Although currently held by an opposition senator, the Ogun East senatorial seat may tear Nigeria’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, apart in the state.
The district is currently being represented in the upper legislative chamber by Gbenga Kaka, who recently defected from the All Progressives Congress, APC, to the Social Democratic Party, PDP.
While Mr. Kaka seeks to return to the office, the plot to unseat him has split the already factionalised PDP in Ogun into two broad factions with leaders of each group seeking to represent the party in the zone.
Gbenga Daniel, the immediate past governor of the state, has vowed to be the candidate of the PDP; while fugitive millionaire politican, Buruji Kashamu, has already been declared candidate by the Ogun chapter of the party.
Although both men are loyalists of President Goodluck Jonathan, they have been political enemies within the PDP until a recent reconciliation allegedly at the instance of the president who seeks to rally his troops to help secure victory in Ogun and other South West states for the February 14 presidential election.
After both publicly announced a reconciliation of their differences in October, each man’s declaration to seek the ticket of the party for the seat was expected to be tough. and a primary set for December. Some days to the primary, however, Mr. Daniel pulled out while the national headquarters of the party asked for a suspension of the primary.
The Bayo Dayo-led executives of the Ogun PDP, who are loyal to the Mr. Kashamu, however, went ahead with the congress which produced the controversial millionaire as senatorial candidate.
With the national leadership refusing to recognise Mr. Kashamu’s candidacy, the state was set for a local showdown.
On December 28, hundreds of supporters of Mr. Kashamu besieged the Goodluck Jonathan Political Centre in Ijebu-Igbo insisting that their candidate was duly elected. They accused Mr. Daniel of trying to use his influence in the national leadership to scuttle Mr. Kashamu’s candidacy. The supporters, from the nine local governments that make up the zone, threatened to vote against the PDP if the millionaire’s candidacy was withdrawn by the national headquarters.
Addressing the protesters, the Ogun PDP chairman, Bayo Dayo, pledged to deliver their message to the national headquarters.
“I’ve heard what the nine local government areas have resolved. This (Kashamu) is the best man in Ogun East Senatorial district,” the chairman said.
“I’ve heard you and I’ll communicate this to the appropriate quarters. The confidence you have given him is to reassure him that you will not let him down. Go back to your local government and try your best to make sure that you deliver your local government.”
In his message to his supporters, Mr. Kashamu, who is wanted for drug related offences in the United States, said although he was under a lot of pressure to step down for Mr. Daniel, he would not. He said he believed he would win the election in the district.
Undeterred by the stance of Mr. Kashamu and the Ogun PDP, Mr. Daniel has, however, insisted that he would be the PDP candidate for the February election.
In a statement on January 2 by his media aide, Ayo Giwa, Mr. Daniel stated that the primary that produced his rival was illegal.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP has declared that there were no authorised primaries held in Ogun State as the leadership of the party had earlier on called on all stakeholders to come with a unity list of candidates encompassing all various interest groups across the State.
Tremendous progress has been made in this respect and the onus lies on the leadership to point the way forward,” he said.
He explained that he had opted out of the election earlier for peace to reign in the party.
“In order not to disrupt the arrangement, Otunba Gbenga Daniel elected not to run and pulled out of the senatorial race some weeks before the so-called primaries were held,” the statement said. “However, at an emergency meeting summoned by the National leadership of the party on Christmas Day, Otunba Gbenga Daniel was directed to run in order to enhance the success of the Party at all levels in the Senatorial district and by extension, the whole of the State.”
Mr. Daniel, who said he had the support of the PDP national headquarters to contest the election, denied rumours that he planned to leave the party.
“I remain in the PDP and nothing has changed”, he said.
Observers believe that whoever emerges the eventual candidate would need the full support of the other to defeat Mr. Kaka or the candidate of the ruling APC in the state in an election believed to be very open.