Ladoja...I’m done with PDP
He is preparing to be a great grandfather but former governor of Oyo state, Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja, may be nothing more than enfant terrible in the state politics of Oyo State judging from his actions and pronouncements in the past few months. TundeSanni takes a look at the recent position of the Accord Party leader and fresh efforts by the ruling party, Action Congress of Nigeria to have him on its side
The news, last week, of the defection of members of Accord Party (AP) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in OnaAra local government area of Oyo state to the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) aroused interests and drew mixed feelings from watchers of unfolding political events in the state. Perhaps, if the defectors from Accord Party had done so some few weeks back, it would have been taken as some of the dynamics in politics. But coming after a supposed romance between the governor, AbiolaAjimobi and Ladoja and the concession of the chairmanship positions;Egbeda and OnaAra to Ladoja and his party, the news was bound to create such mixed feelings.
Ajimobi had last Thursday sworn-in new caretaker committee chairmen for the two councils of Egbeda and OnaAra. The new chairmen;AkinwaleMukailaAkintoye and AkanniNurudeenAdemola are members of Ladoja’s Accord Party. However, Ajimobi at the inauguration of the council chiefs had directed them to run their respective councils in accordance with the principle, policies and dictates of the ruling party.
The inauguration of the two council chiefs underscored the resolve by the governor to draw Ladoja to his side. The olive branch was coming at a time the erstwhile governor had told the world that he had repudiated his return to his former party, the PDP which he left at the approach of the April 2011 general polls.
Thus, Ajimobi at the inauguration of the council chiefs said they are “expected as part and parcel of this administration, and based on our arrangement with Accord Party, that you work according to the dictates, principles and policies of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
“Remember, it is an ACN government and therefore, as you are coming on board, you should know that you are wearing the cap of that government. When you finish and you go back to your Accord Party, then you are Accord Party but as long as you are with this government, you are ACN.
“Let me also say that where there is rancour, there will be no development. The politics we are playing now is politics of development and not of rancour or abuses. We, therefore, expect you to join hands with us so that we can achieve the aims and objectives of this government in line with the ACN philosophy,” the governor said.
But elders of the ruling party who craved anonymity in OnaAra local government are worried over the appointment of an Accord Party member as their council chief and described it as suicidal, detrimental and demoralizing to the fortunes of the party in the area. They appealed to Ajimobi to rescind the decision in the overall interest of the ACN in the council area.
“We want to say that the appointment of an Accord Party member as chairman of our local government will be to the detriment of our party, ACN, at the time when majority of the Accord Party and the PDP members are decamping en masse into our party in OnaAra local government,” they stated.
The ACN members also said since the decision became public, some Accord Party members had been going round the local government to harrass and intimidate ACN members, but for the maturity displayed by the ACN members, the situation would have led to serious security breaches.
Some days ago, Ladoja, in a Sallah chat with newsmen in his Ibadan residence declared that he is no more interested in his purported return to the PDP, alleging that the negotiation on his return to his former party is being frustrated on different ground, promising that his Accord Party will continue to serve as the alternative party to ACN and PDP in the state.
“My negotiation with the PDP is no longer on course. We are open to negotiation. Accord party will be an alternative party for both the ACN and PDP in 2015. I cannot say I would contest in 2015 because I don’t know if I will be alive then. I am not happy that Local government council election has not been conducted in the state,” he said.
He, however, hinted that the working relationship between his party and the state government is still on course and that the governor is expected to fulfill his part of the agreement. He affirming that Ajimobi invited his party to help him stabilise his government so as to have time to work saying that the governor has not said he does not need the assistance of Accord Party any more.
The Ibadan High Chief however alleged that although leaders of the ACN are mounting pressure on the governor not to honour his side of agreement, he still believed that he would honour it.
Ladoja had returned to the country a few days to the Sallah celebration after several months in London which sources attributed to medical reason. There was a media report that while in London, Ajimobi had visited him to “wish him well” though the media report had also claimed that the visit of the governor was with a prize which is his second term ambition. But his media aides had since dismissed the media report, saying their principal did not visit Ladoja for any reason.
While the ruling party is playing a fast one in getting Ladoja to its side, the PDP, still being haunted by the ghost of the past had dispatched its controversial South-west National Vice Chairman, Mr. Segun Oni and some other party leaders to explore the possibility of ensuring that there is no going back on Ladoja’s return to the party. Oni had led some old hands of the party which included former Secretary to the Oyo State Government, Chief OlayiwolaOlakojo and former chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Professor SojiAdejumo, into a closed door meeting with Ladoja at his Bodija, Ibadan residence.
Sources at the meeting confided in THISDAY that the meeting discussed the activities of some chieftains of the party who worked against the interest of the PDP at the 2011 polls who were said to be putting conditions in the return of Ladoja to the party. The party had earlier agreed to tinker with the state executive committee of the party to accommodate Ladoja’s interest.
