NIGERIA: Finally, the Oyo Marriage Collapses

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After a lot of patching, the working collaboration between the Action Congress of Nigeria-controlled government in Oyo State and the Accord Party has finally collapsed. Tunde Sanni writes on how the development will change subsisting permutation for the 2015 elections in the state

Former governor of Oyo state, the late Alhaji Lamidi Adesina, would probably be giggling in his grave. He was visibly against the alliance in 2011 between the Senator Abiola Ajimobi-led government and the then political bride of the state, Senator Rasidi Ladoja-led Accord Party.
Due to the impressive performance of the Accord Party in the 2011 polls and with just four months of existence, especially at the state assembly election, the party leader, Ladoja, was approached to partner the ACN with an understanding to concede some posts to his party.
But Adesina was suspect of such an alliance and feared that if Ajimobi dare give Ladoja an inch, he would ask for a yard. But Ajimobi, desperate to become governor, ignored Adesina and went ahead. After the polls, ACN had 13 lawmakers; PDP 12 and the AP 7 to make up the 32-member assembly.

However, with the political marriage, all eyes were initially on Ajimobi and his determination to keep his side of the bargain. But later, attention shifted to Ladoja on whether or not he would support a government in which his party men, including one of his siblings, were serving.
True to promise, Ajimobi kept to his bargain, an Accord Party man, Tunde Laniyan became the deputy speaker while some other AP lawmakers had their field day in the assembly in deference to the PDP which had numerical strength than the AP lawmakers. Yet, the alliance must be kept.

At the cabinet level, were nominees of Ladoja which included two commissioners, two Special Advisers, some chairmen and members of boards of parastatals. Initially, two members of Ladoja’s party were appointed Caretaker Chairmen of local councils but before the bubble burst, they had been removed. Also caught in the web of the broken alliance were all his nominees in the cabinet.
They are Ladoja’s brother, Alhaji Abiola Kabiru Ladoja; the Commissioner for Science and Technology, Alhaji Nureni Adisa; Commissioner for Special Duties, Alhaji Bayo Lawal;  Special Adviser on Industries, Chief Taiwo Adegbite and Special Adviser on Physical Development and boards chairmen and members.

Things began to go bad when Ladoja felt he was no more having his way with Ajimobi and started throwing darts at the government, the ruling party and spoiling for popularity contest. Though, Ladoja was reported to have claimed that he had not been attacking Ajimobi but the party, observer however maintained that since Ajimobi is the symbol of the party in the state, it is as good as attacking the governor.
But when the governor could no longer take more of the attacks, he decided to wield the big stick by offloading the Accord Party members in his cabinet. This he communicated to Ladoja in a letter personally signed by him and delivered to the Bodija private residence of the former governor.

In the letter, the governor traced the history of his alliance with the former governor and how, in the last few months, Ladoja had consistently broken the tenets of the accord by casting aspersion on a government in which he vicariously participated, through the participation of his nominees and proxies, which included his younger brother.
The letter read in part: “Immediately after (the 2011) election, because of the peculiar configuration of the electoral balance, it was obvious that, for the good of our state and its development, I needed to extend my handshake across other frontiers. You will recall also that after the elections, I met with you to ask for an alliance between your political party, Accord Party and my government. The basis of the relationship being demanded was for you to support me and contribute, as well as participate, positively in the governance of the state, considering the devastation and degradation that had been visited on the state over the years.

“You will also recall that, at my meeting with you, you agreed with me that, for a total restoration of the state, there was the need for well-meaning citizens of the state to eliminate the politics of brickbats, mudslinging and the proverbial Pull-Him-Down Syndrome which had become the byword for politicking in our state. This politics, invariably, misinforms the citizenry through subterfuge and has, over the years, contributed to stalling the development of the state. At that meeting, you agreed with me that there was the need to rescue the state from those vices of the political arena that had driven our state backwards.”
Ajimobi said in spite of the initial opposition by his party echelon, which had reasoned that Ladoja’s ambition to govern the state again would destroy the alliance, he stuck to the agreement with him, believing that, as a sportsman, the former governor would respect the spirit and letter of the alliance.

