Nigeria: Examining Daniel's Dagger to Atiku, PDP's Political Jugular

(file photo).

Former Ogun State governor, Otunta Gbenga Daniel's decision to resign from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and quit active politics must have stemmed from manifold considerations.

The immediate impression, which the unexpected action left in the minds of most Nigerians, especially the political class, was that it must have been done to weaken former Vice President Atiku Abubakar's resolve to challenge the outcome of the recent presidential election at the courts. That the development has generated and continues to generate intense debates and concerns could be explained by the level of involvement of the former governor in both Atiku's campaign and the gubernatorial election in Daniel's home state, Ogun.

But being the Acting Director General of Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation, OGD's decision, whether unilateral or induced, must have been his own way of responding to the unfolding realities in the country. He had, while announcing his decision to retire from partisan politics through a letter to PDP leadership, explained that his reasons were personal: "This is to inform you of my intention to resign from active and partisan politics with effect from today, the 14th day of March 2019."

He said his move away from politics would allow him to devote more time to charity and resuscitate his non-partisan political leadership academy, which he established a few years ago, just as he also expressed regrets that the fortunes of the party evaporated during the gubernatorial poll in Ogun State.

Potent signals

OGD's surprise decision, which sent shock waves across political divides, did not come as a bolt from the blues. There were potent signals that such a possibility could come to pass. The first warning sign that the mercurial former Ogun governor was rehearsing some political acrobatics came when he, alongside his supporters, sided with the governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Dapo Abiodun, in the state.

Although the Ogun State PDP crisis predated the emergence of Atiku as the presidential candidate of the party, it was obvious that the past political alliances in the state would not allow an amicable settlement.

At the height of his perch on power as the governor of Ogun State, OGD had to contend with the 'excesses' of multi-millionaire Buruji Kashamu, who was brought in by former President Olusegun Obasanjo 'to contain the governor.'

However, at the fullness of time when the job of getting OGD out of the party was executed, Obasanjo fell out with him, but not before PDP lost the state to opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Kashamu went ahead to win election into the Senate to represent Ogun East Senatorial District, and with time assumed a godfather status following the dwindled influences of Obasanjo and Daniel, who left PDP in a bid to implant a preferred candidate as successor.

In the recent Ogun gubernatorial poll, the strained political relationship among these three persons had turned full circle: While OGD tried unsuccessfully to restrain his former ally, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, from mounting the saddle as governor, Amosun used the support of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to defy his detractors.

As governor, Amosun deferred to Obasanjo, but did not pretend about his hostility towards the political interests or tendencies of OGD. But while Amosun designed strategies to execute his succession plan, the old schemes returned to haunt him: He had fallen out of favour with Tinubu and Akinrogun Segun Osoba, whose preferred candidate was denied the ACN ticket to favour Amosun in 2011.

These old political warhorses, who congregated to fight Governor Amosun, settled for Dapo Abiodun, who in turn was a mutual friend of OGD and Amosun. Just as OGD tried to stop Amosun's governorship bid without success, Amosun put up a spirited fight to stop Abiodun from accessing the ticket of All Progressives Congress (APC).

To make matters worse, Kashamu had also sharpened his appetite for the governorship seat and cleverly factionalised PDP's platform in the state such that while the courts recognised him as authentic candidate, the NWC, clearly out of deference to Obasanjo, who had endorsed the party's presidential standard-bearer, shunned the rambunctious Senator.

Daniel's verdict

Perhaps out of desperation to make up with his old friends or requite the ill treatment from the PDP's NWC, which denied him senatorial ticket, OGD decided to throw his weight behind Abiodun.

With the knowledge that all politics is local, OGD must have seen the window of opportunity to join hands with the APC's candidate to shunt Amosun out of the party and possibly save his skin from possible harassments from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or even make up with Tinubu, whom he was alleged to have shortchanged in a financial deal during the NADECO days.

Nonetheless, the former governor has insisted that his support for Abiodun is because a court foisted a candidate not acceptable to the leadership of PDP on it whereas the national leadership recognised another candidate for the 2019 election.

But erstwhile Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Olabode George, dismissed the alibi, and described OGD's explanation as hollow, lacking in merit and unacceptability.

George, who spoke with The Guardian on the telephone yesterday, said, "Many people may have described Daniel's resignation as shocking but to me it was a big betrayal, timidity and unbefitting of Yoruba ethos of omoluwabi.

"How can a man of honour abandon a platform on which he rose to become governor and other political benefits midway in a battle like this? What message is he sending about us (Yoruba) to the likes of Atiku whom he worked closely with during the presidential campaign? If at all he has any issue against the party or whatever, commonsense requires he should have waited and stood by the man (Atiku) during the period that the party is seeking to reclaim the mandate through the court."

The former deputy national chairman also dismissed the insinuation that Daniel must have left the party because of the alleged manner in which he was removed and preplaced by the incumbent Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, as D-G of Atiku President Campaign Organisation.

According to George, "There is no basis for that. In the first instance, when we, Southwest members of PDP, embarrassed ourselves during the contest for the national chairmanship of the party in refusing to step down for one another, the treatment meted to him was expected."

George added that the former governor acted true to character just as he recalled how he (Daniel) divided the party because of his personal ambition in 2011 when he planted Ggenga Isiaka on Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), a development that cost PDP Ogun State then.

He stressed: "This is not coming as a shocker to me, but a confirmation of character trait."

Also, National Vice Chairman, Southwest zone, Dr. Eddy Olafesso, said he did everything possible to convince Daniel not to leave the party or quit politics at this period but to no avail. While he wished the former governor well in his new endeavour in APC, Olafesso said his exit would not affect the progress of the party in Ogun or in the region.

According to him, "Southwest chapter of the party did extremely well in the last election and it is a matter of time it would get its balance and reclaim its mandate."

But the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, disclosed to The Guardian that Daniel's resignation letter is yet to be discussed by the NWC and neither has the national chairman been briefed about the development.

According to him, "I can't dissipate my efforts to respond on an issue that the NWC is yet to deliberate on."

But on whether Daniel has defected to APC, National Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr. Lanre Issa-Onilu, told The Guardian upon inquiry yesterday that there was nothing like that as far as the national headquarters is concerned.

He said: "The APC national headquarters is not aware of Daniel's intention to join us yet, but that is not to say the story is not true. According to our constitution, if anybody wants to join the party, such would go through his ward in the state and then local government and to the state before the national headquarter is notified. I would advise that this inquiry is directed to the former governor's ward in Ogun State."

Whether Daniel is running away from judgment or coming to political judgment in Ogun State would be seen in the days ahead, because his decision to jump ship at a most critical hour could be a sign of more deadly intrigues ahead of the next dispensation.

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