Sources also hinted THISDAY at the period that the position of the party’s scribe had been conceded to Ladoja. But chieftains of the party who are feeling threatened by the gradual royal reception being accorded the leader of the Accord Party in the state are threatening the party with litigation if the state executive committee was tinkered with.
Notwithstanding the discordant tune from the chieftains, Oni, hiding under a Sallah visit went to Ladoja to assure him that his position in the party has been reserved and that he should ignore all opposition as the ranting of some disgruntled elements. The PDP zonal chief, after the meeting declared that both the party and Ladoja remained the same.
“Don’t forget that we are one and the same. He is my respected leader as a former governor of Oyo State,” and exuded that notwithstanding the recent position of the former governor on the failed rapprochement between him and the PDP that reconciliation was still possible. “But let me emphasise what I know; PDP is going to bring everybody together.
“This is going to be an all-inclusive party; it is not going to be in the pocket of any individual or any group of people and it is going to be for the good of everybody. That is the position the national chairman has taken by launching the three Rs; Reconciliation, Reformation and Rebuilding. We are going ahead with that.”
Shortly after his return from London, Ladoja’s efforts at fortifying his party ahead of the 2015 poll was boosted as hundreds of leaders and members of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) in the state defected to his party.
The defectors, who are from Lagelu Local Government Area of the state, led by BukolaAgboola, described t Accord Party as “the natural habitat for him and his followers,” even as he promised that their defection had further reinforced the dominance of Accord Party in the council area.
He also recalled how he benefited from the non-discriminatory policy adopted by Ladoja in respect of contract awards while in office and that the legacies left by the former governor had continued to earn him the support and respect of the people of the state.
Receiving the defectors, Ladoja assured them of equal opportunities. He said Accord as a party for the masses would continue to put the welfare of the people of the state first in its programmes and disclosed that leaders and members of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and others had approached and intimated him with their intention to join the party soon.
“Those who have expressed intent to join us from the PDP, ACN, CPC and other parties are more than those who are already in our party. Ours is a party for the masses. We are building the party to present it as an alternative to the ACN and the PDP,” he said.
He said although the party was in talks with the PDP earlier, the talks had stalled, as leaders of the PDP did not accept the viewpoint he presented to them on how best to run a party. “We do not want them to infect us with what is happening in the party in Ogun State, where there are about 32 cases involving PDP factions in the state. Some of the cases are at the appellate court, while others have gone on to the Supreme Court. So, it is better for us to continue to strengthen our party,” Ladoja said.
Ladoja is however not new to political romance. Shortly before the 2011 polls, he was courted by the two political parties of the PDP and the ACN with the ruling party being the keener of the two as chieftains of the party which included the governor of Osun State, RaufAregbesola were made sure that Ladoja aligned with Ajimobi in the April 26, polls. Ladoja ignored all of them and went ahead to contest. Though, he came third in the election but his third position was enough to signpost him as a political godfather in the making.
His party, considered a weakling amongst others posted a seven member state legislators and four federal lawmakers. Even after the poll, the rush to have Ladoja backing any of the two political parties for a comfortable position in the state legislature continued.
For ACN, the alignment with the Accord lawmakers would boost the party’s chances in having a stress free leadership in the chambers. But PDP wanted Ladoja’s party to enable it have a solid opposition to ACN leadership in the chambers. After all said, Ajimobi waded in with a pact with Ladoja which drew him to the ruling party. It led to the concession of the deputy speakership of the assembly to Accord Party.
Yet, the pact Ajimobi had with Ladoja was not supported by some leaders of the ACN and this made them mount pressures on the governor to repudiate the pact and become winners’ take all in the legislature. After all, the ruling party has gained some new members which had strengthened the position of the ACN in the assembly.
The fear of the ACN elders had been that Ladoja might end up pocketing Ajimobi and block the governor from granting audience to them again and this, Ladoja confirmed. “The other side of his grouse with me is that Lam-Adesina feels I am not allowing him to pocket Ajimobi. Right from the time we knew ACN, they had always claimed their party is Chief ObafemiAwolowo’s party. But they themselves know they are only deceiving people by this claim. There is nothing ‘Awolowo’ about their party.
“Those who never knew the deceit called ACN would by now be coming to terms with this reality. Look at what they did in Ondo. It would be better for their candidate in the coming governorship election to contest in Ibadan, Oyo State, where he is a bit known than in Ondo, his state, where he is not a popular person. We know him in Ibadan and he also knows us.”
Certainly, the next general election in Oyo will be a case study. And if anything, Ladoja- with his larger than life image, though already a one-man riot squad; will remain an issue and a major factor to reckon with in the political equilibrium of the state.