2014/2015: Wither S’West PDP?

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PDP

PDP

With governorship elections holding in both Osun and Ekiti states this year and the general election coming up next year, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP,) in the South-West has to re-strategise to bounce back in the zone. RAZAQ BAMIDELE examines efforts of some players in the party to give the  All Progressives Congress (APC), run for its money in the region.
The PDP, which once held sway in the zone after routing the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AC), in 2003, is currently playing a second fiddle in the zone. Even in Ondo State, where the Labour Party (LP) is in power, the PDP’s position as the leading opposition party is being seriously contested by the APC. The same scenario is playing out in Ekiti State with the LP/Opeyemi Bamidele’s Ekiti Bibire Coalition.
The plight of the PDP in the zone was worsened after it was pummeled and swept away in the 2011 elections by the broom weilding Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) now APC. Following this defeat and intractable inter-party crisis, the party was heading for the doldrums in the zone as many of the leaders retreated to their shells and left the mass of the supporters of the party in the zone in the cold. So, by droves members of the PDP began to defect to other parties in the zone, thus making it extremely difficult for the party’s centre to hold. Some of them who did not defect were disillusioned. Others were simply could not believe what befell them. The Technical knock-out (TKO), and pin fall they experienced from the then AC N was so devastating things almost fell apart within the PDP.
Concerned about the worsening fortune of the party, some party leaders started making some futile attempt to revive the dying party with a view to bringing it back to life in the zone. Mention could be made of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Deputy National Chairman of the party (South), Chief Olabode George and a renown international businessman cum philanthropist, Prince Buruji Kashamu.
While age and status appears to have favoured Obasanjo to leave local politics for national political involvement, Bode George was serving as a rallying point for the disjointed and fractured party before his unfortunate travail that led to his wrong incarceration. The party however has to thank their stars that George’s unlawful imprisonment has been quashed by the nation’s Apex Court. Since his release from gaol, George has resumed the onerous task of uniting the party with a view to repositioning it for future electoral challenges.
But even before George’s travails, a seeming messiah had appeared in the horizon, who took it upon himself to arrest the decline of the party’s fortune in the zone at all cost. He is the Ijebu-Igbo born philanthropist and a blue blooded Prince, Buruji Kashamu.
Starting from his home state, Ogun, the businessman began to rebuild the party using his Omo Ilu Foundation to give succour to the people by empowering them. Thousands were given vehicles, thousands were also given motorcycles to use for commercial purposes, thousands were helped to set up their businesses. Many of those who would have defected to other parties were encouraged to stay back in the party. Apart from discouraging PDP members not to jump ship, he also wooed members of other parties to defect into the PDP.
The effect of Kashamu’s efforts in rebuilding the party in Ogun State is glaring in the number of defectors the party has witnessed even from the ruling APC.
At a single event on August11, 2013, as many as 5,000 members of other parties defected to the PDP in Ogun State. Of these, 3,250 alone came from Peoples Party of Nigeria, while others were from APC and Labour Party.
Among the defectors were Elder Yemi Akinwonmi, a former State Secretary of the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) and Commissioner for Education under Otunba Gbenga Daniel administration, and Otunba Adeleke Adekoya, a former chairmanship candidate of the PPN in Ijebu North LGA.
At another occasion, which was held at the PDP Secretariat in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, over 15,000 people from different parties defected to the PDP. They were led by Chief Rafiu Ogunleye, a former deputy governor of the state and former Ogun State chairman of the ACN, who joined the PDP with his many followers.
Speaking at his declaration for the PDP, Ogunleye said his decision to join the PDP was based on his observations of the goings-on in his former party.
“This great journey started on the fateful day when Prince Buruji Kashamu came to my home in Itele-Ijebu in company of the state chairman of PDP, Chief Bayo Dayo, Otunba Ola Kukoyi, Prince Fakoya and Chief Dele Odulaja to ask me and my group, Imole, for partnership in PDP.
“Here we are today. The rest, to the glory of Almighty God, is history that is taking place today in the ancient city of Abeokuta, the capital of my dear state.Today is an eventful and remarkable day in my life, but I must let you know that after going through the constitution of PDP, I discovered that PDP is a very progressive and truly democratic party,” Ogunleye stated.
The event, which was attended by PDP leaders from outside Ogun including Ibrahim Mantu, a former Deputy Senate President; and Wale Oladipo, National Secretary of the PDP, saw other notable people join the party. These include Otunba Rotimi George-Taylor and his supporters.
