By Oladeinde Olawoyin, Ibadan
A one-storey mosque stood adjacent the main building that was Lamidi Adedibu’s main building. There, he held sway as an oracle and dished out orders that were considered laws at a time in Ibadan and other parts of Oyo State. Time was 3:45 p.m. and this reporter just swaggered into the ‘Molete Palace’ of the late Ibadan politician and stalwart of the then ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party.
The afternoon sun baked the skin with fiendish delight. At the entrance of the commodious ‘palace’, about five weird-looking middle-aged men sat on a bench, leaving the gate ajar. A banner displaying Mr. Adedibu’s image occupies a part of the gate, swinging slowly to the rhythm of the afternoon wind. Easily noticeable was a narrow, tarred, deserted road that connects the entire ‘palace’ with the major road linking Molete and Oke-Ado.
Inside the ‘palace’, the imposing structure of the central mosque blurs the visibility of other buildings adjoining it. On a clear day, a visitor can perch on its veranda and behold the Molete overhead bridge. At a spot adjacent the mosque lies a poorly kept, dust-covered pavement provided for Muslim faithful for ablution. The pavement reeks of urine. There are about five buildings inside the compound but unlike what was the norm when Mr. Adedibu was alive, they all looked empty, dust-ridden and deserted.
At a far-flung corner of the ‘palace’, a white-and-brown-striped cow was grazing around. The space used to be the spot prepared for cattle, from which visitors and other appendages of power got their beef. There were no goats and pigeons, neither was there any sign of the usual Amala and gbegiri festival held on Fridays.
Beggars, political thugs, artisans, old women and others who thronged the ‘palace’ for favours have all disappeared. The place had become a ‘ghost community’.
As against the norm when the ‘palace’ was operated like a car mart with hundreds of vehicles occupying the open space, there were just six vehicles in the entire compound when PREMIUM TIMES visited – three cars were parked at the front of the main buildings; a bus was stationed at road leading to the gate; while two other cars were placed on the tarred road at the entrance.
The main building where Mr. Adedibu lived clings to the side of another building where political meetings were held. At the entrance of the building, painted in white and green, there are portraits of some deceased Nigerian politicians and foremost nationalists: Adegoke Adelabu, Ladoke Akintola, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Tafawa Balewa.
It is February 2018, about a year away from a major national election and few months to the state’s local government elections. Yet here in Mr. Adedibu’s Molete Palace, there was pin-drop silence and the entire place reeked of emptiness and inactivity.
For the old-time visitor, it was quite difficult to imagine this was the much-dreaded Lamidi Adedibu’s famed ‘Molete Palace’, otherwise considered the political ‘mecca’ of politicians and their hangers-on in Oyo State, the southwest region and beyond.
Adedibu as ‘Garrison Commander’
In 2006, former governor Rashidi Ladoja was ‘impeached’ by 18 members of a 32-member Oyo State House of Assembly, in clear contravention of the rule of law. Mr. Ladoja’s impeachment came against the backdrop of the crisis caused by an alleged money-sharing disagreement between him (Ladoja) and Mr. Adedibu, his estranged godfather.
Mr. Adedibu had in 2003 thrown his support behind Mr. Ladoja of the PDP, who contested against the then incumbent, Lam Adesina of the Alliance for Democracy, AD. Mr. Ladoja won the election. Following Mr. Ladoja’s impeachment, Adebayo Alao-Akala who was then deputy governor was sworn in as governor.
In the heat of the crisis rocking the state, the then national chairman of the PDP, Ahmadu Ali, had described Ibadan as a ‘Garrison Command’ and Mr. Adedibu as the ‘Garrison Commander’. Political analysts opined that Mr. Adedibu bestrode Ibadan like a colossus, with the covert support of the federal government, led by then President Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP.
True to his name, Mr. Adedibu ruled Oyo State like a ‘garrison’. With the support of men of the state wing of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW–– e.g. Sule Adu, Lati Elewe Omo, Concord, Alado, Ismail Agbaje – he battled opposition figures both within the then ruling PDP and other parties.
In 2007, he supported Mr. Alao-Akala of the PDP and led the party to victory in the state. On June 11, 2008, Mr. Adedibu died.
Crumbling political dynasty
Since Mr. Adedibu’s death, his political dynasty has been thrown into disarray as many of his political protegees have either deserted his Molete home or deviated from his ‘style’ of politics and choice of political party.
Mr. Alao-Akala, believed to be one of the direct beneficiaries of the Adedibu brand of politics, has since defected from the PDP to the Labour Party, LP, and lately APC since he lost his re-election bid in 2011.
