- Kashamu, ex-speaker Bankole, Adebutu fight over party structure
The perennial storm troubling the Ogun State chapter of the People’s Democratic Party since 2010 is far from settling. With each passing day, the intra-party crisis assumes a fresh dimension.
Since its defeat in 2011 by the then Action Congress of Nigeria, the PDP in Ogun, like a child with the familiar spirit of “Abiku” in Yoruba worldview, has yet to fully recover and have its feet firmly planted on the political landscape in the state. Multi-farious crises have continued to dog all attempts made by the party in the state to bounce back, after every bout of violent hiccups.
For those who are conversant with the restive chapter of the PDP in the state, its propensity to get embroiled in yet another major turmoil, as soon as one is over, is not a surprise.
The opposition party is usually therefore, of course, seen as treading a familiar terrain often strewn with rancour, disagreement, name-calling, mudslinging, in-fighting and unending court cases.
As at the last count, over 40 cases, involving the different factions of the PDP in the state, were pending in various courts.
In fact, the PDP in Ogun has lately assumed the status of the hotbed of intra-party crisis in the entire country and this is not in the least abating.
THE BEGINNING OF THE BATTLE
The crux of the matter has always been the battle for the soul of the party in the state.
The contenders, this time, are: Ladi Adebutu, son of multi-billionaire business mogul, Chief Adebutu Kessington, who is representing Remo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives; a former speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole; and the multi-billionaire state PDP financier and incumbent senator representing Ogun East, Prince Buruji Kashamu.
Adebutu, backed by his fabulously rich father, on the one hand, and ex-speaker Bankole, on the other, are pitched in a fresh battle against Kashamu, also known to have a very rich war chest to prosecute any politcal battle. While Adebutu has his eyes firmly on the governorship seat in 2019, ex-speaker Bankole is said to be bent on taking his own pound of flesh from Kashamu, who single-handedly stopped him from picking the party’s ticket for the 2015 polls.
In fact, Kashamu’s seizure and firm grip on the PDP in Ogun forced former president Olusegun Obasanjo, with whom he had a running battle since 2010, to suddenly quit the party along with his supporters in the run-up to the 2015 general elections. Frustrated by Kashamu’s deft moves, Obasanjo, who got wind of the plan by the PDP state exco, loyal to the senator, to expel and disgrace him, hurriedly organised a media event in his Abeokuta Hilltop Presidential Mansion, where he not only announced his decision to leave the party, but also did the unimaginable by tearing his membership card in the glare of cameras.
The supremacy battle between Kashamu and remnants of Obasanjo’s loyalists in the PDP in the state, however, dragged on, culminating in the party’s defeat in the 2015 general elections.
Following its dismal performance, the party could only boast of one senatorial seat won by Kashamu himself, two House of Representatives seats,one occupied by Adebutu, and nine state constituencies. The ruling All Progressives Congress took away the other elective positions.
Instead of making efforts to consolidate on its modest achievements in the last elections, the PDP in Ogun has again become divided as rival factions struggle for the control of the party structure.
The recently conducted ward, local government and state congresses of the party have heightened the crisis with the simultaneous conduct of the exercises at three different venues by party members loyal to each of the three combatants.
During the last state congress, while the Kashamu faction held its own inside the party state secretariat in Abeokuta, Adebutu and his loyalists conducted their own version of the exercise at the nearby Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library Complex in the state capital.
Bankole’s loyalists too gathered themselves at the Ake Palace Ground, Abeokuta to conduct their own state congress.
Armed security operatives were deployed to the various venues to forestall a breach of peace. Though the congresses were generally peaceful in spite of the division, there has been a growing apprehension within the party in the state as each faction continues to claim authenticity.
At the end of the exercise, a former Chairman of Ijebu North Local Government,Chief Adebayo Dayo, waselected state chairman by the faction loyal to Kashamu while a former Commissioner for Lands and Housing, Chief Wale Egunleti, emerged chairman of the Bankole faction. The Adebutu group elected a former House of Assembly member and exchairman of Ifo Local Government, Sikirulai Ogundele, as chairman.
The three groups also elected Alhaji Semiu Sodipo, Hon. Johnson Olu-Fatoki and Hon. Durotolu Bankole as their PDP State Secretary, respectively. Other executive positions in the party also had parallel officers.
But, of the three congresses, only that of the Kashamu group was monitored by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, led by Tunrayo Ayinde, Sanni Ishaq and Momoh Bakare. Also, the Chairman of the PDP Congress Committee from Abuja, Muhammed El-Yakub, led 10 other members to supervise the exercise held at the state secretariat of the party.
