Thursday, 28th September 2023

Kashamu’s exit signposts new political realignment in Ogun

By Muyiwa Adeyemi (Head South West Bureau)
20 August 2020   |   4:24 am
The death of Senator Buruji Kashamu has capacity to alter the political calculations in Ogun State, not only within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but also in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Kashamu’s last minute decision to bequeath his political structure to the former governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, has kick-started discussions on…

Buruji Kashamu

The death of Senator Buruji Kashamu has capacity to alter the political calculations in Ogun State, not only within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but also in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Kashamu’s last minute decision to bequeath his political structure to the former governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, has kick-started discussions on political realignment beyond PDP gladiators, which analysts believe may have dire consequences on the political base of Governor Dapo Abiodun.
Although Daniel had announced his retirement from active politics, analysts say another opportunity has come the way of the former governor to rebuild the party. There seems a glimmer of hope for the party in Ogun State, because many PDP stalwarts that left the party for APC and other parties, because of the endless internal crisis and Kashamu’s style of leadership, are considering re-enacting the old glory of the party that ruled the state between 2003 and 2011.
A source said, “We know that many members of the party loyal to Daniel left the party to support the election of Dapo Abiodun, led by the former deputy governor of the state, Chief (Mrs.) Salmot Badru, are planning to join Daniel in rebuilding the party.”

The source said the group has been complaining that Abiodun’s administration has not been fair to them in terms of political patronage and distribution of perks of office despite their contribution for the victory for the governor in the last election.
Also, another group loyal to the former governorship candidate of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Prince Gboyega Nasir Isiaka, which decamped to APC early this year, is said to be under pressure to review its continuous support for the administration or join forces with other tendencies within the party or leave for the PDP. An APC chieftain in the state told The Guardian that if all these groups should desert APC that will not bode well for the party in 2023.

For 10 years that Kashamu bestrode the politics of the state, the PDP platform he deployed to contest and win the Senate seat in 2015 and lost the governorship election in 2019 has been under his firm control. He was a generalissimo of the party and he explored the instrumentality of the law to dictate what happened in the party. Attempt by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP to check his influence affected its fortunes, not only in Ogun State, but also in the Southwest generally.

The business mogul joined Ogun State PDP during the second term of Daniel. Kashamu’s Omo Ilu Foundation was irresistible to any politician because of its grassroots appeal and his philanthropic gesture targeted at the masses. His Ijebu Igbo house is a Mecca of sorts to the poor and vulnerable in the society. Daniel welcomed him with open arms and saw a great and dependable ally in him. But Daniel was wrong.

At that period, there was no love lost between Daniel and former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The battle between Daniel and Obasanjo on who to present as governorship candidate in the 2011 general election easily polarized both men and PDP. Obasanjo expressed his preference for Gen. Tunji Olurin (rtd) while Daniel went for Isiaka. Buruji pitched his tent with Obasanjo and two parallel congresses were held in the state.

Thousands of party faithful supported Daniel at the congress held at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Kuto, Abeokuta, and monitored by Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) officials and NWC members while the congress organised by Obasanjo and Kasahmu took place at Obasanjo’s presidential Library. But the Federal High Court in Abuja, headed by Justice Abdul Kafarati, gave victory to Obasanjo/Kashamu congress and Olurin became the flag bearer of the party. Daniel and his people joined the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) to pursue their ambition. The division in the PDP gave easy victory to the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), now APC, and Senator Ibikunke Amosun emerged as the governor of the state in 2011.

Since then, things fell apart in Ogun State PDP and members of the party have been enmeshed in a series of internal crises and the journey to political irrelevance.

The political friendship between Obasanjo and Kashamu soon turned sour. Kashamu was in control of the party’s machinery and was not ready to take instructions from the former president. Indeed, Kashamu’s political influence went beyond the state. He had stretched his tentacles to the entire of Southwest through his Omo Ilu Foundation. The NWC of PDP recognised his unmatched influence in the region and made him the Chairman, Mobilsation Committee of the party in the Southwest. This angered Obasanjo, who had earlier warned the party to be careful of the business mogul, who he had described as a “fugitive and drug baron”.

In fact, Obasanjo wrote a letter to the party where he alleged that Kashamu was the Eso Jinadu, who escaped from a U.S. prison. But when Obasanjo could not convince PDP to suspend or sack Kashamu from the party, he tore his membership card and renounced his membership of the party. Obasanjo also dissociated himself from President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, who he alleged gave surreptitious support to Buruji to survive his onslaught.

But Kashamu held on to the party; he had the best political outing in 2015, when he won election into the Senate and defeated Prince Dapo Abiodun (APC), who contested against him in Ogun East Senatorial District. Ladi Adebutu won the seat to the House of Representatives, but the party lost again to APC at the governorship election and most constituencies at the state and National Assembly.

But shortly after the 2015 general election, the internal crisis within the party took another dimension, as two factions emerged again. This time, it was a war of attrition between Kashamu and Adebutu, son of Sir Keshingnton Adebutu popularly known as Baba Ijebu. The two factions held parallel congresses again. While Chief Adebayo Dayo emerged chairman of Kashamu faction, Sikirulai Ogundele led Adebutu’s faction.

