Senator Rashidi Ladoja, the current Osi Olubadan of Ibadanland, served as Oyo State governor between 2003 and 2007 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In 2010, he moved to the Accord party, where he contested the 2011 and 2015 governorship polls, but lost. In 2017, he dumped Accord for the PDP and between August and September 2018 moved to African Democratic Party (ADC) and by December 2018, he moved to Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
In this interview with FEMI ADEOTI and OLUSEYE OJO, in Ibadan, he throws light into his political sojourns in different parties and why he has been moving from one party to another.
You moved from the PDP to Accord and you made impacts in Accord. From Accord, you returned to PDP and from PDP to ADC. Now, you are in ZLP. Why ZLP at this time, very close to 2019 elections?
It is still not as close as many people may think because the first election is still about two months away. How many times do you have to tell people where you are going before they start knowing where you are going? So, it’s not how long, but how well. With the level of communication today, it is different from how it was in the 50s when whatever you wanted to say, you would have to get to the place before you say it. Nowadays, with the level of communication we have, there is virtually no area in Oyo State today that doesn’t have at least one FM Radio Station. You can disseminate your information, either by radio, by television, by personal contact, and even by visits. You can drive round Oyo State with stops all about in two to three days, and meet the people you want to meet.
So, all we need to do is to canvass for our party, ZLP, because the people of Oyo State already trust me. They just want to know the party and here I am. So, it is not too late.
To emphasise what we stand for, is not a difficult issue because they already knew what Ladoja stands for. And they did know that if I recommend two persons to you, you’ll know that it’s well-founded. But it is not too late.
You talked about trust, that the people of Oyo State trust you. They trusted you in PDP. They trusted you in Accord. They trusted you in ADC. Why should they trust you again in ZLP?
What I meant by trusting me is that they know that I am always looking for good government for Oyo State, wherever we can find it.
How sellable is the governorship candidate of ZLP, Alhaji Sarafadeen Alli in Oyo State?
Is there anyone that is as experienced as he is out of the people that are contesting? He has been a local government chairman. He was my Secretary to the State Government (SSG), before he became my Chief of Staff. If I claim 10 points as my success, a least he has his right to three of those 10 points because there is no way the governor alone can do all the work. He has to do it with his close aides, and he’s one of my close aides when I was in government. Is there anything we have to teach him again about how we achieved our success in government? He was part of the people, who formulated our educational policy of 30 pupils per class. He was part of the people that anchored our agricultural policy. He was one of the people that anchored our industrial policy. He was one of the people that anchored our road maintenance and construction. There is virtually nothing to teach him. He had learnt directly under me.
As things stand now, you have two political children, Sarafadeen Alli and Olufemi Lanlehin. Who of these two would you prefer to be governor of this state?
Whoever goes with me into ZLP. I was the one who recommended Lanlehin. But I saw that with what was happening in ADC, we would not be able to win the election. What is important to me is to win the election.
There are some unseen hands working in ADC. Those are the ones that will not allow ADC to win the election. Don’t forget that ZLP is different from ADC. The ADC is supposed to be a conglomerate of parties, and we’ve not been able to form a party out of the amalgam. We have there the former ADC, the CNM, the LP. We have the Unity Forum, which is a breakaway group from All Progressives Congress (APC). We have people who came from Accord and PDP, to form ADC.
So, we have not been able to form a party out of these groups. We don’t have what we can call cohesion. If you go to election in that format you are likely to lose because a situation whereby you cannot sit down together to plan, everybody seems to be planning for his own solo election. What is happening is ‘if I am a candidate for the House, I don’t even need other people to help me fight for my House of Representatives. I can do it alone.’ There is no cohesion. That was the problem that we had in ADC before we pulled out. As I said, I was the one who anchored Lanlehin’s candidature. If you are in Ibadan, you would have heard about a lot of crises that happened, particularly with the 12 governorship aspirants that were not taken in ADC. Many of them said they were fighting Lanlehin because of Ladoja. Ladoja was the one who anchored his nomination. Is that what is important or the fact that he was the best at that time? I tried to persuade him to let us go together. He felt more comfortable there. So, why should you now ask me who is my better side?