Kashamu has not only been concentrating on Ogun State, he has also been involved in rebuilding the party and mobilising members across the zone. He has lent support to all the state executives in the zone in their bid to strengthen the party in each state. He has supported them to embark on massive membership drive as a way of making the party strong enough to ride back to its erstwhile position as the party to beat in the zone.
This much was openly confirmed at a party function in Ijebu Igbo by the former Chairman of the Caretaker Committee for the South West PDP, Chief Ishola Filani. He told a gathering of party leaders, elders and stakeholders in the zone that but for the singular support of Prince Kashamu, the party in the zone would have been in a very precarious state.
When the National Chairman of PDP, Dr. Bamanga Tukur, visited the zone in March 2013, Kashamu mobilised members from across the zone to make the visit remarkable.
He repeated the same feat when President Goodluck Jonathan came to launch the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. He facilitated the mobilisation of party members from across the zone in over 600 buses, making it one event with the greatest level of mobilisation in recent times.
Kashamu, who has consistently maintained that he is not in politics for personal gains or to seek any political office, said he is in politics to improve the lot of the common man.
“As an individual, there is a limit to what one can do. On my own, through the Omo Ilu Foundation, I have done a bit to improve the lot of our people. But how many people can a person or even a group touch? For everyone we help, there are many more we wish to help but can’t help due to resource constraints. That is why I am passionate about having the PDP in control in the South-West because that is the party that has the concerns of the masses at heart. The PDP is the only party that can help the masses. The APC, it has become clear, is only interested in grabbing power at all cost and visiting untold hardships on the people,” he once said.
Continuing, Kashamu said, “For the party to return to power in the zone, the people have to own it. The party must belong to the people. It must not be a party for a few well-heeled people. It must not be a party for only those who know people in Abuja; it must be a party of equal opportunities for members. That is my heart cry; that is my desire for the party; that is why I am committing myself to rebuilding the party in the zone.”
Speaking of his determination to ensure victory for the party in the zone, Kashamu, in an interview said, “I am ready to commit myself to ensuring the success of the PDP governorship candidate in Ekiti State during the forthcoming election. It would be a shame on my part if I fail to do that. I am ready to do the same thing in Osun, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo and Oyo states.”
Today, Kashamu is arguably the most vocal leader of the PDP in the South West. He has spoken at different fora and platform on a number of national issues. His blunt views on issues are well-documented. Yet, this has also set him against some vested interests in his home state of Ogun State and outside.
For instance, he has spoken about the need for all Nigerians to support President Goodluck Jonathan for the good of the nation.
His words: “Those fighting Jonathan don’t love Nigeria; their intention is not just to upstage the president but to destroy the country. Once someone has been elected into office, we must support such a person until his tenure is over. What the APC is doing is destroying Nigeria. Attempting to pull down the president to score political point will not help the nation.”
Kashamu said the northerners should not see Jonathan as their enemy, saying he is a friend to the northerners. Expatiating on this, he said if he were an enemy of the North, he would not have just declared a state of emergency in the North Eastern states; he would have also sacked all the democratic structures and appointed Sole Administrators like Obasanjo did in Ekiti State where he appointed Maj.-Gen. Adetunji Olurin as Sole Administrator.
On Boko Haram, he has been reported as saying that ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s suggestion of carrot and stick approach meant that President Jonathan should have levelled the Northern states like he (Obasanjo) did to Odi when he was president.
“This is rather benumbing when one recalls that the Boko Haram insurgency is a direct response of some disgruntled Northerners to the injustice that Obasanjo himself did to the North by short-changing the region in the choice of a Presidential candidate for the PDP in the 2007 elections.
“Obasanjo is the number one enemy of the North while Jonathan is the true friend of the region and its people. He betrayed the North several times in the past. What he is doing now; his posture of fighting for the interest of the North is not because he loves the region, he is only playing to the gallery,” Kashamu said.
Unless the APC puts its acts together properly, with how things are going, one can conclude that, “a combination of Kashamu’s grassroots experience showcased by his quiet but strategic takeover of the PDP structure under Gbenga Daniel and Bode George’s knowledge of the workings of the party would go a long way in repositioning the party in the South-West ahead 2014/2015 elections.

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