By Adeola Oladele
Facts have emerged that the absence of the Accord Party (AP) governorship candidate, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, at a recent radio debate organised by a private radio station in Ibadan, Space FM 90.1, may have been due to the ongoing battle of wits between the former governor and the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate and incumbent governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi.
A source, who pleaded for anonymity, told WESTERN POST that the Ibadan-based private radio station that organised the debate had invited the immediate-past governor of the state, who is also the Labour Party governorship candidate, Otunba Adebayo Alao Akala, AP flagbearer, Senator Ladoja, and the APC standard bearer, Governor Ajimobi to a live debate last Monday.
According to the source, all the three candidates were duly informed of the debate way ahead of time and all were said to have expressed their readiness to be part of the programme.
WESTERN POST gathered that subsequently, the organiser had drawn up a time-table that was to bring together the two former governors and the incumbent as guests for the first day of the week-long political debate.
But about a week to the much-anticipated debate, the Accord Party candidate was said to have made a u-turn and written a letter, giving reasons why he could no longer attend the debate.
WESTERN POST investigation revealed that the sudden change of heart by the former governor was prompted by a recent publication in two major Nigerian newspapers, in which the State Government alleged that Ladoja entered into a plea bargain with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and refunded N500m and some exotic cars as out-of –court settlement for the 2008 case of alleged conversion of proceeds from the conversion of Oyo State shares for personal use brought against the former governor by his erstwhile deputy and immediate-past governor, Alao-Akala.
The Ladoja camp had denied the allegation and had through its lawyer, promptly written a letter to Governor Ajimobi, demanding a retraction of the statements credited to the government as well as an apology for what it termed a smear campaign designed to undermine the AP flagbearer’s chances in the February 28 governorship poll. Ladoja had also threatened to sue the government for N10 billion for defamation.
But Governor Ajimobi had dared Ladoja to make good his threat to take legal action against his government, insisting the former governor entered into a plea bargain and refunded the stated sum of money.
The source hinted that following the hullabaloo generated by the State Government’s allegation, the Ladoja camp decided it was best to shun the debate that would have seen the two estranged cousins engaged each other in the studio for three hours.
Recall that the two political gladiators fell out in 2013 following the collapse of the post-2011 election alliance between both men, as a result of Governor Ajimobi’s alleged reneging on his promise to give 20 percent appointments across board to Ladoja’s AP, which got the Deputy Speaker’s seat in the state House of Assembly in exchange for a smooth and harmonious working relationship in the House.
Since the collapse of the pact, both parties had been on each other’s trail right into the coming election.