Former Governor of Oyo State and Otun Olubadan of Ibadan land, Senator Rashidi Ladoja is on his way back to his first love, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to play a major role in the rejuvenation of the party, especially in Oyo State. In this interview with Vanguard, Ladoja, who was the first runner-up in the last governorship poll on the banner of the Accord Party gives insight on how the South-West PDP can successfully clinch the PDP chairmanship position zoned. He also gives an insight into the controversy surrounding recent coronation of Ibadan kings by Governor Abiola Ajimobi. Excerpts:
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
There appears to be an attempt to hijack the chairmanship of the PDP, from the South-West. Do you think there is a plot to deny the South-West the chance of producing the PDP chairman?
At times we are in a hurry. We politicians are hasty. You have to sell your candidacy to the people. It is not a question of yes, you should give it to me because I’m from the South-West, no. You must be acceptable to the people and the members of the party. So, I don’t think that is the issue. I think the issue is the South-West leaders themselves should understand that they cannot go to the place with a divided house. They should put their house in order. They should produce a credible and acceptable candidate for others to endorse; that is what they should do.
So, today, they say it has been zoned to South-West, it has been zoned to the South…,that is the method of the PDP. PDP uses the idea of zoning with a view of winning in elections. You have to understand the thinking behind the zoning.
The thinking is this: in the wisdom of the leadership of the party, they said, we must get our president from the North; if we must get the president from the North, then we need the support of the West to win the election. So they say okay, we give the chairmanship of the party to the South. So the South-South is saying, ‘’eehn, we have not produced a chairman before.’’ Of course the other people who produce chairmen did not just rest on their oars, or fold their arms. They worked for it. If the South-South also want to vie for it, they are free to vie for it.
You are joining the PDP. What position are you in pursuit of in the party, or on the platform of the party, as we look at 2019?
The last election in Oyo State produced the governor with 32 per cent of the total votes cast. I got 29 per cent. My deputy then, Otunba Akala also contested on the platform of the Labour Party and got a sizeable number of votes. Another person, Seyi Makinde contested on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, and got a sizeable part of the votes as well as Teslim Folarin, who also contested and got a bite of the votes. So if we now say look, there is 100 per cent; 32 per cent went to one contestant and the remaining 68 per cent was shared among the four of us, in the wisdom of the new PDP leadership, they came and said, look, why don’t you help bring all of you together?
So, when they came to me, I said I left PDP for some reasons. I have no problem with the grassroots people of PDP. I had problem with the national leadership of the party. I said it was the PDP you have a governor in place and you are talking of garrison commander. It was in PDP that the president then was instrumental to the illegal impeachment of many of the governors. What is the essence of being in a party if you are not going to get the protection of that party? That is why I left. And they did not open up and were just saying, we will do it. So, I left. Other people left. In 2003, out of 32 members of the house of assembly, PDP had 31 of them, but today, PDP doesn’t have a single member in the house of assembly. The Accord Party has, the Labour Party has and APC has. So, this means that it is people who make parties and not parties making people.
However, they have now said, okay, is it possible for us to come together? And I say yes, the national leadership must come to Ibadan to explain to me and my supporters why we have to come back. That was why the caretaker chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi came to Ibadan along with his executive to plead with us to come back and we agreed that we are going to come back.
Right now, the parties that are coming together, are Accord, Labour, SDP, AD and the PDP to form the new PDP and we have succeeded in putting the caretaker committee in place and we are in the process of getting the local government and ward caretaker committees. After that, we will do new registration. After the registration we will do the ward congress, the local government and the state congresses. So, until the day I will take my card, I will not consider myself as a member of the PDP. I’m just on the way to becoming member of the PDP.
We have seen those vying for chairmanship of the PDP. Who would you support?
You have not seen all of them. Wait until you see all of them. The race is not yet open. When the seat is declared open and people start taking forms, then we will know who and who are contesting. The people who have indicated interest are better described for now as aspirants, they are not yet contestants. When the forms are out and we see people getting forms, it is only then we will know who to support.
