Over the past few years, some of the most frequently asked questions in Oyo State bother on whether the office of the Governor of Oyo State is a jinxed one or whether the state has just been unlucky with leadership in the last two decades.
For some time now, the office has become scarred with scandals, most of which bother on corruption. Oyo State indigenes often speak of the indelible marks left by the first Executive Governor of Oyo State, Late Chief James Ajibola Ige. It is also an agreed fact across the state that Oyo State would have been the better for it if Dr. Olunloyo had stayed longer in office, alas, the December 1983 coup plunged the country back into military rule.
By the time General Ibrahim Babangida and the Armed Forces Ruling Council decided in their wisdom to return the country to democratic rule, elections were conducted and Chief Kolapo Olawuyi Ishola became the Governor of the state. Though he was only in office between January 1992 and November 1993, a lot happened politically within that period. His main achievements included the establishment of the Teaching Service Commission for post primary schools as well as a school of science in Pade.
Within the political circles however, it was an open secret that while Ishola who was elected on the platform of the Social Democratic Party ruled as Governor, his political godfather, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu reigned as the main power broker. Adedibu dictated who got what and he had maximum powers to install or remove appointees.
Not even the Governor could dare the Strongman of Ibadan politics. It became a joke around the state capital then that nothing ever found its way into the agenda of the State Executive Council meeting except it was first discussed in Molete. The insinuations might have been drawn from the regular visits of the Governor to Adedibu’s palatial residence then. It was even said that at times, Molete would be the Governor’s last port of call before moving to the exco chamber.
Though when power changed hands in November 1993, none of the Governors in the country was arrested by the new military government. Some were however trailed by allegations of corruption. One of the main burdens that the Ishola administration had to cope with was that it misappropriated about N 120 million meant for developmental projects in Oyo State. The story that made the rounds then was that the state got a grant from the Federal Government account during Ishola’s tenure to the tune of N 150 million. It was alleged that only N 24 million was expended on projects across the state while the rest could not be accounted for. Though the allegations were vehemently denied by the parties concerned, people in the state knew what and who to believe.
Not even the government of Lam Adesina which many hail as one of the most transparent was error free. To many, Lam got to the government unprepared and as a result, left some of the things that mattered unattended to. For instance at a point in the middle of his tenure, water suddenly became a scarce commodity in Ibadan and environs. While people carrying different types of containers and gallons looking for water became a common sight in Ibadan, the Water Corporation of Oyo State was manufacturing sachet water for sale. The state’s fortune of the state took a downward turn after Adesina left the Government House and power fell upon the shoulders of Rashidi Ladoja.
As believed by many, Ladoja came with good intentions. His campaign strategy gave the people inklings that his government would carry everyone along. He took his campaign to artisans, market men and women, drivers and the like. A noteworthy event however took place on the day he was sworn in; the statue of Chief Obafemi Awolowo that stood in front of the Government House was pulled down by unknown persons.
Most of the good intentions people thought Ladoja had could however not be delivered; no thanks to the clash with the Governor’s godfather, Alhaji Adedibu. The Late Strongman of Ibadan Politics’ grouse against the Governor was that he (the Governor) was collecting N 60 million monthly as security vote without remitting anything to him as the godfather. The climax of it was the impeachment of the Governor by 18 out of the 32 members of the Oyo State House of Assembly.
The state remained almost at a standstill while the two men and those in their camps slugged it out. Eventually, Ladoja’s Deputy became Governor in his stead and within eleven months, it was obvious that the state had a Governor who knew the use and value of money as against Ladoja who was perceived to be prudent.
Contracts were awarded, with most of them allegedly going to companies owned by those who bankrolled the impeachment. It soon became obvious that state account was draining fast. As fate would have it, the courts ruled and again Oyo Sate lived to its billing as the “Pace Setter” when Governor Akala returned to the Deputy Governor’s position, in maintenance of the status quo ante.
As it turned out, Ladoja was already a different man when he returned. The tail end of his administration was enmeshed in controversy. Less than a year after he left office, he was picked up by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). In the dying days of the Ladoja administration, some shares belonging to Oyo State in a blue chip company were sold and the proceeds, about N 1.9 billion was not remitted to the coffers of the government.
The matter became messier when Chief Adewale Atanda, who was Ladoja’s “Man Friday” suddenly turned around and became a witness for the prosecution. Atanda opened the can of worms and stated how the proceeds were disbursed amongst Ladoja, his aides, wives and even his driver.
Though it is normal that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty, the “saintly” Ladoja’s reputation stands tainted in some places.
Incidentally, both Ladoja and Akala are facing charges from the EFCC. His four years as Governor were allegedly fraught with inflated contracts, grand looting and general milking of the state. His administration was alleged to have siphoned about N 25 billion from the state treasury, while the Governor allegedly bought choice properties in Nigeria and abroad.
Though the present administration has just spent a little over a year in office, Oyo State citizens who have been yearning for a change are already praying that the current administration does not end up like the ones before it. The recent trip of the wives of the members of the Oyo State to England for training opened the eyes of the populace to the fact that the administration might not be immune to corruption after all.
While all eyes are on the government, Oyo State people most of who have become saddened by the fact that most of their Governors enter the Government House unprepared and end up not knowing what to do with state funds are eagerly waiting and praying for a deliverer who will change the face of governance and run a corruption free government in the state.