The news came to me as a rude shock: that former Oyo State governor, Rashidi Ladoja, was arrested…arrested by the EFCC, on gazillion charges of corruption! My natural instinct as a typical “shon-of-the-shoil” was to go into self-denial. There had to have been a huge mistake somewhere. Ladoja could not have embezzled (how much was it again?) N6.5 billion. Some reports have it as N8 billion. But for the sake of argument, we’ll stay with N6.5 billion. Either way, this is sad.
We will believe, as the EFCC has charged, that Ladoja egregiously contravened sections of the EFCC Act, the Criminal Code, the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, by, among other offences, diverting £600,000 to one of his numerous women, Mrs. Bimpe Ladoja. What he asked her to do with the money, only God (and now the EFCC) knows; that he diverted N78 million, belonging to the people of Oyo State to one Adewale Atanda, the point-man that he used purchasing Quarters 361 in Agodi, Ibadan. Until now, I did not know that a building existed in Agodi that was worth N78 million. I did not know that even the Government House, also located in Agodi, was worth N78 million; that through this same Atanda man, Ladoja skimmed N154 million off the coffers of the State and used the money to placate state legislators who supported him during his travails with the late Lamidi Adedibu; and that Ladoja squandered N41 million belonging to his people on lawyers as fees for election petitions. I did not know that all these election petitions were paid for by government! I can go on and on…what about the N25 million (chicken change) he just took for “personal” use, aside from his free-of-scrutiny Security Vote which ran into millions? What about the “measly” $3000 he gave to one Yinka Ladoja? I can go on and on, but I am not going to waste your time by listing all the charges leveled against this devious and dyed-in-the-wool pilferer. In fact, it will do no good as the EFCC did announce that the list is not exhaustive. They may have more charges coming.
Whichever way you skin this Ladoja cat, it does not portend any good for Ibadan people. Ibadan people had been the most vociferous about wanting to decide who governs Oyo State, if not govern it themselves. And truly, just by its sheer population and size, Ibadan, (like Oyo and Ogbomosho), ought to have a major say, if not its way, in who governs Oyo State, and how Oyo State is governed. But the likes of Ladoja, and before him, Lam Adesina, make mockery of Ibadan’s claim to leadership in Oyo State. I will return to Adesina’s case shortly.
Anybody who has an iota of knowledge about Oyo State politics will tell you that no serving or past politician womanizes more than Ladoja. But nobody quarrels with Ladoja about that – certainly, not this writer. That issue lies in the purview or Mrs. Ladoja1, Mrs. Ladoja2, or any of the other Mrs. Ladoja; which is why I have not bothered to write extensively about it, in spite of the fact that it stares you in the face everywhere you go in the State. What concerns me, and should concern every right-thinking son and daughter of Ibadan is that Ladoja perpetuated the eons-old stereotype of Ibadan people as thieves. Ibadan, omo agesinkole – Ibadan, one who robs majestically – is a popular praise-song of Ibadan people. They were perceived as people that stole with impunity. They were perceived as indolent, good-for-taxi-driving and meat-selling only.
Lam Adesina was the first governor of Oyo State, in the current political dispensation, who truly had the opportunity to burnish the image of Ibadan people and elevate their standing in the State by leading a purposeful government. Elected on the platform of the now-comatose AD party, Adesina, a former teacher and columnist in the Ibadan-based Nigerian Tribune was a personification of ineptitude. I am still befuddled by the irony of the fact that throughout his entire stewardship, Adesina, a former teacher, as stated above, hardly paid teachers’ salaries on time. Before he became governor, Adesina lived in the Felele area of Ibadan. Felele, when I actively lived there between 1983 and 1986, had not had pipe-borne water for the previous 12 years. Essentially, when Adesina lived there, he did not have water either. The man governed Oyo State for a solid four years and did nothing to provide water for the people of Oyo State. He did nothing for the people of Oyo State. By the time Adesina was rigged out of office by the duo of Adedibu and Ladoja, practically everybody I knew in Ibadan rained curses on him. This was a man who had used his newspaper column to preach good governance. It turned out that he was a faux progressive.
