Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja is a former Oyo State governor. He hosted media at his Ibadan Ondo Street apartment, where he noted that most of the issues on which President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is now acting were raised with his predecessor, Muhamadu Buhari, but he (Buhari) turned a deaf ear. Musliudeen Adebayo, a Gist House correspondent in Oyo state, was at Ladoja’s mansion when the Otun Olubadan of Ibadan land said that his desire is to become Olubadan of Ibadan land. Excerpts.
This year’s Sallah festival took place in the midst of the country’s dire economic predicament. What are your thoughts on this?
As our Imam stated on the Eid prayer ground, one year there was hunger and the next year there was plenty. With the new Nigerian government in place, abundance will begin to flow. It may appear challenging at first. But we all know that painful decisions must be made before we can expect help. Please do not give up hope, those of us who are still living.
It suggests you favor some of President Bola Tinubu’s difficult measures so far, such as the withdrawal of petrol subsidies and so on…
Yes, I agree with the decisions taken thus far. We are all aware of the necessity to change and restructure Nigeria. It is no longer an issue of palliatives. It is a matter of how we redistribute wealth. So it is not a case of distributing N5,000 to each of the five million people. The President vowed to pay workers a livable wage. This suggests he is aware that the workers are not being paid a living wage. I’m confident he understands what he’s doing, and by God’s help, we’ll get there.
The majority of what we criticised Buhari for was that he simply ignored our complaints. The majority of the grievances Tinubu is currently acting on were previously addressed with Buhari. Buhari was asked about [Abdulrasheed] Bawa, former EFCC chairman, and [Godwin] Emefiele, suspended CBN governor. As a result, we can conclude Tinubu knows what he’s doing. There will be rapid improvement if we can eliminate much corruption. Tinubu does not need to enforce the law. They will enforce their own rules.
For example, we no longer need to patrol the borders because individuals are taking subsidised petrol out of the nation, as long as Nigeria receives all of its dues and there is no subsidy. It is the responsibility of the Benin Republic to collect taxes from those who bring it into the country. When you don’t have to police anything, governance will be simple. Everything will become more liberal, and competition will force price reductions.
Consider GSM. When they first started, the SIM cost around N30,000. However, they are now willing to offer people things for free. Things will improve once there is competition, as I am sure the president understands having come from the private sector.
There was a recent news item stating that you and ten others will be promoted to crown-wearing obas from your existing posts as High Chiefs…
I read the report and I’m not sure why they chose to focus on me. They stated 11 persons would become obas; they should have started with the leader of the 11 high chiefs, who is now the Balogun of Ibadanland. Why did they mention Ladoja and ten others? Why did they not say Olakulehin and ten others? I believe there is some sort of mischief going on. I’d want to reiterate. Nothing has changed [from his position prior to the 2019 out-of-court settlement]. People believe you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken. I don’t believe it is fair or proper for those of us who are High Chiefs to become obas. Why? Who are we up against?
On October 1, 1993, I went out to join the race to become the Olubadan of Ibadanland, and I began focused on how to become the Olubadan of Ibadaland, as that is the only crown I want to wear. Apart from the Olubadan, I am not interested in any other crown. I had no idea there would be an ade pali [cardboard inferior crown] problem on the way. If I had wanted that, I would have become the Baale of Laleye, our village.
Those of us who are High Chiefs serve as counselors to the Olubadan while also learning. We are promoted from one rank to the next, and the Olubadan sends us on errands to represent him in various locations. I was the acting chairman of Lagelu Local Government Traditional Council as Ekarun Olubadan. Following that, I was appointed Ekerin and assigned to Oluyole Local Government Traditional Council in the same role. I was Asipa in Ibadan North-West when I became Osi Olubadan in Ibadan South-West, where I also served as acting head of the traditional council.
I am currently in Ibadan, South-East Nigeria. As you can see, I have covered five of the eleven councils. We are expected to help the Olubadan. Look at Lagos, where everyone knows that white cap chiefs are superior to some obas. As a result, it is not peculiar to Ibadan.
