The health of the party has become a festering sore that has failed to respond to all healing therapy thrown at it.
The Ogun State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is on the prowl again. Its abiding demons have been awoken, roaring and growling in a vicious thirst for blood; threatening to destroy all in its path
In the last five years, the PDP in Ogun State has been embroiled in a suffocating battle for control among the competing power blocs within the party. The superiority battle peaked at the height of the Gbenga Daniel government when the centre crumbled and succession clash tore the party into shreds. This resulted in the electoral disaster of the 2011 general elections as the party was balkanized into two- the Daniel faction that journeyed into Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN, and the PDP leftovers warehoused under former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and party financier, Buruji Kashamu.
With the elections over and everyone having suffered collective defeat in the hands of the rival Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, that took over the reins of government through the present governor, Ibikunle Amosun, it was expected that sanity would prevail, gladiators would sheathe their swords and reconciliation would then begin to unify and reposition the party for the 2015 challenge. Two years on, the PDP continues to inexorably slide towards disintegration and palpable death in Ogun State.
Observers are mystified as to why the health of the party has become a festering sore that has failed to respond to all healing therapy thrown at it. Let it be stated, inter alia, that the party is ripped into four factions namely- Buruji Kashamu, Martins Kuye, Dipo Odujinrin (Obasanjo) and Gbenga Daniel groups. The bone of contention has been about who controls the party structure and after series of legal battles, the incumbent Adebayo Dayo-led executive, loyal to Kashamu, has been recognized as the substantive executive to superintend over the affairs of Ogun PDP till March 2016. The judicial declaration has also been ratified by the Bamanga Tukur-led National Working Committee.
What this portends is that, all other groups are constrained to either align themselves under the Dayo leadership or remain on the fringes. As expected, the validation of the Dayo-led executive was a pyrrhic victory as other groups have since distanced themselves from it, leaving the Buruji Kashamu group to run a solo affair. Such is the deep animosity in the party that it no longer mattered which group controlled the state executives, as other groups will equally not identify with it.
As 2015 draws nearer, the survival instinct synonymous with politicians and the aspiration by the PDP to dislodge the ACN from power is already generating palpable rumblings in Ogun state. Several attempts have been made at reconciling the various factions but all of such efforts have failed.
The Abuja reconciliation effort led by the Governors Murtala Nyako/Emmanuel Uduaghan presidential reconciliation committee for the Southwest ended in a stalemate with the major leaders taking swipes at each other. Former PDP national vice-chairman Southwest, Jubril Martins-Kuye, made it abundantly clear that Kashamu was not a politician but an impostor who infiltrated the party to personify it for selfish purposes and therefore wouldn’t have anything to do with him. Martins-Kuye has equally stood his grounds of not bowing to Tunji Olurin as the leader of Ogun PDP (a position Obasanjo still reiterates).
Kashamu on the other hand accused Martins-Kuye and his associate, Lekan Mustapha, of not being loyal party men as they worked for the opposition during the last elections. In fact, Mustapha contested the Ogun East senatorial seat under the Labour Party; and how and when he returned to the PDP remains a conjecture.
As the governor for eight years and leader of the party within that period, Daniel has received criticisms for mismanaging the successes the party recorded in 2003 and 2007. The summit of his political indiscretions was moving his supporters to the PPN, an action that broke the party and contributed immensely to the crushing defeat it suffered at the polls.
The resolution arising from the Abuja parley was that all factions should go home and reconcile within themselves so as to make the work of the presidential committee easier. Consequently, a group of about thirty top party leaders cutting across the three senatorial districts of the state convened to midwife the reconciliation. Their plan was to first unite three of the factions (Obasanjo, Kuye and Daniel groups) leaving out the Kashamu group which currently controls the party apparatchik.
The group of wise men met with Martins-Kuye at his Ago-Iwoye home where he was entreated to sheathe sword and embrace peace. The group moved on the same day to the Sagamu home of Daniel to equally entreat him. The envisaged result was to align both Martins-Kuye and Daniel with Obasanjo and then, the new alliance will later resolve what to do with the ‘cantankerous’ Kashamu faction.