When you left Accord for PDP, you moved your political structure into that party. When you also left PDP for ADC, some of your loyalists stayed back. In ADC too, some of your loyalists got tickets to contest for various levels of political offices, they stayed back in ADC. Now, you have your loyalists scattered across three political parties. Are you not foreseeing the repeat of what happened in 2015 when the state governor had 32 per cent of the votes and won?
After the 2015 election, and the governor scored 32 per cent, he was declared the winner with 32 per cent. I had 29 per cent. Akala had 14 per cent. Teslim Folarin had seven per cent. Seyi Makinde had five per cent. Some people felt that if all of us coming from the same route, PDP; Ladoja, Makinde, Akala and Folarin, pooled our resources together, we could have won. But politics is not arithmetic. You cannot say because Ladoja scored 29 per cent and Akala scored 14 per cent, if Akala and Ladoja go together, they would score 43 per cent. No, we can’t say that. We may score less and we may score more. This’s what led us into PDP. When we got to PDP, we saw that after the Makarfi’s regime, the regime that took over was not as experienced or as diligent as the one of Makarfi; and we found that whether we like it or not, the decision that they wanted to take would not have gone down well with us. We pulled out. Politics is personal. Those of us that are doing politics are less than 10 per cent of the people that are voting. So, the politicians are there to galvanise the voters. But in most cases, the voters are the ones that determine where they want to vote. I’ll give you an example, in the days of Alliance for Democracy (AD), there were more politicians in PDP than AD, even in APP than AD, yet that’s where people wanted to vote. They voted for AD and they won. It is not the number of people that are in the party that is important. What is important is the masses. I feel that by the time they told you our strength is in the masses, not necessarily in the party. So, I am sure by the time we explain the happenings to the masses, they’ll know that I want the best for Oyo State, they will definitely support us.
Maybe what people are saying out there is right that by moving to ZLP, it is a form of game plan that you might form an alliance with ADC probably towards the elections. How true is this?
No, we don’t have that in our thought now. The issue of ADC and ZLP has been on, at least, for the past three months. We have tried to persuade, particularly Senator Lanlehin, to come with us. But he felt more comfortable with ADC; that is what I can say. Of course, we told him that the happening in ADC does not make me comfortable. Part of it is that how could Unity Forum choose a running mate for Senator Lanlehin without consulting with him? Can’t you see the danger there? The danger there is that when you get to office, you’ll be running a parallel government. The deputy will tell you, ‘sorry, you are representing your group and I am representing my group.’ This also confirmed that you have not been able to form a party out of the amalgam. I said, okay come and prove to us that you can win. I said this group, Unity Forum, is pretending as if there is no APC again. APC is still there. The last election we held in Oyo State, when we were in PDP, was that PDP won with more than 6,000 votes. APC came second with more than 4,000 votes. Accord that was adopted then by the Unity Group scored over 2,000 votes. Why is it now that the candidates for the House Representatives and Oyo State House of Assembly in the amalgam came from the Unity Group? What are you going to do about those people that scored more than 6,000 votes? If you don’t do anything, these people will be happy to go and join the party that is more open to them, a party that considers them more favourably. So, that is part of it. When the deputy governor was taken, I said ‘this is not right. You chose the deputy for the governor without consulting him?’ I said ‘I chose Akala (Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, who was deputy governor from 2003 to 2007), nobody chose him for me.’ I know that nobody was chosen for Lam Adesina(Oyo State governor from 1999 to 2003), without consultation with him. Why do you now have to decide that this is it, particularly at their group. You didn’t talk to the party’s leadership. You did not talk to Chief Michael Koleosho, who we use to anchor Oke-Ogun. You’ve not talked to me. Where I am anchoring, you did not talk to the governorship candidate himself. So, we felt that with that one, chances of winning elections have been removed. We also told them that the running mate for Lanlehin is from Iseyin. They actually zoned the office of the deputy governor to Oke-Ogun. He can come from any of the 10 local governments. But he came from Iseyin. The candidate for House of Representatives should be shared among Iseyin, Itesiwaju, Iwajowa and Kajola. We have a formula of sharing it. Based on automatic ticket, we kept it in Iseyin. The candidate for Oyo State House of Assembly that is between Itesiwaju and Iseyin, you kept it in Iseyin, leaving Itesiwaju undefended. We said why can’t you move the House of Assembly to Itesiwaju so that they will also have something to fight for on the day of election? They refused. And that is how it is all about. So, I said these people are more interested in ‘esprit de corps’ to their own people, that is Unity Group. They are more interested in ‘these are our people’ not in the fact that they want to win election. So, that’s really what happened. We forgave them. But we said with what is happening, we might not win election. They even refused to sit with us because we called them that they should let us sit down and debate it. A reasonable person must be able to accept a superior argument. But they did not come.
