A former governor of Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja, in this interview with journalists in Ibadan, the state capital, speaks on his controversial impeachment in 2006 and why he is supporting a candidate for the upcoming election in the state.
Atanda Adebayo of Premium Times brings excerpts from the encounter.
PT: A number of things were said against your government then.
Ladoja: Like what?
PT: They raised some allegations against you that you committed impeachable offences. Can you take us back into those things?
Ladoja: One of the things was that I was not sponsoring people for Hajj. But President Muhammadu’s government has also said that it is not desirable for government to continue to sponsor people for pilgrimage. Everybody knows religion is personal. If I sponsor people for Hajj, I must also sponsor people to Jerusalem. But we have a welfare system, a welfare board that takes care of the welfare of our people when they go to Hajj or when they go to Jerusalem, but we did not have Hajj sending committee. That was about the only thing, what else?
PT: But the panel eventually came out and said you were found to have committed impeachable offences and that legislators should go ahead with the impeachment.
Ladoja: One, they did not serve the impeachment notice on me. I read some in the papers. Don’t let us go into that one because the Chairman of that committee has come here to apologise.
PT: You mean the chairman of the impeachment committee, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde SAN?
Ladoja: Yes, my brother, Bolaji Ayorinde, has come here to apologise. And I am happy that he’s also going into politics now. I mean, he is the gubernatorial candidate of SDP, he was here a few days ago too. After his apology, he said that of all the governors that had served since 1999, he still finds out that our government is the best that was ever there.
PT: So it means he must have regretted his actions then?
Ladoja: He said he has come back to apologise. So, you see, people do certain things not necessarily because they believe in it, it’s because they are forced to do it. And human beings will continue being human beings. You know also the opposition’s he had from his colleague SANs. You know the SANs raised some eyebrows to say that he should be removed from the list of SANs and this and that, but that is bygone as far as I am concerned.
PT: Before you became the governor, your brother was the governor then, late Alhaji Lam Adesina. There were signs that you were going to be his successor then, but were there also signs then that you were going to run a turbulent government?
Ladoja: How do you say that there were signs that I was going to be his successor?
PT: I know that for sure because a section particularly workers in the state appeared fed up with him and besides, quite a lot of people prayed for you.
Ladoja: Look, I put everything into that contest. I mean I campaigned and they voted for me. So, where are the signs that they say I was going to be his successor? There was nothing like that. We only knew that there were some failures from his government which we capitalised on. Like awo o kaju ilu syndrome which literally means he was overwhelmed with what he met as governor. I don’t know what we did, maybe we stretched the awo (herd skin) so much that it was able to cover the face of the drum (ilu).
PT: As a serving governor with all the powers at your disposal, it is still difficult to understand why you were so easily impeached.
Ladoja: Because, you see, that impeachment was good for Nigeria. My impeachment was good for Nigeria because I challenged it. And it gave the opportunity for the Supreme Court to state clearly, to interpret the law clearly that this is the procedure for impeachment. And that has been the issue in the case of Obi (former Anambra State governor, Peter), in the case of Dariye (former Plateau State governor, Joshua). They just go to court and quoted that part of the law. You know lawyers like precedence? They say there was a precedence; Adeleke versus Inakoju and others in the impeachment of Senator Rashidi Ladoja, and once you quote it, that has been the direction forthwith.
PT: But many people say you are a weakling. That how would you be in government and allow these miscreants to take government over from you?
Ladoja: You see, what do you call a weakling? Is it somebody who believes in the rule of law or otherwise?
PT: But you were the Chief Security Officer of the state?
Ladoja: No, no no. Don’t make mistakes. That is just an appelation. The governor being the Chief Security Officer is not true. Who controls the police? Who controls the army? Who controls the SSS? So if you don’t have the power of coercion, so why are you deceiving yourself that you’re the Chief Security Officer? And do you know that the Commissioner of Police then, Abubakar, was removed. He was asked to come to Abuja to sit down while his deputy was put in charge. So, it’s not a question of being a weakling, it’s a question of this is the law. The law says that if you don’t have two-thirds, you cannot impeach. So, I take it as if you are playing football, if you are able to keep your opponents in the offside, you cannot score. I was able to keep them on offside, but the power that be, the almighty presidency, decided that Ladoja must go, not because of the failures of Ladoja, it was because of third term.
