In response to accusations that he secured his job by consistently bribing Chief Lamidi Adedibu, the (out-going?) governor of Oyo State, Chris Alao-Akala told a group of reporters the following:
“I don’t know what you mean by settlement…a police officer will always manage any situation. And having spent the greater part of my life as a police officer, I know how to manage anybody. There is nobody I cannot manage. Baba Adedibu is almost 80 years old. You can’t change baba. He has been on the scene for a very long time and baba is somebody you just have to sit down and study. He is not as bad as people painted him. He is not living a luxurious life. If you go to baba today and give him N10million, he will use that N10million on the people. What he enjoys is that whenever you ask him for help, he will be able to dip his hands into his pockets and help you and that is exactly what he does. If anybody now tells you that my boss refused to settle him, well, even the Bible says give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and what belongs to God to God, so maybe that will settle your question.”
Wow! This, coming straight from the mouth of a sitting governor?The governor of Oyo State for that matter? And it came not in the dark, turbulent days of Uthman Dan Fodio or Bashorun Gaa, nor during the free-for-all, unbridled thieving days of Sani Abacha. This came during the no-nonsense, zero-tolerance era of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and his EFCC when politicians imbibed the art of stealing with a little more compunction and finesse, lest they be carted away to jail. What, in Alao-Akala’s dictionary, is the meaning of “settlement” or “manage”?
What Alao-Akala alluded to in that interview was that he (unlike former governor Rashid Ladoja), gives unto Baba Adedibu (his Caesar) what belongs to him. By the way, for those who might be living on planet Mars, “settlement” or “management” in Nigerian parlance means bribery. Adedibu himself has said publicly that he fell out of love with his erstwhile protégé, Ladoja, in part because Ladoja refused to share with him millions of naira from his (Ladoja’s) monthly security votes as agreed upon by both before Ladoja became governor. Governors do not have to account for their security votes, which could be as much as N15 million per month. It would be interesting to know what Mr. Ribadu and his staff are going to do about Alao-Akala’s startling revelation.
Immediately after the Court of Appeals invalidated Ladoja’s impeachment, on November 1, 2006, I called one of Alao-Akala’s Commissioners (who is also my cousin) and a Special Adviser (who was a school mate and a friend) separately, to find out what would be the government’s next step. They both, as if on cue, told me what is now the public position of Alao-Akala: that the ruling did not pertain to him; that the case was between the pro-Adedibu18 lawmakers and Ladoja, and that Alao-Akala was still in charge in Oyo State. The ruling did not pertain to him? Come on. Give me a break. If Ladoja returns to power today, all of Alao-Akala’s political appointees (forced down his throat by Adedibu) would have to go – Commissioners, Special Advisers et al. So, the ruling does pertain to him, and you could sense the trepidation in the quivering voices of those with whom I spoke.
Obviously, Alao-Akala has tasted the power aphrodisiac; he has tasted the allure of the office of governor (quite different from that of deputy-governor, you know) and he is unwilling to give it up. Was it not in this same Nigeria that former Anambra State Governor, Chris Ngige, resigned from office after the courts declared his opponent, Peter Obi, actual winner of the election? That unprecedented reversal of course, taken in the larger interests of the many, instead of the parochial interests of the few, is lost on Alao-Akala and his advisers. They will rather cling onto power, ignore the court ruling, deliberately spread disinformation by twisting the clear language of the ruling and foment anarchy, all in their quest to perpetuate themselves in power.
I went back to read the entire transcript of Alao-Akala’s interview as reported by Vanguard, October 31, 2006, in which he swore that he had no hand in the impeachment of Ladoja. “I did not betray my boss because it is the constitution that says if a governor is removed, the deputy governor has to be the next governor. So may be it is my constitutional right. I always tell people and I can say this even before my God that I did not hold any meeting with anybody concerning how my boss was removed. I did not, I did not. As a matter of fact, I was afraid even to come to be sworn-in”he said.
That may or may not be true. But now that the court has nullified Ladoja’s impeachment, what were Adedibu and his “thug-in-chief” – Lateef Akinsola (a.k.a. Tokyo), the Oyo State chapter chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), doing at Alao-Akala’s office right after the ruling, if not plotting how to block the return of Ladoja? Adedibu emerged from the meeting to declare that “no Jupiter” could bring Ladoja back to power. Neither Alao-Akala, nor his PR team, in spite of their much ballyhooed claim of fostering peace and tranquility in the State, have come forward to dissociate themselves from Adedibu’s arrogant, war-mongering statements, and to pledge themselves to obeying the rule of law like Ladoja has now started to do.
