Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja, is a successful businessman and a major player in Oyo State politics. He was impeached as the Governor of the State in 2005 a development he ascribed to former President Olusegun Obasanjo whom he visited at his Ota farm shortly before. He spoke to BASHIR ADEFAKA at his Ibadan residence, on his experience as governor and how President Olusegun Obasanjo, at that time, influenced his impeachment. Excerpts:
You look simpler than your status, is it natural humility or a strategy?
I believe all of us are born equal. The differences come from our various backgrounds. I also believe that this world is a temporary place: we came with nothing and we shall go back to our Lord taking nothing away from here except the good work we were able to do while alive. So I don’t look at life as any major thing.
I do what I like to do. I eat what I like to eat. I feel that we are born equal but circumstances make us what we become. Could you imagine what I would have become, if I did not get a scholarship to go to school?
What did you set out to become?
Nobody can stand up and say today I am going to become somebody in life. No. Circumstances lead us to where we are. When I left primary school, I got admission into secondary and after that I went to Belgium and when I finished in Belgium I got employed by Total, even four months before I finished my examinations. Such is life because, most of the things we do today we didn’t do in school.
If you are talking about politics, I didn’t set out to become a politician but I have found myself there now, and I have to give my best to it.
You are eyeing Agodi Government House again, why?
I am going back because I have not finished my work and if the Constitution permits me to do it, then why should I not finish it? You see, nobody will be happy to see what he has done assiduously being destroyed. When we were there, we came out with clear, measurable positions. We said our schools should be practical, we achieved it. 2005, 2007 we got the award, which was declared in 2008 and 2009, coming second in the UBE rating all over the country and I think about N500 million was given to Oyo State for that, which meant that we were recognised.
Your inability to return to the Government House in 2007 was ascribed to the Ibadan tradition of not voting a governor twice. Do you have opposing view?
That has nothing to do with being Ibadan man as governor. I don’t believe in that one. Any person in Oyo State has got a right to be the governor.
How did your first meeting with Chief Adedibu go and what was your impression of it?
My first meeting with Chief Adedibu; I didn’t go there for politics. I was in Ibadan and they said that he was doing a naming ceremony. That day I was going back to Lagos and only took my wife and dropped her there. It was that day he (Adedibu) saw me and said ah! Eyin ni Rashidi (Are you Rashidi?). He talked about a minister, with whom they did NPN together and I said yes he was my friend. He said, oh, he was always talking about you. I said well, he’s my friend.
My first meeting with Chief Adedibu was very warm and he accorded me my respect and I did the same thing. Even though I was in a hurry but because of the warmth, I spent about 30 minutes before I left him. That was the first time we met.
When I was assisting Chief Kolapo Ishola, we planned that it should be between myself, Chief Ishola and Dejo Raimi and that we were not going to make it known to any other person. It was after the election that Chief Adedibu knew about what happened and how it happened.
Tell us about your exile and the major reason for it?
You see, one thing led to another. When I wanted to contest (for the Senate), I met everybody that contested governorship with Chief Kolapo Ishola like Chief Lam Adeshina, Leye Adeshina, Idowu…, other people that were not in their camp like Chief Layi Balogun, all of them. I met them one by one and I told them that I wanted to contest and I got the endorsement of all of them. Starting from Chief Lam Adeshina, I went back to even those that were not living in Ibadan to seek their support.
Then one day Chief Adedibu came to my house and said look, if it is only Adeshina and Layi Balogun that are going to help you win your election, I want to take my hands out of it. I said Baba sit down, that by the time we learnt politics, that we know that in corporate politics, the subordinates do the job first and give to the boss and he will approve as recommended.
I said it is good for the subordinate; it is good for the boss. I said I have to do this first so that by the time you now say this is the candidate, everybody will have no option than to applaud the good job you have done. I said that’s how to do it sir, not by confrontation because, I don’t believe in it. He said ah, I didn’t look at it from that angle and he said that’s fine.
So, he allowed me to do it and at that time my election unified the SDP. In fact during the election, some people doing their own campaign were not under the auspices of Chief Adedibu. I would go to Chief Adedibu-led campaign and I would go to the other: both of them were campaigning for Ladoja! (laughs) and it was great thing that I did because I knew that I had to assert my own independence. So at the primaries I won land slide and I went on to win the election, also, in land slide.
I got about 87 percent and the other person had 18 percent. That was how I got into the Senate.
When the presidential election came, June 12, 1993 the election took place and it was won by MKO Abiola. But it was annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida and some of us in the Senate refused to be used to stamp the annulment.
All of us, including Iyorchia Ayu, who I respect so much; do you know that Iyorchia Ayu sat on his own impeachment? Yes! When we said no, he too said no, this is the beauty of democracy and when the (impeachment) votes were counted, he said ‘Senator Iyorchia Ayu is hereby removed as the Senate President and I’m now calling on the Clerk of the National Assembly to conduct another election for another Senate President.’
