By Ebudola Aremu
As the new National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, settles down to the business of piloting the affairs of the party, one area that observers have said will be a test case of his leadership skills is how he handles the issues of the party in the South West.
Without any pretence, the PDP in the South West is divided into three camps, namely the Olusegun Obasanjo, Bode George and Buruji Kashamu groups.
The genesis of the division in the South West PDP has its roots in the crisis in the Ogun State chapter of the party where the Adebayo Dayo-led exco was prevented from participating in the zonal congress held in Osogbo, the Osun State capital in spite of a subsisting court order for the congress to be put on hold until the dispute before the court is resolved.
Consequently, the court declared the congress as null and void, and sacked the Engr. Segun Oni-led zonal exco that emerged from the fraught exercise. Since nature abhors vacuum, a caretaker committee was set up for the party in the zone. The crisis soon consumed the National Secretary and National Auditor because the zonal congress where they were nominated or ought to have been nominated had been nullified. In accordance with the orders of the court removing them, new people emerged in their stead.
Although the dispute in the Ogun State chapter of the party was the primary cause of the zonal crisis, more than anything else the removal of the Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Chief Bode Mustapha as National Secretary and National Auditor of the party aggravated the crisis.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, whose candidates they were, felt slighted by their removal. He saw it as an affront on his person and status; hence everything must be done to reverse it.
Yet, the feeling among the majority of stakeholders is that Baba Obasanj bestrode the political space for far too long that he should resist the temptation of reducing himself from a global citizen and an elder statesman to a zonal player. They contend that he cannot now lay claim to be fighting for the interest of Nigerians in general and the Yoruba in particular when he had eight whole years to do something meaningful for the people as President without anything to show for it.
They also believe that the officers purportedly elected at the zonal congress were not democratically chosen and therefore supports their sack by the courts.
This brings us to the issue of where Obasanjo stands in the politics of the Yoruba nation. The bitter truth is that the Yoruba, whether in PDP, All Progressives Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP) do not like him. He is a leader without followership, at least at home. Simply put, what he leverages on is his election as President which the Yoruba could not be said to have supported – at least in 1999. Even in 2003, most of the victories recorded by the party in the South West were upturned by the judiciary.
It goes without saying that the sophisticated people of the South West will not sit and allow a situation where people who were rejected by the people and removed by the courts are returned to power.
This is more so when the rumour mill has it that at a recent meeting Obasanjo had with Mua’zu at his private residence in Abeokuta, he called for the return of the sacked officers.
While weighing the options, the question a good number of the stakeholders have asked are: will the return of these people assuage Obasanjo and make him to truly and whole heartedly turn from his opposition to President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid when he decides to throw his hat into the ring? Will it help to solve the problems of the PDP in the South West?
Most of Obasanjo’s critics say he personifies issues that should be left for the test of democracy. He shares this same style and attitude with Chief Olabode George.
Recall how Obasanjo imposed the late Chief Olusegun Agagu, Oyinlola and Engr. Segun Oni on the people of Ondo, Osun and Ekiti states respectively.
In the case of Ekiti State in particular, it should be noted that Oni came a distant third in the primaries in 2007. Rather than allow the two people who came first and second to go into a run-off, he picked Oni who came third to the astonishment of everybody. The same tales of imposition and supplanting abound elsewhere.
This was one of the reasons it was so easy for the courts to invalidate the elections in Ondo, Osun and Ekiti states thereby making the PDP to lose three states at a go.
In Ogun State, Obasanjo refused to consult with party leaders but instead insisted on supporting the unelectable Gen. Adetunji Olurin. And that was why the PDP lost Ogun State. If the votes of the PDP and the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) were put together, with a little more effort, we would have defeated the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
Quite unbelievably and surprisingly too, Obasanjo had his own game plan, which was to install his Owu kinsman as governor. In fact, he was quoted as saying in an interview during the campaigns that head or tail, he wins.
In Oyo State, he was the problem that led to the formation of Accord Party (AP) by Senator Rasheed Ladoja. Without AP, the PDP would have won hands down in the state.
The other bloc – and a very frail one for that matter – is the Bode George’s group. This group is made up of mainly his followers in Lagos State and some members of the Board of Trustees from the South West.
