Former Governor of Oyo State, and national leader of Accord Party (AP), Senator Rasidi Ladoja, has had his fair share of the Nigerian dirty politics with his illegal impeachment in 2006. In this interview with the trio of FEMI ADEOTI, RAZAQ BAMIDELE and AKEEB ALARAPE at his Apapa, Lagos residence, he said his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has lost its steam and turned to a “casino.”
He also reflected on the state of the nation, politics of the South-West and prospects of his new platform, Accord, which is fast-gaining ground in the country. Excerpts:
State of the nation
The most important thing in any country is security. A situation whereby one doesn’t feel comfortable in his country. A situation where the populace, even the rulers don’t seem to have confidence in one another is worrisome. Or how do you explain that people are asking President Goodluck Jonathan to publish the disaster report of the plane crash that killed General Andrew Azazi and ex-gpvernor Patrick Yakowa? The people that are actually making the calls are the serving state governors.
Are they saying that they don’t have confidence in the Federal Government? It is unfortunate that the accident took place. Accident can come up anytime but a situation that the people are thinking otherwise is not good for the nation. I think it was an accident. But the situation is becoming very worrisome.
In the matter of Boko Haram, we don’t know when next the group will strike. The situation is affecting a lot of things. It affects even the economy. The people that went to do their normal ram buying business in the North for sallah were slaughtered. People said it was Boko Haram that did it. Anything that happens now, any disaster whatever, is attributed to Boko Haram, even armed robbery.
We seem to be turning round and round and round. I thought that since we negotiated with the Niger Delta militants and able to secure peace, the government should find a way of negotiating with Boko Haram and let us have peace, because insecurity affects investment. We should look at it and find solution to the security problem. I only pray government is not overwhelmed with this security situation.
Already, we have problem of infrastructure, which is not making our economy to grow. The government, or is it the PHCN recently published that we are generating about 4000 megawatts, which was what we have been generating for the past 10 years. Ordinary Dubai is already planning for 2050. Yet, we sink a lot of money into the power project without result. Only God knows how many billions of dollars were sunk by Olusegun Obasanjo into the power project, yet, we don’t feel it.
Most of the times, we politicians don’t face realities. We talk politics rather than face realities. We talk politics when we say, “by so time, water will flow.” Most of us seem to be deceptive. We just want to talk and we pay a lot of money for propaganda and not what we are elected to do.
Restructuring along regional basis
I don’t think so. Are you sure Ondo State would want to go with the rest of South-West? The major problem is the haves and the have-nots. People in the Niger Delta are calling for pure federation because they want to be the owners and managers of their resources.
But are you saying that if we want to carve the western region out, is it western region with or without Midwest? Western region with Midwest means Edo and Delta states with the six states of South-West. Would they want to share their oil with us if we are in the same region? Again, is Ondo State ready to share its oil with Oyo State that hasn’t got oil?
Most of these things are not practicable. Then, are we not the one calling for more states? If we really want regional cohesion, should we be asking for Ibadan State, should we be calling for an Ijebu State?
What is important for a nation is the good of the populace. How do we feed the people? How do we give them comfort? How do we give them electricity? How do we give them good water? How do we give them good health? How do we secure them?
Whoever wants to do anything let him make the proposal and give it to the National Assembly. Members of the National Assembly were elected by us and we should allow them to work. We have facilities to amend the Constitution. To me, economy is the most things for us today so that we can feed our people, give them good health, good roads, make railways airlines work. So that our people will feel that we are in the 21st Century.
Most of our people don’t understand that the essence of politics is the people. It is not a matter of how many edifices one builds. It is about the welfare of the people.
Dialogue with Boko Haram
Did we not negotiate with the Niger Delta militants? Were they not criminals also?
But the Boko Haram people have not come out to identify themselves.
When they started the crisis in Niger Delta, did they come to identify themselves? Was it not later that we started hearing that there is one called Tompolo; there is one called Government?
Modus operandi for dialogue
The security people should know who they are. Part of the problem is that our people do not have confidence in the security system. They think if they give information to the security agencies, the security will leak it back to the people concerned. That is part of the problem. So, they should be able to identify them. Today, the government would say it wants to negotiate; another time it would say it is no longer negotiating. I don’t understand.