Therefore, the group decided to meet at the Abeokuta hilltop mansion of Mr. Obasanjo on March 31 with the cardinal agenda being the reconciliation of Messrs Daniel and Obasanjo. It was expected that Daniel would come down from his high horse and surrender to the imperial leadership of the wily old fox, Obasanjo. Daniel agreed to be at the parley and everyone was excited at the impending scenario that should serve as a vista of hope for the party. Unfortunately and constant with his predilection to press the self-destruct button, Daniel failed to show up at the meeting!
Daniel’s volte-face infuriated all the leaders that awaited him at Obasanjo’s home. They believe his no-show has not only pulled the reconciliation gear in reverse. He likewise lost the opportunity to seize the momentous occasion to re-integrate himself wholesomely into the party.
It is befuddling that, while Daniel has been a permanent face at Aso Rock, doing some 2015 leg-work for President Goodluck Jonathan with the hope of regaining his prime position in Ogun politics, he continues to do the very things that are antithetical to his own political interest in Ogun State. With the sharp divisions noticeable as ever, the party continues to wobble toward identifying a potential candidate for the PDP to challenge the incumbent governor in 2015. This familiar demon is again pushing the party towards the precipice.
It will be recalled that the supremacy battle between Obasanjo and Daniel over whose preferred choice should emerge as the party’s candidate broke the party; with Daniel moving his men to the PPN. The PPN is dead now (as it was only a platform of necessity at the time) but the PDP is not in one piece either. A major burden common to the Obasanjo, Kuye and Daniel factions is how to engage the Dayo-led executive loyal to Kashamu, a multibillionaire who bestrides Ogun PDP like a colossus and whose vice-like grip on the party remain unassailable. Unimpeachable facts indicate that, the faction currently enjoys the support of the NWC and the presidency. It is puzzling how the authority of Kashamu continues to soar, while the likes of Daniel, Kuye and even Obasanjo are left to loaf around the party fringes? Familiar demons number one!
Kashamu leveraged on the division within the party to profit on the harmonization order of 2009. At the time, a list was hurriedly put together by the anti-Daniel forces and Kashamu stealthily convinced Obasanjo to put a legal stamp on it. Promptly, he headed to the court and secured an injunction through Justice Okechukwu Okeke to ratify the harmonized executive list and that torpedoed the erstwhile Joju Fadairo executive thereby affirming the immediate past Dayo Soremi harmonized executives.
The plot favoured Obasanjo, Kuye, Bankole and others in their battle against Daniel at the time. That judicial subterfuge inadvertently paved way for the ascendancy of Kashamu. He has since that period calculatedly deployed his humongous funds to secure a group of loyal party men and at the same time continued using the instrumentality of the courts to repetitively authenticate the Dayo executive. Kashamu further pulled a fast one on other leaders by courting Bamanga Tukur. The sizzling relationship concomitantly opened the doors of the presidency to Kashamu.
A confirmation of that was the recent NWC pronouncement (albeit via another court order) recognizing the Dayo-led executives which put paid to other faction’s desire to have a fresh harmonized executive to take care of all groups interest. The NWC hammer ultimately handed the party to Buruji, leaving others to lick their wounds. This has further exacerbated the long-drawn crisis. On one hand, Obasanjo, Daniel and Kuye are unwilling to work with Kashamu but on the other hand, these anti-Kashamu forces are unable to even reconcile themselves. Herein lies the revolting conundrum for the party less than two years to the 2015 polls. Familiar demons number two!
Amidst these uncertainties, can the party rise from the ashes it is currently immersed in and what way forward for a party that desperately seeks to seize power from Governor Amosun who trudges on with his five cardinal agenda despite divided opinion on his performance levels? A number of scenarios would suffice.