“Regrettably, recent developments, in terms of the conduct of your people and the campaign of calumny which is recorded frequently in the newspapers, unsubstantiated allegations, as well as unwarranted vitriolic attacks against my person and the government under my leadership, have made me come to the conclusion that these recent campaigns against me are incompatible with the spirit of our alliance.
“There is nowhere in the world where an alliance that benefits a participating partner is repaid by destructive maneuvers and corrosive innuendoes aimed at bringing down the house as this,” he said.
Among others, Ladoja had been quoted at campaign grounds as saying that his participation in the Ajimobi government had shown the inadequacies of the government.

“It is in view of the foregoing that I am using this medium to inform you of my decision to disengage your nominees from the government… I feel constrained to take this painful but inevitable decision, in view of our personal relationship.”
The sacking of the Ladoja’s aides finally broke whatever remained of the relationship even though the relationship appeared doomed from the outset. First, was the mass protest of ACN members against the rejection of loyal party men who worked for the success of the party at the polls for Accord members who contested with them and could have even beaten them were it not for their strength and deep rooting. They shut down the assembly for two days until the lawmakers were made to suspend the screening of Ladoja’s nominees to allow tempers cool down.

In an attempt to ensure that the relationship never succeeded, ACN chieftains went back to the drawing table and came out with plans A and B to whip the governor in line in order to ensure that they did not lose relevance and reckoning in the state.
Plan A was to evolve a working alliance with the 12 PDP lawmakers in the assembly to shore up the number of the lawmakers in the proposed anti-Ajimobi structure to 25 against the AP which has just seven lawmakers. Though a hard nut to crack, the PDP lawmakers caved in after consulting with their leaders. The alliance was not without its attachments to the lawmakers as the remaining vacant positions favoured the PDP lawmakers, thus posting a signal to the AP lawmakers that the end of the romance had indeed come.
Plan B, according to sources, was to wield the big stick which is the impeachment. But that was no more contemplated as the governor proved to be a jolly good friend with the lawmakers.

Political observers however blamed Ladoja for his poor handling of the alliance and allowing the bubble to burst on him. Sources close to the government alleged that the governor held him in high esteem as much as constantly extending financial hands. For instance, Ladoja and one of his wives were reported to have benefitted from some contracts from the ruling government in the good old days.
Aside from the Ladoja attacks on the ruling party, he has also been taking delivery of ACN members into his party and positioning AP as the next government in the state, judging by the rate of defections into the party. Even on the second day after the sack of his aides, he still received members of the ACN and PDP into his party where he was unsparing of his criticism of the ruling party and the management of the state resources.

He received another batch of defectors from Ibadan North mainly from the ACN and the PDP into his party. A wall post on his facebook reads: “Another milestone was turned in Ibadan North Local Area where numerous members of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Nigeria Conscience Party (NCP) declared for Accord. The event took place at the Compound of Genesis Private School, Total Ground, Ibadan.
“The carnival like occasion had the Accord National Leader and former Governor of Oyo state, Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja; the Accord National Secretary, Hon. Nureni Adisa; State Chairman, Architect Bashiru Lawal; all Accord members of the Oyo state House of Assembly; and chieftains of the party in the state were in attendance. Senator Ladoja praised the courage of the new members who saw the light and left their former parties for Accord.”

He reiterated his resolve to champion the cause of the masses and stand by them. Senator Ladoja enjoined the leaders of the people to know that in Accord, “we are all one in the course of moving the state further and declared that the era of intimidation of the masses is over.
Talking tough, Ladoja advised political parties and their chieftains who have perfected the arts of rigging to desist from such scheme and dared the Oyo State government to set in motion processes towards the local government elections.

But the questions being asked now are what becomes of Accord Party if Ladoja was removed and how far can the party go since all its strides so far are limited to Ibadanland where the elders of the town are maintaining their anti-Ladoja posture, on local government in Ibarapa in Oyo and in Ogbomoso.
Available facts from the Accord Party showed that the defectors have been responsible for themselves and their new party without any ‘allocation’ from the national leader.

If the party is to make an impact and in fact, clinch the governorship in the 2015 polls, observers say it has to be in alliance with a party or fuse into one. There are fears that most of those who have rushed in with the new popularity status of Ladoja and his party because they feel it is the government-in-waiting, may also rush out if they discovered that there was nothing for them after all.

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