Why no governor has got second term in Oyo —Oyero, CCII president
President of the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII), Chief Bayo Oyero, speaks with SAHEED SALAWU on the call for a return to regional system of government in Nigeria, the texture of politics in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, as well as on the person of the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade I, whose centenary birthday will be celebrated on Monday. Excerpts:
Delegates from the South West went to the ongoing national conference with a consensus to demand for regional government, which by implication means a shrinking/merger of the existing multiple states in the region back into one – one region/state, one legislature, one police, etc. Isn’t a call for Ibadan State now inconsistent with that spirit?
Your idea of it is wrong. Regionalism doesn’t mean a collapse of the states. If regionalism is adopted now, it means each of the geopolitical zones will become a region, unlike the First Republic when there were three regions. There will now be six regions, emerging from the present geopolitical zones. So, what they are saying is, let it now be in the constitution that these geopolitical zones are recognised as political units within the federation. Each of the states will still be a component of each of the geopolitical zones. So, it is not that once you say a region, the states are gone. No. It then means that depending on what they come up with later, it is still within the federation. Creation of states from each of the geopolitical zones cannot be ruled out. They can still be created within each of the regions. You will remember that in 1996, (the late head of state) General Sani Abacha caused six new states to be created. In the South West geopolitical zone, they created Ekiti State. Osun State was created in 1991. So, he created one state from each of the then geopolitical zones. Again, the idea of geopolitical zone emanated from the regime of Abacha. All of us agitating for state creation know that it will be a uniform number to be created from each of the geopolitical zones. It is not going to be arbitrary. Recognising the geopolitical zones as regional units does not mean that the states are abrogated. You are not the only one who has that misconception. In 2005, I was at the confab. Before we left, the South West was meeting here in Ibadan. This idea of regionalism came and the Ekiti people and the Ondo people flared up; that they were not coming back to Ibadan, ignorantly, believing just like you believe as if once you say a region, then Ekiti State and Ondo State would be collapsed and then you now have Ibadan become the headquarters for the region. Not necessarily. The region would be taking some specific functions that are meant for all the components states. The region is not going to perform all the functions which a state is performing now. The regional administration would just be for those services that would be provided for all the states. So, instead of state police, you now have regional police. The APC (All Progressives Congress) governments in the South West now have been talking since they came about regional integration. For instance, if you want a light rail, a state may not be able to do that. There would be the need for cooperation, joint financing and there must be an authority to oversee such. That is what the region is going to be for, not that the states will now be obliterated.
With the picture you have just painted, would regionalism not be costlier now to maintain, as opposed to what we used to have in the past?
It may not be, but it means a total revolutionised system. The present system is exclusive. If we retain it as it is now, there may not be money to finance the region. It would only mean that each state may now contribute to the purse of the region. But if you now have a true federal system, there would be a proper redistribution of governmental functions among the states, the regional government, if it is adopted, and the Federal Government. That means a reallocation of the revenue, a new formula to get revenue to each of these levels.
There is this repeated statement (almost an anthem) that ‘Ibadan people do not serve a person two times.’ And strangely, no governor has done two consecutive terms in Oyo State – no matter how popular or efficient they were. Is it that Ibadan people are too difficult to please or there is a status quo that must be maintained, no matter what?
I never agree with it. What is the origin of that saying? It was orchestrated during the period of (Chief Lamidi) Adedibu when he had problems with (former Governor Rashidi) Ladoja. He got Ladoja impeached and (former Governor Adebayo) Alao-Akala came on for the 11 months of impeachment. Then, he backed Akala and told him when he (Akala) was re-elected that, ‘you are going to serve one term; Ibadan i sin’yan le’emeji (the Ibadan people do not serve an individual twice). That was how it originated. But when people say that, they don’t really pause to think deeply: is it true? What are the circumstances? Take the civilian administration from Chief Bola Ige’s time. Bola Ige was governor. You knew how he left. He committed a verbal atrocity against Ibadan and his friends, classmates in secondary school and his contemporaries who are Ibadan vowed that he would not come back and they worked against him, even within his party. So, he left. In January 1992, Chief Kolapo Ishola came. How did he leave? The military took over. Was that Ibadan? The military lasted till 1999. Lam (Adesina) came in. In 2003, Lam didn’t come back. What was the reason? All the Alliance for Democracy (AD) governors had an understanding with (former President) Olusegun) Obasanjo that he would come back for a second term. Obasanjo’s first term, the Yoruba didn’t vote for him. He was a president who had no honour in his home. So, he went round and persuaded them and they agreed that, ‘okay, we will ask people to vote for you for your second term, but you will also agree that the governors should do their own second term.’ The AD governors stupidly kept to their faith – Obasanjo undercut them. That was how, stupidly, they were booted out. Was that Ibadan? Osun was voted out. Ogun was voted out. Oyo was voted out. All the AD governors were voted out. Was that Ibadan? Then, you knew how Ladoja left. Ibadan wanted Ladoja at all cost, we did all we could, but when he stepped on the toes of Adedibu, Adedibu got the support of Obasanjo and Obasanjo used the federal might to get Ladoja out. Was that Ibadan? I mean, people don’t think when they say something and it interests the press to orchestrate it. So, it is not Ibadan people. If anybody has any justification different from the scenario I have painted, let them tell you. Ibadan i sin’yan le’emeji, meaning that whether you are good or bad, Ibadan would not support you, that is not right.
