The Price of Pride


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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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The Price of Pride




Wole Adeyemo


Rashidi Ladoja, governor of Oyo State, is impeached after losing a battle against his political mentors, still his travails may just have begun.



culled from TELL Magazine, January 17, 2006


He was supposed to be at the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan receiving guests last Tuesday during the Eid-el-Kabir celebration. But Rashidi Ladoja, a Muslim and then governor of Oyo State, went to Abeokuta, Ogun State to confer with President Olusegun Obasanjo. He went in company of his four colleagues in the South-west zone elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. His mission was to prevail on Obasanjo to intervene in the feud between him and Lamidi Adedibu, his estranged godfather. But by the time the meeting rose, it was apparent that the move was a belated exercise. While he was running around to save his job, the 'opposition' was screening candidates for the post of deputy governor. The name that tops the list of three is that of a legislator who played a prominent role in the impeachment exercise. Two of the criteria used are that he must be a Muslim and an indigene of Ibadan

Not even a last-ditch effort on Wednesday, when the President visited Pa Emmanuel Alayande, leader of Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, could save the situation. Obasanjo reportedly told Pa Alayande “Baba, please advise Rashidi to resign

latest by this evening, so that he would be saved from impeachment by the lawmakers.” That was not the first time he was getting that advice. Lam Adesina, his precedessor, had told him to resign. The embattled governor who was with the President during that visit did not heed the advice. What he desperately wanted was for him to be allowed to keep his job. But he is believed to have dug his own grave. Alayande said when he pleaded with Bode George, PDP deputy national chairman, South-wes,t and Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State to prevail on Obasanjo, they told him that Ladoja had compounded his problem by not honouring previous invitations by the President to resolve the issue. Ladoja failed to read the writing on the wall until the investigative panel headed by Bolaji Ayorinde, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, wound up sitting last Monday.

Daniel reported Obasanjo as saying, at the Abeokuta meeting, that “it would be difficult for him to intervene at the (level of) judicial process because he would not want to truncate the judicial process in the course of democracy.”

Before the arrival of the President in Ibadan that day, there was a gradual build-up of armed security men around the state government secretariat, Agodi, Ibadan. The security men were to bar civilian workers from entering the secretariat on Thursday morning. While they were doing that, the 18 pro-impeachment legislators held a session at the Parliament Building during which they adopted the report of Ayorinde’s panel, and passed a motion for Ladoja’s impeachment. The whole exercise took 25 minutes. The report found the former governor guilty of nine charges out of the 14 preferred against him. The panel submitted that he is guilty of illegal diversion of the local government allocation from excess crude oil reserve, attack on lawmakers, and undermining the integrity of lawmakers and the judiciary. He was also indicted for disregard for separation of powers and purchase of 33 graders at the sum of N700 million without going through Tender’s Board in violation of Section 192 (2 and 3) of the Local Government Systems Law of 2001.

For Ladoja, it is just the beginning of a crisis, the end of which is not visible yet. The panel recommended further investigation on charges of maintaining and operating a foreign account and having a conflict of interest for retaining his position as a director of Standard Trust Bank, STB (now United Bank for Africa, UBA) while he was governor of the state. It also recommended further investigation into the allegation of inflation of contracts and dereliction of duty.

The fear of life after office probably prompted Ladoja to rush to Abeokuta last week. But even his brother governors were not optimistic that what they were embarking on was a profitable venture. Before then, two attempts by the governors to mediate between Ladoja and Adedibu were allegedly frustrated by the former governor. The governors had held a meeting with Ladoja in Ibadan, after which they offered to accompany him to Adedibu. The impeached governor reportedly told them that he would see the old man. But Adedibu said he never visited. Then at another meeting in Akure, Ondo State capital, the other governors also muted the idea of accompanying Ladoja back to Ibadan, so they could talk the matter over with Adedibu. Again, the former governor reportedly frustrated that move. He allegedly told the other governors that the old man took ill and had to be rushed to London on the bill of the state government. They later learnt that the claim was false.