For Adebutu, if Kashamu had been using his wealth to hijack the machinery of the party, he was ready to match him in the game. The factions took their battle to the NWC of the party, where Senator Sheriff Modu and Senator Ahmed Makarfi were slugging it out on who chairs the party. Kashamu’s group supported Sheriff’s faction while Adebutu went for the Markaffi group. The Supreme Court gave eventually victory to Markaffi’s group and Sheriff’s group became the loser of the epic political battle.

The new national leadership of the party endorsed Adebutu’s group as the authentic PDP faction in the state. But unknown to the party, Kashamu had armed himself with many court judgments that validated his faction, which the NWC could not upturn. While the NWC of the party recognised Adebutu’s faction, Kashamu’s group was recognised by the law. Both political gladiators picked the governorship ticket of the party. Even with the strong support Adebutu got from the national secretariat of the party, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) accepted the nomination forms from Kashamu’s faction, as that recognized by law.

In retaliation, Adebutu’s faction joined forces with Amosun’s Allied Peoples Movement (APM), but Dapo Abiodun of APC won the election. Kashamu’s PDP came fourth in that election, the worst in the history of the party in Ogun State. Although Kashamu’s critics alleged that he played a role in the victory of Abiodun, just as he was fingered as one of the under-hands that worked for Amosun to defeat PDP. To his critics, Kashamu was a political merchant!

Kashamu’s final battle
HIS last political battle began shortly after the 2019 governorship election, which stripped him naked of his larger than life image. Adebutu and the national leadership of the party renewed their battle against Kashamu to retrieve the party’s structure from him. The onslaught started with a unification meeting called by the National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, in Abeokuta, where various groups, apart from Kashamu’s faction, attended.
The unification meeting succeeded in poaching the principal officers of Kashamu’s faction as its secretary. Semiu Sodipo crossed to Adebutu’s faction by attending the February peace meeting with NWC in Abuja. At that meeting, they agreed that the proposed congress of the party in the state be put on hold to allow for more reconciliation with the aggrieved members of the party.

For attending the meeting, Kashamu’s faction suspended its secretary, Sodipo, for anti-party activities. But Sodipo described his suspension as a rude joke, saying the chairman lacked the power to suspend him. Kashamu’s group went ahead to conduct ward and council congresses, but at the point of conducting the state congress, Adebutu’s faction finally got the chairman of Kashamu’s faction, Adebayo Dayo, to its side, thus truncating the process of changing the baton, which Kashamu had almost completed.

The publicity secretary of Kashamu’s faction, Oyejide Sunkanmi, in a statement, announced Dayo’s suspension as the state chairman, citing alleged anti-party activities. They alleged that Dayo had collected N100 million from Adebutu. But Dayo described Kashamu as a “bad politician” who did not care about the interest of his followers. He decried his purported suspension, insisting that it was only the NWC that has the power to suspend party chairman.

But Kashamu’s faction went ahead to elect a new executive and inaugurated Samson Bamgbose as the new chairman of the party. Bamgbose, who was a former deputy chairman of the faction, said the congress that produced the executive was backed by the constitution of the party.

Analysts are of the opinion that the dumping of Kashamu’s faction by Dayo and Sodipo at that critical period might have had negative effect on the survival of that group, because almost all the court judgments Kashamu’s faction paraded were instituted in Dayo and Sodipo’s name. Indeed, sources said there were judgments that categorically empowered them to organise the congress.

The erstwhile confidants of Kashamu took the mandate to conduct Adebutu’s faction that produced Sikirulai Ogundele as its chairman. But sources said both Dayo and Sodipo had, at one time or the other suspended each other from the party.

A public analyst and former executive member of the party, who pleaded for anonymity, told The Guardian that when Kashamu breathed his last, “the Bamgbose-led exco loyal to him was holding on to a legitimacy that is derived from the July 24, 2016 Federal High Court judgment, which empowered Dayo’s exco to conduct the congress to elect a new executive. 

“In a similar vein, the Sikirulai Ogundele exco loyal to Hon. Ladi Adebutu sources its own legitimacy from the same FHC/LS/636/2016 judgment, which empowered Dayo’s exco to conduct the congress to elect a new executive.

“The bone of contention is who has the authority of executing the FHC/LS/636/2016 judgment empowering Ogun PDP executive to conduct a fresh congress? It will be recalled that the former chairman, Adebayo Dayo, was purportedly suspended by the executive committee members, replacing him with Samson Bamgbose (in acting capacity), who then exercised his right to execute FHC/LS/636/2016 judgment with which they conducted a new congress to put in place his own executive in substantive capacity.

“Conversely, Dayo rubbished his purported suspension and decided to align with the national leadership of the party and the Adebutu group by also acting on FHC/LS/636/2016 judgment to conduct a new congress (in line with dates and timing of the NWC), which now gave birth to the Sikirulai Ogundele executive.

“Therefore, this new deadlock will again return to the court for adjudication. But this time around, it will be about who has the right to execute FHC/LS/636/2016 and conduct a valid congress. This is the last battle Kashamu would have loved to fight to a logical conclusion, but for the cold hand of death.

“Will Daniel lead Kashamu’s faction back to mainstream PDP and reconcile the group to the NWC or go ahead with Kashamu’s line of opposition politics within the party? This is what has dominated discussions among party faithful in the state.