Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja is a former governor of Oyo State. He hosted journalists at his Ibadan Ondo street residence where he remarked that most of the issues President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is acting upon now had been discussed with his predecessor, Muhamadu Buhari but he (Buhari) turned a deaf ear.
A Correspondent in Oyo state, Musliudeen Adebayo was at Ladoja’s residence when the Otun Olubadan of Ibadan land remarked that his ambition is to become Olubadan of Ibadan land. Excerpts.
Sallah celebration this year was held amid very bad economic situations in the country. What do you see about this?
Just as our Imam said at the Eid prayer ground, one year there was famine and another year there was abundance. With the new government in place in Nigeria, abundance will start coming. It may look difficult initially. But we all know difficult decisions have to be taken before we can expect succour at the end of it. So, to those of us who are still alive, please do not lose hope.
It means you are in support of some of the tough decisions taken so far by President Bola Tinubu, such as the removal of petrol subsidy and so on…
Yes, I am in support of the decisions made so far. All of us know there is the need for us to adjust and rejig Nigeria. It is even not a question of palliatives now. It is a question of how do we re-distribute wealth. So, it is not about giving five million people N5,000 each. The President promised to give a living wage to workers. This means he knows the workers are not earning a living wage. I am sure he knows what he is doing and by the grace of God, we will get there.
Most of what we blamed Buhari for was that he just turned a deaf ear to our complaints. Most of the complaints Tinubu is acting on now had already been raised with Buhari. The issue of [Abdulrasheed] Bawa, former EFCC chairman and [Godwin] Emefiele, suspended CBN governor was raised with Buhari. So, we can assume that Tinubu knows what he is doing. If we can take away a lot of corruption, there will be speedy progress. Tinubu does not need to police people. They will police themselves.
Now, for instance, we don’t need to police the borders on account of people taking subsidised petrol out of the country, as long as Nigeria is getting all the money that is due to it and there is no subsidy. It is for the Benin Republic to collect taxes from people who are bringing it into its country. Governance will be easy when you don’t need to police anything. Everything will become liberal and there will be competition that will force the price to come down.
Look at GSM when they started, the SIM was about N30,000. But now, they are even ready to give people free of charge. Once there is competition, things will get better and I am sure the president knows that, having come from the private sector.
There was a news item recently that you and 10 others are going to be promoted to crown-wearing obas from your current positions as High Chiefs…
I read the report and I don’t know why they made the report about me. They said 11 people were going to become obas; they should have led with the head of the 11 high chiefs which today is the Balogun of Ibadanland. Why did they say Ladoja and 10 others? Why didn’t they say Olakulehin and 10 others? I think there is some sort of mischief there. I want to say it again. Nothing has changed [from his position before out-of-court settlement in 2019]. People say you don’t mend what is not broken. I don’t think it is fair and right to have those of us who are High Chiefs become obas. Why? Who are we competing with?
When I set out to join the race to become the Olubadan of Ibadanland on October 1, 1993, I started focusing on how to become the Olubadan of Ibadaland and that is the only crown I want to wear. I am not interested in any other crown apart from that of the Olubadan. I did not expect there would be an issue of ade pali [inferior crown made of cardboard] on the way. If I wanted that, I would have become Baale of Laleye, which is our village.
Those of us who are High Chiefs are advisers to the Olubadan and in the process, we are also learning. We are promoted from one rank to another and we are sent on errands by the Olubadan to represent him in places. As Ekarun Olubadan, I was the acting chairman of Lagelu Local Government Traditional Council. After that, I became the Ekerin and was posted to Oluyole Local Government Traditional Council in the same capacity. When I became Asipa, I was at Ibadan North-West and when I became the Osi Olubadan, I went to Ibadan South-West where I also served as acting chairman of the traditional council there.
Now, I am in Ibadan, South-East. You can see that I have covered five councils out of 11. We are supposed to be assisting the Olubadan. Look at Lagos, everybody knows that the white cap chiefs are superior to some obas in Lagos. So, it is not unique to Ibadan.