Barely a week to the state congresses, nine out of 15 members of the State Working Committee of the PDP had announced the indefinite suspension of Dayo and Sodipo as chairman and secretary, respectively. The aggrieved nine officers accused the duo of alleged financial misappropriation, indiscriminate imposition of candidates and exclusion of party officials.
Led by the former PDP Organising Secretary, Dr. Folasade Filani, the aggrieved officers unanimously appointed Chief Ibukunolu Ojosipe and Muritala Adegoke as interim chairman and secretary, respectively.
Filani explained that the suspension was in accordance with section 21 (5) of the party’s constitution. She claimed that from the financial facts available between 2013 and 2015, it was discovered that over N250million had been misappropriated and spent by the incumbent chairman and secretary without approval and due process.
Dayo, in his reaction to the allegations, described his suspension as illegal, saying the nine aggrieved officers lacked the locus standi to sanction him since he was a member of the National Executive Committee of the party.
He, therefore, declared that he remained the party chairman in the state.
Dayo, who would later be reelected as party chairman, enjoys the support of Kashamu while the nine aggrieved officers are being backed by Adebutu, said to be interested in the 2019 governorship contest on the party’s platform.
In their separate acceptance speeches at the end of their parallel state congresses, the three factional chairmen promised to reconcile warring members and run an all-inclusive administration in the PDP.
Dayo, however, declared that his task was to bring into the fold, aggrieved and estranged members of the party.
He said he was prepared to join hands with notable leaders, including ex-Governor Gbenga Daniel, as well as Bankole and Adebutu, to unite the party.
“In politics, there are bound to be competing interests but it must not be at the detriment of the party. Personal ambition must not override the collective prosperity of our party. We are open to everyone and ready to reconcile anyone aggrieved,” he added.
But while Dayo promised, on the one hand, to engender reconciliation, he also warned, “There are no factions in Ogun PDP and there was only one validly conducted congress held on 10th May, 2016. Any other arrangement anywhere that purports to be another ‘parallel’ congress is nothing but a gathering of people whose motive and intentions are not clear and definitely not in consonance with the mood of the larger percentage of our members that are desirous of a rejuvenated, peaceful and progressive party.”
THE REAL ISSUE
With each of the three factions having its focus on the 2019 elections, seizing the structure of the party through the congresses has become imperative as well as a do-or-die affair.
Although Kashamu, whose faction still controls the party secretariat in Abeokuta, succeeded in having his grip on the mainstream structure, Adebutu and Bankole are leading the two other groups bent on changing the status quo in Ogun PDP.
The Kashamu-backed leadership of the state PDP has continued to be accused of excluding and alienating key figures who once made the chapter tick.
Expectations were high that the botched May 21 national convention of the PDP, which would have ushered in a new set of leaders to run the affairs of the party at the national level for another four years, would bring back sanity to the Ogun chapter of the party.
The failure of that exercise rather intensified the scheming for either continuous control or total takeover of the party by the three contending forces.
ON THE PRECIPICE
Consequently, the Ogun PDP has descended into deeper confusion with each of the three parallel executives claiming authenticity. From the wards, up to the local government and state levels, the party members are now further divided between the camps loyal to Kashamu, Bankole and Adebutu.
In the midst of all this, the Senator Kashamu faction recently, surprisingly, held out an olive branch to the two other aggrieved groups in the PDP in the state, expressing readiness to make concessions in the ongoing peace moves to resolve the crisis.
The faction also passed a vote of confidence on Kashamu as the leader of the party in the state.
In a communique issued at the end of its expanded state executive committee meeting held at the party’s state secretariat in Abeokuta, the Kashamu-backed faction said although the party’s National Executive Committee, INEC, security agencies and the courts have validated its recent congresses, the exco members should be prepared to sacrifice their current positions in the interest of peace and unity in the party in the state.
But in another breath, the communique issued at the end of the expanded SEC meeting, said to have been attended by 14 state exco members, chairmen of the party in the 20 local government areas of the state as well as the South West Zonal Secretary, Chief Pegba Otemolu, also declared that Chief Bayo Dayo’s chairmanship of the party in the state and the election of its leaders at the ward and local government congresses had become “sacrosanct and unalterable.”
The communique, however, noted, “The aftermath and outcome of the congresses require that urgent and high-powered reconciliation process be put in place to placate and woo back all those that are aggrieved, so that we can have a united party for the task ahead.”
It further enjoined the leaders of the PDP at all levels to remain loyal and steadfast to rebuild the party and ensure its return to governance, rather than abandon a platform that had brought most of them so much blessings.
Political observers are, however, of the view that, given the current situation in the party in Ogun, genuine reconciliation may continue to remain a mirage, especially with the alleged moves by each of the three camps to gain an upper hand ahead of the 2019 elections.