MERRY XMAS

MERRY XMAS

Friday, 4 October 2013


An ex-governor’s shocking death and tragic funeral

An ex-governor’s shocking death and tragic funeral

His death was shocking. There was no long days of sickness. Olusegun Kokumo Agagu just slumped and died. Yesterday, his funeral turned tragic when a plane carrying his body for a funeral programme in Akure, the capital of Ondo State, crashed. Although he hoped to live beyond 65, fate decided otherwise,writes Group Political Editor Emmanuel Oladesu
As a lecturer and oil worker, former Ondo State Governor, the late Dr. Olusegun Kokumo, was at peace with his neighbours. As a politician, he was not desperate for power. He bore the vicissitudes of political life with a mixture of shock and philosophical understanding. Although he hoped to live beyond 65, fate decided otherwise. Death is inevitable, but the late Agagu did not bargain for any funeral crisis.
Since his death on September 13, eminent Nigerians have been showering encomiums on him for living a good life and making a modest contribution to the society’s growth. Little did his family, associates, and friends know that another agony will herald his final journey home. It is sad that, apart from the pending funeral, preparations now have to be made for the funeral of those ironically saddled with the implementation of his (Agagu’s) funeral programmes.
Family members are enraged. There is a rush of emotions. They are raising posers. What was the status of the aircraft? Was there any communication between the pilot and the control tower? What actually went wrong? The dead have no business with these earthly puzzles again, but for the living, it is burdensome.
The death of the former governor has created a vacuum on many fronts. The late Agagu was an esteemed community leader in Ikale. He was a homeboy. In fact, when he left the Alagbaka Government House, he expressed the desire to serve as an ambassador in one of the Caribbean countries before retiring to his Iju-Odo home town.
In the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he was an outstanding leader. Until his demise, the frontline politician was the arrowhead of the party in Ondo State. He was held in honour by the majority of the chieftains.
Political differences disappeared when the news of the tragedy was broken. Chieftains of the PDP and All Progressives Congress (APC) lamented his death. His former colleagues in the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) recalled his analytical prowess and sheer brilliance.
Those who served with him in the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo perceived him as an intellectual giant and consummate politician, who shunned materialism. However, he loved life and enjoyed it to the fullest. The late Agagu was a university don, technocrat, politician with a mission and a socialite. His target was power, but he loathed inordinate wealth acquisition. Many have said he left his footprints on the sands of time.
The former governor was popular at home, especially at his Iju-Odo home town and the environs. Many youths saw him as a mentor and role model. His legacy is the Ondo State University of Science and Technology. In the future, the government may name the institution after him.
The late Agagu was a Geology lecturer at the University of Ibadan (UI) in the seventies. He was famous for his numerous geological surveys. In the lecture theatre, he was a cosmopolitan tutor. Later, he moved into the oil industry, emerging as a power broker in the sector. He made money and used it judiciously.
His first contact with politics was in the Second Republic. He was fascinated by the men of the old order -the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his progressive followers. The late Agagu was one of the young stars that assisted the late Chief Adekunle Ajasin’s Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) with their expertise in statistics and information technology. Their efforts assisted the party in detecting the pattern of rigging by the desperate National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
However, in the Third Republic, the late Agagu was one of the leaders of the proscribed SDP. He wanted to be the governor of the old Ondo State. However, since Ekiti had been on the queue for the governorship position, the party gave the ticket to Evangelist Bamidele Olumilua, who defeated other Ekiti aspirants at the primaries.
In 1983, when Olumilua lost the senatorial poll to Senator Lawrence Agunbiade, people’s attention turned to the late Agagu. During the SDP governorship primaries conducted by the party Chairman, Mr. Blessing Kayode, the late Ajasin mobilised the progressive family and the new breed of actors to swing the pendulum of victory towards his (Ajasin’s) direction. Other aspirants included Dr. Kunle Olajide, Chief Ayo Akinyemi, Prof. Opeyemi Ola and Senator David Oke.
For ethnic balancing, Agagu emerged as his running mate. They defeated the candidate of the National Republican Convention (NRC), Chief Ayo Ogunlade, who was the Federal Commissioner for Information, at the governorship poll. Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko was the Commissioner for Health in that administration, which was short-lived.
In 1999, the former deputy governor had crossed over to the conservative camp. Many were taken aback because he was a devoted progressive politician. He contested the governorship election on the platform of the PDP against the late Chief Adebayo Adefarati of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and lost with a slim margin. Obasanjo appointed him as the Minister of Aviation. Later, he was posted to the Power and Steel Ministry. In 2003, he emerged governor of Ondo State.
The 2003 poll was keenly contested. Before the election, crisis seized the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere. The group was losing its grip on the party it formed, the AD. A group of aggrieved AD chieftains, led by Mimiko, defected to the PDP, following the protracted crisis.
The tradition in Afenifere/AD favoured the distribution of political slots based on seniority and record of contributions to the political family, but the young men in the fold were in a hurry. So they collaborated with the late Agagu to defeat the late former Governor Adebayo Adefarati.
In 2007, Mimiko, who was the Secretary to the State Government in the late Agagu’s administration, and later the Minister of Housing, defected to the Labour Party (LP). The late Agagu could not prevent the split. He was defeated at the poll by Mimiko. Although the electoral commission rigged the election for the PDP, progressive forces in the Southwest assisted Mimiko to retrieve his stolen mandate.
The late Agagu never anticipated the turn of events. He was optimistic throughout the protracted litigation and the media war against him. He was literarily chased out of the Government House. He bore the tragedy with equanimity and understanding of the indisputable reality that power was transient. As Mimiko was being sworn in as his successor, he headed for the church for a thanksgiving service.
The late Agagu never bounced back, but he was held in high esteem by PDP members. If he had remained governor till 2007, he would have become a more powerful force in the PDP and an ally of his former colleague, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
However, he did not retire from politics. For him, hope was an elixir of life. He contested the Senate poll in 2011, but he was defeated by Boluwaji Kunlere of the LP, his former disciple. Initially, one of his boys, Eddy Olafeso, insisted that he would contest against him at the primaries. For Agagu, the senatorial race was not a do-or-die affair.
Despite the electoral misfortune, his leadership position in Ondo PDP did not diminish. President Goodluck Jonathan respected him. Thus, the PDP national leadership appointed him member of the reconciliation committee to resolve the protracted crises in the party’s state chapter. Many Ondo PDP chieftains looked up to him as a father figure and rallying point, who could bring the caucuses together.
Who will step into his shoes in the party? As a governor, he was an asset. As an ex-governor, he was neither a liability nor a loafer. The late Agagu took solace in the fact that he had tried his best, although political self-actualisation was elusive. Being a contented fellow, he only engaged in sober reflection without being unnecessarily emotional.
His death has implications for the party’s future, especially in Ondo State. Only a few have his stature in the state chapter and command the respect he did. The chapter may be in disarray without a proper guardian.
The import of his absence cannot be lost on the party’s leadership. Analysts are building some scenarios. An opportunity may have been created for the PDP to woo more members into its fold. Many PDP members may also defect to the APC. With Agagu’s death, a chapter has been closed in the history of Ondo State.