The alliterative Yoruba adage – agbalagba kii se langba-langba – (an elder does not denigrate himself), aptly captures the lesson that Baba Adedibu, the actual governor of Oyo State, in case you did not already know, should have imbibed since the early ’50s when he started to actively participate in politics. Back then, Baba was the fist of other politicians’ furies, used and misused to literally punch their opponents in the face. Today, Baba remains the dutiful appendage of others (governor Alao-Akala’s in particular), used time and again to settle scores and fulfill back-stabbing agendas. This, of course, is a classic marriage of convenience. Baba wanted a governor that would “manage” him very well since Ladoja would not do it. And Alao-Akala, a self-professed expert at “management” wanted to become governor. In Oyo State therefore, it is difficult to ascertain today who really is in charge. Is the tail wagging the dog, or the dog wagging the tail?
Just a few days ago, after the Court of Appeals nullified the impeachment of former governor Rashid Ladoja, Baba marshaled his forces (they call him the garrison commander of Ibadan, you know), and led them through the length and breadth of Ibadan. Like tornadoes, they destroyed everything in their path. Innocent lives were feared dead and properties worth millions of naira belonging to private citizens were damaged or destroyed. A couple of days prior, his former lieutenant, Hazeem Gbolarumi, now the unfortunate deputy-governor of Oyo State, led another brigade of rampaging hoodlums through Ibadan, armed with charms, horsewhips, machetes, cutlasses, Dane guns, handguns, full-automatic and semi-automatic riffles, and drove the fear of tin god Adedibu into the hearts of the people of Ibadan. This was reminiscent of the ignoble wetie days when people’s homes and properties were doused with gasoline and set on fire.
Reacting to these barbaric acts, former governor of Oyo State, Lam Adesina, whose properties were among those destroyed, called on Adedibu to put the leash back on his rabid dogs, reminding Baba that “Ibadan belongs to all of us.” Adesina wondered aloud if an anarchical Ibadan was the legacy that Adedibu wanted to leave for posterity at his ripe age of 79.
Although Lam Adesina spoke for all the peace-loving Ibadan indigenes, his lamentation came a day late and a naira short. Baba Adedibu’s Iroko tree of pandemonium has been left untrimmed for far too long. Now, it has grown too wild for anybody to tame. Where was Adesina when the PDP national chairman, Ahmadu Ali, described Ibadan as a “garrison” and Adedibu its “commander”? Adesina and the rest of the notable sons and daughters of Ibadan sat on their hands, content to play the second-fiddle role to a man who will sell his soul and those of his brethren for a bowl of Amala. Adedibu has reigned as the chief fomenter of chaos in Ibadan for quite some time now. And Lam Adesina knew it. When Adesina was a poor teacher and a columnist of the Nigerian Tribune living at his modest place of abode in Felele in Ibadan, he knew who ruled Molete. When Omololu Olunloyo, another former governor of Oyo State and an indigene of Ibadan was in charge (if only for four months before the Buhari coup) he also knew who ruled Molete. In fact, Olunloyo’s residence and “Government House”, (as he refused to live at the official Government House in Agodi), was and still is located at Molete, a mere 10 minutes walk to Adedibu’s den. Did these former chief executives not know that Baba was the chief architect of anarchy in Ibadan?
Yes, Ibadan belongs to all of us. But too many of us (sons and daughters of Ibadan) have sat on our hands for too long while Baba Adedibu and his goons literally rode roughshod over parts of Ibadan, maiming people, destroying properties and holding the city hostage. We have allowed ourselves to be defined by the rustic antics of Adedibu – antics that ought to have been consigned to the waste baskets of the ’60s when raw hooliganism and political fascism complimented each other. Many of us (including myself), being well-raised Yorubas, with etiquette and respect for elders ingrained in us since childhood, have allowed our awe of some of our elders to override our sense of reasoning. We have failed to tell the truth to power. Ibadan people, from time immemorial, have not been known to hold their tongues. We tell it as we see it, no matter whose ox is gored.
And so, here is telling Baba Adedibu the bitter truth: by virtue of his position as the Ekarun Olubadan (the fifth in line for the throne of Olubadan), his (mis)behavior has been a monumental disgrace, not only to the exalted stool to which he aspires, but to the people over whom he would reign should he live long enough to occupy the palace at Oja’ba. Baba Adedibu has carved for himself an ignominious territory – Molete and its environs – within Ibadan, even as he is not yet the substantive Olubadan. And successive governors of Oyo State and Olubadans have cowardly ceded that territory to him. When Baba moves out of his enclave, everything from Isale-‘jebu to Challenge and from Oke-Ado to Yejide comes to a standstill. As his vandalistic entourage goes through the city, the poor and hapless people in its path scamper for safety. Those that are unable to get out of the way are beaten, axed, robbed and in some cases killed in broad daylight.