PT: What did third term get to do with you?
Ladoja: Because they felt that Ladoja is such a stubborn person that you cannot bend him; that he has principle. When the rumour of third term started, I went to confront the president, I said ‘Baba, I learnt that you want a third term, and he said no.’ I said ‘I thank God o, because I would have said ‘Baba you are not qualified for even the one you are doing.’ He said why? I said ‘Baba, you are not a politician, they came to call you, because when you were coming, we were even doubting whether you would accept because, you were asking what you forgot in the government house. Why do you want to become president again? That was your stand on issues concerning people who had ruled once and wanted to come back. So, nobody thought that you would be interested.’
PT: Did he ever say that to anyone?
Ladoja: Ahah, before, when Yar’adua was trying to become the president under SDP. He said what did Yar’adua forget in the government house? At the same time, he said Abiola was not the Messiah we expected. So, those are his thoughts. He didn’t know what Yar’adua forgot in the government house, so I said ‘We didn’t even know that you will be interested’. So we persuaded you. If you were to be president, you need to have tons and tons of money before people could support you, but you just came out of prison, you cannot be said to be buoyant at that time. People say that charity begins at home. At that time, you would not be able to win councillorship election in Abeokuta, and yet God said you are president for eight years, at least, you got the jackpot, because nobody in the history of Nigeria will beat your record. You were Head of State for three and a half years, president for eight years; that is eleven and a half years. So I told him why would he be interested in the third term, which he replied no.
PT: But when it now dawned on you that they were bent on removing you, did you go to complain to him?
Ladoja: We went, we went to see him on Ileya (sallah) day. We went there on the 10th of January, 2006 which was Ileya day.
PT: At Abuja or Abeokuta?
Ladoja: At Abeokuta. I, Oyinlola, Daniel and Agagu (at the time governors of Osun, Ogun and Ondo states), we went to see him and they said ‘Baba, you can prevent the impeachment’ and he said ‘Rashidi, go and resign’. I said no, I won’t resign. He said ‘Well, if you don’t resign, then you will be removed’. I said no, they can’t remove me. Because they cannot muster two-thirds of the members of the State House of Assembly to remove me. He said ‘two-thirds my foot, the Constitution my foot’.
PT: The Constitution he was supposed to uphold as the president?
Ladoja: Yes. He just rushed out of the room. So, three of us were still talking on what we were going to do do. Agagu was there, Oyinlola was there, I was there, asking what we were going to do. Then Prince Bola Ajibola, SAN, came in and he preached to us and we took solace in his preaching. Because he made us believe that we were leaders in our own right; that there are times that we have to stand and fight. He said the fight he was talking about is not the carrying of guns but go to court. It may be long and it may be expensive. He told us a story of Ijapa (tortoise), you know the story of Ijapa and Yanribo. He told us the story of ija fitafita, that we should go and ja fita fita, and that he believes that we will get redress. And that was soothing to us.
PT: Did Obasanjo tell you to go and meet Baba Lamidi Adedibu to sort yourself out, to avoid impeachment axe dangling on your head?
Ladoja: No, there was nothing like that. Not that way. When Baba (Adedibu) went to complain to him that Ladoja was not giving him money, the president advised that ‘Look (Rashidi), try to take care of Baba. I said ‘I’m taking care of him within my limit’, but he said ‘make sure you don’t give him money directly if you can, give it to him indirectly’.
PT: What is the meaning of that?
Ladoja: Well, you can go and ask him. You don’t want to take everything from my memoir now? So, I said ‘Well, Baba, giving to him indirectly is exposing myself to EFCC, so I was still doing what I believe I could handle’. But I don’t think that it is really money that made Baba to do that, it was really disagreement on principles. I frowned at the issue that Awolowo’s statute was brought down on the day of my inauguration. Awolowo’s statute was in front of the Government House and I frowned at. I queried the motive behind it; why it was brought down by Baba’s crew.