The efforts of the governors at making peace came after Ladoja rebuffed a peace initiative by the President. After reportedly refusing to honour telephone calls from Obasanjo, the former governor finally went to him, pleading for his intervention. But the same governor simply declined to implement resolutions of the peace meeting presided over by Obasanjo at the Ota farm house of the President. So, as the revalidation exercise of the PDP drew near, the gulf between the governor and Adedibu widened. He also did not endear himself to the President, who suspected that he had allegiance to Atiku Abubakar, the Vice President.

Ladoja also frittered away the goodwill he might have had with the elite, when he reportedly snubbed two members of a four-man peace committee which comprised Azeez Arisekola-Alao, Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland; Richard Akinjide, Second Republic federal attorney-general; Lekan Are, a prominent Ibadan leader; and Funso Alabi, a Lagos-based businessman. The group had planned to meet with the governor, his wife, Adedibu and President Obasanjo at different times. They had held successful meetings with the woman and Adedibu. But by the time they got an appointment with the governor, he reportedly requested an all-Ibadan indegenes' meeting. Of the four, Alabi is the only one who is not from Ibadan. Though Ladoja agreed to a peace meeting which was to have involved Adedibu, he was said to have insisted that none of the mediators should be a politician. The only politician in the group is Akinjide. Shortly before he gave that condition, Ladoja reportedly turned down Akinjide's request for a private meeting.

Could it be that he was not aware of the sword dangling on his head? One of his political associates said he was hinted of plans to impeach him five months ago. But rather than take it seriously, he dismissed it. He said, “When I told him that 'Oga they are planning to impeach you,' he just dismissed it as rumours peddled by idle minds.” The source also said that Ladoja further compounded his problem with his “contempt for legislators.” The associate said in Ibadan last week: “The governor would not stoop to conquer. For instance, he waved aside advice that he should court legislators and Baba Adedibu’s lieutenants if he must succeed in isolating Baba. He said No.” But Adeolu Adeleke, Speaker of the House, does not share the view that Ladoja was contemptuous of legislators. He said he sold the idea of constituency project so his colleagues would have a sense of belonging and the governor agreed.

Another political ally who fell out with Ladoja alleged that the man is stingy, reading pecuniary reasons into every suggestion for him to buy political support. According to him, it was the unwillingness to spend money that contributed to the former governor’s refusal to buy two vehicles for Adedibu as resolved in a meeting with Obasanjo. The same reason also accounts for his refusal to warm up to the legislators and give patronage to party leaders like Adedibu who assisted him during party primaries in 2002 and elections in 2003.

Until the last minute, Ladoja did not believe that he could be impeached. He appeared to be the only one who did not see beyond his nose. One of his senior aides had started packing out of his official residence two weeks before the bubble burst. But the former governor relied on the legality of the matter. His counsel must have given him the confidence that there would be compliance with the injunction restraining Afolabi Adeniran, the acting chief judge, from setting up the investigation panel. Few hours after the impeachment, Mistura Bolaji-Yusuf of an Ibadan high court described the inauguration of the panel as illegal, and ruled that all its actions were null and void. The judge was not happy that the counsel to Adeniran, Akintola Ladipo, could not honour his undertaking that the CJ would suspend action until the final determination of the suit before the court. Adeniyi Akintola, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, had filed the suit on behalf of three lawmakers to stop the CJ from constituting the panel. The inauguration of the panel was done secretly and the CJ made no public appearance throughout its sitting. But the man was on hand last Thursday to swear in the new governor. That, perhaps, is why Adeleke said, “The CJ acted on a script.” He said apart from the court case, there were enough grounds to persuade them not to continue with the process. The Speaker restated objections to some members of the panel who are set to be politicians, among whom are those with established opposition to Ladoja. So, why did the governor’s men not swing into action before the impeachment process began? The problem, they said, is the governor's alleged lethargy.

