By KOLADE LAREWAJU & LAJA THOMAS
It is no retreat, no surrender!
FOR members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] in Ogun State, it is apprehension. Most are not sure of where the pendulum of the current crisis would swing, but some are being very enthusiastic; especially those in the top echelon of the two factions within the party. But for the ordinary members, it is time to worry.
For well over one year, leaders of the party had been at daggers drawn over the soul of the party and it had been all in a bid to secure the foothold to be able to be the one to present the party’s candidates for the forthcoming general elections. On one side is the Governor Olugbenga Daniel group which has the control of the party structure from ward to state level. In this group is the chairman of the party, Chief Joju Fadairo, and members of his executives, commissioners, special advisers, special assistants, one senator, four members of the House of Representatives and eleven members of the state House of Assembly led by factional Speaker, Mr Soyemi Coker Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, was hitherto not a member of this group until a few days before the primaries when he jumped ship.
In the other group led by Minister of Industries, Senator Jubril Martins Kuye, are two senators- Iyabo Obasanjo –Bello and Lekan Mustapha- four members of the House of Representatives, 15 members of the House of Assembly led by Speaker Tunji Egbetokun, chairman of the Elders Forum, Chief Sule Onabiyi, former Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Sarafadeen Tunji Ishola, the Omo Ilu Foundation led by Prince Buruji Kashamu, Dr.Doyin Okupe, Chief Dayo Soremi and a host of other leaders. The group is believed to enjoy the backing of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who is also the chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees.
Expectedly, both had been at each others throat for the control of the party which led in August 2010 to a letter being written by the then national chairman of the party, Chief Okwezilieze Nwodo, that the party executives be harmonized, a position that was rebuffed by the Daniel faction. Nwodo was reported to have reversed himself at a National Executive Council meeting when he reportedly stated that he did not study the Ogun situation well before making the pronouncement.
Before the Nwodo alleged retraction, members of the PDP in the state were said to have gone ahead with the harmonization of the executive with Soremi becoming the harmonized chairman, which was rejected by the Fadairo executive. Fadairo insisted that he remained the state PDP chairman and has since then been attending the National Executive Council meetings.
This was the setting leading to suspensions and counter suspensions by both sides until the time for the primaries came. Both sides claimed to be authentic.
Each faction stuck to its guns and went ahead with its own primaries. It was just at this time that Bankole made a dramatic return to the fold of the Daniel camp and expectedly emerged as the candidate of the group after the former Speaker, Mrs. Titi Oseni, another member of the House, Mr. Fasiu Bakenne and Dr. Yemi Oke stepped down for him.
Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello emerged as the candidate for Ogun Central Senatorial District from the Martins Kuye group while Mrs. Lola Abiola Edewor emerged from the Daniel camp for the same seat. In Ogun East, Daniel emerged as candidate of his group while Mr. Odunowo emerged as candidate of the Martins-Kuye group. In Ogun West, Waliu Taiwo, a former commissioner in the Daniel administration, emerged for the Daniel camp while Chief Babatunde Fadun emerged from the Martins-Kuye camp.
This was the setting before the gubernatorial primary. Daniel camp held its own at the expansive MKO Abiola Stadium where former managing director of the Gateway Holdings, Mr. Gboyega Nasiru Isiaka, emerged while the Martins Kuye camp held its own at the prestigious Obasanjo Presidential Library where Gen. Adetunji Idowu Olurin emerged as the candidate. Both groups claimed that their primaries were authentic.
The Daniel camp insisted that its own was not only witnessed by the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] but that it was also supervised by the panel set up for that effect by the national secretariat led by Col. Abdul Mumuni Aminu. Indeed, the Daniel camp’s primaries were not only witnessed by PDP representatives from the national secretariat and included Tony Amadi, Ndubuisi Nwigwe, Alhaji Nasiru Haruna and Samuel Bassey, officers of the INEC office Abuja as well as their state counterparts were on ground to monitor the exercise.
The INEC officers from Abuja were Mr. Dickson Atiba, Mrs. Osimen Magdalene and Endurance Udeona. Their state counterparts included Mr. Olatoye S.O., Mr. Leo Nkedife and B.E. Iyama. Aside from these, the ICPC volunteer corp. members were also on ground to monitor the exercise.
INEC officials and officers from the PDP national secretariat were conspicuously absent at the primaries organised at Obasanjo Presidential Library. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello was the returning officer, the supervisor, as well as the chief monitor of the primaries as even security agencies were conspicuously absent.
But the Martins Kuye camp said that by the injunction it got from a Federal High Court, Lagos, Fadairo as chairman was no longer competent to conduct the primaries and that only the one conducted by factional party chairman Soremi was the authentic.
Each faction took its list to Abuja and, on Monday, the Daniel camp was reported to have been given the nod by the National Executive Council. But the Martins Kuye group, in a case filed by Olurin and four others, got an injunction restraining INEC from recognizing the list of candidates brought by Fadairo. INEC obliged on Tuesday and the issues became thornier. While the Kuye camp celebrated, the Daniel camp cried foul.
The Martins Kuye camp insisted that the acceptance of its candidates by INEC was obeying the rule of law based on the court injunction, and the “fact that the Soremi chairmanship is the authentic”. But the Daniel camp said “the national secretariat of the party had stated that it recognized the Fadairo-led executive and has always related with it”. It described the harmonisation which produced Soremi as a ruse and a sustained deceit to achieve a predetermined pronouncement by the former national chairman, Nwodo, who allegedly reversed himself at the next NEC meeting when, under AOB, the issue was raised.
Said the Daniel camp: “On the day of the primaries, the panel to conduct the primaries sent from the national secretariat of the party led by Col. Abdulmumuni Aminu conducted the primaries at the designated MKO Abiola Stadium. It was monitored by INEC and all necessary security agencies. Prince Gboyega Isiaka emerged as the gubernatorial candidate of the party. Same happened for the senatorial and House of Representatives primaries where Gbenga Daniel, Dimeji Bankole and Lola Edewor emerged as candidates.
“It is sufficiently clear that the Dayo Soremi group and their sponsors are agents of ACN left in the PDP to reduce its fortunes. Their sponsors are from the ACN and they reserved positions for them once the current problem they are creating destroys the PDP. The delegates that voted for Daniel, Isiaka, Dimeji Bankole, Edewor and others also voted for President Goodluck Jonathan. We implore INEC to stand on the rule of law and provisions of the electoral act by recognizing the primaries they monitored and was conducted by the national secretariat of the PDP”.
But media adviser to Soremi, Mr. Tunde Oladunjoye, in a reaction to the allegation, said: “it does not hold water. It is akin to a lazy worker who blamed his tools for poor harvest. Is budding politician, Gboyega Isiaka, also alleging that the PDP National Working Committee that issued a letter dissolving the Fadairo-led exco was also being manipulated by ACN?
Was it ACN that issued the order of the Federal High Court Lagos restraining Joju Fadairo from parading himself as party chairman and from organising primaries and congresses? Was it ACN that issued the order of the Federal High Court Abuja invalidating the kangaroo primaries that produced Gboyega Isiaka
“The members of the harmonised exco of PDP in Ogun State led by Basorun Dayo Soremi, also include officers from the Gbenga Daniel’side. The offices were shared by the NWC of PDP and Pegba Otemolu was the secretary of the harmonised exco until he was recently suspended due to acts inimical to peace and unity within the party”.