Destroying Ibadan

by Abiodun Ladepo

It was a reader from the state of Maryland in the US that first drew my attention to a bit of Ibadan/Owu “historical fact” – fact that had eluded me all this time that Ibadan had endured a sustained political conflagration. The reader opined that former president Obasanjo was deliberately fomenting anarchy in Ibadan in order to avenge the near decimation of the Owus (Obasanjo’s clan) during one of the numerous Yoruba wars, eons ago.

Of course, I laughed it off as an unserious commentary and the reduction of the PDP crisis in Ibadan to pedestrian logic. But even as I dismissed the reader’s assertion, his point continued to gnaw at my soul. Why would president Obasanjo (or any president, no matter how deranged or depraved), deliberately sow seeds of discords in any part of his country? Why would OBJ fight for the unity of Nigeria between 1966 and 1970, only to preside over its systematic disintegration between 1999 and 2007? It just did not seem to me to be something a rational being would do.

Still, in my stark naiveté, I remained befuddled by a few issues: I was one of those that did not complain when the lack-luster AD government of Lam Adesina was rigged out of office by Baba Adedibu in 2003, paving the way for Rashidi Ladoja to become governor and Alao-Akala his deputy. Then I foolishly joined the bandwagon of the stridently quiet Ibadan indigenes who saw nothing wrong in the kangaroo “impeachment” of the do-nothing government of Rashidi Ladoja on the advice and supervision of, yes, Baba Adedibu again. In fact, not only was I silent, I actually cheered the parliamentary/judicial somersaults that brought so much stain on the otherwise brilliant political class of Oyo State.

But while my ignorance (as an outside observer) was excusable, president Obasanjo’s acquiescence, encouragement and instigation (as an inside participant) was criminal, to say the least. I have refrained from criticizing OBJ all these years because I did not want to throw the baby away with the dirty bath water. I have always been of the opinion that Nigerians forget easily; that we only remember convenient facts; that many of us have forgotten events that immediately followed the “June 12” issue when the country careened precipitously towards an all out war, and rumors were rife that military leaders from certain sections of the country were in the advanced stages of secession, and that it was the “divine” intervention of Obasanjo that staved off the imminent catastrophe.

Every time that I was tempted to criticize the man, I battled the conundrum of complaining about a man that gave so much to Nigeria in the past, and the one that now seemed to have lost his way. So, I manufactured a sanguine disposition to mask the pain that I felt – the pain of watching my beloved city become the Petri dish of experimental political stupidity; the pain of watching otherwise sane politicians acquire and demonstrate the highest degree of political cognitive dissonance. I was in Nigeria when Alao-Akala (pseudo governor at the time), on the recommendation of Obasanjo, was treated to a lavish chieftaincy title by the Owu monarch who, himself, was a protégé of Obasanjo’s. In my youthful ignorance, I wondered why OBJ participated in the dressing up of the roguish Alao-Akala in adorning white garments. Did he not know that this man was the most vile politician living or dead, with thick blood stains on his hands, and an artful kleptomaniac to boot?

Then after the PDP completed the shameful (s)election of Alao-Akala as its de-facto gubernatorial candidate in Oyo State, OBJ visited Ibadan where he, in the company of Ahmadu Ali, raised Alao-Akala’s hand in victory.

He did not stop there. He proceeded to commit the mother of all heresies by declaring that the people of Oyo State, rather than duel with Baba Adedibu, should accept him for who he was! This, after Adedibu had publicly admitted that he orchestrated the impeachment of Ladoja because Ladoja failed to continue paying his (Adedibu’s) agreed stipend! This, coming from a corruption-fighting president! This, after thugs loyal to Adedibu, headquartered at the Molete Roundabout motor park, had unleashed numerous vicious attacks on Adedibu’s political opponents – members of the same PDP! This, after 6 (six!) ballot boxes were found at the Molete residence of Adedibu immediately preceding the elections! This, after Adedibu had almost single-handedly become the clog in the wheels of progress in Oyo State, bringing government and governance to a complete halt!

And so it became, that while Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Kwara and a host of other states enjoyed 8 years of relative political, social and infrastructural development, Oyo State, the so-called pace-setter state, enjoyed a stunted growth. Other than the ugly facelift that Mapo Hall is just now receiving, and the expansion of the Mokola – Sango road, there is nothing of significance to which anybody can point in Ibadan. And if there is such a dearth of improvement in Ibadan, the state capital, you can only imagine what other cities, towns and villages are enduring.

Alao-Akala has just begun the first four years of a possible 8-year, two-term governorship. Because of the under-handed manner through which he assumed that position (to include the murders, the maiming and the destruction of properties), it is unlikely that his “defeated” opponents would just walk away. If they continue to fight as they have been doing lately, the poor people of Oyo State, and of Ibadan in particular, will remain consigned to the back benches of the progressing Nigerian people.

Again, why would Obasanjo subject the good people of Ibadan to such denigration and degradation? My reader friend further opined that it was because OBJ was certain that Ladoja was one of Abukabar Atiku’s adherents, and that since Atiku was his sworn enemy, OBJ was going to trample everybody in his way as he sought to politically annihilate and humiliate Atiku out of presidential contention. Now, for the records, I had no problems with the annihilation and humiliation of Atiku. I do not recall any single good deed that he has done for Nigeria. For all I care, he was more of a liability than an asset, a distracter rather than an enabler. We might as well not have had a vice president for all of the 8 years that he sat tight in that office. In any case, what have the poor people of Ibadan got to do with the imbroglio in Abuja?

