These certainly are trying times for the people of Oyo State, as their governor, Rashidi Ladoja, is embroiled in a seemingly intractable fight with his political benefactor, Lamidi Adedibu Ã¢â¬" a fight which is threatening not only to bring down the government of Ladoja, but to do so violently. We all know that if Oyo State burns and the people of Ibadan partake in the burning, the conflagration would be difficult to contain. What started as a clash of egos has degenerated into fisticuffs, stabbings and shootings. Fisticuffs are okay in a democracy, but stabbings and shootings are not, which is why I am amazed that prominent Ibadan indigenes are sitting on their hands as the two warring factions (both of them led by sons of Ibadan) have plunged the State into anarchy and paralyzed government activities.
I am wondering today where Chief Adisa Akinloye, Chief Azeez Arisekola, Chief Omololu Olunloyo, Chief Richard Akinjide, Chief Lamidi Adesina, and a host of other prominent Ibadan indigenes and non-indigenes alike are, at this very moment, when Ibadan is about to be engulfed in a conflagration of monumental proportions.
For those who might not have an inkling about the genesis of the crisis, here is a brief account of the bones of contention, as deduced from conversations with knowledgeable sources in the State: When the now indisputable strongman of Ibadan politics, Chief Adedibu (a member of the PDP) decided that it was time to get rid of former governor, Lamidi Adesina (another Ibadan indigene, but an AD member), he put his grassroots political machinery at the disposal of Ladoja. Although a political neophyte at the time, former Senator Rashid Ladoja rode on the back of his late father who was also a popular Ibadan politician. But that in itself was not enough to get him elected. Adedibu helped get Ladoja elected, much like Adisa Akinloye helped get Omololu Olunloyo elected governor of Oyo State in 1983. And much like Olusola Saraki helped get Adamu Atta elected governor of Kwara State in 1979.
The problem with one larger-than-life political godfather helping to get someone elected in Nigeria is that long after the election, the godfather continues to feel that not only should he have his say in the governance of the state most of the time, he should also have his way all of the time. Saraki was the Senate Leader working out of the National Assembly then located in Lagos. Yet he tried to run the affairs of Kwara State from Lagos. Adamu Atta could only stomach that for a little while, after which he started to assert his own authority. But he did not have any authority to assert and he found out too late that tragically, he held the office of Governor at the pleasure of Saraki. The Senate Leader was so popular and beloved by ordinary Kwarans, especially the people of Ilorin, that when the 1983 presidential election was held, nearly all eligible voters waited for Ã¢â¬Åword of mouthÃ¢â¬Â from Saraki on how to vote. Of course, not wanting to rock the boat for President Shagari, a member of his own party Ã¢â¬" NPN, Saraki sent word out that his people should vote for Shagari, which they did. But when it was time for gubernatorial elections the following weekend, Saraki told his people to vote for Cornelius Adebayo, a UPN candidate. Believe it or not, Atta lost and Adebayo won!
Just about the same thing happened in Oyo State where academician Olunloyo was Ã¢â¬ÅdraftedÃ¢â¬Â in 1983 by Akinloye to prove to the late Bola Ige (then UPN governor and native of Esa Oke) that Ibadan people COULD govern too. Ige lost to Olunloyo. Shortly after Olunloye became governor, Akinloye and other members of the NPN in Ibadan began to tell him what to do. Had Buhari not toppled that government, what is happening in Ibadan today would have happened then, as Olunloyo was not about to become anybodyÃ¢â¬â¢s puppet.
Tension usually begins immediately after the election when the godfather sends a list of commissioners to the governor-elect. It was the same with the Atta/Saraki feud. It was the same with the Olunloyo/Akinloye feud. It is the same with Ladoja and Adedibu today. Like Atta and Olunloyo, Ladoja did not have the political machinery to help elect him. He paid obeisance to Adedibu, who in turn made available to Ladoja his well-oiled grassroots political machinery. Anybody remotely familiar with the politics of Ilorin and Ibadan will agree that Adedibu and Saraki did not build their political support overnight. Although poles apart in academic qualifications and styles, Saraki and Adedibu have spent years in cultivating the fervent support they now enjoy among the ordinary people of their cities. You can go to any Ã¢â¬ÅindigenousÃ¢â¬Â area of Ibadan (e.g. Bode, Idi Arere, Isale-Ã¢â¬ËJebu, OjaÃ¢â¬â¢Ba, Beere, Born Foto, Foko, Oopo) today, and you will find old people who have been eating three square meals at the Molete residence of Adedibu for the past thirty years. Equally, in Ilorin, hundreds of Ilorin university graduates made it through school by the grace of Saraki, whose generosity predated NigeriaÃ¢â¬â¢s return to democracy. So, when Atta tried to push back on Saraki, he ran into a political whirlwind that swept him out of power.
Immediately after Ladoja won the election, Adedibu, without consulting Ladoja, according to well informed sources, sent a list of thirteen names to the governor for consideration as commissioners. And without consulting Adedibu, Ladoja announced his commissioners, picking only one name out of AdedibuÃ¢â¬â¢s list. Needless to say that Adedibu was irked by LadojaÃ¢â¬â¢s actions. Here was a man he helped elect, and the list of names he sent to Ladoja consisted of the foot soldiers who actually contributed funds, brains and brawn to the governorÃ¢â¬â¢s election. Everybody knows that Adedibu is not a salaried public official and he is not a businessman of note. But over the years, he has managed to maintain a coterie of supporters, aides and hangers-on. I have been told that from the goodwill Ã¢â¬ÅdonationsÃ¢â¬Â of others, Adedibu generously takes care of his aides. With his list of commissioners thrown away, how would he repay the people who helped elect Ladoja? The seed of their discord was now sowed.
There have been rumors to the effect that in order to placate Adedibu and assuage his feelings, Ladoja placed him on a stipend. But it was not enough. There have also been accusations that Adedibu set up a parallel government, collecting Ã¢â¬ÅtaxesÃ¢â¬Â from people all over Ibadan. There have been rumors that Ladoja gave huge sums of money to members of the StateÃ¢â¬â¢s Legislature in order to forestall an imminent impeachment sponsored by Adedibu. There have been claims that Adedibu has concluded plans to help elect Chief Adeojo as governor in 2007. And both sides have sworn to fight to the hilt.
While all these claims and counter claims are going on, people are getting stabbed and shot to death. And all those prominent Ibadan indigenes listed above are unconscionably behaving as if business is as usual. Because of these two individuals, government has ground to a halt in Oyo State. The House of Assembly is split into factions, one of which is meeting at a hotel on Ring Road!
By our own actions, we have proved to the Ogbomoshos, the Oyos and all other cities and towns that looked to Ibadan for leadership in the state, that we are incapable of keeping peace among ourselves. Very soon, President Obasanjo will be tired of mediating our infantile quarrels and he will declare Martial Laws in Oyo State, for he cannot afford to allow the egos of two individuals to squander the gains we have made in the past six years. And when Martial Laws are declared, the shame will be that of all the eminent personalities in Ibadan who could have done something about this feud.
Both Ladoja and Adedibu are chiefs in Ibadan. In fact, they are both in line for the Olubadan throne. I know that the sitting Olubadan has invited both of them to his palace more than once. I also know that their intransigence has kept alive their fight. If they continue like this, one of them is headed for annihilation. Or maybe even both of them!