With all these, so you think you can dislodge the ruling APC in the state?
By the grace of God, we will dislodge them. I tell people that a team of nine people on a football pitch can defeat a team of 11 people, particularly if there is one part of the 11 that are not thinking along with others. That is the situation. We have five amalgams that have not been able to mix. In a party that is small, you cannot afford crisis. We have been having one crisis or the other. Look at the crises we had with the choice of Lanlehin. Look at the crises we had with people that went to court. Look at all the advertorials. Look at all the press conferences. What has that got to do with winning election? Most of the things they are saying really are not our faults here, they originated from Abuja, the party headquarters. Trouble started the day they said they were going to choose the executive; on Saturday they were going to do the ward congress, on Monday you would do the local government congress and Tuesday you would do the state congress. And the parties they came from, they leave one to two weeks between the congress elections. They said no. It was the decision of the National Working Committee in ADC and everybody must comply; afterall, Oyo is not the only state that we have. That is where we first of all started. Blind people trying to lead right eyed people. So, that’s where we started. In fact, up till the time we left, we could not say that half of the local governments have resolved their problems of the congresses and it will go on like that. Look at the case, go and read the advertorial in the case, it was more destructive to the party, to individuals, than even to win election. A party that wants to win election, in a small party, will not have luxury of so much distractions.
The belief in town is that ZLP is relatively new?
Yes. Accord was new when we brought it, and we were able to carry it in four years to that height, where people even confirmed that we won the election. But some of the people that came with us in the Unity Group told us they were the ones, who anchored the remaining process.
The feeling outside is that each time you join a party, you’ll raise the stake and you’ll pull away. Why?
That is not true. I did not. I told you how we left Accord. Is it wrong for us to say if we can come together, we could make things happen? But to make things happen is not just a question of number. It is a question of cohesion. If there is no cohesion, you will be moving in different directions. It is not true that we raised the stake and we pulled away.
There is an allegation that you left PDP and ADC because you could not hijack the structures of each of the parties when you were there. How true is that?
