Breaking News

War in the Southwest: How Obasanjo and Jonathan are flexing muscles

BY Emmanuel Aziken, Dayo Johnson,  Gbenga Ariyibi, Gbenga Olarinoye, Dapo Akinrefon & Daud Olatunji

The majority of the men and women who thronged the meeting of the BMT Youth Organisation in Ibadan last Tuesday were obviously not youths. Men and women with some obviously grandparents could not have passed for youths. But it was convenient for them given that they came to hear out Alhaji Sabo Mohammed, the national chairman of the BMT youths and his entourage. They were also being recruited, perhaps without their knowledge, as foot soldiers into the war that has broken out between the incumbent president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and his benefactor and predecessor Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Given Jonathan’s mastery of Obasanjo’s historical predilection to furtive political operations, it was not surprising that the incumbent was now meeting his teacher and patron in his own game. Like a game of chess where pawns are offered for knights, both sides are trading tackles and pawns in a game that is inevitably focused on the control of the country. But before controlling the rest of the country, both forces are determined to get a foothold on the Southwest’s slippery political turf.

Of course there are reasons. The Southwest is not expected to present a candidate in the 2015 presidential election and as such, the zone could present a formidable block of votes for any candidate from outside the zone.

President Jonathan’s capacity to dispense favours and patronages is definitely something he is not shying away from using in the combat. When the administration announced the names of board appointments of the juicy Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA the president made the concession of leaving at least one position to one of Obasanjo’s closest lieutenants, Lekan Mustapha. It was a pawn.

But just as the Obasanjo group won a pawn in the form of a board appointment in the NPA, the Jonathan group surreptitiously ate a knight with the successful removal of Chief Olagunsoye Oyinola as national secretary of the party.

Oyinlola, who is a close associate of Obasanjo was also the point-man of the former president and the governors in the National Working Committee, NWC of the ruling PDP.

Oyinlola’s ouster was undoubtedly celebrated in the Tukur/Jonathan camp despite assertions to the contrary. The speed with which Tukur moved to replace Oyinlola last Monday after the court ruling did not show any sign of personal loss.

But even at home in the Southwest, Oyinlola’s loss was also being hailed especially among his many enemies within the party who felt marginalised with the ascendancy of the Oyinlola/Obasanjo tendency.

Indeed, the court ruling was instigated by a court process initiated from Ogun State. The court action was itself a fallout from the internal dissension within the party in the region.

President Jonathan and former President Obasanjo
President Jonathan and former President Obasanjo

Oyinlola was dragged to court by one of the PDP factions in Ogun State opposed to Obasanjo following the national secretary’s refusal to honour the faction’s list of candidates for the Ogun State local government elections.

That President Jonathan has decided to take the war to Obasanjo in the latter’s home turf is significant. The surreptitious actions of the BMT Youths is reflective of the emboldened character that the incumbent president has lately acquired in the quest for the survival of his political legacy.

Below we present a state by state report on the situation on ground.

The PDP in Ondo state could best be described as a house divided against itself since the party lost political control of the state after the judicial affirmation of the Labour  Party victory in the April 2007 governorship poll. The party has since then been wobbling even entering last October’s governorship poll as a divided house.

The party is polarised into three factions with loyalties to Dr. Olusegun Agagu, a former governor of the state; Prof. Olu Agbi, a former Secretary to Government and former Ambassador to Austria ; and Dr Dare Bada a former governorship aspirant of the party leading the third faction.

The Agbi and the Bada factions, nevertheless are generally said to have the sympathies of Governor Segun Mimiko, the incumbent governor who came to power on the ticket of the LP.

Though not a member of the PDP, Mimiko who was a former PDP member is generally said to be a crucial factor in the Jonathan, Obasanjo conflict in the state.

At the heart of the crisis in the Ondo chapter of the PDP is the perceived quarrel by many of the continued grip of the PDP structure by Dr. Agagu even after his removal from office as governor.

But despite Agagu’s hold on the recognised state structure, it is generally known that he remains almost irrelevant in Abuja .