Firstly, the Jonathan/Obasanjo feud is having a spillover effect on the politics of southwest PDP and Ogun in particular. Obasanjo’s perceived disposition towards the emergence of a northern candidate for the party in 2015 is diametrically opposed to President Jonathan’s burning ambition to secure a second term. The egregious General constantly stokes the fire of their animosity via his critical comments on government policies and this has not gone down well with Jonathan who wielded the big stick by removing (albeit via another court order) Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Bode Mustapha from the NWC, the Segun Oni-led southwest executives and the Dipo Odujinrin-led executive in Ogun State (all loyal to Obasanjo). Amusingly, this tsunami had the culpable hand of Kashamu who instigated the court processes that the presidency used as a springboard to strip Obasanjo politically naked at his home base.
Kashamu has also been able to convince the powers in Abuja that he is able to deliver the southwest delegates to Jonathan when push comes to shove. Consequently, Abuja found a dependable ally in Kashamu and have handed the control of Ogun and southwest PDP executives to him. With Kashamu holding the longer end of the stick and enjoying Abuja backing, he is apathetic to reconciliation; which is a huge clog in uniting the factions in Ogun state. Familiar demons number three!
Secondly, Gbenga Daniel’s assiduous mismanagement of his political structure continues to be an albatross on the party. Daniel, in protest, voyaged to the PPN in 2011 with his followers and preferred successor – Gboyega Isiaka – to contest on that platform. Having been unsuccessful with the experiment, it naturally made political sense to retrace his steps into the PDP and fight within it to reclaim his foothold. If the futility of leaving his comfort zone to another party did not dawn on him after the initial setback, the PPN’s second failure at the 2012 local government polls ought to be an eye opener. Nonetheless, Daniel continues to dawdle between being accepted as PDP leader on one hand and identifying with the nonconformists still wandering in the PPN in another.
That duplicity stared him in the face at an Abuja parley with the NWC in 2012 which was meant to ease him back to the PDP. At the meeting, he was confronted with the PPN indiscretion. Daniel was incoherent in his response but was quickly bailed out by a former Mines & Steel Minister, Sarafa Ishola, who explained that Daniel never left the PDP but his supporters that felt aggrieved were those that went to PPN. That defense was weak as it achieved no result for the former governor. Ever since, Daniel has been virtually resident in Abuja, courting President Jonathan in the bid to establish his relevance. He has equally flirted with Kuye and Kashamu at various times, all to no avail.
While Daniel has yet to get the global soft-landing he frantically desires, concerned party stakeholders in the state are disorientated at his uncanny refusal to openly embrace reconciliation with Obasanjo who, ironically, holds the key to his political liberation. Paradoxically, Daniel seeks for Obasanjo’s amnesty at the back. A vivid scenario to illustrate this discomfiting ambivalence was when Daniel refused to attend the Ogun leaders-led March 31 meeting at Obasanjo’s home but a week later, he got some friends like Andy Uba, Musiliu Obanikoro and a few others to lead him on a mission to plead with Obasanjo.
Expectedly and knowing him for not suffering fools gladly, Obasanjo refused to honour Daniel on that occasion. While this pussyfooting has done him no favours yet and with 2015 in view, Daniel has again embarked on another dim-witted voyage to another party. In the past few weeks, indications show that Daniel and few of his avowed supporters are fully set to dump the PPN and decamp to the Labour Party. To put it more succinctly, they have indeed migrated. Daniel is not alone in the Labour Party boat. Top among those enlisted are Gboyega Isiaka (gubernatorial candidate of the PPN in 2011 elections), Sharafa Ishola (former Mines & Steel Minister), Sina Kawonise (Daniel’s man-Friday) and Biodun Akinlade (an ACN three-term member of the Federal House of Representatives).
A preponderant number of PDP members are peeved that at a time when concerted efforts are on to unify the party, Daniel (who is a vital piece of the PDP jigsaw in Ogun State) is again on another odious journey to nowhere. Taking into reflection Daniel’s present romance with Abuja, is President Jonathan in support of the gambit this time around as it was when he covertly gave Daniel the nod to move into PPN in 2011? Impeccable presidential sources revealed Daniel sold a new dummy to President Jonathan that, considering the overabundance of crisis rocking the PDP and the possibility of losing members to the rival ACN, it was imperative to create an alternate platform to warehouse those disoriented within the PDP, those who have been frustrated out of the ACN and other opposition elements.