At various times during the crisis in Ibadan, notable Ibadan indigenes tried individually, to mediate. When they failed, they pitifully banded together in a hurriedly formed “Ibadan Elders Forum” to try to put their collective weight to bear on the two gladiators. Their names rang a bell. There was former ambassador Olu Sanu, their leader. Then there were chiefs Bode Amoo, Emiola Adesina, Theo Akinyele, Bola Doherty, Bayo Oyero, Oladiti Ladapo, Kola Daisi and Oladejo Oladeji – all distinguished, eminent indigenes of Ibadan. There also were former judge Nuru Adekola and former commissioner Gboyega Arulogun and a host of others. They congregated at the Premier Hotel located on the hill of Mokola, Ibadan, from where they assailed the leadership of the PDP, particularly Obasanjo, for fomenting, aiding and abetting political chaos in Oyo State, and Ibadan in particular.

Their refrain echoed my Maryland reader: Obasanjo deliberately divided Ibadan people in order to conquer Ibadanland. In Ibadan, brothers now fight brothers to a standstill, killing, maiming and destroying each other’s properties. They pointed out that while Obasanjo’s state visits to other states included the commissioning of new developmental projects like roads and factories, the highlight of his visit to Oyo State was the lifting of Elder Lamidi Adedibu’s hand and the concomitant blessing of his nefarious, violent political activities, and the sanctioning of the imposition of Alao-Akala, a back-stabbing Ogbomosho man, on them as gubernatorial candidate. This, to the Elders Forum, was an aberration that should not be allowed to stand. This was an insult to the great people of Ibadan, generous to a fault and accommodating to the hilt.

But while it is convenient to pass the buck off to OBJ’s desk, it is instructive to remember that conspicuous in their absence at the Elders Forum were even more prominent names like Omololu Olunloyo, Lam Adesina and Raji Rasaki –all former governors of the state. Also absent were Richard Akinjide, attorney general of the Federation during Shehu Shagari’s reign, Adisa Akinloye, chairman of Shagari’s NPN, Azeez Arisekola, Lamidi Ajadi and Mufu Lanihun, business moguls and philanthropists, and yes, Lamidi Adedibu and Rashidi Ladoja themselves.

If the Ibadan Elders Forum was going to have any legitimacy, it should have included all the mogajis of Ibadan, the high chiefs and possibly the Olubadan himself. If there was any Ibadan Elders Forum, where was it when Lam Adesina, as governor between 1999 and 2003, squandered the mandate that was given to him by the people of Oyo State by going asleep at the wheel of governance? For four years, Adesina did not commission a new road in Ibadan and neither did he attempt to solve the problem of potable water in the city, to include his Felele area which had not had pipe borne water since at least 1983. Adesina failed to increase the revenue base of Oyo State by a kobo. Instead he left the State with more debt than he met. Not a single new classroom was built in Ibadan during his tenure and teachers’ salaries were paid in arrears most of the time. For a former teacher, Adesina’s performance was as dismal as it could get. Ibadan people were so tired of him that when, in 2003, Adedibu’s PDP blatantly rigged Adesina out of office, few people complained. Where was the Ibadan Elders Forum during the maladministration of Adesina? Where was the Forum when Ladoja assumed the governorship through rigging? Did they not keep silent because it was another of their sons that became governor? Our elders in Ibadan need to search their souls.

Long before matters got this bad between Adedibu and Ladoja, the recently deceased Olubadan, Oba Ogundipe, then in his late 80s, tried in vain to mediate. Many other individuals, far too many to mention here, and myriad Ibadan heritage and descendant organizations all tried in vain. The general consensus was that Adedibu was not going to make peace with Ladoja until Ladoja was impeached and Adedibu got his man, Alao-Akala into office. Now, Alao-Akala is in office, albeit amid a torrent of legal contestations of his election. Per chance, the courts would overturn his election and derail his government, a development that could further deepen the crisis in Oyo State.

The sad irony of the Ibadan crisis is that the two juggernauts fanning the embers of chaos in Ibadan are high chiefs of Ibadan with both solidly in line to assume the throne of the Olubadan should they live long enough. The passing of Oba Ogundipe a few days ago makes 94 year-old Chief Lana the automatic next Olubadan, while Adedibu (82) inches into the number 4 position. Rashid Ladoja will then move to the number 7 spot. If Adedibu suddenly becomes eligible for the throne, he will then need the vote of Ladoja (as the new Ekerin Olubadan) before the council of chiefs could send his name to the governor for final approval and appointment, no matter who is the governor. Does anybody think that Ladoja would easily accede to such request? And if he does and Adedibu becomes the Olubadan, what kind of Ibadan would we have? It is common knowledge that most Olubadans prefer to serve out their terms at their own private residences rather than the palace at Oja’ba. Adedibu already does have a palatial place of abode at Molete, but his thugs at the nearby motor park would pose a great deal of embarrassment. And if by any stroke of luck Adedibu assumes the Olubadan throne during the governorship of Alao-Akala, he will enjoy the distinct privilege of having the crown as well as the governor’s staff of office under his control. In any other city, such a privilege is considered an advantage. In Ibadan, it could very well be our Death Knell.

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