Dr. Mimiko through his early support for Dr. Jonathan has sufficiently wormed his way into the Jonathan personal and political lives of the Jonathans that he is now known to pull more weight than any other PDP official from the state.

Mimiko’s was attracted to Jonathan first by the Ijaw spirit. Even though he is not Ijaw, the governor who has a sizeable population of Ijaws in his state was able to see the Ijaw born president as one of our own and thus the early support he had for the president, ensuring that he delivered Jonathan in the polls in 2011.

It is as such not surprising that he is allowed to make key appointments from the state into federal appointments.

Jonathan was also said to be largely unenthusiastic towards the PDP campaign ahead of the state gubernatorial election last October an issue that many PDP officials may raise to oppose him in 2015.

Obasanjo who drove Mimiko to the Labour Party is now not making things easier for Mimiko with his renewed love for the governor. The former president has been known to praise Mimiko’s achievements in office after a number of inspection of projects undertaken by the incumbent governor.

Now with Mimiko rumoured to be returning to the PDP after his inauguration next February, the governor is now said to be stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea in making a choice between the Jonathan and the Obasanjo tendencies in the state.

PDP National Chairma, Alhaji Tukur and sacked National Secretary, Oyinlola
PDP National Chairma, Alhaji Tukur and sacked National Secretary, Oyinlola

Agagu is, however, not going to make it any easier for the incumbent as he is said to believe that Mimiko’s return to the PDP would nudge him away from his present position as the PDP godfather in the state.

Efforts by Obasanjo and Jonathan to make Mimiko cross over to PDP to avoid the onslaught of the Action Congress of Nigeria (A C N ) before the election were allegedly thwarted by Agagu.

Agagu is for now leading the Obasanjo forces in Ondo against the Jonathan forces that are being cobbled together by Mimiko.

Agagu would have also been further embittered after Mimiko helped President Jonathan to win the Ondo presidential ballot but turned around to make sure that he, Agagu was defeated in the Ondo South senate contest where he stood against Mimiko’s man, Boluwaji Kunlere of LP.

A dependable source, however, hinted that Obasanjo is now putting pressure on Agagu to soften towards Mimiko so as to realise their plan of recruiting Mimiko into their larger plan of capturing the Southwest.

Aides to Mimiko who spoke in confidence on the matter said that the governor is not a member of PDP and should be excused from the squabbles in the party.

But what is evident is that as at today, the Ondo PDP is aggrieved with Jonathan for turning his back on them on many occasions invariably turning them into an orphan when his assistance was germane to the growth of the party in the state and may have no choice to pay him back in 2015.

In Ekiti the fight is being played out through prominent proxies with the Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade leading the Jonathan group and former governor of the state, Engr. Segun Oni leading the Obasanjo group.

But Obasanjo had largely held sway and influenced the emergence of both Oyinlola and Oni as national secretary and national vice-chairman respectively. The protest against the way and manner Obasanjo imposed his protégées was what led to the judicial annulment of the Osogbo zonal congress leading to the loss of job for both Oni and Oyinlola.

However, Oni has appealed against the judgement of the court,the former governor further applied for a stay of execution of the judgement

Oni had allegedly attempted to use his influence to install members of the state executive of the party during the state congress on March 18,2012 but failed.

Oni reportedly sponsored a former member of the state House of Assembly, Akin Omole for the chairmanship but lost out to the incumbent chairman, Mr Makanjuola Ogundipe.

Ogundipe is said to have gained the support of the current Minister of Police Affairs, Olubolade and Fayose who are reportedly working for second term bid of Dr. Jonathan

Bode George..Holding Lagos
Bode George..Holding Lagos

For a period, Omole ran a parallel executive with Ogundipe until the national secretariat of the party intervened.

Indeed, until recently, those belonging to Oni’s group, otherwise known as Irewolede Group had refused to recognise the Ogundipe led exco as they kept on clamouring for the harmonisation of the executive.