Alao-Akala said further in the same interview that he and Ladoja still enjoyed a “cordial” relationship. I find that hard to believe given the strident vituperations periodically heaped on Ladoja by some of Alao-Akala’s hirelings. And if it is true that they still enjoy a cordial relationship, why has Alao-Akala not called Ladoja to congratulate him on the court ruling, invite him to return to Agodi, the seat of government, and prepare to hand over power to his “friend”? What has Alao-Akala got to lose? He has said in the past that he never aspired to be governor. His goal was to be deputy-governor. All he has to do now is take a cue from Ladoja and follow the rule of law by reverting to his role as deputy. The only people that have a lot to lose are the current deputy-governor, Hazeem Gbolarumi, the least qualified entity ever to occupy that post in Oyo State’s history, and whose departure will not be missed by anybody, and Baba Adedibu, whose source of “subsistence allowance” currently being met by Alao-Akala would dry up. Gbolarumi would have to return to carrying Adedibu’s multiple cell phones and “Ghana-Must-Go” bags – the job he had before his elevation to the exalted post of deputy-governor.
Adedibu must be shocked by the effrontery of the judges of the Court of Appeals, whose landmark ruling says a lot about the new-found virtue, vigor and vitality of the judiciary, not to mention its independence. Knowing the idiosyncrasies of the typical politician in Nigeria, only God knows how much money has been spent trying to buy out those five judges. Those judges have acquitted themselves very well. They have restored hope in the judicial system and have signaled to these marauding politicians that while innocent errors and poor decisions are expected in our political development, deliberate miscarriages of justice, jungle justice and political hooliganism will be checked.
Baba Adedibu, of course, has arrogated to himself the power to (s)elect executive governors of Oyo State. At 79, it is amazing how much zeal and energy this man would dissipate in order to prevent the usurpation of his political clout in Oyo State. This is very sad indeed. It is very sad because all those aspiring to political offices (high and low) in Oyo State, including even local government councillorships, have to pay homage and obeisance to Adedibu at Molete, regardless of their party affiliations. And that included Ladoja who thought he could ride the back of
Adedibu’s tiger to power and then dump him in 2003.
Right now, the only viable challenger to Adedibu’s bullying tactic is former soldier, Chief Yekini Adeojo, who himself once sought to use Adedibu to ride to the governorship position, only to be dumped by the old man when Ladoja brought in bigger Ghana-Must-Go bags in 2003. Adeojo later confronted Adedibu publicly and frontally and had to be physically restrained from attacking the man at Molete. Adeojo has threatened to refuse to be restrained the next time Adedibu stands in his path.
When I wrote “Ladoja Too Damaged to Govern Oyo State,” published on Nigeriaworld.com website in January 2006, I received over two hundred e-mail responses from readers all over the world. Two of those messages sent by Messrs. Olajide Ogidan (Dublin, Ireland) and Olusola Akinyele (Ibadan) stood out in their stark dissent. Both writers questioned my rationale for justifying the removal of Ladoja. Today, they have been vindicated. Ogidan and Akinyele deserve kudos for their bravery and foresight, even as they were almost alone in their position.
The crux of my argument in the said article, for the benefit of those that might have forgotten it, or missed it altogether, was that due to Ladoja’s inept leadership and scant political acumen, he lost the support of 18 members of the House and at least three important traditional rulers in his State – the Olubadan of Ibadan, the Alaafin of Oyo and the Soun of Ogbomoso. I also posited that Ladoja allegedly diverted to his personal account (number 00849378601106) at Standard Trust Bank the sum of N2 Billion that belonged to the State. And that in contravention of the Code of Conduct for public officials, he maintained an overseas bank account. Ladoja also doled out government money to members of the Legislature in the form of “Community Development Funds,” which, actually turned out to be an attempt (a failed one though) to bribe the lawmakers in order to forestall the impending impeachment. Finally, those 18 lawmakers opposed to Ladoja were beholden to Lamidi Adedibu, the man that had engineered the rigging of the PDP primaries that saw (among others) the emergence of Ladoja as gubernatorial candidate, and also massively rigged the general elections to defeat the AD administration of Lam Adesina. The intractable crisis between Adedibu and Ladoja engendered by Ladoja’s refusal to be controlled by Adedibu rendered the State ungovernable, hence the title of the said article.