Which structure? Who has the structure in PDP? You could have asked them who has the structure? I don’t want any structure because what is important is the voters. I stand to defend the voters, not necessarily the politicians. I want the people of Oyo State to have the best government they can get; that is what is important to me. When we joined PDP, the only major position they gave us was secretary. We did not have the chairman. Who has the structure? Was it us? We didn’t fight. They were the one who later started saying there was a parallel congress somewhere, when they knew there was no parallel congress. If you think that you are wise to say that you will use the back door to get what you want, then I am not for such analysis. If you didn’t ask for the chairman and you got it, and out of the people that got together, who was bigger than Accord? Akala did not come with us. If we scored 29 per cent, we could have determined that it’s either he gave us this or that, but we did not do that one. In fact, Teslim Folarin also did not come along with us. So, it was me as Accord and some people from Seyi Makinde’s group, Jumoke Akinjide’s group, Mulikat Akande-Adeola’s group, that came together. So, where is the structure to hijack? I did not want to hijack any structure. And I was very happy when the party was under Makarfi’s group. It’s not because I have anything. But they were very experienced people. What is there is that I am a very busy person. But at the same time, I just don’t want to raise any alarm. When Makarfi was there, they raised the issue of parallel congress and that we should harmonise the executive. Those people looked at it to say that ‘you people are saying Ladoja has hijacked the party. Accord has only eight positions, while PDP has 15 positions. So, where is that hijack?’ They said we should go and sort ourselves. When they (Makarfi’s group) left office, they raised the issue, and the people that are there started hyping Ladoja’s group and Seyi Makinde’s group. So, that is the issue. When we left, did the chairman come along with us? This shows that he’s not with us. He is not one of us. They said Ladoja asked for two positions and I said no. I need those people that are workaholics. I need the youth leader and the publicity secretary because they are the ones, who are actually anchoring the party. It showed when we got to the place. We believe in working hard, not in just saying that we are the rulers. No, we are not. We are not out there to rule, we are out there to work. So, it is not a question of hijacking any structure. As I said, we have not been able to form a party out of the amalgam in ADC. At least, in PDP, we were able to form a party. But in this case, we have not been able to form a party because you form a party where people surfaced. They’ll do some ‘wuruwuru’ (hanky panky). All they wanted was to say they wanted to place their people to contest. Go and contest. So, that is the situation. It is not a question of hijacking the structure. In ADC, the chairman is theirs. We still had the secretary. So, where is the structure to hijack? I am not interested in structure. I am interested in hard work.
What is the ZLP going to do differently from what the incumbent administration is doing?
It is going to be under a team that wants to win election.
What loopholes do you see in this Oyo State government?
Unless somebody that is blind will not see the loopholes, what is wrong. Can you compare that government with our government, even how many years after? Start from education, where are they? Apart from the major highways, did they do any road in the interior of the town or in other places? What is their agricultural policy? If you say people are very high in publicity, no problem. But the people of Oyo State, at the end of it, will be told what they have done. What was our position in WAEC when we were there? What is their position now? At least, that is a free assessment. It is an assessment by people that are not biased. You can’t say they are for Ladoja, or for so,so and so. It is the results that they bring out.
Which of the presidential candidates will ZLP support?
Do we have presidential candidate? In ZLP, we don’t have a presidential candidate. We are not even thinking about that yet.
But the election is less than two months away?
We are not a member of CUPP. Our own is not as difficult as theirs, even two or one week to the election, we can say our party members should work for a particular person, and they will work with the person. You know us now. In 2007, how many days did it take us to tell our people to vote for Ajimobi? Two days to election now. We said it on Thursday and they voted for him on Saturday. So, what are you talking about?
You were very close to Atiku Abubakar when you were the governor of Oyo State, are you still close to him?
Yes, I am still close to him. We are friends. I don’t fight people on politics.
Are you likely to work with him?
That is going to be decided by our party.
But you are a big voice in the party?
It is not only here in Oyo State that we have ZLP. We are contesting in Ogun State. We are contesting in Ondo State. Don’t look at only the Southwest, we are contesting in other parts of Nigeria too. We are going to get together and see what pays us better. What is the best candidate that we have?
Before you decided to move to ZLP, what was your conviction? Why ZLP?
It is because it is the last party on the ballot paper? Do you know that in Osun State, more than 40,000 votes were declared void? What led us to Accord was the fact that it’s number one on the ballot paper. This time, ZLP is the last on the ballot paper.
Is that a strategy?
Yes, it is a strategy. And again, I trust the people that are there. They are experienced people. Are you saying Nwuanyanwu is not an experienced person? Are you saying Mimiko is not an experienced person? These are people who know what it means to win an election. They are not protesters. They are not protesting. They said they saw what was happening in the Labour Party and saw they have to go on with ZLP because they saw that there won’t be end to the crisis, they moved away. That is the essence of taking a decision when it is right. We moved away. Do you know the problem in LP? They are fighting for positions, and they will continue to fight for positions and it is normal in small parties because big parties will need funding it.
