Last week, the former governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja, announced his defection to the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), one of the entrants into the political space ahead of the 2019 election. ZLP is a party popularised by another former governor, popularly addressed as Iroko, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, who governed Ondo State just before the advent of the incumbent Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu.
With his emergence as governor of Oyo State in 2003, Ladoja was said to be well-favoured by the powers that be; the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is still said to hold the former governor in high esteem and the then vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, regarded as a personal friend of the Ibadan High Chief. Not a few watchers of Ibadan (Oyo State) politics immediately spotted him as a possible occupier of the position of Strongman of Ibadan someday. He is wealthy, educated and connected. He is also of the royal lineage. His calm mien and harmless looks, if added to the steel and calculative disposition of a politician, could make him the leader for a long time to come. And he had the good fortune of learning from the then serving Strongman of Ibadan Politics, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu.
But an interplay of local politics; an offshoot of a failure to manage the reigning Strongman of Ibadan Politics put the first set of test the way of Ladoja. He was shoved aside from his seat as governor through a contrived impeachment. But he fought his way back and legally regained the seat.
It would, however, appear that the steel and tenacity of the politician left Ladoja shortly after winning that court case that returned him into office. From then, he became a quitter, so to say. But they say winners don’t quit and a rolling stone gathers no moss. Having lost the chance for re-election on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2007, he recalibrated himself and landed in the Accord Party.
He pulled his weight in the 2011 election when the Accord Party won some legislative positions in the state House of Assembly and the House of Representatives. By that scorecard, he had announced himself as the political force in Oyo State and before long he became a sought-after for the PDP. He was wooed for a return to his old party but the back and forth was prolonged.
I recall that former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was said to be acting on a report, had asked Ladoja to pick the PDP ticket for the 2015 election. Jonathan was said to be working out a strong team for Oyo contest in 2015 and was said to be working on how the PDP could field Ladoja for the governorship position; his successor, Adebayo Alao-Akala for Oyo North Senatorial seat, Senator Teslim Folarin for Oyo Central and Mr Seyi Makinde for Oyo South. It was called a PDP win-win team. But it never materialised. Ladoja was called to Abuja and told of that possibility but he was said to have offered excuses. He was said to have told Jonathan that he would prefer to remain in Accord Party but work for the president’s re-election.
One of his excuses was that there would be series of litigations from PDP members who would oppose his entry. He was also said to have indicated that he would have problems integrating his supporters into the PDP and that the series of tango could last till well after the elections. The former president and his team were said to have given Ladoja time to think about the proposal. After a series of discussions, the former governor declined, and asked to be allowed to remain with Accord.
By then, the governorship race had been thrown wide open. Senator Folarin had taken the PDP ticket, Alao-Akala had left for the Labour Party and Seyi Makinde had picked the ticket of Social Democratic Party (SDP). Indeed, those who will write the story of the 2015 Oyo governorship election might be tempted to give Ladoja the credit as the man who gifted victory to Senator Abiola Ajimobi. For if you have to pull the figures posted by all the above-mentioned personalities together, it would only show that Ajimobi won with minority votes.
Again, after the 2015 elections, it was learnt that some stakeholders in Oyo state discovered that a coalition was necessary to outwit Ajimobi and his party, the APC. A coalition was forged. Ladoja joined the PDP, same for Seyi Makinde. But unlike leaders who stick their feet to the ground in times of crisis and find solutions, the High Chief jetted out of the PDP at the slightest push. This year alone, he has touched the PDP, ADC and now the ZLP. But as I looked at the issues, the problem he faced in the PDP was not life-threatening.
He wanted his supporters to dominate the state executive; and his men got majority of the key positions after a congress. But the national secretariat believed he shouldn’t have it all and decided to take the post of secretary to the Makinde group. Ladoja picked offence and the rumour started circulating that he would quit. The National Working Committee of the PDP was said to have met and ratified the retention of his choice as secretary but there was a caveat; all stakeholders would be called to a meeting in Abuja before the decision could be made public. Before that could happen, the former governor had started playing host to different political interests who were on mission to woo him.
Just like the rolling stone, the High Chief must have dropped supporters at every political stop he has visited since 2011. It is obvious he has, and how does that pan out for a candidate to the stool of Strongman of Ibadan Politics? The 2019 election would surely provide the verdict.