford the PDP a great opportunity to cut the former governor to size.
I still remember as if it were yesterday the response Agagu gave them. He thanked and sympathised with them over the possibility of having truly been short-changed. Then he pointedly asked them in Yoruba “If I should start reversing the decisions of my predecessors and cutting him to size by tampering with his legacies, won’t I be setting a bad precedent? And when would I then have time to plan and execute our own projects?” It is important to note that they gave him the option to relocate and site the university in his home town! He refused.
In another different but similar example in 2007, Dr. Agagu set up a Committee of prominent natives of Ondo State under the leadership of my late former Vice Chancellor, Prof. Albert Ilemobade to deliberate on the proposed university to be sited in the Ondo South senatorial district. My team had earlier played a critical role (again through the opportunity Agagu gave me) in getting the programme into our strategic development plan in the Ondo State component of the Niger Delta Master Plan. Chief Olusola Oke as then Chairman of Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC), Engr. Sola Disu who worked with me as consultant, Architect Abimbola Omotola also of OSOPADEC and some directors of the organisation and Technical Assistants from SITDEC, as well as the incumbent governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, were all in the audience when Agagu announced the decision to the Presidential Council on the Niger-Delta, under the chairmanship of President Olusegun Obasanjo. However, as was legendary with him, he went ahead to honour each step of the due process requirements for the setting up of a university – hence the committee (which was in our medium term plan anyway).
The committee sat, worked and delivered. Prior to the submission of their final report, some committee members approached the governor on the important issue of location and told him their plan to recommend Iju-Odo as the location as a mark of honour to the governor. After all, his immediate predecessor did exactly that and the heaven did not fall. The governor was an Ikale man. His hometown was Iju-odo. However, the divisional headquarters of the Ikales (and the Ilajes, the Apois, the Arogbo Ijaws etc) was another town named Okitipupa – even as far back as 1915. In our ethnically polarised political ecosystem, it was a certain temptation. A governor that sites a university in his home town will remain the eternal hero of his immediate kith and kin (even if people from nearby bigger towns groan eternally!). Again, I still remember vividly that it was Dr. Agagu who schooled the band on the bad ethics and ethos of directing state resources to suit his personal whims simply because he was the governor. He stated emphatically that he thought it was natural that the biggest town that had for ages served as headquarters should naturally host such an institution, arguing that students and university staff would be better off being close to a major town than being in some tiny village. That was it. By the time the committee delivered its final report in January 2008, Okitipupa, and not Iju-Odo (the governor’s hometown), was recommended.
I have cited two examples. There are many more that I and some other folks witnessed. They may appear as inconsequential tokens, but informed people know these were actually extraordinary and sterling examples of the Yoruba’s concept of Omoluabi.
I am one of those who boast about what they did in the past and what they can still do in the future. Now, God used one man, Dr. Olusegun Kokumo Agagu, to give me the platform where I was able to actualise some of my ‘ambitious ideas’. This is the way my Egbon, D. I. Kekemeke recently described some of my ideas in those days. My chest thumping today is the direct result of the opportunities he gave me back then.
In an interview I granted in 2011, I described the late Olusegun Agagu as one of the most brilliant people that I have ever met. Easily able to understand seemingly complicated concepts. He was a very thorough person who was also immensely patient. He possessed a leadership maturity very uncommon in this clime. My regret, as I stated in that interview, which I was opportune to tell him before he passed on, was that I could not lead his civil infrastructure team which I consider my primary area of competence. In retrospect, I strongly believe I would have made a lot of difference and that such a difference could have averted the image crisis our government had in the central senatorial district. Today is the second anniversary of his death. RIP boss.
‘Tunji Ariyomo was Coordinator of the Ondo State Information Technology Development Centre (SITDEC), during the tenure of late Governor Oluseun Agagu in Ondo State.