Technocrats in government are our problem
Yes, I do agree. I remember one state commissioner recently said that. I agree with him. Who is a technocrat? If one doesn’t want to dirty his hands, how can such person do agriculture or farming? If someone doesn’t want to get into the muddy terrain of politics, yet he wants to be a minister. I don’t think it can work. If a minister or a government appointee cannot go round the country campaigning, seeing what the people in each of the areas are facing, how can such person or appointee know how to solve the problem?
I am not in support of categorizing some people as technocrats and others non-technocrats. Maybe, that is part of the failure of government. The man who made promises to us was Ebele Goodluck Jonathan not Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, not Ashiru, not Sanusi, not Adesina. We didn’t see all these people during the campaigns. It was Jonathan who promised us and he had people who came with him. Are those people not qualified to be appointed?
By the way, who is a technocrat? I was a technocrat. If I decided that I was not going to go into politics, I would still be considered as a technocrat. We should be able to know that the job of a technocrat ends with that of the director-general or permanent secretary. After that, it is the job of the politicians.
That was the mistake we made when we were shouting that Okonjo-Iweala would become the President of the World Bank. I knew it would never happen. The job of a technocrat in the World Bank stops with the position of the Managing Director. It is the President that decides where to put World Bank money and where not to put it.
That is where we are making a big mistake. The countries that survive most of the time are the countries that defy World Bank and IMF rules. Majority of the people of Venezuela under Hugo Chavez are happier because of the policy he laid down. He said the oil is for all of them.
Leaders should look at what is good for their people and do it not what IMF says they should do. If IMF is successful, should we have economic crises all over Europe today? Yet, we are not having that in China. We do not even have it in India! India has gotten a population that is four times that of Europe, yet they are managing themselves. China is the biggest lender to the world today.
Pressures in government
When we were going on campaign trips, I told the people of Oyo State in specific terms what our government was going to achieve. I told them that we would bring education to level it was during our days. I specifically told them that in our days at Ibadan Boys High school, we were 30 students per class and there is no reason any school should have more than 30 students per class in primary and secondary schools. The students are not there for lecturing but for teaching. That was one of the fundamental things we made because it is only when the class is manageable that the teacher can teach and the children can learn. That is where we started.
One of the problems of Oyo State at that time was guinea worm. We said in the four years of our being there we would eradicate guinea worm. We did it. We said we would change agriculture from hoes and cutlasses to a mechanized one; we brought in a tractor manufacturing plant.
We said we were going to give them safe water. Where we could not easily give them public water; we sunk hundreds of boreholes, particularly at guinea worm endemic areas of Ibarapa and Oke-Ogun and by the grace of God we were able to achieve them. Those are what I would call practical, people-oriented projects not gigantic projects like building hotels, teaching hospitals and the likes.
We designed three overhead bridges in Ibadan to solve the problem of traffic congestion. We designed one for Sango, one for Mokola and the third one at Challenge.
But when it comes to building teaching hospital for the state, what purpose would that one serve? Already, there is a teaching hospital in Ibadan, which is UCH, a federal hospital; there is a teaching hospital in Ogbomoso being run by Bowen University, that is Baptist teaching hospital and there is one teaching hospital in Ilorin. It means that within 30 kilometres we have three teaching hospitals competing with themselves. And there are a lot of things to do with little money.
Resist pressures in office
I was lucky in the sense that the people of Oyo State knew I was competent for the job. The only but was whether I would be able to resist my godfather. I remember I told them that on my honour, I am a father; I am a grandfather and I have made my life before coming into politics and I promised them that the buck stops at my table. With that promise and with the fact that I would be responsible for anything that happened in government.
My commissioners had free hands though some of them were not supporters of our cause. But if you understand that the buck stops on your table and that you would be held accountable for anything that happens, then that is enough recipe for resisting undue pressure. Of course, we faced the consequences and part of the consequences was my illegal impeachment. But I had no regret on that. If I have the same opportunity, I will still do the same thing. But maybe they will not succeed in impeaching me again.
