Former Governor, Senator Rashidi Ladoja is arguably the most sought-after politician in Oyo state. Recent political events since the conclusion of various parties’ primary in June have indicated. More reason notable politicians across party lines have expressed desires to have him in their teams. In fact, many politicians have turned his Bodija residence into a Mecca of some sort, looking forward to his support and endorsement to help upend their dwindling electoral fortunes. For instance, the three leading parties in the state have all made appreciable gestures and incredible overtures to the man, his disciples, and followers, hoping such boost would send signals across that they are the chosen ones.
In effect, for the third Republic federal lawmaker, Senator Ladoja must be having one of his confusing, confounding, and consequential times as a groomer of leaders and builder of followers keeping in mind the way he’s seen by all and sundry as one of theirs. In a way, the ‘Osi Olubadan’ will contend with some toughest and riskiest political decisions and choices come 2023 poll. Clearly, whoever he chooses to back, supports, and endorse as candidates and parties are crucial to the political survival or otherwise of his base. But as the political campaign hit the ground running, the question on the lips of many curious observers is: what’s special about Senator Ladoja’s support that most politicians are ready to stake their last cards on it? One answer says he’s gotten structure across the state – one that can swing votes in favor of a party. Similarly, another one says his endorsement makes a candidate looks credible to voters.
In a similar vein, contenders jostling to be the next Governor including the incumbent Governor Seyi Makinde appear undaunted and determined in currying Senator Ladoja’s favor: they all crave his backing regardless of whose ox is gored. As noted in some quarters, whoever the third republic Senator back may eventually clinch the 2023 gubernatorial crown – the same way he did in the 2019 election – when Governor Makinde floored his main opponent Oloye Bayo Adelabu. With the death of two prominent former Governors, Senator Abiola Ajimobi and Otunba Adebayo Alao Akala in 2020 and 2022 respectively, the bulk of leading the political front in Oyo state appears to have fallen on Senator Ladoja’s lap. From Governor Seyi Makinde to Senator Teslim Folarin to Oloye Bayo Adelabu, the story of support and endorsement from the Ibadan High Chief is the same: they all want him to throw his support behind them. Given the continuous evolution of our nascent democracy, this columnist contented that the mad rush for Senator Ladoja’s support, endorsement, and favor might be a ruse, an old tactic that is fading into the quicksand of irrelevance.
Politicians across all spectrums have one simple but equally powerful charge in common: interest. Once interest is covered, the rest becomes a lot easier. Where interest aligns, politicians hardly face each other off. They hardly stand at each other’s throats; they rarely call each other’s excesses. In a sense, they hardly drag each other in the mud or dent each other’s images in the public. That’s when you see them in the public, holding hands, laughing heartily, engaging constructively. They considered themselves brothers when the going is smooth plus when they all have access to the public till and can perpetuate themselves in power for as long as they wish. But where interests clash, politicians don’t mind changing within a twinkle of an eye. To eat dogs, for instance, politicians don’t mind calling them brothers. For power, influence, and authority, most politicians can do anything to stay relevant. To win at the poll, they can dine with their foes. Most politicians can break bonds and mend fences at the same time. Test cases abound in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, politicians have been described as rare and otherworldly creations. They’ve also been defined as people cut from a different cloth from the rest. Described as people who say what they don’t mean and mean what they don’t say, Nigerian politicians, are some of the most unpredictable in the world. You might think you know their next moves only to be caught off guard by their antics. You might think an end has come to their era only to be left wondering what just happened. You might think you’ve seen enough only to be left in bewilderment. As you tried to catch them from one end, they escape from another. To win Senator Ladoja’s coveted support, by all means, Oyo APC had to do the unthinkable by breaking its rule during the primary: instead of declaring Kolapo Kola-Daisi as the winner of Oyo south senatorial district primary; surprisingly, the party went ahead to call for the cancellation of the exercise.
Days later, one of Senator Ladoja’s honchos, Barrister Sharafadeen Ali was declared the winner. The sudden change of result infuriated many party members that alongside Kolapo Kola-Daisi had to decamp to another political party. The crisis that followed is yet to be resolved. Again, when Senator Muhammed Kola Balogun defected from the PDP to APC, the assumption in town was that the man would be compensated for dumping his party. Instead, the party gave little preference to the Senator. He was treated as an equal not minding his current political standing. After leading PDP to victory in 2019, Senator Ladoja had his political disciples politically displaced into wilderness. Instead of honoring the coalition agreement, Governor Makinde and members of his kitchen cabinet ditched those sweated for his victory. The end of which has led to a mass exodus of faithful from the party.
Despite lampooning the pernicious effect of politics of Godfatherism in public, Governor Seyi Makinde is believe to admires Senator Rashidi Ladoja in private. He has consistently invited the Ibadan Chief to various events notable as former Governor among which is the ‘Omituntun Ramadan Lecture’: an annual program that takes place during the Muslim month of Ramadan. Recently, he also named the Ibadan circular road after him, a gesture that will go a long way to keep him in the good book. For discerning minds, it is hard to pin down Senator Ladoja to a particular party. He is what President Buhari described as belonging to everyone but belonging to no one. Unfortunately, aloofness and fence-sitting at this critical stage are dangerous for Senator Ladoja’s pedigree. As the gubernatorial candidate of the Accord Party, Oloye Bayo Adelabu is banking on Senator Ladoja’s support. With Senator Femi Lanlehin and Barrister Sharafadeen Ali in APC, Senator Teslim Folarin is waiting for the endorsement of Senator Ladoja. After public romance, Governor Seyi Makinde is hoping to count on Senator Ladoja’s bittersweet experience in PDP.
In the end, what will count in the 2023 elections would not be who Senator Ladoja back, supports, and endorse but importantly on what end those backing, support, and endorsement: in victory or defeat. It is from that vantage position that his true effect on Oyo politics would be dispassionately measured.
OYO101 is Muftau Gbadegesin’s Opinion about Issues affecting Oyo state, published on Saturdays. He can be reached via @TheGMAKing on Twitter, firstname.lastname@example.org and 09065176850