Not since the fawning, cajoling, flattery and groping of Gen. Ibarahim Babangida by the Social Democratic Party, SDP, that preceded the eventual presidential ticket and victory for MKO Abiola in 1993 has there been such deference and dissipation on a particular individual as accorded to Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja by the National Executive of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and party stalwarts at the state level.
By the close of July 2018, I counted eight visitations to the Ondo street home of the former leader of the PDP in Oyo state by men from Wadata Plaza who came cap in hand and against all sense of fairness to appease him to accept the harmonisation formula and later to beg him not to leave the party.
It goes without saying that if visits from abroad was pervasive, local pilgrimages to appeal to his patriotic sense were uncountable.
Well, the good news is that Senator Ladoja finally left the party for a new coalition called the African Democratic Congress, ADC, leaving the door ajar for those who swore that they will never have anything to do with the PDP as long as he remains there.
The myth surrounding Senator Ladoja has confirmed the fear that in politics, reality is often a victim of perception.
Ever since he won the gubernatorial election 15 years ago in 2003, Ladoja has gone ahead to lose two similar elections back to back in 2011 and 2015 and if you add 2007 where he backed the incumbent gubernatorial election, then he has lost thrice in a row. In truth his party rallied some seats at the legislature and his departure is not needed at this point but the PDP can win without him.
With good reason, it has been pretty hard for outsiders to forget the famous impeachment saga which catapulted him into a national hero of sort, but unlike Asiwaju Tinubu for instance, Ladoja has failed to latch on to that momentous political event by building a wider, all inclusive network. Rather, he found his space shrinking inexorably because he deliberately failed to develop a realistic succession plan as he poises himself to annex plum political positions and seek to weaken younger compatriots who are qualified to succeed him.
That prolific and seminal writer Festus Adedayo in obvious bewilderment asked in his damning column last week aptly titled WHY IS LADOJA RUNNING FROM PILLAR TO POST ”I have had to ask myself repeatedly why Ladoja would leave his PDP domain if indeed wrestling power from the ruling party in Oyo state is his ultimate ambition. That young man Seyi Makinde to my mind has given Ladoja all appurtenances ( made himself less important and subdued before him) of party leadership except agree that he nominates the governorship candidate- using all manners of political wiles including tar- brushing Makinde.
Ladoja, in spite of his spirited denials will run for Oyo governorship race by next year when he will be 76 years old.”
Festus is proffering a popular suspicion among many including those milling around him who have the forlorn hope of climbing to the top through his back
Indeed, Seyi Makinde’s almost slavish deference to Ladoja was embarrassing. A solid and tough man to boot, Seyi explained away his seeming timidity of the old man. ”My father said don’t engage in a shouting match with an old man but stand on your conviction and say NO gently.”
One day as the crises over the harmonisation was flip-flopping crazily, Seyi asked without directing the question to anyone in particular, ”What really is Daddy looking for”? ”Daddy”? I asked and he responded ”Yes, Daddy Ladoja” Then, I understood. Senator Ladoja is 25 years his senior and his father’s age mate.
It was a germane question because if there was nothing else amiss, ( Tio basi nkanmi mbe) the harmonisation formula was the most realistic under the circumstance. For the benefit of those who were not too conversant with what led to the induced crises, this is a summary of what happened.
Senator Ladoja as leader of the PDP had 9 substantive executive positions including the chairmanship slot while the Senator Ayo Adeseun and Engr Seyi Makinde’s groups shared three apiece.
All the parties including the National Working Committee agreed that this compromise was necessary and in the best interest of the party in the state.
It was after the inauguration of the state executive in Abuja and certificates of return have been issued to members and INEC has been duly informed about the authenticity of the state Exco members by the National secretary of the party that Senator Ladoja now insisted that unless the state secretary is added to his own nine list to make it ten, he would leave the party. Earlier he had actively encouraged the man who was state secretary to go to court to challenge the harmonisation formula but then the case was adjourned till September which will be too late for the state congresses which was their target for fighting tooth and nail to retain the position. In any case they shot themselves in the foot because with a litigation hanging, the NWC was further hamstrung to alter the harmonisation list.
To some of us who know him fairly well, Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja’s subterfuge are not unexpected. It was autumn in England and I took liberty of the clement weather to look him up at his Madeville Court home in North west London in 2014.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan was just sworn in as the Turkish President a month before. Over lunch I learnt that he was a big fan of Turkish politics as he spoke animatedly about the Kremlin-like politics of Turkey and why only the ruling party will continue to win any election in that country.
What he would do differently, he told me as I sipped my drink, was to allow locals to freely elect their candidates in the coming Accord Party primaries. He did the very opposite. By December 30, 2014, the last day for the submission of candidates list to INEC, he single-handedly picked his preferred ones and Accord submitted names of candidates many of them either unknown or unpopular and protests erupted across the state and for the first time in his political career, Senator Ladoja was dymistified as he was publicly assaulted by his erstwhile admirers with the mob throwing stones at his Bodija home.
That political indiscretion of December 2014 cost Accord the gubernatorial election and aspirants who were initially egged on by the 5-man Ladoja political dynasty and have run into financial debts have not forgiven him till this day.
Prince Dotun Oyelade is the Director of Communication and Strategy of Seyi Makinde Organization