When the late Bola Ige, during his tenure as a UPN governor of Oyo State (1979 -1983) commented that Ibadan people did not have anybody qualified enough to govern Oyo State, Ibadan people went into an uproar, rightfully angry at the direct insult. The late Adisa Akinloye and Richard Akinjide, eminent members of the then NPN, sought out Dr. Omololu Olunloyo to help prove Bola Ige wrong. The 1983 elections were rigged by the NPN to “elect”, in a landslide, Olunloyo as governor of Oyo State. He would be the first native of Ibadan to govern the State. We will never know how Olunloyo might have performed in office, for, the entire civilian administrations in Nigeria were toppled by Muhammadu Buhari, giving Olunloyo just three months as governor. We can only say that in those three months, he had begun to show some promise. Olunloyo, an acclaimed mathematics lecturer at the University of Ibadan, sought to polish the image of Ibadan people and dispel the notion that kleptomania and laziness were ingrained in them. His efforts must have come to naught as, after Olunloyo, Ibadan people have produced, back-to-back, two pathologically lazy and incompetent governors – Lam Adesina and Rashidi Ladoja, and one inveterate thief, Rashidi Ladoja. If you count the late governor Lamidi Adedibu (he might not have been duly elected, but he was the de facto executive governor), then Ibadan produced two inveterate thieves – Ladoja and Adedibu.
And so I ask myself, what good has Ibadan done for Oyo State? Is Ibadan a curse on Oyo State, or is it a blessing? Would Oyo State have faired better without Lam Adesina, Rashidi Ladoja and Lamidi Adedibu?
If Ladoja spent most of his term fighting Adedibu and about a year on “impeachment” his ability to gobble N8 billion smacks of nothing but ingenuity. Where was this man’s conscience when residents of Alaadorin in Ibadan told him that they had not had pipe-borne water for over 20 years? Where was this man’s conscience when residents of Yejide in Ibadan told him that their elementary school still had pit latrines in 2007? Where was this man’s conscience when the people of Oke Ogun complained of dilapidated roads? Where was this man’s conscience when the people of Ogbomosho complained of dirty, disease-infested hospitals that also lacked medicines and medical practitioners? Where was this man’s conscience when the farmers of Oyo town complained of the absence of government assistance in agricultural modernization? Where was his conscience? He didn’t have one! And because he didn’t have one, he didn’t visit any of these communities during his tenure as governor. He was ensconced in the plush Government House, Agodi, from where he routinely commuted to Lagos to revel in women, his pastime, and spend some time with former governor Bola Tinubu. This was the governor of my state. And before any of you hyper-sensitive and hyper-ventilating Ibadan indigenes write back to accuse me of insulting and ridiculing your people, go and read my “How Alamieyeseigha Embarrassed the Ijaw Nation” published on this website. Read my “Fayose: Vox Populi, Vox Dei” and a host of other articles addressing corrupt politicians all over Nigeria. If I can see the mote in other people’s eyes, I should be able to see the log in mine. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander, they say. I cannot, in good conscience, criticize governor Alao-Akala for stealing N1 billion and then pretend that all is hunky-dory with Ladoja stealing N6.5 billion. If you are a native of Ibadan and you are offended, suck it up and drive on. You are no more an Ibadan native than I am. My family house in Oja’ba is just three minutes walk to the Olubadan palace. You can hardly get more native than that. If you are not ashamed of Ladoja, I am. And oh, remember that like Baba Adedibu, Ladoja is in line to become the Olubadan. The man is just 64 years old. There is a good possibility that he ascends the throne. If he does, you and I would have a jailbird Olubadan. Try that for size at the first meeting of the Oyo State Council of Obas when Olubadan Ladoja (God forbid) challenges the Alaafin of Oyo for the chairmanship of the Council. I am so very ashamed.
We can only dream about what N8 billion or just N6.5 billion could have done for the people of Oyo State. Street lights, maybe? School chairs in some elementary and secondary schools perhaps? New roads to open up some of our rural areas? Farm equipment and financial aids to our farmers? Public toilets around our cities, towns and villages? Improving our drainage systems to prevent further erosion of our roads? Financial aids to students who cannot afford higher education? Computers for some of our elementary schools? Community policing to stem the rash of armed robberies? Building new motor parks and bus stops in and around our cities? Yes, we can only dream about what N6.5 billion could have done for us. That money is sitting coolly in the private bank accounts of Rashidi Ladoja, while the people of his home town, Ibadan, nay, the people of his home state, Oyo, continue to languish in abject penury and wallow in squalid conditions. If, as the EFCC has charged, Ladoja did breach the trust of his people, my prayer is that every kobo that he stole is recovered from him before he is carted off to jail in some far away hot and humid place like Kaura Namoda.