Obasanjo threatened to turn me to nobody – Ladoja
Former Oyo State Governor, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, spoke with journalists, as part of events to celebrate his 75th birthday. He reminisced his impeachment in 2006 when he was a governor, Nigeria’s 59th independence anniversary among other issues.
You’re 75 years old now, how has the journey been?
There are successes and failures, there are triumphs and disappointments. And on the long run, I Rashidi Ladoja will say that I’m grateful to God that I can claim more triumphs than disappointments. When you get to a stage in life, you ask yourself what is important, then it is not your successes and triumphs that are important but leaving the world better than you met it.
Nigeria will be 59 on October 1, how has the country fared?
I’m disappointed that we are where we are, where we cannot feed ourselves, and ensure quality education for our children again. When you see where Dubai (UAE) is now, see the Asian tigers (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan), you will ask your question why? There is nothing to celebrate.
As a businessman, did you experience disappointments?
Of course, there are disappointments because you expect certain things to go this way but due to factors that are not within your control, it could be a change in policy, you meet failures. You could think that you should go this way, and somebody would say you should go that way and you might have no choice but to go that way. So those are the things that can bring disappointments.
Share some examples
By now, I think Nigeria should be self-sufficient in food production; that is the most important thing to any human being after air and water. After that comes shelter. Are we self-sufficient? I’m not even talking of quality of food but availability. I mean, Nigerians are hungry today. If you look at it from the angle that Nigeria has got this vast land and we cannot exploit it properly.
That is disappointment; Nigeria has petroleum but cannot refine what the country uses with all the engineers that we have trained. Nowadays, I hear about the brain drain of doctors, which means you are training them for the world and not your own use. Disappointments about Nigeria and Africa are worse than I can think.
When you were Oyo State governor, you couldn’t manage Chief Lamidi Adedibu and he championed your impeachment, why?
I could manage him.
So what happened?
I, Ladoja managed him. Everybody knew that between me and Baba, we had a sort of good rapport. If Baba had views on six issues and I was able to take Baba out of the groove, by the time he came back, Baba might drop five for me. That was how close we were. During the campaign, the major crisis we had was the popular opinion that ‘Ladoja is good but will Adedibu allow him work?’ I used to say, I am a father and a grandfather. I have built my life, if I am elected, the buck stops on my table. You see, even if Baba was good, what about the people that surrounded Baba? On inauguration day, they went to pull down Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s statue in front of Government House; that was the first crisis we had. They took it to Baba’s place the same day. There was a finance board in Bodija, and the agreement was that the contractor would collect toll until their money was paid before they would turn it over to the government. Baba’s boys said the government that put it there had gone and that they were now in charge.
Then, some of Baba’s boys were going to Bola Ige International Market to collect protection fees from traders and in some cases, when you refused to pay, they broke into their shops. They were allocating spaces along the roads for people to be putting containers there and destroying the master plan. In some cases, some of Baba’s boys would go to the forest and arrest people and collect money from them. Sometimes, they harassed and imprisoned them in their homes. No sane government would allow such things to go on. So that was where we started having issues because most of Baba’s boys believed that they were in government, therefore there was no law.
So, it was not that I didn’t manage Baba. I know that Baba could talk but he could not disturb government work and it was the same Baba that would encourage them. So Baba just capitalised on this.
I have said it many times that 13 of Baba and (Otunba Christopher) Alao-Akala couldn’t have impeached me. The rule of impeachment is that you must have two-thirds majority in the House of Assembly and I knew there was no way I could have less than one-third. It opened the way for selfish people who just wanted money and there were so many negotiations, but there was one (thing) that actually made the impeachment possible, it was (Chief Olusegun) Obasanjo’s third term agenda. Obasanjo knew there was no way I would be around and the House of Assembly would pass an amendment to the constitution, allowing a third term for the President. That was why Ladoja had to go.
And I also made a mistake, maybe it was a mistake or maybe it wasn’t. I knew Obasanjo before I became Oyo State governor. I used to visit him in Ota after he left government and we were very close, so when I heard about third term agenda, I told Baba if it was true and he asked who told me. I said does it really matter who told me? I said it’s a question of whether it’s true. He said it was not true and I said thank God. And I said ‘Baba, I would have said maybe you don’t know God. I said God made it possible for you to be President for eight years and this is a Presidency you were not qualified for.’ He said, ‘not qualified, am I not a Nigerian or was I not of age’? I said ‘no, Baba, you know that in a democratic regime, presidency is meant for politicians and you are not a politician, they came to call you. I said there was a time you asked me what (Shehu Musa) Yar’Adua was looking for in government (and) what did he forget in the Government House? Secondly, with presidential system of government, you must have lots of your own money for election. You just came out of prison and had no money. And with all those minuses, God said you would be the President for eight years, let God be the one who would decide the next president.’ He said ‘thank you very much, I appreciate it.’
Didn’t you study his countenance to know he was not pleased?