I frowned at that one. Secondly, most of Baba’s crew men believe that they were above the law; they will go to the toll gate at that time, and say the government that gave you work has changed, so we are now the ones controlling the toll gates. I said no, you can’t do that one. They will go to Gbagi and will be collecting protection fee, allocating container spots and distorting Gbagi’s original structure. I told them no, you cannot do all these ones. They will go to the forestry and be collecting money illegally from the foresters. So, they were doing all those things.
PT: Did you call them to order when you noticed all these?
Ladoja: I reported them to him (Baba). I found out that he could not call them to order, so I used government machinery to whip them into line; to call them to order.
PT: So that was how the problem started?
Ladoja: Yes. It was not really because of money, I think it’s more because ‘we’re in government and you (Ladoja) is not allowing us the influence that we expected that we would have’. Which was one of the problems during the campaign, when people said this man (Adedibu) will not allow you to work, and I told them that the buck will stop on my table. So, that’s it, it was not really money, Baba just used that as an excuse. I saw his complaint that was going on YouTube, whether he was entitled to one-third of the security vote. I don’t know who told him about security votes. People just have unreasonable notion about security vote.
PT: Baba said it, I saw that clip on YouTube too, that he was entitled to one quarter of security vote.
Ladoja: Where is the security vote? I don’t believe in security vote. Except there are issues with security. If there are no security challenges, why do I need to receive security vote?
PT: Did you not collect security votes as he claimed?
Ladoja: No, there was nothing like that. You see, when we took over, you remember there were lot of robberies then. So, we had to order for another 200 mobile policemen, which the state government was funding. That was the only security vote you can talk about. There’s nothing like ‘under the table security vote’ anywhere.
PT: Are you saying there’s nothing like N60 million every month you receive as security vote in your time?
Ladoja: No, there was nothing like that. I don’t know where he (Baba) got his figures but there was nothing like that.
PT: During your impeachment, is there anything like threat to your life, verbal or physical?
Ladoja: Of course, there were, but what do we do? God is our protector. And in fact, the issue was more serious during the impeachment. It was more serious during the impeachment because they said that it is he who is alive that will take advantage of judiciary decision to come back to office. So, it was important for me to keep alive so that I will take the benefits.
PT: You went underground?
Ladoja: I didn’t go underground. People who wanted to see me knew how to see me. People who wanted to see me, of course I said that what people can call a safe house in Lagos.
PT: So Tinubu felt concerned for you?
Ladoja: Yes, he felt concerned. Tinubu was very concerned about that impeachment issue. And he was very supportive, we were not in the same party at that time neither. I was in PDP, he was in AD, but that does not mean anything.
PT: Did you reach out to him or it was out of his free will?
Ladoja: Did he really need anybody to tell him. He knew what was happening, so we were in communication. He was asking ‘Egbon what’s happening?’ And I told him this was what was happening. And he said okay, ‘Egbon please, know that you have my support’. Recall we were in the Senate together, we were in the oil industry together, we were in the NADECO together. Till date, we’re still friends, irrespective of whether we are in the same party or we are not in the same party.
PT: Eventually, you got your victory back. You got your mandate. So how did you feel after the court reinstated you?
Ladoja: It was my finest hour. Because of the fact that I knew this will go into what the lawyers call ‘locus in quo’, and they are going to continue quoting it for life. That the case of Adeleke versus Inakoju, in the impeachment of Senator Ladoja. They will continue to quote it for life in Nigeria.
PT: People believe that your deputy then, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, your brother that you handpicked to be your running mate, betrayed you?
Ladoja: Yes, human beings are human beings. Whether he betrayed me or not, he was supposed to be the beneficiary. So, maybe he thought that if they succeeded in removing Ladoja, they could also remove him. So, maybe that was why he was being smart to say that ‘I’m on your side o’.
PT: You have been relating over the years, have you talked about it?
Ladoja: No, we have not talked about that. Yes, we’ve been relating over the years but what is there to discuss on that one again? Judgment has been done, so, what is it? And again, he was not even there when I came back.
PT: But you said impeachment panel chairman, Chief Ayorinde, came here few days ago to apologise?
Ladoja: Yes, he came here a few days ago. He came here a few days ago, not to apologise. He had come here more than two years ago, to come and apologise. Prince Dotun Oyelade brought him.
PT: Do you believe Akala could have done a similar thing?