The appointment of some kings by the governor of Oyo State has been generating some controversies and your absence at the coronation has heightened the controversies on ground. What informed your decision not to participate in the coronation of the chiefs as kings by the governor?
When the governor said he wanted to tamper with the chieftaincy declaration of the Olubadan of Ibadan land, I told him that it is based on customary law and that it is not within the purview of the state government. The role of the state government there is only to register the declaration and not to make the declaration for Ibadan people.
Now, he went further to say that he was going to choose the members of the chieftaincy commission from the six zones of the state, namely Ibarapa, Ibadan, Oyo, Ogbomosho and two zones in Oke-Ogun, but I told him that he cannot do that since we are not having the Olubadan of Oyo State; we have the Olubadan of Ibadan Land. The person you are bringing from Ibarapa is from Igbo-Ora. Igbo-Ora is smaller than Moniya and Igbo-Ora has five obas. Moniya is just one of the hundreds of towns under Ibadan. If Igbo-Ora is smaller than Moniya and we have five obas, to him, why should Ibadan that is nearly 10 times as big have only one Oba? He cannot understand it, but you see, the thing is historical.
In Igbo-Ora, everybody comes, they stay in their small enclaves and say I am the oba here. Gradually, those enclaves grew and met up and then the five of them became one town, but each of them has its identity. But in Ibadan, ab-initio, it was agreed that we are going to rule the whole town as one town and ruling it as one town you have all the chiefs under one Oba. So, that is why we have the two lines, that is the Balogun line and the Olubadan line. One is an administrative line and the other is the military line and it was working.
The premise on which the governor was basing his agitation is that when the Alaafin comes to Ibadan, he comes with some crown obas, but these obas are not from Oyo; they are from Oke-Ogun. The Olubadan could also have invited some obas to go with him. So he is saying that the Olubadan should also go with Obas. I told him that look, what is in a crown? The crown is for the oba, but it doesn’t mean that if one is not wearing the crown he is not important.
We told him that the red cap chiefs of Lagos are more important that the obas of each town in Lagos for example. When you see them you will know that these are royal heads that are superior to those obas. We said, the palace chiefs in Benin are more important than the kings or obas in the villages. So why do you want to equate the issue with what it is not?
That is why I went to court. I said, one, it is not within the purview of the state government to tamper with the declaration. Second, it is not for anybody that is not from Ibadan to come and decide for us how we are going to do our obaship in Ibadan land. Those are the points I’m holding on to and I am still in court.
Unfortunately, I don’t know whether the judiciary is afraid of the state government because the case has now gone from one judge to another and we are now on the fourth judge and nobody has yet heard it.
So, this is the situation that we have now and we are on it. Because of the fact that we are in court, the government chose a Friday after work to distribute the letters of appointment of the obas and then the following Sunday, that is after two days, they crowned them.
They wanted to do everything at that weekend so that by Monday they would say it is a feat accomplished. But I told him, I have seen some obas that were dethroned even 15 years after they were crowned. The case is in court, so, whether it takes five years or 20 years, the case is in court. You cannot run away from the fact that the coronation of the obas is unpopular.
And after that, some other people have gone to court. The Mogajis have gone to court, because, you see, a Mogaji is a potential Olubadan. The Olubadan himself has gone to court to say that the government didn’t have a right to install those obas. And those people have been taking it legally, but as of late, the last time the Olubadan wanted to perform his function, the so-called crowned obas wrote a letter to him to say that they have not approved.
But the Olubadan does not need anybody’s approval to make somebody Baale or Mogaji. He only needs the support and the agreement of the people the man is going to be their Baale or Mogaji.
I think they copied that letter to the governor and one director of chieftaincy matters in the ministry, misguidedly wrote a letter threatening the Olubadan that if he goes ahead to do the installation, he was going to face consequences. But the Olubadan has said it was his right and duty to make those people baales and mogajis and he went ahead.
