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There is rising concern that the former governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja, may soon retire from partisan politics, reports ‘Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor
ALHAJI Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja, former governor of Oyo State and the Osi Olubadan of Ibadan land is without doubt a politician of repute in Oyo State in particular and Nigeria as a whole. Aside from being a former governor, the third republic Senator leads one of the strongest political camps in Oyo State. Little wonder then that the political future of the erstwhile Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain is the most discussed topic across the state today.
While some observers of the politics of Oyo continue to link the former governor with a possible move to one of the two leading political parties, the ruling PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC), numerous others feel there are more indications to suggest that Ladoja is gradually winding up his political career as he prepares himself for the role of a traditional ruler, which he has never left anyone in doubt he will be glad to play in his native Ibadan.
Amidst the uncertainty surrounding his next political move, Ladoja’s political family, of recent, appears to be disintegrating before his very eyes. Surprisingly, the astute politician is not doing anything to stop the disintegration of his camp. “Alhaji Modiu Balogun, one of the Senator’s age-long followers in Ibadan, while speaking on recent developments, said “Baba Ladoja is not ready to stop the happenings in our group.
“If he is ready, none of his allies and associates will dare him by doing what is against his wish. Imagine our leaders moving in separate directions and issuing contradictory statements on the same issues. And all of them are claiming to have the blessing of Senator Ladoja in all they are doing! I want to agree with those who say Ladoja is no longer interested in politics. I think he is putting his house in order in preparation for becoming Olubadan.”
And the observations above appear to be true. Rather than clear the air on the contradictions emanating from his camp, Ladoja has been mum on the matters. Recently, he further confused observers when he said his silence is deliberate as his disciples have told him not to comment on the issues. But some of the former governor’s action betrayed his acclaimed silence giving rise to speculations that he is intentionally allowing his disciples to plot their political chart devoid of him.
“A good example is the decision of Baba Ladoja to personally hand over the state’s Commissioner for Lands and Housing, Barrister Abdul-Raheem Abdul-Rahman, who is his personal lawyer and political son, to the leadership of the PDP, on the day the later decided to finally dump Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and join the ruling party. Although he made it clear he is not joining or endorsing the PDP, many people read meanings to that singular action of his,” a source said.
A stormy political sojourn
Following his election as governor of Oyo State in April 2003 on the platform of the then opposition PDP, Ladoja took office on 29 May 2003, succeeding the late Lam Adesina. On the way to the surprise gubernatorial victory of April 2003, Ladoja enjoyed the support of Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, a PDP power broker in the state, now late. But by August 2004, Ladoja broke ranks with Adedibu over the appointment of political office holders among other things.
Adedibu made governing the state difficult for Ladoja as the national leadership of the PDP under Ahmadu Ali even advised the governor to do the bidding of the thuggish godfather. On 12 January 2006, Ladoja was impeached by Oyo State legislators and forced out of office. His deputy, Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala, was sworn in as the new governor. Ladoja refused to accept his impeachment and consequently approached the courts for succor.
On the 1st of November 2006, the Appeal Court in the state capital, Ibadan, declared the impeachment null and illegal, but advised parties to wait for confirmation of its decision by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld the decision on 11 December 2006, and Ladajo officially resumed office on 12 December 2006. Ladoja failed to win the PDP nomination as candidate for a second term. He left office on the 29th of May, 2007.
Ladoja returned in 2011 as the governorship candidate for Accord Party in Oyo State during the April 2011 and 2015 elections. On both attempts to return to the Oyo Government House, he lost to the late Senator Abiola Ajimobi. He rejoined the PDP in 2017 with the entire structure of the Accord Party in Oyo State. But he was to leave the party again the same year with his people. After brief stints in the Labour Party (LP), the APC and the African Democratic Congress (ADC) in 2018, Ladoja with his followers moved to the ZLP in December 2018.
In March 2019, Ladoja, as the leader of the ZLP, made a public presentation of Seyi Makinde, the then candidate of the PDP, as a coalition governorship candidate of five leading opposition parties in the state. The parties in the coalition are the PDP, ADC, ZLP, Social Democratic Party (SDP) and New Progressive Movement (NPM). In attendance at the presentation were Makinde and the governorship candidates of the parties, who stepped down for the PDP candidate.
Ladoja, who was the leader of the coalition, said: “It is my pleasure to present to you the agreed candidate for the election coming up on Saturday, and who, ‘Insha Allah’ (by God’s grace), will become governor-elect on that day, and will be subsequently sworn in on May 29, as governor of Oyo State.” Makinde went ahead to win the gubernatorial election and became governor of the state.
But barely a month of assuming office, deep cracks appeared in the political coalition that brought Makinde into office. First, disagreements among the coalition partners stalled the appointment of some key members of the administration by the governor. It came to the fore when ZLP’s Sharafadeen Alli shunned the inauguration of the Governor’s Advisory Council by Governor Makinde.
Not long after, the governorship candidate of the ADC, Olufemi Lanlehin, withdrew from the coalition. In the statement issued by Lanlehin Media Bureau, he said he was leaving the coalition because Makinde has deviated from the terms of the agreement. He however stated clearly that the leadership and members of his then party, the ADC, were free to remain in the coalition if they so wished. Lanlehin later dumped the ADC for the APC.