The impeached governor is said to have always told anybody who advised him to take steps at neutralising plans for his impeachment that the people of the state for whom he was devoting his time were capable of protecting his mandate. But this confidence might have been misplaced because opponents say Ladoja's administration does not have an enviable record of performance. Adedibu said, "What did he do in terms of development? He didn't do anything." That may account for why he could not successfully suppress alleged political jobbers and godfathers like two of his colleagues in the South-east did. Chris Ngige, governor of Anambra State, won the people to his side despite conflict with his godfather, Chris Uba, and a controversial election. Before him, Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State had, politically speaking, run Jim Nwobodo, his political mentor, out of town. Contrary to that belief, the only audible protest in Ibadan last week was from the Bar.

Lawyers announced a three-day boycott of Adeniran’s court, for setting up the panel in violation of a court order. Niyi Adegbola, chairman of the local Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, told a press conference in Ibadan: “The NBA hereby resolves to boycott the proceedings in the court of the acting chief judge for three consecutive days – 12th, 13th and 16th January, 2006.” The lawyers also resolved to boycott subsequent proceedings of Ayorinde’s panel. However, the action of the lawyers is not motivated by political reasons. A lawyer said in Ibadan last week that the concern of the NBA was the abuse of the rule of law by the man who heads the judiciary in the state.

Adeleke, who heads the group of 14 legislators supporting the governor, said justice was being stood on its head. He said, shortly before the impeachment, “The way they are going about it I am not sure we can get justice.” He expressed surprise that court orders were being flouted by the judge and a senior lawyer heading the panel. That is an irony of fate. Ladoja himself flouted a series of orders from the court which confirmed victory at the poll for Joshua Akintaro, candidate of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, who won election as chairman of Ibarapa East Local Government. Instead of complying with court order, Ladoja installed an administrator.

The same Ladoja relied on the sanctity of the constitution which says that even if the governor is found guilty, the legislature requires two-thirds of its members to endorse the report. The governor’s camp was confident that the opposition which has 18 of the 32 members on its side would not be able to pull it through. Unknown to them, the trump card of the opposition is that the suspended seven of the 14 members who are opposed to the impeachment move clears the road for them. Adedibu said that the suspension, confirmed by the court, put the legal strength of the House of Assembly at 25. Oluyemi Taiwo, who presided at the proceedings, said, "The House recognises 25 members. And 17 is the two-thirds of that number… So, we are not acting against the constitution."

Therefore, working under tight security, the 18 legislators met and impeached the governor after Eesuola Babatunde summarised the report of the investigative panel. Ayorinde Abiola, majority leader, moved the motion for impeachment. It was seconded by Olu Oyeleye, after which Taiwo, deputy Speaker (who is acting as Speaker), declared the governor’s office vacant, thereby paving the way for Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala, deputy governor, to step in as Ladoja’s successor.

However, there were fears last week that there could be plans already to move against Alao-Akala. Some people are said to be compiling reports of his wrongdoings with a view to impeaching or blackmailing him to resign from office before the end of the year. Alao-Akala went underground when the impeachment process against his boss reached a boiling point. This fuelled rumours that he deserted the former governor. He said at his inauguration that he did not struggle for the job. But the same man represented Ladoja at the last PDP convention in Abuja when the latter could not strike a political deal with Adedibu over delegates. There, Alao-Akala was manhandled by people believed to be loyal to Adedibu. Not only that. He was allegedly slapped by Adedibu for disparaging the old man. The estranged godfather said last week, “I single-handedly picked the deputy governor, Ladoja never knew him.” Taiwo corroborated that last week. He said, "Baba Adedibu is an institution through which all of us, including the ousted governor, came to office." That may explain why it was considered a grave offence for Alao-Akala to have reportedly insulted Adedibu.

It is, however, said that as soon as he returned to Ibadan, the then deputy governor went to apologise to Adedibu. And as if to confirm that, immediately he was sworn in last Thursday, the new governor and a host of other leaders went to pay homage to the old man at his residence in Molete, Ibadan. That may be an indication of where his allegiance lies, which again raises concern that the new man will be a stooge in the hands of political leaders.