Such a platform will then adopt President Jonathan as its candidate for the 2015 presidential polls. While Jonathan is still skeptical about repeating such an arrangement, Daniel in his maneuvering best, flew with the idea. A Chinese maxim says, “To stumble over the same stone twice is a proverbial disgrace”. It is also trite notion in cardiovascular health that, no one can survive two strokes. Daniel has suffered the first stoke with PPN, the nebulous Labour Party may be his second stroke; and that will lead to permanent political disability or potential demise.
Hypothetically, questions are being asked if the Labour Party movement is another protest against the PDP establishment or whether it can indeed be a platform where the prospect of winning an election is plausible. The Labour Party skeptics (which include some Daniel followers that have decided not to migrate with him again) do not believe so because the signpost of failure is too glaring to ignore. The recipe for failure is entrenched in how the gubernatorial candidacy of the Labour Party will be resolved? Who amongst Isiaka, Ishola, Kawonise and Akinlade will forfeit his burning ambition; with each one already boasting assurances of clinching the ticket of the embryonic party? While Isiaka already secured a concrete agreement with the Labour Party state executives, Akinlade (alongside some ACN state lawmakers led by Adijat Oladapo) recently met with its national chairman, Dan Nwayanwu, at Hotel De Island in Victoria Island, Lagos where an agreement was reached for his defection and gubernatorial ticket. In between this, Jide Awosedo, the party’s flag bearer at the 2011 polls is oiling his machinery to contest again.
This budding scenario has made the Labour Party a latent hodgepodge of mess in the waiting; and is this where Daniel wants to nest in? Notable leaders of the party believe Daniel is insincere with the future of Ogun PDP and that he is fleeing the frying pan to land in the naked fire which also infringes on the sensibilities of the PDP. They believe it will make good judgment for the party in view of his atrocious decisions, to consider ostracizing Daniel who is proving to be more than a liability and political bug constantly sipping the blood of the party through his multi-party odyssey. He either stands in to be counted or ships out permanently. Familiar demons number four!
The only gubernatorial aspirant still unwaveringly rooted in the PDP is Anthony Ojeshina. He was an aspirant in 2011 and well qualified by his antecedents; but what strength will he muster to challenge Amosun without the backing of a unified party? Can the Dayo executive under the sole proprietorship of Kashamu muster the right processes and strategies to win an election in Ogun State, most especially when the faction is not being magnanimous in victory and hoarding the party thereby excluding those that have the personality, ideas, strategies, capacity and competencies to rally the party together and connect it with the electorate? Kashamu, a man with deep pockets has been accused of lacking the pedigree and capacity to lead a party as heterogeneous as the PDP especially in a politically sophisticated state like Ogun.
While he is loathed by the elites in the party, he is unperturbed and continues to run the party at his own whim and fancy. Kashamu’s idea of reconciliation is one that leaves the party executive completely in his control with an associated hope that those who want the party’s ticket for various positions will come knocking on his door (as it was in 2011). This very notion is what irks the other factions and they have asked what exactly he wants to achieve with the incredible money he spends on the courts just to take custody of the party.
They have also vowed to distance themselves from the party rather than subject themselves to Kashamu. They described him as a charlatan that surreptitiously crept into the party and seized it for self-aggrandizing purposes. Tales of how he sold tickets for various positions in 2011 still make the rounds. Those close to him accuse of him rendering the Dayo executive ineffective as he is the lone line of authority in the party.
They accuse him of being highly self-opinionated, never delegating authority and lacking of tolerance for superior ideas even where/when he is clearly lacking. Such impudence has received further boost by the backing he currently enjoys from Abuja. As it is, Kashamu is holding tenaciously unto the party and does not see Daniel or Kuye as essentials in moving the party forward; while Obasanjo has been his object of media tirade in past months. With this obstinate, unconciliatory and megalomaniac posturing by Kashamu, the wheel of reconciliation is really clogged. Familiar demons number five!