In 2015, the opposition parties said they wanted to wrest power from Governor Ajimobi, and you were one of them. Eventually, you did not win. Now, the opposition parties appear to be split. At this point, what are the chances for the opposition parties and the APC-led government appears to have its machineries across the state. What is your take?
That is exactly what people in ADC did not really realise, that the machineries of APC are everywhere in Oyo State. Ajimobi doesn’t use party structure to fight elections.
He uses the government structure. If you look at it, you will discover that most of the people in the Unity Forum are former caretaker chairmen of local governments, who believed he used them to wrest power and dumped them, forgetting that he empowered them while using them. But it was not they who wrestled power. It was he who wrestled power, using them as tools. They don’t realise that one. They thought that they were the ones that achieved the feat. Today, there are other chairmen there. Then, it was 33 local governments. Now, there are 68 councils. So, the area covered by each person is small. If you are still on the euphoria of what you did in 2015, you will lose. So, it is better you realise that the machinery of APC is strong, and you have to therefore strengthen yourself to face it. Until you strengthen yourself, and you have dissension as if you have not been able to form a party out of the amalgam.
It has been found amazing that you cannot resolve your crisis so that you can approach elections with a united front. Why?
Those people refused to surface. I said let us sit down, let us look at each constituency and see what we can do to win. I said this Unity Group that has been picking candidates, go and call their leadership, let us sit down. Only one of them came. When I explained to him that look, this is what we want to get. He said ‘I cannot only listen to this. Tomorrow, we will come’That was on November 24th and by 25th none of them came, including the one that came on November 24th. They have been doing it to field candidates, and when it is late, they come back to beg. It happened in the Senate and the House or Representatives. For the deputy governorship, more than 100 people came from Iseyin to find out what was happening. They were led by my friend, Bolaji Kareem, who was a commissioner when the late Chief Kolapo Ishola was the governor of Oyo State. They came and told me I was not happy with Alaran. I said no. I don’t know Alaran now.
I don’t have anything with Alaran. I don’t have any crisis with Alaran. But the way you people are doing it, we would not be able to win elections. I said how could you chose a running mate for a governorship candidates without consulting with him, even Peter Obi was chosen by Atiku Abubakar now for PDP. That is the normal thing. We discuss. If the party is so strong, you still need to discuss with the candidate. I said secondly, how can you have three positions in Iseyin and you could not give the smallest of it to Itesiwaju? I said go and give Itesiwaju House of Assembly so that they would also have something to fight for on the day of election.
You I said election is just between 8a.m and 4p.m. once you miss that period, bye-bye until four years. I said it is necessary for people to know why they are fighting. So, that is it. It is not that there is anything. If they had come, we could have sat down. It is only an unreasonable person that will not accept a superior argument. If they give me arguments that are superior to my own, I will accept. But I expect them also to accept when in give them superior argument.
Is too late now?
I don’t know. I am not INEC. I am not ADC. But we are working. We are working seriously, 24 hours daily.
You are one of the best brains in Nigeria, and a big name in politics, but it is like you have restrained yourself to the politics of Oyo State. Why not national? Why have you not gone to the national level?
Who said I am not in the national. Charity begins at home. If you are somebody in your state, you are somebody in the national. If you have been looking at the politics of Nigeria, how many senators get back and get return ticket, even the Senate President? Every politics is local. If you are not important among your people, you cannot be important up there. Who in the national will say he doesn’t know Ladoja, either by reputation of impeachment, or by the fact that he came back from exile at a certain time, and wanted to contest for governor, or by going back to PDP and wanted to become the national chairman? So, I am in national, whether PDP or not PDP. Are you saying if they mention my name to Mr. President, he won’t know me, or the vice president will not know me?
