At his 48th birthday ceremony recently, Lagos State commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Dr. Adebayo Adewusi, told his audience:“I came to Ibadan after leaving it some 28 years ago. I went through all the familiar places and in 28 years, nothing has changed. I was almost weeping. What that tells us is that nothing has really changed in the government of our state.” He then promised his listeners that because “we can not allow this to continue … that is why some of us have donated ourselves to do something about the hopelessness of our situation…”
Dr Adewusi might as well have extrapolated his disappointment to include his home town of Eruwa, or Ogbomosho, Oyo, Lanlate, Igboho, Oke Ogun, Fiditi and so on, because, in 28 years, none of those cities and towns has changed much. Under successive inept, corrupt and barbaric military and civilian governments, Oyo State has regressed rather than progressed.
Since Dr. Adewusi used Ibadan as an example for the entire State, let us stay with the city for a minute. When I lived in the Orita-Challenge area of Ibadan between 1983 and 1988, there was no pipe-borne water in the entire community. Back then “pure water” was a rare source of potable water. Privately-owned and operated water tankers sold water to those households that could afford it. Those that could not afford it settled for well water. Today, 23 years later, there still is no pipe-borne water in Orita-Challenge. You can say the same for Felele, Apata, Orita-Merin, Idi Arere, Oja-‘Ba and a host of other areas where water used to run, but now lack water due to governmental neglect. For those who do not know Ibadan very well, the Olubadan palace is located in Oja’Ba, and water does NOT run anywhere around Oja’ba.
In Isale Osi area, there is a particular stretch of water pipe that has stuck out of the ground since I was a young boy.I recognize the various dents and bents on the pipe from the days that we played football around it about 35 years ago. You can imagine the amount of rust and corrosion inside that pipe. Of course, that community does not have water either, and even if it does, it would be unhealthy to drink anything coming out of that pipe.
In October of 2005, I visited an elementary school at Molete, just around the corner from Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu’s residence. I also visited one at Bode (can’t remember their names now). Both schools stood out in their awesome states of dilapidation. Windowless, chair-less, desk-less, and in some cases even teacher-less, the schools looked like something out of Somalia. Remember Government College and Queens School in Ibadan? Anybody who is somebody in Ibadan today went to either of those schools for his/her secondary education, or wished they did. They were the toast of many academically-inclined students in the 50s, 60s and 70s. A drive past these two institutions today would bring you close to tears.
So, when Adewusi used the occasion of his birthday to address the palpable state of neglect and disrepair of Oyo State, and vowed to do something about it, he got the attention of many people. And this early in the race, he has managed to convince former governor Dr. Omololu Olunloyo and business mogul Azeez Arisekola to support him. The significance of Olunloyo and Arisekola is not lost on keen political minds of Oyo State. Both men are influential sons of Ibadan whose withdrawal of support from Ladoja contributed immensely to Adedibu’s successful removal of the former governor. Had Richard Akinjide, Olunloyo, Arisekola and other eminent Ibadan sons and daughters not been disappointed by Ladoja’s mediocre political and administrative antennas, Adedibu, feared as he was, could have met his political waterloo in his quest to remove the former governor.
In what appears as a deft political move, Adewusi has also managed to secure the backing of many traditional rulers, most of whom are not even from his original local government area. The biggest catch, of course, is the venerable Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi.
Apart from these influential persons, there are scores of other powerful people and institutions that are already warming up to Dr. Adewusi. Could it be because of his relative youthfulness at 48? Could it be because of his sound education? Could it be because of his proven record of outstanding performance as commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning in Lagos State? Or could it be because the man talks like he knows what is going on and comes across as sincere?
Until Adewusi threw his hat in the ring, the same old names had been bandied about as possible candidates – incumbent governor Alao-Akala, former governor Ladoja, former protégé of Alhaji Adedibu, Yekini Adeojo, former military governor Raji Rasaki (of the ‘who build this gada’ fame) and Honorable Babatunde Oduyoye of the House of Reps. There was also talk that the current deputy-governor, Hazeem Gbolarumi, might be installed by his god-father, Baba Adedibu.