A former Senate Leader and renown Adedibu loyalist, Teslim Folarin, has also defected from the PDP to the APC, after he contested the governorship seat on the platform of the party in 2015 and lost out to the incumbent Abiola Ajimobi of the APC.
Similarly, Taofeeq Arapaja, the then deputy to Mr. Alao-Akala has since defected to the ruling APC in a bid to maintain relevance in the state’s political space.
Mr. Adedibu’s biological son who was the senator representing Oyo South Senatorial District before his father’s death, Kamorudeen Adedibu, has exited the political space in the state since he lost his re-election bid in 2011. When THE NATIONS EXPRESS visited his campaign office in Molete, officials said the former senator could not be reached.
“He is just trying to stage a comeback and you can see the banner,” a resident of the area who craved anonymity told THE NATIONS EXPRESS.
“He left here long time ago and we didn’t even hear anything from him. I think he is also preparing to come back in 2019,” he added.
Mixed reactions trail ‘legacy’
For Tawakalitu Ajibola, a trader at Oja’ba market in Ibadan, Mr. Adedibu was a colossus who she remembered for his support for the poor and the needy in the society.
Speaking to THE NATIONS EXPRESS, she explained that the late politician’s position remains unfilled.
“He gave out rice and other things during festivals. Many people ate in his house on Fridays, he was a great philanthropist and benefactor to many. We miss him.”
But a butcher at Bode market, Tiamiyu Ajao, said the late politician’s death signalled the end of politically-motivated violence in the state.
“We have been enjoying peace in Ibadan since he left; we must recognise that too as a part of his ‘legacy’,” he said in Yoruba.
For the spokesperson of the Oyo State APC, Wasiu Sadare, Mr. Adedibu played his part in the political scene of the city and the state.
“Adedibu has left the political scene for good as no human can live forever,” he told THE NATIONS EXPRESS in an interview.
Speaking with our reporter, Maroof Asindemade, an Ibadan-based public affairs analyst, traced Mr. Adedibu’s authority to his role in the politics of the Fourth Republic.
He said, “The political heavyweight appellated as the garrison commander resurfaced at the return of democratic rule in 1999 but in a low-key fashion. He belonged to the All People’s Party, a less thriving political party at the time. Late Chief Adedibu regained political prominence when he became a staunch and prominent member of the ruling party then, the PDP. His house at Molete became a political Mecca for all shades of politicians and hangers-on who wanted one political favour or the other.
“Late Chief Adedibu understood the language of local politics and he deployed it to great advantage. The gate of his palatial premises was left open for poverty-stricken people and political opportunists who swarmed his house for food and financial favour; not to talk of those who hanged their political destinies on the late political godfather. ”
Mr. Asindemade, who lamented the manner politicians deserted the Molete home of the Ibadan politician, attributed the development to Mr. Adedibu’s refusal to embrace refined politics.
He said, “Chief Adedibu only empowered people with stomach infrastructure and once he was not there again to sustain the empowerment, people moved on to where their stomach would have sustenance.
“Chief Adedibu did not inculcate worthy political ideology into his political godsons and daughters. The result of this is that there’s nothing to immortalise him on; such that till date, no memorial lecture has been held in honour of the political enigma.
“Third, the maverick politicians did not leave behind offspring with the large heart and political acumen that he possessed. They could not manage the political dynasty the chief left behind. Molete home of the late garrison commander has become a shadow of itself.”
For Akeem Olatunji, spokesperson of the Oyo State Chapter of the PDP, the late Adedibu was a great politician in his era; but time has changed.
“Unlike in the past, thuggery and rigging associated with the politics of Adedibu era are no more in vogue as the electorate are now more enlightened and prepared to defend their votes,” he told THE NATIONS EXPRESS in a chat.
“Although PDP missed Chief Adedibu’s organisation skill and generosity, the party is fortunate to have Sen. Rashidi Ladoja as the Leader of PDP in Oyo State and Kunmi Mustapha as the State Chairman of the party because the three were instrumental to the victory of PDP over the ruling AD government in 2003 despite intimidation and harassment suffered in the hands of the then AD government.
“Oyo State PDP as presently constituted is in safe hands and well prepared to replicate the winning streak of 2003 when PDP won the presidential, National Assembly, governorship and State House of Assembly by landslide.”
He hinted that if the party won the gubernatorial election in 2019, it would dedicate the victory to the late Adedibu.
“According to our leader, Rashidi Ladoja, and the state chairman, Kunmi Mustapha, PDP victory in 2019 will surely be dedicated to the memories of Late Lamidi Ariyibi Adedibu as a mark of respect to the great leader,” he said.