We are all aware that the Olubadan is chosen by God. In recent history, the Balogun and Otun Olubadan died within a week of each other. Their deaths opened the way for the late Oba Saliu Adetunji, the immediate preceding Olubadan. God made the decision that those folks would not become Olubadan. As a result, we might assume that only God will decide who would be Olubadan. So I’m not sure why folks want to speed up the process.
I asked one of the persons who wanted to be obas why they wanted to be obas. He told me that they went to a reception at the 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 part of the state came from the back, they were requested to give way. They were enraged because they were competent to be obas in their own right. We claim in Ibadan that a Mogaji from Ibadan has a higher standing than an oba from other locations, whether we are correct or not.
However, it is not in our tradition to make high chiefs become obas when they are already in position to become Olubadan. When the people of Ibadan established their kingship system, they picked a collegiate structure with the Olubadan as the head. I informed them that the solution to their lack of recognition was for us to establish a very strong protocol unit under the Olubadan. If the protocol team had gone to the reception to inform the organizers that Olubadan would not be attending but that three of the high chiefs would be representing him, they would have booked their places and no one would have asked them to make way for any oba. If it had been for any other purpose, the concept may have been accepted. But, for the reasons stated, it will not fly.
Are you thinking about going to court about this?
Why should I appear in court? For what purpose? Why should I go to court if my rights have not been infringed and what they have done is legal? If, in the end, what they do is wrong, any genuine Ibadan person can go to court since every Ibadan person is a prospective Olubadan. You are only speculating. Where did the initial information come from? The information I had at my disposal came from the Osi Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oyewole, who wrote me a message saying that by July 7th, the governor had agreed that they should begin utilizing their crowns.
This indicates they set the day themselves and requested permission from the governor to use their crowns. He didn’t say anything about the governor coming to crown them. They had crowns since the days of Abiola Ajimobi, and it was not the governor who removed them. They abandoned the crowns gladly. From what I’ve read so far, I haven’t come across anything from government circles. It’s just conjecture. I believe someone is attempting to fly a kite here in order to drag me into the thing. Ladoja is not interested in wearing any other crown save Olubadan’s. The question at hand is not one of crown, but of hierarchy. At the time, I didn’t have a crown. You’re meant to be performing investigative journalism. Find out where the story came from.
The Oyo State House of Assembly recently revised the Chiefs Law…
Have you finished it?
They refused to make it available…
That is not correct. They made it accessible. They will give you a copy if you go to the government press. So go ahead and read it. If you read it, you’ll realize it has nothing to do with the Olubadan chieftaincy or any high chief wearing a crown. You heard the Osi Olubadan mention in the voice note I played to you earlier that they begged the governor’s permission to wear their crowns and not be promoted as obas. The governor requested that the assembly delete a section that requires the consent of the state Council of Obas and Chiefs before crowning obas. That is why I suggested that you read it first.
How do you feel about Governor Seyi Makinde?
It is a father-son relationship.
Is it friendly?
Naturally, it is. Why are you posing that question to me? It’s extremely friendly. He gave me a large cow and several sacks of rice for Sallah. That is exactly what a son should do to his father. Our friendship is fantastic.
Is there any chance for a new Nigeria under President Bola Tinubu?
There is, of course, hope for a new Nigeria. When all corruption is eliminated, Nigeria will improve. Back then, everyone in the EFCC was above the law. President Tinubu has now demonstrated that everyone is held accountable. Bawa, the former EFCC chairman, was claimed to have gone to Mecca and booked six rooms at the opulent Hilton Hotel. They suggested that he be questioned about where he acquired the money.