When will Nigeria move away from this seeming political entrapment and actually vote people based on their quality?
When we stop adopting the presidential system, because for somebody to want to be governor, he must have a lot of money, and that is why when they get there, they first want to make their money back. When they are there, very few of them think of the masses first. In Nigeria today, I can’t identify a statesman. They are all politicians. We have not got statesmen. Our statesmen are gone. A statesman is somebody who thinks, first and foremost, of the people, of the nation, not the way we are going.
Are we ever going to get it right?
To get it right may not be immediate because youths don’t give me hope. On Monday, I was listening to a radio programme, where they put some people together, while some others were phoning in: ‘there are too many old people in the confab. It should have been more of young people who still have a stake in the future,’ and so on. I don’t really buy the idea. When our youths have the opportunity to make money, they are more corrupt than the elders. Their elections are also corrupt. The Federation of Ibadan Students Union (FIBSU) was to conduct their election last year in Ibadan House, here in Oke-Aremo. It was by the grace of God that they did not kill themselves. If you know how they performed, how they raved about it, you would be sorry for this country. And it is not limited to them; it is the same everywhere in the higher institutions where you have youths. When you talk of the Nigerian youth council, the Nigerian youth something, they get close to corrupt governments. Any youth organisation in a particular state berating the Federal Government being controlled by another party, those are not Nigerian youths really thinking about the future. And the youth have a lot of reasons to feel aggrieved.
Would you not agree that this is still the fault of the elders? Aren’t the youth treading the path paved by the elders?
It is the fault of everybody – the elders and the young, the rulers and the ruled. In the Yourba tradition, if a young reporter, for instance, with a pay grade that allows for a Beetle car comes home with a 505 saloon car, your parents would sit you down and ask you how you got it. But nowadays, nobody is going to query you because they see some people who are younger than you, who qualified after you riding in Mercedes. That is the value system in Nigeria now. Go to campuses, a girl who got a car from a boyfriend as a student, when she graduates and she is working, what is she going to ride? The moral level is very low generally. So, there has to be a moral renaissance in this country, and not just among the leaders but also among the led, the old and the young. Each of us has a part to play.
It is said that the level of education and world view makes a lot of difference in everything – and ruling a city as big as Ibadan cannot be an exception. Would you say this has been proved right in the case of the current Olubadan, being an educated and enlightened monarch?
If you have been following his administration in the last seven years, from 2007 to now, you will see that there is a difference. And all the ingredients you are talking of are visible. Even when we talk of politics, this man became the Olubadan and within a month, he decided that once you are a traditional title holder, you shouldn’t be playing partisan politics; you are supposed to be father to all. In fact, he prepared a form for each of them to fill. He insisted that before you move from Mogaji to come on line, there is a basic minimum education that you should have. When you rise to a certain level, if you are a politician, you should forget about it because at that level, you are supposed to be father to all; all politicians are supposed to look up to you for leadership, for guidance. It takes somebody who is enlightened to do that. This man is unique in the sense that he doesn’t kowtow to politicians. He gives them their dues, he respects them, but he doesn’t mess around with them in terms of looking for dividends of democracy, so to say. When he ascended to the throne, how much was he being paid as the Olubadan? But he took some stands against the then government. The governor wanted him to do certain things, but he said ‘no, I won’t do anything that my people don’t want.’ So, it takes somebody who is enlightened, who is educated to take such stands. In today’s world, you have to be educated – and I mean education in a broad sense, not education in terms of reading and writing, but education in the sense of the total development of the human person. Anybody who wants to be in a position of oba even in a smaller community than this must be enlightened. He doesn’t have to be extremely rich. Oba Samuel Odulana is very much contented, and when you have contentment, people would believe you have even more than you actually do. I would say that whatever the present administration in this state has been able to do has been possible because of the support of the Olubadan and his chiefs and the people of Ibadan. I think Ibadan has been better for it since he became the Olubadan.
What impression did you have of Pa Samuel Odulana, probably when he was much younger?
He was a politician in Ibadan here in the 50s, when we were growing up. We had the NCNC (National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons) and the Action Group as the two major parties but he used to contest elections as an independent candidate and he always won. He was a member of the federal parliament. He was a junior minister. So, he is a man who is dogged, who has spent his life serving people. In the area of education, the man is very well noted. You can attach his name to a number of schools: Igbo Elerin Grammar School, Lagelu Grammar School and a number of primary schools. He had served the people before he became the Olubadan. As a youth, I was politically aware. I was following the activities of his generation of politicians, but baba stood out. All of them belonged to one political party or the other but he was an independent candidate all his political life. He is very principled. He is not swayed by what he could gain from any political activity. In 1991, he hosted a meeting where the idea to breaking the Ibadan Municipal Government into five local governments was mooted. I was at that meeting as the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Governments.
How significant is the celebration of his centenary birthday to Ibadan?
Celebrating 100 years is significant and the personality of the present Olubadan is worth celebrating. A centenary is a landmark, so, we have every reason to roll out the drums.
What is the level of progress on the bid to build a new palace complex for the Olubadan?
Eighty per cent of the money pledged at the recent fund raising for the project is already in and before the end of May, by the power of God, the foundation stone will be laid.