Gbenga Daniel has reiterated his exit from partisan politics.
The former Ogun State governor has come under ridicule amongst opposition figures, amidst allegations of betrayal after announcing a sudden retirement from politics only to start consultation with the All Progressives Congress.
Mr Daniel, a top strategist for Atiku Abubakar presidential campaign, recently wrote a letter to Uche Secondus, the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, announcing his urgent retirement from politics.
He cited no political reason for his move, which many of his PDP associates received with shock, only saying he felt he had achieved all that was needed in politics and it was time to focus on his charity works.
The March 14 letter to Mr Secondus was published by PREMIUM TIMES and other media outlets on Saturday.
By Saturday evening, Mr Daniel was seen holding talks with Dapo Abiodun, who visited him at his residence with some political associates, according to those familiar with the meeting.
On Sunday, Mr Daniel held a press briefing where he said his supporters were clamouring for his move to the APC, especially because he directed them to support Mr Abiodun at the governorship election earlier this month. When asked at the time whether he was indeed set to join the APC, Mr Daniel ambiguously replied that his supporters had spoken.
Many in the PDP said they saw through Mr Daniel’s plot, which was not unique as many politicians had deployed such purported demands of their followers to move across political parties.
Mr Daniel, 62, was criticised for the move, with PDP chieftains like Femi Fani-Kayode accusing him of betraying Mr Abubakar.
Mr Fani-Kayode and others feared Mr Daniel might have undermined Mr Abubakar’s presidential campaign, adding that his decision to cosy up to APC even as Mr Abubakar was preparing to challenge results of the presidential election was enough to suspect foul play by Mr Daniel.
Although Mr Daniel did not publicly or formally express reservations for his resignation from the PDP, his associates who knew the move said it was because he felt slight by the party, twice.
The first was his loss of the party’s chairmanship to Mr Secondus despite an ardent campaign in 2017; and the second was when he was passed over for the director of PDP presidential campaign, for which Senate President Bukola Saraki was selected in October.
Mr Daniel pushed back against all speculation on Tuesday afternoon, saying in a statement that he was only dissociating from the PDP and not Mr Abubakar, ”and had no plan to join the APC”.
“I have not, will not and will never abandon Atiku,” Mr Daniel said.
“Atiku is different from PDP. I have resigned from PDP and lost interest in partisan politics having put in about 20 years of my life in a thankless process.
“I will commit my God-given resources to help the less privileged through my Foundation and will contribute to sharing the body of knowledge through our not-for-profit political academy. That will be a thankful process.
“I will continue to support the political process in a non-partisan manner. I am clear with my position, without any ambiguity.
“There is no need to insinuate, speculate, extrapolate, anticipate or draw conclusions on my behalf. I did not expect such a simple personal decision can generate such national discourse and for that, I remain grateful to God. I am however most grateful to all my friends and well-wishers,” he said.
Mr Daniel said “the phones have not stopped ringing” about his political consultations.
Mr Daniel led the team that handed Mr Abubakar a successful primary at the PDP convention in Port Harcourt early August.
His duty ranged from scheduling to top-level consultation for endorsements ahead of the primaries.
Mr Abubakar has not publicly commented on Mr Daniel’s move, but a source close to the former vice-president told PREMIUM TIMES it might not be necessary after all.
“Atiku Abubakar that I work with would not have asked Gbenga Daniel not to take any decision he likes for his own interest,” the source said under anonymity. “Although most of us feel betrayed, Atiku Abubakar showed no sign of betrayal; this could be because he had seen it all where Nigerian politics is concerned.”