But this pool of possible candidates is filled with wounded or damaged fish. And like a hungry shark, Adewusi has smelled blood and he is moving in for the kill. Adewusi knows that although deputy-governor Gbolarumi is an Ibadan indigene, he is not too far from being a stark illiterate. The man’s highest Western education is the Ordinary Level General Certificate of Education (GCE) with horrible grades. The authenticity of that certificate is even in doubt. Gbolarumi, a financial paper weight and political paper tiger, was Adedibu’s consigliere until Ladoja’s “impeachment.” That cleared the way for Ladoja’s former deputy, Alao-Akala to become governor. Adedibu then forced Gbolarumi on then hapless Alao-Akala. So, with no education, no clout, and just little money, it is doubtful that Gbolarumi can muster any energy to threaten anyone.
Honorable Oduyoye is arguably the longest shot for the governorship position. As you can probably tell from his last name, he is an Ijebu man. The Ijebu people belong in Ogun State and Oduyoye’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather are Ijebu. But “Babs” as he is fondly called, was raised (and probably born) in Ibadan. An alumnus of the University of Ibadan, Oduyoye is loved by the detribalized people of Ibadan who have voted for him repeatedly to represent them in the House of Representatives. But would the entire Oyo State vote for an indigene of another State to govern them? It is doubtful. Also, would Oduyoye remain in the nearly moribund AD or would he decamp?
Raji Rasaki definitely has the money to run, but he does not have the clout in Oyo State. The people of Oyo State (and Nigeria as a whole) are beginning to deride ex-military rulers, especially those who are coming back to hold the same positions they held when they were in uniform. Although he is also an Ibadan man, Rasaki (or anybody for that matter) can not count on the Ibadan people to throw their support behind him just because he is one of them.
Of all the potential candidates, Yekini Adeojo probably cuts the most pathetic image. He had spent his relatively meager earnings in buying Adedibu’s support during the PDP primaries that eventually saw the emergence of Ladoja as governor in 2003.Adedibu had promised him the seat, but when Ladoja showed up with a bigger “Ghana Must Go” bag and a jeep to boot, Adedibu reneged. And as an Ibadan man, Adeojo could not secure the deputy-governor position since Ladoja was also from Ibadan, hence Alao-Akala from Ogbomosho. This obviously was the genesis
of the rift between Adeojo and Adedibu. By the time that Ladoja was “impeached” and Alao-Akala became governor, Adeojo was no longer friends with Adedibu, and therefore could not have been installed as deputy-governor. Adeojo has since moved to Abuja where he is chasing all kinds of contracts in the hope of amassing enough wealth to run in 2007. Although he has name recognition in Oyo State, Adeojo does not have much clout. He, too, is former military.
Former governor Rashid Ladoja has grown enough chutzpah to run again, largely because he still feels that he was unjustly removed as governor the last time. And quite understandably, he thinks that he has a score to settle with Adedibu once he gets re-elected as governor. Ladoja has money and name recognition. Although many people sympathized with him when he was “impeached,” many also thought that he lacked charisma, vision and conviction.
The most intriguing candidacy is that of current governor, Alao-Akala. The man is the first to tell you that he did not have any ambition to become governor; that had Ladoja not been impeached, he would never have sought the post; that fate thrust him in the seat, and that he would be content to go back to Ogbomosho on the completion of his term in 2007. His coterie of advisers think though that he can muster enough clout, garner enough money and convince the people of the State to vote for him. But it is an open secret now in Oyo State that Alao-Akala, despite the multi-million dollar Mapo Hall renovation contract that he awarded to Adedibu through his children, has fallen out of favor with the so-called strongman of Ibadan politics. Reliable sources close to Adedibu’s Molete residence say that the old man has always considered Alao-Akala a parvenus, and never intended to support him for another term. Having read Adedibu’s body language, Alao-Akala now has a huge decision to make: ostracize and alienate Adedibu and then contest the election without his support, or take stock of his gains and go home.
For now, one thing is clear: the buccaneerish Lamidi Adedibu does not have a dog in the gubernatorial fight of 2007. Not yet, at least. With Adewusi running rings around Adedibu, Alao-Akala skeptical of Adedibu, Ladoja and Adeojo estranged with Adedibu, the marginalization of the Molete maestro seems to have begun in earnest. Soon, he will be like a fish out of water, gasping for political air to breathe. Hopefully, these candidates would have enough strength and courage to stand up to Pa Adedibu, stand on their own feet and fight a fair fight for the governor’s office. Any one of them that is considering enlisting the support of Adedibu must be prepared to wear the Albatross around his neck for the duration of his term. You can’t use Adedibu and then dump him just like that. It is a lesson that Ladoja learned painfully too late.