But then, Ladoja also warmed up to his godfather at the beginning before he embarked on an effort to free himself from his hold. He did not only deploy his powers into the project to isolate or decapitate Adedibu, he also tried to recruit some other leaders. Yekinni Adeojo, his opponent at the party primaries, was one of the people he approached. He probably felt that the sour relationship between Adeojo and Adedibu was enough to win the former to his side. The initial conflict between the two happened in the drive by the old man to get party nomination for Ladoja. A party meeting at the Premier Hotel, Ibadan turned rowdy when Adeojo protested against some guidelines that were being introduced. With Ladoja by his side, Adedibu ordered an aide to slap Adeojo. The latter took it with stoic silence. When Ladoja became governor, the three leaders sat down to draw the list of cabinet members.

Barely one year into his government,

Ladoja dropped political appointees sponsored by party leaders and appointed his own team. That increased the tally of his political enemies. He also disregarded all entreaties for him to give patronage to the leaders, including Adedibu. In his resolve to isolate his political godfather, he is said to have wronged many people, some of whom gave him confidence at the outset of his administration. The result was a steady glide into a political cul-de-sac. So, by the time the House moved against him, Ladoja had become a lone ranger.

That was not the only factor that led to his fall. Another was his closeness to Vice President Abubakar, who is not in good terms with the President. This is the reason canvassed by his associates who argue that the man is being victimised because of his support for Abubakar. But a PDP leader said, in that support for the Vice President, “the governor over-reached himself.” Ladoja allegedly sponsored Michael Adegbite, former PDP chairman in the state, to mobilise his counterparts in the South-west for Abubakar. A mole sent the minutes of meetings of the group to the President. According to our source, when the former governor was challenged, he owned up but promised to dismantle the group. PDP leaders are said to have told Ladoja that it was impolitic for him to have funded a forum planning to pull the rug from under the President’s feet, particularly in his geo-political zone.

Even that, they said, would still have been managed, but for the alleged tardiness of the former governor. So, when it became apparent that the crisis might consume him, a committee which included Akinjide, Alabi, Are and Arisekola took up the challenge to save him. But every move at solving the problem became unattractive to Ladoja. He also scoffed at his allies in the House who tried to normalise the relationship between him and the legislators. One of his political associates said, "It was as if the governor had fallen under a spell." For instance, party source told the story of how Ladoja missed the last effort to retain majority of the legislators. He said a party leader had gone to intimate the governor of the plan by six legislators to defect to the camp of the opposition. Would the governor please speak with them on telephone so they could stay with him? Ladoja looked at the politician and told him, “Your suggestion is humiliating. Why should I phone them?” Rather, he told the man to go and advise the legislators to take their oversight functions seriously. The politician left the governor's office completely deflated. By the time they met again, the six legislators had defected, leaving the governor’s camp with 14. Even all of them were not at the press conference addressed last Tuesday by Adeleke. The legislators had to take up the challenge when all entreaties that the governor speak on the matter of impeachment fell on deaf ears. The party source said last week, "Now, Ladoja will know that part of the legislators' oversight function is impeachment of the governor or his deputy." That lesson was learnt the hard way. Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, said he warned Ladoja not to ignore the panel. He said, "I told him he should not ignore the panel, that he should go and defend himself. The process is concluded now and he has ceased to be governor." The Ibrahim Shettima panel set up by the PDP to look into the crisis in the state had not submitted its report by the time Ladoja was ousted last week. The PDP secretariat said it soft-pedalled when it realised that allegations of financial impropriety were added to the charges against him.

As the days drew near, Ladoja withdrew to his shell, hardly responding to suggestions for his camp to map out its strategy. Before he went to Abeokuta last week, he stayed indoors while other Muslims went out for the Eid-el-Kabir prayer. When he was impeached two days later, he went underground, perhaps afraid that he could be arrested. The state police command had to dispel rumour that Ladoja was in their custody.

Wherever Ladoja is, there is no doubt that he would be biting his fingers, now that the scales may have fallen off his eyes, and wondering whether he could not have done things differently. This is because his removal from office may not be the end of his travails, for the long arms of the law may yet catch up with him for alleged graft.




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