All of us know that it is God who chooses the Olubadan. In recent history, within one week, the Balogun and Otun Olubadan died. Their deaths paved the way for the immediate past Olubadan, the late Oba Saliu Adetunji. It is God who decided that those people would not become Olubadan. So, we can assume that it is only God who will determine who will be Olubadan. So, I don’t know why people want to short-circuit the process.
I asked one of the people who are agitating to become obas why they wanted to become obas. He told me they went for a reception at University of Ibadan International Conference Centre and that three of them were in the front, representing the Olubadan and that when one oba from an obscure place in the state was coming from the back, they were asked to give way for the oba. They were furious because they in their own right were qualified to become obas. Either we are right or wrong, we say in Ibadan that a Mogaji from Ibadan is bigger in status than an oba in other places.
But it is not in our tradition that high chiefs are made to become obas when they are already in line to become Olubadan. When Ibadan people started their kingship system, they chose a collegiate system where the Olubadan is the head. I told them that the answer to their not being properly recognised is for us to have a very strong protocol unit under the Olubadan. If the protocol people had gone to the reception to tell the organisers that Olubadan would not be coming, but three of the high chiefs would be representing him, they would have reserved their seats and nobody would have asked them to clear the way for any oba. If it is for any other reason, maybe the idea would have been welcomed. But for the reason they gave, it is not going to fly.
Are you considering going to court on this matter?
Why should I go to court? What for? If my right is not violated and what they have done is right, why should I go to court? If at the end of the day, what they do is not right, then any bona fide Ibadan person can go to court because every Ibadan person is a potential Olubadan. You people are just speculating. Where is the source of the original information? The information at my own disposal, which was from the Osi Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oyewole, sent me a message that by 7th of July, the governor has accepted that they should start using their crowns.
This means they fixed the date themselves and asked the governor to give them permission to be using their crowns. He did not say the governor would come and crown them. They had crowns from the days of Abiola Ajimobi and it was not the governor who took away their crowns. They willingly left the crowns. I have not read anything from government circles from what I have been reading so far. It is all speculation. I think somebody is trying to fly a kite here to see whether they can drag me into the thing. Ladoja is not interested in wearing any other crown apart from that of Olubadan. The issue at stake is not the issue of crown, but that of hierarchy. I did not have a crown at that time. You journalists are supposed to be doing investigative journalism. Find out the source of the story.
Recently, the Oyo State House of Assembly passed an amended Chiefs Law…
Have you read it?
They did not make it available…
That is not true. They made it available. If you go to the government press, they will give you a copy there. So, go and read it. If you read it, you will find out that it has nothing to do with the issue of Olubadan chieftaincy or any high chief wearing crowns. From the voice note I played to you people earlier, you heard the Osi Olubadan saying they asked for the governor’s permission to be wearing their crowns and not to promote them as obas. What the governor asked the assembly to do is to remove a clause which makes the approval of the state Council of Obas and Chiefs mandatory to crown obas. That is why I said you people should go and read it first.
What is your relationship with Governor Seyi Makinde?
It is that of father to son.
Is it cordial?
Of course, it is. Why are you asking me that question? It is very cordial. He gave me one big cow and bags of rice for Sallah. That is what a son should do to the father. Our relationship is very good.
Under President Bola Tinubu, is there any hope for a new Nigeria?
Of course, there is hope for a new Nigeria. Remove all the corruption, you will see that Nigeria will be better. In those days, anybody in the EFCC was above the law. Now, President Tinubu has shown us that everybody is accountable. The former EFCC chairman, Bawa, was said to have gone to Mecca and taken about six rooms in Hilton Hotel which cost a fortune. They said he should be queried where he got the money.