Soon after, Ali, the governorship candidate of the ZLP, accused Governor Seyi Makinde of abandoning his party after it helped him to win the election. In a statement he personally signed, Alli accused the governor of failure to fulfill his promises to the ZLP. He said the governor has denied the ZLP political patronage, in alleged repudiation of the agreement between them. “The governor should go into retrospect and review our 2019 political coalition agreement,” he said.
However, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Taiwo Adisa, said the governor has been magnanimous in the sharing formula with all parties that formed a coalition group in the state to ensure victory in the last gubernatorial election. Adisa said the allegations leveled against Makinde were not true because the governor and other members of the coalition had met on different occasions on procedures to adopt in the sharing formula agreed on even before the election.
Speaking on the developments, Makinmde insisted there is no rift between him and Ladoja. “Unknown to many, I am in constant touch with Baba Ladoja and we have exchanged messages this morning. Many don’t know and would carry unfounded rumours. I am not perfect but I am a human who is fallible like every mortal. I have been trying my luck on the political turf since 2007 and it didn’t work until God said it was time,” he said.
Finally on the 3rd of this month, the Oyo State chapter of the ZLP collapsed its structure in all the 33 local government areas of the state. At an emergency meeting, the leadership of the party announced that they are joining the APC. The gathering includes members of ZLP, the ADC, Mega Party of Nigeria and other loyalists of Senator Ladoja. Some of the party chieftains who attended the meeting included Alli, his Deputy, Hon. Kola Olabiyi, Hon. Bimbo Adepoju, among others. The chieftains said Senator Ladoja agreed with their decision to join the APC.
Chairman of the party, Mr. Kola Olaniyan, while speaking with journalists shortly after the meeting, noted party members have been duly informed about the decision. He insisted that the party has tested the two major political parties in the state but decided to move to APC. Olaniyan insisted that one of the reasons for moving to the APC is due to the alleged failure of Governor Makinde to honour the pact with the party leaders a few days to the 2019 gubernatorial election.
Signs of a waning sojourn
In August 2019, Ladoja, while speaking on his future political plans, had hinted on a possible retirement from active politics when he said he will no longer seek election into any political seat. The former governor promised to make himself available for any developmental politics in any part of the country. “All I said was that I am not contesting again. Is that not retirement? That is retirement. Whether I am in partisan or non-partisan politics, if there is any developmental politics, I will always go for it anywhere in Nigeria.
Ladoja’s statement caused a stir as many of his allies and associates wondered what will become of his political camp should he abandon politics. But some of his close aides said Ladoja’s quest to slow down politically should not surprise anybody. “If you have been following Senator Ladoja, you will know that beyond politics, he has a lot of plans in his quest to touch the lives of the good people of Oyo State, particularly the people of Ibadan,’ an associate claimed.
Earlier in 2017, Ladoja has displayed his love for the traditional system in Ibadan land following the elevation and coronation of 21 Baales and High Chiefs of Ibadan land to the status of kingship by then Governor Abiola Ajimobi. He challenged the governor’s action and this renewed the feud between him and the governor. Senator Ladoja insisted that as a future Olubadan, he cannot watch and see anybody destroy the system on the altar of politics.
Ladoja, who is the Osi Olubadan of Ibadan and one of the elevated high chiefs and an Ibadan based group, Ibadan Maja Maja Group (IMMG), supported the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, to tackle Ajimobi. At a point, it was rumoured that Ladoja sees the exercise as targeted at him to stop him from ascending the coveted throne of Olubadan of Ibadanland. But Ajumobi insisted that the action was in good faith and in the interest of the people.
But, in November 2019, the parties reached an agreement when the state High Court in a suit number M/317/2017 filed by Ladoja, pronounced that “all the gazettes affecting the chieftaincy laws of Ibadan land, particularly gazette Nos 14 vol. 42 of 23rd August 2017;15 Vol 42of 24 August 2017 and 3vol 43 of 29th March 2018 and the subsequent elevation of High Chiefs and Baale in Ibadan land as Obas during the pendency of this suit be and are hereby set aside.
“That the rights to wear beaded crown and coronet granted by the state government during the pendency of the suit are hereby revoked. That the 1st defendant shall take steps to reconcile all parties involved in the chieftaincy matters to foster unity and harmony in the protection of the tradition of Ibadan land as relates to the chieftaincy laws of Ibadan land.” Many saw the victory for Olubadan as a pointer to the political future of Senator Ladoja.
He stated unequivocally that their political leader and former governor of Oyo state, Senator Ladoja, is no longer a card carrying member of any political party.
Another strong indication that Ladoja may have tactically opted to stay out of active politics emerged during the week when a close aide and former chairman of ZLP in Oyo State, Comrade Wole Abisoye, stated emphatically that the former governor is no longer a member of any political party. On the claim of other group that their moving to APC has the blessing of Senator Ladoja, Abisoye warned that nobody should drop the name of Ladoja for their selfish goals.
“Even when APC senators from Oyo State at various times approached Senator Ladoja to join their party, he made no commitment but rather left the matter to be decided by the leaders of the ZLP,” he said. And with the man in the centre of the matter, Senator Ladoja himself, still keeping mum amidst growing concerns by his supporters and opponents alike over his political future, only time will tell what his plans for the future