THOUSANDS of supporters of Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi yesterday stormed Ibadan, the state capital, to show their backing for his administration’s policies.
At a rally, which was attended by a mammoth crowd, the supporters called on workers to dialogue with the government in the ongoing impasse over non-payment of salaries. This came as the governor waved an olive branch to the striking workers to come for dialogue, stressing that “it is an element of democracy”.
The supporters, numbering about 50,000, were made up of members of about 168 trade associations from the 33 local government areas of the state. They gathered at the historic Mapo Hall as early as 9am, from where they moved through the city, drumming support for the governor and his policies.
The supporters were made up of traders, market women, hair dressers, tailors, commercial drivers, auto technicians, shoe makers and Fuji musicians. Others include association of farmers, butchers, food and fruits sellers, students and politicians.
As they moved through the popular Beere/Oje/Agodi Road, they were joined by other independent supporters. Anchoring the achievements on enthronement of peace, the supporters called on residents and labour leaders to shun violence and any act that is detrimental to the state’s progress.
The crowd moved to Agodi from where they went to the state secretariat, where the governor addressed them. As Ajimobi appeared, the crowd began to sing his praises with people gyrating to the tunes being rendered by the Ibadan-based Fuji musician, Rashidi Ayinde.
Ajimobi was joined by his deputy, Chief Moses Alake-Adeyemo; the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) Mr. Olalekan Ali; his Chief of Staff (CoS) Dr. Gbade Ojo and other top government functionaries.
Taking their turn to address the crowd, leaders of five unions, including that of students, hailed Ajimobi for his efforts on restoring peace to the state. They lauded his school management initiative, which had been misinterpreted as selling public schools.
The speakers stressed that they had sought facts about the initiative and found that that it was a good way to rescue dwindling standards in the public school system. Speaking on behalf of canteen operators, Mrs. Iyadunni Lawal, who is the president of the association, said residents and voters are stakeholders in Oyo State.
She emphasised that the association was interested in peace and harmony between the government and workers. The President, Marketing Advisory Council, Mrs. Labake Lawal, said: “We are here today to assure all that Governor Ajimobi is not selling schools. We appeal to all workers not to inflict pains on us. Sit down with the government and find a peaceful solution.
“Traders and all of us in Oyo State are feeling the negative impact of non-payment of salaries. We are recording low sales. So, both parties need to sit together and dialogue on all grey areas to come up with an amicable solution.
“We also want to affirm that all market women are solidly behind Governor Ajimobi.
The students’ leader said they were happy to be part of the solidarity rally for Ajimobi because his administration brought an end to violence against students.
He noted the incident of June 5, 2011, when some students were murdered by hoodlums at the Iwo Road interchange.
The Ajimobi administration, according to him, has since stopped violence among commercial drivers and the city of Ibadan has known peace.
Other leaders of the associations also called for understanding on the school management initiative. They urged the two parties to come to a truce.
Addressing the crowd, an elated Ajimobi explained that he was committed to his campaign promises.
As a way of initiating a discussion process, the governor said the government invited labour leaders as stakeholders to the first meeting, but that some of them chose to disrupt the meeting violently.
Ajimobi vowed to sustain his administration’s achievement on peace and emphasised that he would keep encouraging every democratic means of governing the state.
He blamed the opposition for sponsoring lies against him on the initiative and condemned teachers for setting children on the streets to start destroying public property.
His words: “When we campaigned, we made promises. We stand by those promises. Those sponsoring disharmony are the opposition elements. We promised to run an all-inclusive government. When we discovered that our schools were not doing well, we organised education summit in 2012 and certain recommendations were made.
“Democracy is about thinking together and hence, we invited all stakeholders to a meeting. But some labour leaders gathered and disrupted the meeting. The violence we had stamped out was what they brought back again and we won’t let that be.
“If anybody opposes any policy, you complain through proper channel.
“Yet, we are not fighting with workers because they never supported those leaders who employed violence. Why should anyone fight over planned policies?”
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