By Bashir Adefaka
Oyo is a state where many formidable power brokers are contesting in the next month governorship election. There is Teslim Folarin of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, whose source of strength is the federal might. There is the All Progressives Congress, APC’s Ishaq Abiola Ajimobi, who banks on the power of incumbency. And, of course, there is Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala, who still believes that the influence he wielded when he was governor of the Pace-setter State is intact to catapult him back to Agodi Government House.
All these combined, Ladoja, another major contender at the election, speaking to Sunday Vanguard in his Bodija, Ibadan home on the eve of his 2015 campaign launch, dismissed as not enough to stop him from returning to the office he once occupied. Ladoja said he was not only capable of winning the February 28 governorship election but also that the national and state assemblies elections, scheduled for the 14th and 28th respectively, would be in favour of the Accord Party.
Hate or love him, one thing that cannot be taken from Ladoja is his simple and humble lifestyle which has won him loyalists. It is so that over seven years after he left office, the former governor has never for once walked alone, so much so that the party he prepared for general elections in 2011, under three months, not only earned him four members of the House of Representatives but also seven state legislators one of whom emerged deputy speaker. Also in his party today is one of the two senators of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. Based on projections, Ladoja may be the first governor to be elected two times into office.
On the day of the launch of his party’s campaign in Oyo, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, who was on his way out of the ancient kingdom, met him on the outskirts; the convoys of both leaders stopped and the monarch, who wound down the tinted glass of his SUV, gave a thumb signal resembling the Accord logo meaning that, although the Alaafin has a son of his as a contestant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as a traditional ruler, his role is to ensure amicability among the parties in the electoral race.”
That explained why in opening his speech at the Durban Stadium at the campaign launch, Ladoja, the seventh in rank to the Olubadan of Ibadan (Ashipa) said, “We would not be here if our father, kabiyesi, Alaafin, did not allow us. When we had the call to contest, we came to the Alaafin to seek his blessing, He asked us to go for it and that the Oranmiyan would support us and that he the Iku Baba Yeye would bless us. So we did to other leading traditional rulers in Oyo State including the Olubadan of Ibadan, the Soun of Ogbomoso, the Aseyin of Iseyin. They all backed us and so here we are.
The Friday before, upon the arrival of this reporter, Ladoja, who had consented to an interview meeting, receiving his guest, said, “We have just finished eating. So, you come and eat your own food before any other thing.” The journalist had walked through a long queue of people either waiting to see or take instruction from the former and “hopefully” incoming governor, sensing that meeting with Ladoja in that busy situation would be hectic. It was not only possible but the simplicity and humility of the man, fondly called “Agbe” (meaning, farmer by virtue of his dressing), also showed when he opted to speak with us in an interview session that lasted 28 minutes.
What will be done different from Ajimobi’s
Ladoja kick-started the session: “The people of Oyo will be our focal point. Good governance means reaching the people. We intend making infrastructures for the use of the people. We will encourage our people to be productive by making opportunities available to them to earn a living. We will not distort their means of livelihood as the present administration is doing. We will continue from where we stopped on education that earned the state university the best state university in Nigeria.
“We will make policies that will ensure that our primary and secondary school students are taught and not lectured. We will create a conducive working environment for our teachers in order to motivate them to work. When you have the best teachers and the teaching environment is unruly, nothing good can be achieved. When you visit some of our schools, many students are without furniture. Do we expect our teachers to provide this too? The morale of our teachers is low as many do not get their salaries. During my last tenure, workers got their salaries latest 25th of the month even earlier when there was a major festival.
“But now I learned that many civil servants in Oyo were not paid their December salaries. My administration will provide incentives for all workers. Our slogan has always been, “Ladoja de, idera de” (meaning, Ladoja has come, comfort has come). We will bring comfort to the people of Oyo State”.
Asked what level of voting awareness and englightment he had done to ensure that invalid votes were not recorded against his party this time, he gave the idea of “tes’oju e”.
“All hands have been on deck regarding this. We have informed our people to “tesi oju e,” meaning, ‘put it on the box face.’ The last time we educated our people to put their votes inside the box at the right side. But, unfortunately, the box for Accord Party during the election was placed at the left. This confused many of our people. They cast their votes to a party with no candidate and that made their votes invalid.
“This will not happen this time as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has told us that our people can thumb-print on the face of their party’s symbol and will remain valid, as long as the vote does not go and enter another box.”
‘Return of Ladoja is imminent’
“We have not lost focus. Many people of Oyo State still have nostalgia for our administration and our coming back to power is imminent. Our acceptability is high among the electorate and I know if we are to go to the poll today, Accord Party will have the largest votes of the people. Be that as it may, we have not relented. I will be visiting all the 151 wards in the state in the next two weeks to educate the electorate on how to exercise their votes, while another team will be doing a house-to-house campaign to mobilize more people. We are on top of our game.”