Ladoja: We human beings are different from one another. Our consciences are different. Some people have no conscience, some people have conscience. So, I think Ayorinde’s conscience did not allow him to rest.
PT: You were doing a number of programmes then that promised better lives for the masses. Those things were disrupted. How did you feel when you got back to office?
Ladoja: All those things you can call our legacies are gone, 30 pupils per class. It seemed it was utopian, something that was unattainable. Whereas we achieved it in two years. We paid salaries on time, because I can’t understand the reason why people will say we thank the governor for paying our salaries. What job has he got than to pay the salaries? When a government signed a contract with his workers that if you work for me for 30 days, I will pay you your money. And you now failed to pay, you have breached the contractual agreement. First month, you failed to pay, second month you failed to pay and you will now expect miracles? You failed to give schools their normal running cost, and you are now saying that results are bad, why should results not be bad? Results should be bad, because if you fail to do your own part of the job that you yourself gave yourself. I have this staff, I must pay them and you failed, why are you now expecting miracles from workers? So, this is the situation.
So, everything depends on the performance of the government vis-a-vis its workers, vis-a-vis other contacts you take. In most cases, they assumed that people can just treat agreement with levity. Those people have got letters of appointments that they are employed and they will be paid monthly. And then, you don’t pay them. So, that’s the situation, that’s why I cannot understand when people are saying governance is difficult. Governance is not difficult, particularly if you love the people, your intention will be to satisfy the generality of the people. So, that is actually what shaped my political life. And that is why I tried but I didn’t get it, and I will continue to strive for a government that will be good to the people. And that is what also leads us to be backing Sharafadeen Abiodun Alli, the Zenith Labour Party gubernatorial candidate because he was trained by me. He was my SSG, he was my chief of staff. So, those are the things that shaped my life. But you see, the issue of impeachment, it’s only then that you will know that there are politicians and there are politicians. People say that failures have no friends, those people that are wining and dining with you, who are looking up to you, you will just find out that they will vamoose. And as soon as you overcome in your case, they will surface again.
But all said and done, being on the side of the people is keeping me going in politics. Because I felt that governance is not difficult if you love your people. So, we have the 30 pupils per class, we have the LAUTECH emerging as the best state-run university and fifth best when public and state institutions were ranked during our time. We had the plastic plant, where are they? So when you look at how far, where we left the factories is where it is up till now. So we understand that there should be continuity in what Ladoja did in government and Sharafadeen will take on from there.
PT: What problem do you think Nigeria’s democracy have?
Ladoja: Most of the people in politics don’t really know why they are there. They don’t know that politics is service. They think that it is a job. It’s not a job, it’s a service, because there is no way they can pay you for what you are putting in. So, if you really want to do the work, then you have to know that you are going in for service. But most of our people see it as job. Some people see it as running after their ego. Some people just see the glamour of the office, they don’t have the mind of what they are even going there to do. They just know that ‘I want to be governor, I want to be going about with convoy’. If you leave office, what is going to become of you? And some people do because they want to be merchants. They want to own this or that which ordinarily they would not be able to do by their legitimate works.
PT: Before you came on board as governor you were living here, and after the office, you still came back here.
Ladoja: I didn’t have one block on something when I was in government. Even in Samonda, I have one plot there, I haven’t even developed it up till now. When we were selling about seven hundred quarters, I bought only one, which Akala has taken from me.
PT: Where is that one?
Ladoja: 361, Quarter 361.
PT: Do you have anything that you can say these are the things that I accumulated?
Ladoja: Do I need to? Can I sleep in two rooms? I have houses where I needed them. I have house in Lagos where I can go. When I was frequenting London, when my children were studying there, I had house there in 1984 or 86. So, what do I want to? God is in charge.
PT: When you were reinstated by the Supreme Court, many people thought that you would go after those who betrayed you, and take revenge for their actions against you, but you didn’t feel like.
Ladoja: You see, when the Supreme Court pronounced their judgment, which was on the 7th of December, 2006, I made a radio and television statement that this is not a victory for Ladoja, it is not defeat for the other party, it is just a victory for democracy, and that democracy is the winner. And that this will now show that democracy actually is a game that has got rules. You play by the rules, and you are alright. You play against the rule, you are fouled.