I had said what I wanted to say. Yoruba people say if you and your friends talk in the room and come out with smiles on your faces, you have not told yourselves the truth. He knew I told him the truth and I was convinced I told him the truth. At the end of it, he also said he didn’t even ask for a third term, which is not true. He did. So when I got home in the evening, the then Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel, called and asked what I came to Ota to discuss with Obasanjo. I said I discussed third term agenda with him. He said ‘oh God, you have pinched Baba on his sore, Baba said he would turn you to nobody.’ I said ‘if God allows him’.
He said okay we are going to have council of state meeting in Abuja, please come early so that we can discuss and I can give you more details. So I went and he gave me all the details and asked me to apologise to Baba (Obasanjo) and I said I would go in the evening but when I went in the evening, (Otunba Johnson) Fasawe was there. Baba didn’t allow me talk. He said I have told you Ladoja, I will turn you to a nobody. He was going and Fasawe was running after him, trying to tell him he shouldn’t have said that and I answered him, if God permits you, sir.
It would not have mattered so much if I had not lost some of my staff members. We went to Abuja for something, we were returning home and we had an accident on the way. That dampened my spirit. Two brilliant young men with wives and children died; those were my political staff members. Three or four others that were civil servants also died. And when the thing got to that level, people and other governors that came said, Ladoja, we should go and beg Baba so we went on January 10, 2006, which happened to be Sallah day.
We decided to meet in Abeokuta; we didn’t take (Ayodele) Fayose along because he was Baba’s ‘son’; I, (Olusegun) Agagu, (Olagunsoye) Oyinlola and Daniel went to him. They knelt down so I had to kneel down too, Oyinlola is a very good orator, he presented a very brilliant case, Agagu supported him. Daniel and I didn’t talk. He said well, Ladoja, go and resign. I said no and asked why I should do that. He said if you don’t resign Ladoja, you will be removed. I said nobody can do it because they cannot get two-thirds and he said two-thirds my foot and got up. Daniel ran after him so three of us sat down and we were talking. Then Prince Bola Ajibola (SAN) came in and said what is wrong with you people, you are leaders in your own right. It is not every time that you run away from a fight. He said I had gone to see Segun to plead with him to leave you in peace because you have not done anything wrong. That in fact, everybody was praising your government, and that he also knew that they were praising my government, my education policy was good and I was not corrupt. I said thank you.
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People saw you as a weakling when you returned to office because in 2007, Alao-Akala got the governorship ticket of your party.
The judgment was given on December 7, 2006, which was a Thursday. I think they had their primary on December 9. I didn’t have the opportunity to take part in it and Baba didn’t want me to. That I knew because when the judgment came, I tried to get Obasanjo and he was not available. I spoke to the chief of staff who said thank God you called me, let there be no jubilation. I said what am I jubilating about, I had issued a statement that I was not the winner, the Nigerian constitution was the winner and that I would reconcile all parties. I said I was not coming back to fight. He said before the end of the day, he would make a statement.
After the Court of Appeal (judgment), the statement they made was that because the case was going to the Supreme Court, they should allow the Supreme Court to decide even though they knew that it was a declarative judgment. If not, we would have come back earlier than when we did. They went quickly to appeal.
The Supreme Court did not delay in the determination of the appeal. They decided it and said they were going to give reasons on January 12, which coincided with the day I was impeached. But when the judgment was given around 6pm, they said the Inspector General of Police should assist Ladoja to get back to his office, that they had accepted the judgment. When they said that, I now called Baba to say thank you very much for accepting the judgment.
He said, no Ladoja, don’t make a mistake, I only directed the IG to give you protection so that what happened to Funsho Williams would not happen to you. Don’t go back to office. I asked why. He said because the court was in the hands of Alao-Akala, they didn’t tell Alao-Akala to give the court back to Ladoja. If you want the court back, you have to go back to court. I said that’s alright sir. The following day (Chief Niyi) Akintola (SAN) was on AIT, saying, ‘Can you imagine the President saying this? The President is like an illiterate and this and that.’ The chief of staff called and said why did you have to tell your lawyer what you discussed with Baba? I said Baba told me I should go back to court; I don’t know how to go to court except through my lawyers.
While that one was happening, Baba was scheming that they should go to court and bring anything that looked like an injunction, even from the Customary Court, he would ask the IG to take action. That was why they went to High Court. When the court was rowdy, the judge said the status quo should remain. Alao-Akala said the status quo meant that he was in charge, but I said we have already taken over since the judgment was pronounced. I had already dissolved Alao-Akala’s cabinet and asked the permanent secretaries to take over. I didn’t need to get to the secretariat before I started giving orders but luckily it didn’t deteriorate because later on I was told that nobody knew what was wrong with Baba. Baba became very hostile and the establishment took over.
The IG gave instructions to the AIG, Tunji Alapinni, to come to Ibadan. Tunji called me and asked if I was on my way, I said no, I was still in Lagos. In fact, I had not even had my bath. He said he had been given order that by 12pm, if Alao-Akala didn’t leave the office, he should flush him out. Then I advised him, I said, ‘Don’t flush him out, call him and tell him that this is the order you have. He is a policeman too; he knows what it means when the IGP gives an instruction.’ That was why Alao-Akala quickly carried his load and left the secretariat.