Yes, that is correct; we should ask him. How did he obtain the funds? Consider Emefiele as well. According to one of the newspapers, he sold dollars for N630. He flatly rejected it. However, the publication said that it stuck by its story and could even name individuals who received dollars at such a low cost from the CBN. The official rate was changed from N450 to N630. A lot was going on during Buhari’s tenure. I can only hope that the APC will be powerful enough to deal with the issue of Augean Stable cleansing. Once they’ve cleaned things up, we won’t see another Bawa go to Mecca to live comfortably without considering the consequences.
If Buhari were a serious president, he would have fired Emefiele the day he announced his intention to run for president. Where did he acquire the N100,000 to purchase the form? We think that, by the grace of God, Tinubu, with whatever flaws he may have, will make a difference.
We’ve heard it said that Ibadan has matured and requires more than one Oba…
Everyone has the right to an opinion, but whether or not that opinion is reasonable is another matter. I’m not saying we shouldn’t modernize it. If we do not modernize it, we shall ride on horseback rather than in cars. Yes, we must modernize it. Is wearing crowns, however, a sign of modernity? How many years have they been wearing crowns? Ibadan elected to wear a crown for its Olubadan only in 1976, and happily, my close friend’s father, Oba Adebimpe, was the first to do so. Olubadan used to be named Baales until Alesinloye declared that he did not want to be Baale, but Olubadan. Because they were so strong, Ibadan could carry whatever they wanted. Before now, Olubadan was carrying Bashorun [Bashorun Ogunmola]. Aare Onakakanfo [Aare Latosa] was one of us. They eventually settled on the Olubadan of Ibadanland.
Can’t you, as a former governor, simply form an advisory group to advise the state governor on matters affecting Oyo State based on your experience?
Everyone has their own governing model. If Governor Makinde wants guidance, he comes to me and asks for my thoughts on various subjects. Or he will call and ask for my opinion, and I will always give him mine. The federal government has what is known as the Council of State, which includes past Chief Justices, Heads of State, Presidents, and so on. Nothing precludes states from forming their own Council of State, comprised of past governors, Chief Justices, Attorney Generals, and others. He can put them together to form a jaw-jaw. But nothing is wrong with the governor doing it without formalizing it.
Have you discussed the crown-wearing controversy with the Olubadan? Do you think he’ll be willing to let his High Chiefs wear crowns? Is he on board with this plan?
When the court annulled everything they did under the Justice Boade Commission of Inquiry and they negotiated for an out-of-court settlement, the new governor at the time, Makinde, stated that he was not interested in the subject and that we should settle out of court. We presented the terms, and they agreed. However, the recipients of the crowns eventually moved to court to question why we should settle out of court. They originally indicated they would appeal, but we told them they couldn’t because they weren’t involved in the case. The complaint they brought was heard in court until Oba Adetunji died and the Olubadan throne became vacant. Lekan Balogun, who had already received one of the crowns, was the next in line. We said that nothing would be done to fill the vacancy until the court case was resolved because the governor was one of the people they sued.
I discovered that one of the conditions they imposed on Lekan Balogun at the time was that he assure them that they would continue to wear their crowns. There would have been no Olubadan if they had not withdrawn the case. The Soun of Ogbomoso died before the Olubadan, Alaafin died last year, and the Aseyin died as well; none of those openings have been filled as of yet. That order was established by the people of Ibadan in their own judgment.
If 20 persons in line to become Olubadan die at the same time today, there will be no debate about who will be the new Olubadan. For those who want to wear a crown, if Osi Olubadan gets promoted to Otun Olubadan, will he wear another crown or will it be the same crown? There is a lot of uncertainty. So they made a condition for Balogun to help them reclaim their thrones when he becomes Olubadan. So, this time, they reminded him of the pledge, which brought up the problem of the 7th of July. It was a letter they sent to the governor, and we have yet to receive a response. They claimed to have informed the Olubadan that the governor had agreed. I’m not sure who told the Olubadan. As a result, it is not novel. That does not mean that crowns, which were illegal at the time, are now legal. It is still prohibited today. I’m not sure why they chose July 7th.