It is rumoured that members of the group were entertaining fear that its candidate for 2014 gubernatorial election may have problems if the party refuses to accede to its request for harmonisation.

Having realised the futility of its request and the stand of the national secretariat of the party, the group is now unbending towards the Ogundipe led exco.

But for Jonathan and Obasanjo the 2014 election would be crucial as both sides would want to install somebody they know would be helpful to them in their 2015 aspirations.

The party in Ogun State is sharply divided into two factions with Obasanjo and one time party financier, Buruji Kashamu leading two different factions.

Obasanjo’s group is led by Dipo Odujinrin whose election was conducted last year by representatives from National Working Committee, NWC, while Kashamu’s group has  Bayo Dayo as the Chairman.

The two factions are hell bent in their fight to get the party structure as both claim to have the authentic executive.

Lying low unpretentious about its own superiority is the Gbenga Daniel group which at one time moved over to the Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN for the purpose of contesting the 2011 elections.

Just before the crisis  between Obasanjo  and Jonathan  became  the public knowledge,  there was a signal that, the crisis  which commenced since 2008  might be resolved soon. That was when some prominent members of the Kashamu faction defected to Obasanjo’s giving some impression that Obasanjo was about to swallow the others.

But that was not to be as the groups continued their agitation which climaxed with last Friday’s court removal of Oyinlola upon the prayers of the Kashamu group.

There is no doubt now as to the fact that the Kashamu group is now passionately in support of Jonathan against the desire of Obasanjo.

The Kashamu group it was learnt is now ready to sink or swim with Dr. Jonathan and would not mind following the president outside the party should he be denied the party ticket in 2015.

But the division as confessed by one of the leading warriors who is also spokesman of the Obasanjo group, Bidemi Osunbiyi flows from the hardened stance of the Kashamu group who he claims have refused every entreaty to sheath their swords.

He accused Buruji of attempting to pocket the party  and compensate himself for the money he claimed to have spent for the party during the last election.

Former Governor of Ekiti State, Segun Oni
Segun Oni… Embattled in Ekiti

“Several attempts had been made to persuade him, but, he refused. He wants to pocket the party and baba (Obasanjo) will not allow that.

The Chairman of  Buruji  Kashamu, Adebayo Dayo in a telephone chat, however, claimed that the group was now savouring the victory wrested through the annulment of Oyinlola.

“We are rejoicing. We got four different court judgements which authenticated  our congresses from wards ,local governments  and State and we went to Abuja High court for interpretation of the judgement.”

When asked if the group was actually working for Jonathan against Obasanjo, he said:

“Is that possible? Was it President Jonathan who asked us to do the Congress in March? It is not possible. The President did not want anarchy, he believes in the rule of law.”

“Oyinlola went to court to say that we did not have locus standi, but, the court said we had. And we have started rejoicing I have received no less than 100 calls congratulating us  for the victory,” he said.

He however described Obasanjo as father of all, saying “Obasanjo is our father. But, when you have a father who refuses to listen to you, you will do something, that is what we did. With that judgement, we are on top of the world. We just want to beg  members of the Obasanjo group not to go to another party” he said.

Observing from near outside is Otunba Daniel who seems to be standing alone  with his loyalists.

It would be recalled, the Kashamu group was responsible for initiating the court action that led to the sacking of Oyinlola as national secretary of the party.

The report on the state of the PDP in Oyo would undoubtedly have depressed the late strongman of Ibadan politics and apostle of amala politics, Chief Lamidi Adedibu. After Adedibu’s celebrated conquest of the state, it is remarkable that his one time apostles have between them failed to sustain the dominance of what was once considered Adedibu’s stronghold.

It was as such not surprising that even after repeated high level approaches to him including from Obasanjo, that former governor of the state Senator Rasheed Ladoja has refused to return to the party.

Oyo PDP in the opinion of one party official is divided among three main factions.

The main party structure is undoubtedly in the grips of Senator Teslim Folarin and his associates, but the official recognition, however, has not conferred popular acclaim to them.