George’s ‘leadership’ is festooned by the larger-than-life relationship he claims to have with Mr. President. The relationship, he is quick to tell anyone who cares to listen, dates back to before Mr. President became the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State.
However, the ‘relationship’ has been to the detriment of the party in the South West. His supporters are majorly and mainly those who believe that he can use his personal relationship and contacts with Mr. President to get one or two things for them. George has taken total advantage of that to the detriment of the generality of the Yoruba in general and Lagos State in particular.
Although I stand to be contradicted, he has not contributed anything meaningful to the party. Rather, he appropriates the goodies meant for the party and its members to himself and a few hangers-on.
He is seen as not being interested in the winning of elections in the South West in general and Lagos State in particular because of the morbid fear that once a government emerges in the states; they will become independent of him. That is why the PDP has never won elections in Lagos State since inception.
Even at the national level, he credits the victory won by the PDP to himself because at one point or the other, he was the Deputy National Chairman of the party.
However, majority of the stakeholders debunk the idea of crediting the PDP victory to George and deny his being involved in the organisation and victory in any of the five states. The question is: if he was powerful enough to win the five states, why has he not been able to win Lagos State for the PDP?
One other complaint that his opponents hold against him is that he is also not interested in any democratic process that will bring a strong zonal executive to the party in the zone. His own campaign is to be allowed to nominate one person per state and the seventh person, who is likely to be from outside the zone, becomes the chairman.
Again, it should be noted that George was done and crumbling until the Supreme Court quashed his conviction. Although this has rekindled him psychologically but it has not changed his electoral value since he has no organising and mobilising machinery that can be of any value for the actualisation of the victory of the PDP in the South West, particularly for the elections coming up in Ekiti and Osun states, and the subsequent elections in 2015.
Rather, George is perceived as only interested in hobnobbing with the powers that be at the national level for the release of the logistics for these elections to him and his cohorts as he had been doing in Lagos State without any meaningful result.
As had been noted earlier on, George’s greatest weakness is that he personifies issues that should be left for the test of democracy.
The third scenario is Prince Buruji Kashamu. He started his politics in his home state of Ogun. He had a good working relationship with the then Governor Gbenga Daniel and some of the leaders like Senator Jubril Martins-Kuye (JMK) before Obasanjo used his daughter to woo him to his side. He later dumped the young man. And because of this, they young man decided to fight back.
He succeeded in establishing a state executive that was recognised by the courts and the National Working Committee (NWC). He went further to support each of the states in the zone and created a unified force for the operation of the party in each of the six states to the extent that the average PDP member in the South West believes that it is the logistics that he has been supplying to the party that is making it to still remain relevant in the zone.
Kashamu has been the singular financier of the activities of the party in the six states. He has the support of the elected executives in the six states except the chairmen of Ekiti and Lagos states, for obvious reasons. But even at that, more than 70 percent of the members of the respective excos are in support of his activities.
Although considered by some leaders who do not subscribe to his style as arrogant and unrefined, arising majorly from his perceived lack of western education, many party faithful see him as a rallying point. He connects with them easily and attends to their needs without raising eyebrows.
But just as his generosity and large-heartedness has earned many admirers and supporters, it has also made him the enemy of a few elite. The hatred by his detractors has led to a prolonged accusation of being an alleged criminal and druggist – the allegations he has consistently denied. In the words of some of his supporters, the question is: can the American government be looking for somebody who is not in hiding for over 15 years without success? They claim that the allegation against him is the machination of his enemies who want him down at all cost.
Kashamu’s group is the only one that has taken advantage of the South West Organisation and Mobilisation Committee by turning it into a formidable mobilisation machinery for the organisation and mobilisation of the people in Ekiti and Osun states in particular for the 2014 governorship elections and the entire six states of the South West in preparation for the 2015 general elections.
Towards this end, the group has set up a central mobilisation and organisation committee in Ibadan and a branch in each of the six states to be headed by a Director-General and directors respectively. Offices, vehicles and other logistics are to be provided. A professional propaganda machinery to be headed by a publicist is to be actualised. All this is to ensure that the party wins the general elections, particularly those of this year in Ekiti and Osun state.