He stood up from the Senate President seat, carried his book and went down to sit down with us like any other Senator. I found that very interesting not like these days when people will fight refusing to leave an office. We thought it was wrong for Babangida to do that kind of thing but he did.
Later on there was a coup, Abacha came and sent all of us away. But I felt it was wrong thing to do, for Abacha to have taken over at that time and I just whispered to other people and we were in NADECO.
When Abacha announced his programmes and said he wanted to do a Constitutional Conference, I said no, that the Constitution that was done, we have not perfected it, we have not tested it and it was just a ruse; he was just using it to buy time to settle down and that people should not go for it. By that circumstance, we discovered that Chief Adedibu was implicated in the annulment.
Where did the problem now come from?
Wait. Wait. Then he said he had formed a party, whether NMA or something and that they would have loved to join the UNCP. Then I told him, if you want to join the UNCP, go to Nigeria and meet the people there. He wanted to be included in the merger talks and I think he was excluded but later on he told me he was told that there would be no politics in Oyo State if all of us are in UNCP; that Ladoja is in UNCP, Layi Balogun is in UNCP, Adeojo is in UNCP and so on.
He said they called him and said you go to DPN. But to God be the glory, elections showed that UNCP was superior to DPN in Oyo State to the extent that Chief Adedibu lost in Ibadan South West.
You see there was myth around Chief Adedibu which you journalists played up. Look, Chief Adedibu was there when I joined politics, I won the election to the Senate. Chief Adedibu was against us when I contested for Confab, I won.
Those of us would say A plus B is equalled to X, A minus B is equalled to X, B can only be zero. So, if you joined me and I won; if you were against me and I won, it means you are not influential to my success.
So, I had nothing personal against Chief Adedibu at all. We had different opinions on what politics is supposed to be. Some of us believe it is service, some people believe it is business. That is all.
You talked about the myth around Chief Adedibu but you did not talk about the role he played in how you secured PDP ticket?
But you did not stop him.
But he was already in our system and you cannot stop him. That’s how we made up and that’s how people said they played role in my emergence as governor. No. Go and ask people: we divided our delegates because we were not able to stop baba and people were working without baba knowing that we had those people in place.
Your Excellency, let’s go to the impeachment because it actually occurred.
Yes, the issue of the impeachment actually was the turned out of the Third Term issue.
You see Chief Obasanjo, I went to see him in Ota. I told him that I was hearing about this Third Term thing. He said don’t worry yourself, it is not true. I said I would have wondered because, even the one you have now you were not qualified for it! He said what do you mean by I’m not qualified for it? Am I not a Nigerian? I said you are a Nigerian but you know Sir, in a civilian regime, presidency is reserved for the politicians. I said you are not a politician! We came to call you.
I said secondly anybody who wants to contest for presidency should have tons and tons of money on his own to start spending before other people come to join him to assist. I said you had no money!
I said Sir, thirdly, people say that charity begins at home and I said you can’t win councillorship in Abeokuta now! I said you know that.
What made you that bold?
Because he’s my friend! I have known him a long time. You see, one thing there is that, I may be naïve but at my age, what else do you expect me to do. To be telling lies? I told all that I knew and he said okay, okay, thank you very much.
But when I got home that night, Governor Gbenga Daniel called me and said: You came to Ota today, I said yes. You came to see Baba, I said yes. He asked: What did you discuss with him? I told him and he said oh, yeh, yeh, he said Oun ma so e die dun arinle (that he was going to ground you). I said okay if God gives him the power to do that.
So, the game started. Everybody knows that democracy is a game with rules. Just like you know, when I got wind of the impeachment, I made sure that they did not have two-third. Because when you are unable to have two-third, you cannot gather impeachment (laughs). So with all the efforts, just as if I was able to pick at the offset, and at the end of the day they said go and see baba (Obasanjo).
One thing that really affected my fighting spirit was the death of my people on the 30th of October, 2005 when we were coming from the burial of Stella (Obasanjo). Two people that were particularly close to me: Dr. Ladojo, who was my personal physician and …. That disrupted my fighting spirit and by the time I recovered from the shock, they had mounted it. But I said you cannot do it because you cannot have two-third.
You know that they came to invade the secretariat on the 2nd of December 2005, baba (Adedibu) led the police and all of them came to invade the secretariat and the Governor’s Office was destroyed partially, my deputy, the incumbent governor, was in his office. And I called him to ask; “Bayo, what are you doing in that office? Please get out of the place and come to the Government House that before they entered into the Government House they would know how to defend it”.
He said okay sir. That was the last time we talked before the impeachment. Even before the impeachment, during the impeachment and when we came back, that was the last time we talked.