What happened in Ibadan on January 12 2006, a few days after the article was published, was as shameful as what happened in Ekiti State during the “impeachment” of Ayodele Fayose who was arguably the most inveterate and pathological thief ever to occupy the office of governor in western Nigeria. While Ladoja could have been legally impeached simply for placing public funds in his private account, or for operating a foreign bank account, the lawmakers allowed greed and vaulting ambitions to override their sense of reasoning. They allowed themselves to be stampeded into making irrational decisions. It is either they knew and chose to ignore, or they were ignorant of the stipulations that made it mandatory for them to conduct all House businesses (especially a serious one like an impeachment) in the bowels of the House, not over liquor, beer and pepper soup at the D’Rovans hotel on Ring Road, Ibadan. They also were so much in a hurry that they forgot to impeach the pro-Ladoja Speaker first, elect a pro-Adedibu Speaker and then have the new Speaker lead the impeachment process as stipulated by the rules governing the House. Further, they excluded the 13 lawmakers in Ladoja’s camp (one was neutral), conjuring up memories of the 1979 infamous Awolowo vs Shagari’s12 2/3 mathematical summersault. Because 18 do not equal 2/3 of 32, the lawmakers “suspended” the pro-Ladoja 13. They then crudely reduced the House membership to 18 and based the impeachment process on it.
Impeachments are serious state affairs that must be given grave thought and carried out as a last resort. Lawmakers must exercise this particular power with extreme caution as they will be torpedoing the expressed will of the people they represent by impeaching a chief executive duly elected by the people. This is exactly why those that crafted our Constitution made it quite cumbersome to impeach a governor or president. Impeachments are supposed to be extra-ordinary measures designed to remove a chief executive that has committed extra-ordinary offences. Once a 2/3 majority of the House is satisfied that an extra-ordinary offence has been committed by the governor, the Speaker (not just any member) will ask the Chief Judge (not suspend a non-compliant Chief Judge and appoint a gullible one as they did in Ekiti State) to empanel a 7-person group made up of reputable citizens (not friends and family members of the embattled governor (as was sadly the case, again, in Ekiti State) to investigate. Once that panel confirms the allegations, the House (the full house, not a faction of it, as was the case in Oyo State) can then vote to impeach the governor.
Many of the lawmakers in Oyo State knew better. But because they received their marching orders from the Molete maestro, Baba Adedibu, they dared not question or cross him. They were each promised a brand new car. And a couple of months after Ladoia was impeached, Baba Adedibu handed over to each one of them the keys to a brand new Toyota Corolla car! Drooling from his mouth, one of the lawmakers opined that Ladoja did not “take care” of them like the new governor, Alao-Akala now did. Whoever initially doubted the source of the money used to purchase the cars was no longer in any doubt. It was the dawn of anomie in Oyo State. The lawmakers’ souls were sold.
And many public commentators like me shamelessly cheered the political debauchery by justifying the depraved and ignoble means by which a noble cause (the removal of an incompetent governor) was carried out.
Now thankfully, justices James Ogebe, Kumai Akaahs, Christopher Chukwuma -Eneh, Clara Ogunbiyi and Ja’afaru Mika’lu have given us the opportunity to redeem ourselves. We owe it a duty to our readers to admit our mistakes and laud those that have remained straight arrows in our society. Although I am no fan of Ladoja, who spent well over two years sleeping on duty as governor of a virile State like Oyo and picking acrimonies with every notable indigene of the State, I unabashedly admit that I should have come out sooner than now to decry the legislative acrobats that removed him. And I should have given him credit for walking away (rather than staying put like Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State) and saving the State from mayhem and possible declaration of the State of Emergency, the type now in force in Ekiti State.
What Alao-Akala should do now is respect the court’s decision by stepping down. Ladoja has become an elephant whose presence in Alao Akala’s living room is ignored at peril of anybody around. He should not allow Baba Adedibu to continue to goad him into plunging the State into pandemonium. Power is transient. Where, today, are all that have governed Oyo State before him? Even life itself is transient. May Adedibu remain in good health and live longer. But neither he, nor Alao-Akala, nor Ladoja, nor my humble self will live forever. Alao-Akala must place the greater good of the people of Oyo State over and above the lesser good of his cronies, sycophants and political godfather. He must allow his head to rule his heart by extending to Ladoja that hand of friendship he claims they enjoy, and together they can move the State forward.
President Obasanjo, the Inspector-General of Police, the Attorney General and all those that cried foul over the illegal impeachment of Fayose must give muscle to the new Ladoja ruling by making available to him the security detail, including his SSS attachment, that he needs to be able t
o resume his mandate. Failure to do this is tantamount to making mockery of the strides our judiciary is making toward independence, and the hope of the ordinary citizens that the courts will stand behind them like the rock of Gibraltar.