In the midst of this cascading scenario, Obasanjo has been mute and waiting for the opportune time to deal his joker. As a man whose vindictiveness and knack for hitting his enemies below the belt is legendary, the end is not in sight for more melodrama. You don’t underrate a man of his pedigree and he will not go down without a fight. His men have been removed from all party positions as Jonathan is currently teaching him a lesson in the usage of substantive presidential powers unlike the residual powers that Obasanjo has.
The unpleasant news for Ogun PDP is that, Baba is unwilling to accept Daniel who is currently receiving his corrective cane. In the same vein, Obasanjo is indisposed to Kashamu for frequently rubbing his name in the mud. Indeed, he has vowed at one time or the other, not to be in the same political party with both men and where does that leave the party. Obasanjo has lived the best part of his years and has nothing to lose if PDP doesn’t form the next government.
He will rock the boat at the right time which may inadvertently favour the incumbent governor who is Obasanjo’s Owu kinsman. For now, Amosun is having a free reign as there is no coordinated opposition to engage his government on its programmes and policies. With his audacious infrastructural effort in the areas of roads and environment, it will take a monumental effort of a “united PDP”, or any other party, to convince the Ogun electorate to vote otherwise. Suffice it to say, a decimated PDP or tenuous Labour stands no chance. Familiar demons number six!
Conclusively, Ogun PDP may have begun singing its own dirge. The familiar demons are back and new demons are being conscripted. Selfishness, ego and narcissism are the order of the day. While the party retains its popularity and capacity to connect with the critical sector of the society, it must put its house in order if it must have a measure of the benefit of doubt by the electorate. Peace is easily achieved when feuding parties agree to sheathe swords and work together for common interest.
Going forward, Kashamu should re-appraise his politics. He must be conciliatory and willing to share the cake in his hands. It is too heavy for him to carry alone; otherwise, he will get crushed at some point. No man can do it unaided and he must understand that he doesn’t have the sterling pedigree and capacity to successfully self-administer Ogun PDP while all the other heavyweights that have nurtured the party since 1999 are alienated and made to peep from outside the window.
For Daniel, he needs genuine self-introspection. He was the leader of that party for eight years and some believe he still has a role to play only if he sheds the weight of arrogance and megalomania that is heavily weighing him down. He must publicly make up his mind now where he wants to be and put his money where his mouth is. Daniel cannot continue to approbate and reprobate with the PDP. It will be the height of tomfoolery to profess in a course and then constantly work against it. The time for him to openly reconcile with Obasanjo is now as it will integrate him into the party and loosen the noose around his neck.
As for Obasanjo, he must understand that he is a national leader of the PDP and should not descend into the murky waters of local politics. It is his obtrusive attitude on the Ogun State matter that has brought about accusations of his alliance with Amosun. Obasanjo must equally be conciliatory towards Daniel and Kashamu by finding a way to accommodate them. The validity of his national leadership can only be found in the amount of unity he encourages at home. Charity, they say, begins at home.
Of all the warring generals, Kuye is the most cerebral of them all and he is amenable to both Obasanjo and Daniel; he will fall in line whenever Kashamu and Daniel sort themselves out with Obasanjo.
In unity, the PDP in Ogun State is a formidable force but in division, it becomes a toothless bulldog. The factional leaders must put an end to the serial shenanigans and self-created labyrinth that have made the party prostrate for years. They should not mortgage the political future of youths who have identified with that party all their lives and have always hoped to aspire for political office on the platform.
The party must exorcise its familiar demons and provide the alternative that is required in any democratic space. It is when the opposition is virile that incumbent governments are put on their toes and the electorates are the better for it. That is the irreducible minimum the people deserve, but for now, are we about witnessing the self-immolation of the PDP in Ogun state? The coming months will tell.
Bolaji Adeniji is a communications consultant & public affairs pundit