At the Molete motor park, private operators of commercial vehicles are forcibly conscripted into his “army” and their vehicles hijacked for use whenever Baba Adedibu wants his presence felt in Ibadan. At the motor park, his thugs can be found brandishing handguns, charms and machetes, as they loiter around smoking marijuana in the open. Occasionally, a detachment of the police is stationed on the ASAS hotel side of the Molete overpass, ostensibly to keep an eye on the thugs. And that is exactly what they do. They keep an eye on the thugs as they rape young women that have the misfortune of passing through Molete. Molete has become such a dreadful place that many people would rather take a long detour through College Crescent and Anfani Layout instead of risking contact with the Adedibu boys. And Governor Adedibu, sorry Alao-Akala, a retired police officer with unlimited access to the senior echelon of the Oyo State police command has, like the proverbial ostrich, buried his head in the sand pretending to not know what is going on in Molete.
Before any of Baba’s apologists responds to this piece, let me make it clear that my Molete account is from first-hand experience. I hang around Molete a lot and have a business venture in the area. I know what I am talking about. And before any of them chatises me for being so uncharitable toward such an elderly person, let me also make it clear that Baba’s behavior is mortgaging my future, the future of my children and the future of my grand-children as bonafide indigenes of Ibadan. Baba does not (and should not) have the monopoly of “citizenship” of Ibadan. And finally, I am not oblivious of the inherent danger (of physical harm to me) that criticizing Baba portends. But somebody has to bell this monstrous cat. I embrace that responsibility.
Because of Adedibu’s greed and “fine bara” proclivity, some members of Alao-Akala’s administration who are non-indigenes of Ibadan have joked that the government needed to not spend any more money on Ibadan since Baba had collected for his personal use all that was due Ibadan. And in the wake of the fresh fracas occasioned by the reversal of former governor Ladoja’s impeachment, one senior member of Alao-Akala’s administration boasted to me that Ibadan would not know peace unless Adedibu was no more. While I do not wish an untimely death on Baba, it is difficult to sit around and watch such an elderly man drag his name and the rest of us through the mud of asinine poli
It is quite unfortunate that a city imbued with so many eminent and pre-eminent personalities has sub-contracted its future out to such an entity. It is doubly unfortunate that a State that was once governed by towering figures like Bola Ige and Omololu Olunloyo is now governed by a usurper who wants to govern at all costs through a stolen mandate. It is unfortunate that in the year of our Lord 2006, Baba Adedibu, accompanied by a senior member of Alao-Akala’s administration and their thugs, invaded the premises of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Ibadan, where a director was dragged by her armpit downstairs to a waiting Adedibu. Adedibu then unleashed on her his usual tirade and threats. Her offense: She had the audacity to allow her station to broadcast the decision of the Court of Appeals in the Ladoja case. The NTA, by the way, is owned by the Federal Government. Adedibu and Alao-Akala knew that they could not fire or re-assign her, hence the physical assault and vituperations meted to her.
But some staffers of the state-owned Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) were not as lucky. For broadcasting the story, they were re-assigned to other sectors of the government where they would have nothing to do with news reporting. How in the world could staffers of the NTA, BCOS, or of any news organization in Nigeria justify blackening out such an important story? That would be the height of self-censorship.
Whoever advised Alao-Akala to embark on the intimidation of media personnel has ill-served the governor. Whoever it is (and this could very well be the governor’s own idea) has no sense of history. The media will always out-last the governor. A few weeks ago, some journalists in Ibadan sent a petition to president Obasanjo informing him of the direct threats to their lives from the Adedibu/Alao-Akala camp. A deputy editor with Thisday newspaper based in Lagos has received open threats to his life, and has received many phone calls and letters promising him death whenever he visits Ibadan, his home town, for daring to publish stories critical of the government of Adedibu and Alao-Akala. Oyo State has truly gone to the dogs.
In this Adedibu/Alao-Akala administration are university graduates and graduates of other institutions of higher learning, some of them having participated in student union politics and anti-government demonstrations during the military era of Ibrahim Babangida and before. In this administration, at least one senior member lived abroad for years (in the UK) until immediately preceding the eve of his appointment and was a robust critic of poor government. What has happened to these people who joined governments to make changes only to be changed by governments? They now find themselves orchestrating and defending the indefensible. How could anybody who had himself practiced journalism before joining government now justify the invasion of a media house and the rough-handling of senior executives for doing their jobs? Where have decorum and civility gone in Oyo State?
Thankfully, the Supreme Court will begin hearing the Adedibu/Alao-Akala appeal on November 21. Hopefully, it will accelerate its hearings and render judgment one way or the other as fast as possible, because, justice delayed is justice denied. And if that judgment does not favor the Adedibu/Alao-Akala group, the Federal government better be prepared to place Adedibu on house arrest and shut down Molete for a while. No individual should be above the law.