The question is about you serving at the national level?
Serving at the national level at 74 to be what? Is it to be a minister? I am bigger than that. I am now just to assist people and give directions.
Is it ever possible for you and Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, who served as your deputy when you were the governor of the state, to work together again in politics?
To me, bygone is bygone. What I mean by bygone is bygone is that we have disagreed on this issue and we have gone beyond that one. If there is need for us to work together, we will work together. Have you forgotten that when we were going to PDP, I went to his house? What are you talking about? I went to his house to say please let us work together. Even, I held meeting with him before going to ADC. To me, my objective is my objective. We must take away Oyo State from the hands of charlatans.
Can you make an objective assessment of the Federal Government, what they are doing wrongly or rightly?
Go and read my interview in 2015, I have not changed. What is happening is not news to me. I saw Buhari in 1983. He took power on December 31, 1983. I saw him at that time. In 1984 and 1985, I saw him. What has changed? I think Buhari has got the psyche of the military. He doesn’t really believe that he’s a civilian president.
If actually your motive is to win the governorship election in Oyo State in 2019, is there a room for reconciliation with Senator Lanlehin, the governorship candidate of ADC?
I am not fighting Lanlehin, let me tell you that one. Lanlehin is still a very good candidate. But as it stands, he might not have been able to win the election because of the fact that the party is not working together; members of Unity Group are doing their own, and members of ADC are doing their own. You saw the outburst of Chief Olayiwola Olakojo. God and read his disposition to the court process he served. They don’t seem to understand what they mean by party. Political party is like a group of people that come together for common purpose. Therefore, you cannot encourage dissension among members. It is to protect one another. So, I am not fighting Lanlehin at all.
Former governor of Lagos State and National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, said at the roundtable organised to celebrate the 69th birthday of Governor Abiola Ajimobi recently that he’s ready to work with the governorship candidate of APC in Oyo State, Chief Adebayo Adelabu, and to even fund his campaign. What signal does this send to you and the opposition parties in the state?
Does he need to say that? For God’s sake, has he said anything? Your party, are you not going to fund it? He has not said anything. It is normal. If I belong to APC also, I should be part of the people who will fund it. Not so? Did Ajimobi not fund his election in 2015? What has changed? It is his party now. I think that Bola just said that one because he wanted to give impression that maybe Ajimobi and Adelabu are not in good book of each other. If not, do we really need to say that? Just like a father and his son, a father should assist his son. Do you need to say that one that the father and the son are not in good term? So, he has not said anything.
Before now, we have been hearing about tension in the country building up to the election, as an elder statesman, what do you make out of the recent killing of a former Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh by gunmen in Abuja? What does it portend for the 2019 polls?
It is really unfortunate that it happened to Badeh. It is of the heights of insecurity we are talking about in Nigeria. You know how many people died in the hands of Boko Haram, hands of Fulani herdsmen, hands of kidnappers. The insecurity that we are talking about is real. It is just to tell us that it is real, not fictions.
The insecurity is real when that could happen to a former Chief of Defence Staff. I am sure that he had his orderlies. It means that it can happen to anybody. Today, they will tell you the Boko Haram has waylaid or ambushed our soldiers, killed certain numbers. They will say it is not true, even if it is one. It means that Boko Haram is still potent. On the Fulani herdsmen, we just pray that January 1, 2019 will not be a repeat of evil. You would recall that on the 1st of January, 2018, you know what happened in Benue. You know how many people were killed. And those are the ones that were reported. There might be many that were not reported because it doesn’t pay government to say that Nigeria is not safe, that is scaring away investors.
Can you briefly react to alleged clampdown on the opposition, prior to the forthcoming elections?
What do you want people to say? I have told you I have not seen the difference between the Buhari of 1984 and Buhari of 2018. He doesn’t believe in anything opposition. He is a natural soldier who feels that ‘anybody that is not with me is my enemy.’ I am sure the opposition also know that, and they are working round it.