As one of the members of the Olubadan in Council, because today I am the Otun Olubadan of Ibadan land, I went there. The next thing was that gun men came; they thought it was my vehicle, but unfortunately for me, or may be unfortunately for them also, it was not my vehicle, but that of one of my people. The owner was my SSG when I was the governor. Luckily for him, he was sitting with the driver in the front. They didn’t know where he was seating because the glass was tinted. So they shot through the back window and the bullet went through below the roof of the car before it lodged on the other end. You can imagine that. That is why I told them that we have been very tolerant; we have gone to court and in spite of that you went ahead and still crowned your obas. Don’t forget that nobody has monopoly of violence. We believe in being lawful but they should not push us to the wall. Well-meaning people have intervened and we believe that by and large the governor will see reasons, because what he is doing is not legal. We are not talking of the Olubadan of Oyo State; we are talking of Olubadan of Ibadan land.
So why will somebody come from Oyo, Ogbomosho or Oke-Ogun to determine how we crown our obas? We complained that out of the eight people that make up the committee only two are from Ibadan and these are people who don’t even know anything about chieftaincy affairs. Being learned, because they are lawyers doesn’t mean that they are learned in the customs of Ibadan people.
When we complained, the governor now said, “okay, I understand that it is an Ibadan issue, therefore, let me make Ibadan majority,” so he added four. This means that they did not think deeply about it before they started. Now he said, unfortunately, government cannot withdraw what it has said. And we now said okay, if government cannot reverse what it has done, the court can do so; that is why we went to court.
There are insinuations that you are the target in the whole issue of coronation by the governor
People can say anything they like to say. My belief is that it is God that chooses the Olubadan of Ibadan land and you don’t need to go into long history before you know that. The present Olubadan was the Otun Balogun. Ideally, we had a Balogun before him who was High Chief Omiyale. So it was the Balogun’s turn and the one next to him was Otun Olubadan.
The present Olubadan was number three in the ranking as to who becomes the next Olubadan. But, God has a way He does His things. In God’s wisdom, He took the two people ahead of him within one week and the present Olubadan became the Balogun. And that again was the genesis of the problem.
The problem we have today started from when the late Oba Ojugade promoted us. Oba Ojugade had decided on the 30th of December 2015 that he would carry out promotions on January 1 2016. Ideally he would write to the governor, which he did.
The governor gave us assurance that he was going to attend to the letter promptly, but after more than 30 days, because the law gives the governor 21 days to take a decision; but after 30 days, he did not entertain or respond to the letter; nobody heard anything from him. So, the Olubadan said he had waited enough and went ahead since the governor had not raised an objection.
So on Friday, January 1, 2016, he elevated us. It was then he elevated the present Olubadan from Otun Balogun to Balogun. He elevated me from Ashepa to Otun Olubadan and the Otun Olubadan was elevated to Olubadan.
And coincidently, Oba Ojugade died on the 19th of January. This means that if he had not carried out the promotion, there would have been a serious crisis because normally the present Olubadan should either be Balogun or Otun Olubadan. Both positions were vacant.
So, we believe that the government was looking for crisis where there was none. And what did they say they wanted to do? When we were elevated, the government raised air saying the Oba didn’t get the permission of the governor. People came to me to say, do you know that you have done something wrong? I said, no, I have not done anything wrong.
This is the letter that the Olubadan wrote me to come for the promotion; this is how he has been writing letters to me since I started the journey into royal lineage, since October 1, 1993. I said the Olubadan wrote me, so, if anybody had done wrong, go and meet the Olubadan.
Somehow, people intervened and the governor said okay, he was giving the approval retroactively, that after all people can consummate a wedding before paying the dowry.
I think it was from that time that they drummed it into his head that, look, the Olubadan is too powerful, you have to cut his wings. And that is what he has been trying to do. He thinks he can hide under anything, because the method of changing the declaration is there in the law. The governor did not follow that procedure. Instead, he said he was setting up a judicial commission of inquiry.
But a judicial commission of inquiry is set up only when somebody must have stolen. You cannot set up a judicial commission of inquiry for chieftaincy matters. They are just turning everything round and round and they don’t want to learn, but by the grace of God, we know that it will not stand. I really don’t believe that I am the one being targeted.
If I am the one being targeted then they have lost because if God destined me to become the Olubadan, I will become so. Nobody can stop me. So I don’t believe that I am the one being targeted, but by the grace of God the matter will be resolved.