For some years now, political “godfatherism” and patronage have been part of the politics of Oyo State and Nigeria as a whole. The two go hand in hand and have become a source of livelihood of some sort, especially these days that politics has become a full-time occupation.
The death of Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu on June 11, 2008 no doubt marked the end of an era in Oyo State politics. His likes come only once a few decades. Like the enigmatic politicians that made waves, positively or negatively before him in Ibadan, his fame spread far and wide.
In the 1950s, Ibadan knew the “Stormy Petrel”, Adegoke Adelabu “Penkelemeesi”. Though from a humble background, his brilliance singled him out and he was known for his leadership qualities and oratory prowess.
After his sudden death in a car accident, Ibadan politics did not witness the emergence of another enigmatic personality until the Second Republic when Alhaji Busari “Eruobodo” Adelakun became a major power broker in the state. His knowledge of grassroots politics earned him an appointment as Commissioner for Health in the Unity Party of Nigeria led government (though he never had a background in Medical or Health Sciences). He was to later decamp to the National Party of Nigeria where he remained relevant. The “Eruobodo”, the Champion of Ejioku was known to be well fortified physically and spiritually and he was seldom unarmed. He was a man who would give fire for fire, he was never caught unawares. Those who were in Ibadan during the Second Republic would remember the battle between him and Barrister Obisesan in which cutlasses and charms were freely used. Though part of the melee was caught on camera by a television station, Adelakun went straight to the studio of the National Television Authority, Agodi with blood stained clothes; there he narrated his version of the incident. While stressing that he and his supporters were not the aggressors, Eruobodo kept repeating that “Obisesan was holding a pistol”. As Governor, Dr Omololu Olunloyo knew Adelakun was a man to be kept at an arm’s length. Little wonder he was appointed as a Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority.
Adelakun lost his life while in prison having been incarcerated by the General Buhari led government.
By the Third Republic, it was the time of Alhaji Lamidi Ariyibi Adedibu to shine. Having understudied the likes of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Archdeacon Emmanuel Alayande and Chief S.O Lanlehin as well as the likes of Augustus Adisa Akinloye and a number of others, he invented the system which became known as “Amala Politics”. On a normal day, Adedibu’s Molete residence would host at least six hundred people. His kitchen fed supporters numbering about 300 or 400 everyday. That drew all sorts of people to him, miscreants inclusive as they were all sure of free meals. That of course made them willing to do his bidding at any point in time.
He was largely instrumental to the installation of not less than 3
Governors of Oyo State and the emergence of a number of Senators, his biological son inclusive as well as many other political office holders.
Chief Kolapo Ishola who emerged as the Governor on the platform of the Social Democratic Party in 1991 was fiercely loyal to the “Molete School of Politics”. Many times, the Governor was a regular caller at Adedibu’s residence.
Adedibu also worked hard before the 2003velection which produced Rashidi Ladoja as Governor. It was an open secret that he was one of the major forces behind Senator Ladoja. The selection of members of the executive council however showed that Ladoja was his own man. On the evening of his inauguration, he announced the appointment of Barrister Sharafa Alli as Secretary to the State Government. While Adedibu had gone on to nominate candidates for almost all the ministries, Ladoja urged his political godfather to take some rest abroad and while Adedibu was away, Ladoja appointed commissioners other than the ones nominated by his godfather.
That was the beginning of the political war. Every step Ladoja took did not go down well with the Molete camp. At a point, the youngest Senator in the state then tried to intervene, urging Ladoja to mend fences with Adedibu. “Don’t worry, leave me and Baba. If that is why you came, I’ll suggest you go back to Abuja. I know Baba very well, he cannot fight a long war”, he told the Senator. Then, Ladoja seemed to have the upper hand until the tide suddenly turned.
Ladoja was eventually impeached. Though the impeachment was later declared illegal by the court. He was away from office for 11 months.
When asked on national TV what his grouse against his erstwhile political godson was, High Chief Adedibu’s response was that he was too stingy. “He collects N 60 million as security votes every month, is it bad if he gives me one quarter of it?”
In came Alao-Akala, a son in whom Adedibu was well pleased. Though they had disagreements, Akala knew how to placate the grand old man. He was not unmindful of the efforts of the Ibadan High Chief in ensuring that votes came in from all over the state. Twice Adedibu collapsed in Oke Ogun during campaigns for the 2007 election. When close associates told him to go back home and take care of his health, “you won’t understand”, he simply told them.
His death in 2008 apparently changed some political calculations ahead of the 2011 elections. His death also marked an untimely end to amala politics in the state. Presently, it is being said that the era of political godfathers might have finally become history in the state.
Those in this school of thought have based their argument on the fact that no one will throw his doors open to different characters like Adedibu did. Some have however pointed out that it is impossible to win an election without a godfather. The approach of the godfather in terms of remuneration and compensation is what differs from place to place. It is difficult to say the present holders of power in the state do not have godfathers. It is just that the godfathers are operating a different system.
Meanwhile, analysts have opined that the new-found political love between former Governor Ladoja and Otunba Alao-Akala too is a bid to checkmate some powers. “If neither of the two decides to contest, any candidate they sponsor will definitely be a godson. But one thing is sure, there can never be another amala politician in Oyo State”, a politician concluded.