Bid to become national secretary of PDP
I did not set out to be National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). What happened was that in the course of the negotiation, Dr. Dejo Raimi was actually harassing me. He was visiting me nearly everyday. One day, when it became public knowledge that Alhaji Bamanga Tukur might become the National Chairman of PDP, he said if Tukur at his age is set to become the national chairman and the national secretary has been zoned to South West, then the people in South-West must get somebody who has got his own clout to be national secretary so that he doesn’t just become a clerk to Tukur. With that there will be mutual respect between him and the chairman.
Raimi went out and told some journalists that Ladoja will be good as the national secretary of PDP. That was what happened. By that time, I was prevailed upon by Obasanjo, Jonathan, Tony Anenih and a lot of leaders of the PDP all over Nigeria to return to PDP. I was set out to go back to PDP if PDP was willing to do what we believe politics is supposed to be. That was what happened.
It was not that I set out to become the national secretary. My going back to PDP was virtually unconditional. We didn’t set out any condition. It was they (PDP leaders) that said that they had seen the results of the last election and that they were going to share the party’s structure in that proportion. That was all. But it didn’t work because of what PDP is.
They still don’t understand that politics is about service. They think politics is about self. Don’t get me wrong, there are still very good people in PDP who are ready for service but a lot of the people in the party still feel that they just want to occupy a position because there is power in it; there is money in it; there is connection there.
We negotiated together; we did the ward and local congresses together based on the agreement we reached. But what happened? What we agreed on in Ibadan, some people went to Abuja to change the names. When we asked them why, they said, “yes”, that we don’t know that in PDP they play games. Then, we said “ok, we don’t want to go to a party where they play games.” I said I want to stay in a party where the will of the people prevails.
After all those ones, some people of goodwill again intervened and advised us to negotiate more; we decided to but they shut the door. When they now opened the door and asked us to come, we then asked them to go undo and what they had done. We asked them to drop everything they had wrongly acquired, that is, party executives. That they should let us go back to the people to decide. They said “no”, they were not ready to negotiate what they had acquired and that instead they would go to court.
In PDP, Oyo State was not among the states that were said to have hitches in their congresses even though we knew that it got hitches. But the party executives that left before Tukur came in had already approved the congresses of Oyo State. We knew how it happened. But those people had gone. They had left the problem for the people behind.
It is only persuasion that Tukur can use in the case of Oyo State. He cannot use force if not it would degenerate to what is happening in Ogun State. In fact that of Ogun State is even better. During the congresses, the national headquarters of the party (PDP) put up an advertisement suspending all congresses in Ogun State. They didn’t do the same thing in Oyo State and the executives that left said everything was alright. If Tukur now said everything was not alright, they (Oyo PDP) would say he was not there. The people that had acquired privilege through the back door also feel that they have got it and they are going to keep it.
Nothing would change. If not, they said they would go to court and if they go to court, I don’t want to be in a party where people don’t realize their weaknesses. You are weak when you are not in government. What I mean by that is that the state government is not in their hands, yet they are fighting among themselves. How would confront the government in power? How would they, therefore, tell the people that they are the alternative government, when they are already fighting among themselves? They won’t have time for the main fight.
No negotiation with ACN
I did not negotiate with the ACN, but we negotiated with the PDP since 2007. After the impeachment and we came back to the same PDP, I escaped an assassination in Akure. Somehow, I managed to complete my term. But since PDP did not ask me to be a part of their campaign, I did not bother myself. When I went to Akure and I was nearly murdered, then I decided that I was going to face my work as governor rather than campaign for PDP.
But after I left office in 2007, PDP knew something was wrong. They knew there was a lot of crisis in PDP all over Nigeria, so they set up Alex Ekwueme Committee to reconcile everybody. The committee sat in Abeokuta and I appeared before it. We put our case across. When the committee wrote its report, they upheld almost everything we asked for. After that, the DP set up an implementation committee headed by Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun to implement the report of the Ekwueme committee.
Oyedokun came to Ibadan and stayed for two or three weeks. As far as I am concerned, Shuaib Oyedokun is an Ibadan man. He lives in Ibadan. He was the secretary to the government of Dr. Omololu Olunloyo and all of us know ourselves. So, he knew everything that was happening. That was the first time me and Akala met after I left office.