Yes, it is true, we should ask him. Where did he get the money? Look at Emefiele also. One of the newspapers said he sold dollars at N630. He denied it. But the newspaper came back and said it stood by its story and could even name individuals who got dollars at such a price from the CBN. The rate moved from N450 official rate to N630. A lot of things were happening under Buhari. I only hope the APC will be strong enough to face the issue of cleansing of the Augean Stable. Once they can clean it up, we will not see another Bawa going to Mecca to live luxuriously without thinking of the implications.
If Buhari were to be a serious president, he would have sacked Emefiele the day he said he was going to contest for presidency. Where did he get the N100m to buy the form? We believe that by the grace of God, Tinubu, with whatever shortcomings he might have come in, will make a difference.
We heard those who are saying Ibadan has come of age and needs to have more than one Oba…
Everybody has a right to his opinion, but whether the opinion is reasonable or not is another thing. I am not saying that we should not modernise it. If we are not going to modernise it, then we will not be riding in cars, but on horsebacks. Yes, we need to modernise it. But is wearing crowns part of modernity? They have been wearing crowns for how many years? Ibadan chose to wear a crown for its Olubadan only in 1976 and luckily, the father of my close friend was the one who wore it first, Oba Adebimpe. Olubadan of the past used to be called Baales until the time of Alesinloye who said he did not want to be Baale, but Olubadan. Ibadan was bearing anything they wanted to bear because they were so strong. Olubadan was bearing Bashorun before now [Bashorun Ogunmola]. We had one who was Aare Onakakanfo [Aare Latosa]. Later, they settled for the Olubadan of Ibadanland.
Can’t we just have you as a former governor constituting an advisory council to be advising the state governor on issues that affect Oyo State based on your experience?
Everybody has his model of governance. If Governor Makinde needs advice from me, he comes to me to ask for my opinion on issues. Or he even calls to seek my opinion and I always tell him my opinion. At the federal level, they have what is called the Council of State, with the former Chief Justices, former Heads of State, former presidents and so on. Nothing prevents the states from having their own Council of State with former governors, former CJ, former Attorney Generals and so on as members. He can assemble them to jaw-jaw. But if the governor can do it without formalising it, nothing is wrong with that also.
Have you spoken to the Olubadan over the crown wearing controversy? Do you think he will be interested in allowing his High Chiefs to wear crowns? Is he in support of this move?
What I learned that really happened is this: when the court nullified everything they did under the Justice Boade Commission of Inquiry and they negotiated for out-of-court settlement, the new governor then, Makinde, said he was not interested in the matter and that we should settle out of court. We gave out the terms and they agreed. But the beneficiaries of the crowns later went to court to challenge why we should settle out of court. They first said they would appeal; we told them since they were not part of the case they could not appeal. The case they filed was in court until Oba Adetunji died and there was vacancy in the Olubadan stool. The next in line was Lekan Balogun who was already a beneficiary of one of the crowns at that time. We said until the issue of the court case was sorted out, nothing would be done to fill the vacancy because the governor was part of the people they sued.
I learned that part of the conditions they gave Lekan Balogun at that time was that they would withdraw the case if he promised them they would continue to wear their crowns. If they did not withdraw the case, there would not have been Olubadan up till now. The Soun of Ogbomoso died before the Olubadan, Alaafin also died last year and even the Aseyin, none of those vacancies has been filled till now. Ibadan people, in their own wisdom, created that hierarchy.
If 20 people who are in line to become Olubadan die at the same time today, there won’t be any controversy about who will step in as new Olubadan. For those agitating to wear a crown, if Osi Olubadan is promoted to Otun Olubadan, is he going to wear another crown or is it going to be the same crown? A lot of confusion is there. So, they gave Balogun a condition to help them reclaim their crowns when he becomes Olubadan. So, this time round, they reminded him of the promise and that was what brought the issue of the 7th of July.
It was a letter they wrote to the governor and we have not seen the response to that letter. They said they have told the Olubadan that the governor has consented. Who told the Olubadan, I don’t know. So, it is not new. Also, that does not mean that wearing crowns, which was illegal at that time, is now legal. It is still illegal today. Why they chose July 7, I don’t know.