In the words of one party stakeholder, “Yes we all agree that Folarin owns the party but they don’t have followers.”

The other faction of the party led by the Minister of State for Federal Capital Territory , FCT Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide is almost said to be irrelevant in the scheme of things in Oyo State . Akinjide’s attempt to take over command of the party structure has been largely resisted by the mainstream of the party and that is despite her many overtures.

Oyo State is seen as one fertile land for the Jonathan camp and it is perhaps not surprising why the BMT Youths Organisation commenced their operations in Ibadan this week.

Agagu...Embattled in Ondo
Agagu…Embattled in Ondo

The attraction for the Jonathan camp is seen in the high level of antagonism towards Obasanjo by the mainstream of the PDP. Besides his actions in foisting the regime of amala politics on the people, making Adedibu the deciding factor during his regime, Obasanjo even after is accused by Oyo PDP stakeholders of largely cornering federal appointments and largesse that came from the Yar‘adua and the Jonathan administrations to Ogun State.

Reflective of this is the fact that Ogun has two grade A ministers – Agriculture and Foreign Affairs, while Oyo State , the mother state as it is has only a Minister of State.

“We don’t see Obasanjo as our friend or father for his actions. He promoted the reign of thuggery during Adedibu time and now we all see how he has cornered juicy ministerial positions to his state,” a PDP stakeholder involved in the politics said bitterly this week.

The fragile peace enjoyed by the PDP in Osun State while Oyinlola held sway as governor of the state has continued to degenerate ever since the Appeal Court ruling that voided his election in 2007.

But it is remarkable that even in their division, the PDP in Osun remains almost united in one goal, that is to ensure the downfall of the Rauf Aregbesola administration in the next polls. It is for this reason that the party stakeholders despite their ambitions continue to paper over their own differences.

However, the party in the state remains driven by two main persons, Senator Iyiola Omisore and Oyinlola.

Omisore was before the 2010 annulment of the Oyinlola re-election, believed to be a shoo-in for governor in the 2011 gubernatorial election that never came to be.

With the head start he had then, Omisore has continued to build the party and today has the ascendancy over all other party figures in the affairs of the party.

During the March 17, 2012 State congress, when the Oyinlola group noticed that the Senator Omisore group was coasting home to victory and sensing that the situation may not augur well for the group, it went for a truce with the Omisore group.

At the end of the exercise, the group agreed that they should go for a consensus list of candidates with Omisore’s group producing the chairman of the party in the person of Alhaji Ganiyu Olaoluwa while other major offices were also allotted to Omisore group.

But the dissent among some PDP stakeholders in the state is fuelled by muttering that Oyinlola has held many public offices at their expense. They say that he was military administrator in Lagos state, served as Osun governor for almost 8 years, and after that he took the senatorial ticket before his emergence as national secretary.

When the South-West zone of the party presented Oyinlola as the national secretary of the party, some of the party loyalists saw the development as uncalled for. They were, however, to sheath their swords after repeated persuasion by prominent party leaders.

However, the Publicity Secretary of the state, Mr. Bola Ajao dismissed the allegation of any division within the party before and even now saying that the party had repositioned itself to launch itself back in the state in the future elections.

His words: “the PDP in Osun state therefore wish to state clearly that in spite of the decision of the Federal High Court, Abuja which purportedly removed the National Secretary of the Party, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola based on certain misleading and unfounded claims, Prince Oyinlola still retains the office while necessary constitutional actions have been taken to redress the judgment”

Osun State like Oyo State would also be a little tough for the Obasanjo people to stir against Jonathan. Especially so that Omisore is regaining the ascendancy. It is not because of any special inclination of Omisore for Jonathan, but on the fact that Omisore would not go with Obasanjo who it is alleged is not backing him in his gubernatorial ambition.

The Lagos State executive of the party made a show of visiting Obasanjo after the recent fire incident in his Abeokuta house.

But beyond that show of empathy it is doubtful how much leverage Obasanjo could pull in Lagos given the dominance of Bode George over the affairs of the state.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.