He proposed to set a group of five people from our group and another five people from Akala/Adedibu group. But the other groups asked whether we were the only two groups in the PDP. He then put up another amorphous group of five which comprised a nominee each from Richard Akinjide, Yekini Adeojo, Elder Wole Oyelese, Senator Lekan Balogun and he added Raimi to make five. We said no problem. It then became a committee of 15.
They met and at the end of it there was no cooperation between Akala/Adedibu’s group and the others. They wrote reports where one was signed by nine people while another report was signed by five people. Raimi decided to write his own report. All these were sent to the national headquarters.
After sometime, the party set up Ike Nwachukwu Committee. Nwachukwu came to a conclusion to inaugurate an elders committee and implementation committee. That committee was headed by Yunus Akintunde, the immediate past commissioner for works in Ajimobi’s government.
We thought that the work was going to start but up till now nothing has started. So, when INEC announced that it was going to conduct election, we were expecting and we knew what PDP was doing was to play for time until Attahiru Jega, INEC chairman, would lock the door.
We then started thinking that by the time Jega closes his doors, we would either be persuaded or begged by PDP to stay on or we would start looking for a party to hibernate in. We then decided what should be our fallback position since we were not able to enter PDP. PDP headquarters then was not able to take any decision.
When it dawned on us that if the situation continued, Jega would close his door and we would be left stranded, we then decided to look for alternative. A committee was set up and the recommendations were; one, to consider going to ACN; two, to look at Labour Party and three, to look at Accord Party. I held meetings with my Egbon of blessed memory, Alhaji Lam Adesina, three times on how we could work together. His recommendation was that I should ask my people to come and register with the pledge that everybody would be given a fair chance during elections. I know the letter of ACN, I wanted a concrete assurance. Later, I was not disappointed the way the party made its choices of candidates.
About Labour, we tried to look at it but we didn’t see any attraction there. On Accord, in fact that was about the first time I would be hearing about the name. But I saw one attraction there; it was the number one on the ballot paper. That was the main attraction we had.
We then sent for the leaders of Accord. I knew that Senator Osakwe contested on the platform of Accord in 2007 to beat Ahmadu Ali’s wife in the senatorial election. I had a chat with Osakwe. The leadership of Accord was willing to accommodate us. They did new convention, new congresses so that we were really integrated into the party. That was how we became members of Accord.
Fear of Accord Party being deregistered
I was looking at the reasons given by the INEC. It is either the party has no headquarters, or it has no elected officer in the House of Assembly or House of Representatives. By the grace of God, we will not be deregistered. We are working hard to expand Accord Party. Today, across all the states of the South-West, the party is waxing stronger.
Beginning from Ekiti State, people are yearning for Accord. By early 2013, we are going to hoist our flag in Ekiti. Our intention is to say, yes, we are here because people have seen us in Oyo State. They know that we are the party that is the most workers-friendly. They know that we are honest in our approach to issues. We don’t play politics with the life of our people. They know us very well and they are happy to work with us. I will not be surprised that the wild fire that caught Oyo State will catch Osun and Ekiti states. They have seen the honesty of purpose in Accord.
In Osun, we contested during the last election. We contested nearly all the seats. In Ogun, we are already there. Some powerful people in Lagos State have come to request that Accord be established in the state and we are working at it.
PDP decampees in Accord
Yoruba have a saying that fish rots from the head. If the head is not rotten, the body will not rot. You can find people who are followers and who are the PDP because they are just there. Now they find a possibility of another party that can satisfy their aspiration. Some people were in the PDP because I was there. And if they want to come back to me when I am no more there, what is wrong in that?
They were impressed that we started a party in September and we made an impressive show in a general election in April of the following year. They were marveled by the dramatic change on the political landscape. It is not how long, it is how good. Party is not people. People make party. If they come, we will welcome them.
At a local government in Oyo State, members of the PDP just woke up one day and said PDP is not our party. They just repainted their secretariat to Accord secretariat. Such scenario would continue. It is not only those from the PDP in Oyo State that are coming, people from other parties, even from the ACN, are also coming into Accord. This is contrary to what has been happening in the past when people troop to join the party in power. But in this case, people are joining a party that is not in control of the state. May be they believe that this party is the government in waiting. As far as I am concerned, PDP is dead Oyo state.
The last time I was going to contest, it wasn’t until September 26, 2010, that I made up my mind that I was going to contest. I just knew that the government we had in Oyo State then was not that of my dream. We were trying to use the internal mechanism of the PDP. But when that failed, we decided that, okay, we had to do something. The governor then was behaving in a way that suggested he wanted to tie me down with the EFCC. You cannot tie Ladoja down with anything. There is nobody that can tie Ladoja down. It was on September 26, 2010 that I declared that, PDP or no PDP, I would contest. So, why can’t you wait until September 2014 before asking me that question about 2015 governorship ambition?
Relationship with Adebayo Alao-Akala and Governor Abiola Ajimobi
Both of them are my ‘aburos’ (younger brothers). And they give me my respect as their ‘egbon,’ (older brother). Our relationship is very good and cordial. Our working relationship with Ajimobi was at his own leisure. He was the one who came to me. We discussed the term but he has not fulfilled his own side totally. He has his challenges. But I think he is now in better control of the party. Maybe, he would be able to fulfill the agreement better. But Yoruba has a saying that rain can chase somebody to a particular shelter thrice. So, we wait and see.
My own policy however is that when elections are over, we should support whoever won the election so that the people of the state would not suffer. Our working with him is on the basis of that. He has won the election; he has appealed to us to work with him, and we told him we are not dissolving into ACN.
Our working relationship is in government and not on party basis. And that is because we want him to have rest of mind to serve the people of Oyo State. The people of Oyo State had chosen him in preference of me and Akala. And the period of election is for four years. So, while he is there, we should give him all the support so that the people of Oyo State can enjoy. The failure of government is a failure of the people of Oyo State. But if the government is able to deliver, then it is good for all of us. What is good for everybody is good for me.
Dictating to Ajimobi
I don’t believe in godfatherism. One thing that you have to understand is that governor has got more information than everybody. He has got so many aides to address him. I don’t push myself on anybody. I allow people to take their decisions. If he needs my advice and he seeks it, I give. I won’t go out of way to say this is how you should run your government because I won’t accept it too. So, if he needs my advice, I will give him. But for now, he has not asked for my advice and I didn’t give him anything. That explains my position. He has a lot of security apparatus that give him security reports twice a day. They should be able to tell him the feelings of the people. Maybe the feelings of the people are different from what they are seeing.
Aregbesola, Amosun, Mimiko close to me
We are not in negotiation with ACN. But the mistake some people are making is that they don’t know I don’t play politics of bitterness. Aregbesola is very close to me just as Amosun is. Amosun and I were in the same party before. Even, Mimiko is very close to me. Mimiko was SSG to Agagu when I was also in government. We are still close. We still call one another.
All of them call me ‘egbon.’ I am ‘egbon’ to all of them. Fayemi is also very close to me. And Fashola is close to me also. Fashola was the Chief of Staff to Tinubu when my case was going on and he was very supportive. You know he is a very brilliant lawyer. People wonder when they see us sitting together, wondering what is the magic that binds these people who don’t belong to the same party together? Even Bola Tinubu is close to me. We were in the Senate together; we are in the oil industry together. That is enough ground to be together.
Any time Aregbesola knows I am in Ibadan, he will pass through the house. When Mimiko came to greet the late Lam Adesina’s family, he called me to say he was sorry he could not pass through the house because he had to go back to Akure. So, that is me.
People even say why should I allow Obasanjo into my house and I asked them, why shouldn’t I? I knew Obasanjo before he became President. We are close. He is a farmer, I am a farmer. That is the common ground between the two of us. And I was even one of the people that persuaded him to contest. We thought he would repeat the wonders he performed as a Head of State.
Our difference is political and not personal. He saw my impeachment from another view; I saw it from another view. He was then powerful because he was president and I was a mere governor. You know, 36 governors is equal to one president. He controlled the police and all the security apparatus. He used them at that time for what he believed in. I am sure today, he doesn’t believe in that again. We are very close. Even, he gave me a very big turkey for Christmas.