What led to the factionalisation of the PDP in Ogun State?
You will recall the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) was in power in Ogun State for eight years under Otunba Gbenga Daniel. During his tenure, governance was smooth, government was responsive and sensitive to the yearnings of the people and there was peace in the PDP. We started having problems when Buruji Kashamu came up with a deceit that was supported by Daniel. We found later that Kashamu was out to use our political fortunes to enrich his business interest through a diabolical organization he called ‘Omo Ilu Foundation’. He forced many members of the party to take oath of allegiance to his leadership.
Later, he took the party leadership to court on certain issues. With the support of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he had his way. He used court injunctions to take over the structure of the party. Kashamu later frustrated Obasanjo, Daniel and other notable leaders out of the party. I decided to remain in the PDP when Daniel moved to Progressive Party of Nigeria (PPN) and later Labour Party (LP). All along, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, maintained a siddon look approach. That was how Kashamu hijacked the party from the authentic leaders.
Could that be the reason why the party lost the 2011 and 2015 general elections in the state?
Yes; we did not realise Kashamu came to use our electoral fortunes to further his business interest. What Kashamu did to the PDP in Ogun was the height of deceit. In 2011, he started selling party tickets for political offices to the highest bidders. In 2015, we had the opportunity of regaining power in the state, but we could not capitalise on it because of the selfish interest of Kashamu. Like he did in 2011, he fixed prices for elective offices. Those who could afford to pay were given the tickets; it was a cash-and-carry business. He didn’t put into consideration the popularity of the candidates among the electorate. For instance, Kashamu foisted Bisola Clark, the wife of Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark on the Ogun Central Senatorial District as candidate. She’s an Egba woman, but not popular among the people. She doesn’t stay in Abeokuta. Still, Kashamu gave her the senatorial ticket at the expense of a popular candidate.
Why did the party organise three parallel congresses last year?
In order to put an end to Kashamu’s impunity, we the like minds in Ogun PDP decided to go back to the drawing board, by first identifying the problems. We realised that Kashamu had turned the party into his personal property and was using our political fortunes to entrench his business interest. We came together, we mobilised our members against the self-acclaimed leader. We formed a formidable team having Daniel and Hon. Ladi Adebutu, a member of the House of Representatives as leaders.
When we had enough members to fight the monster, we went ahead to conduct ward, local and state congresses. We went to court to challenge the Bayo Dayo-led state executive council that conducted the Kashamu group’s congress. The bone of contention was that the tenure of Bayo Dayo executive expired in February, 2015. So, it had no power to conduct congress in April 2015. We got ruling from Ogun State High Court, Abeokuta, in our favour. We appealed and applied for a stay of execution on the judgment given in favour of Kashamu group by Justice Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos on the same issue.
But, the Kashamu group insists that it is the authentic leadership, based on a letter of recognition from the INEC. What is your reaction?
Our congress was recognised. We got a letter from the Makarfi-led caretaker committee of the PDP, recognising us as the authentic PDP in Ogun. The Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGIEC) recognised us as authentic state executive of the PDP. The commission studied both judgments and found that ours remain substantial. There was a judgment that barred the Kashamu group from conducting the congress. We would have initiated contempt charge against them, but for the sake of brotherhood. The letter purportedly written by INEC could be forged.
Do you have any working relationship with the Bankole faction?
Yes we have a working relationship. We are partners in progress. We have similar experience with Kashamu leadership. We are people of like minds. In fact, we worked together during the recent local government election.
Any move to resolve the crisis?
We have successfully won the hearts of the Bankole group. The reasonable ones among the Kashamu group are with us. Those that are not diabolically committed to “Omo Ilu” are also with us. We worked together for last Saturday’s local government election. We are extending our hands of fellowship to those that have taken the oath of allegiance to the Kashamu leadership; may God deliver them from the diabolical bondage of Kashamu. They should go to church or mosque to exorcise the evil spirit in them.
Why didn’t you attend the recent reconciliation meeting of the Southwest PDP held in Ibadan?
There is no sincerity of purpose in conveying that meeting. Kashamu was the convener. Since Kashamu was the person that organised the meeting, it is a meeting of deceit. I got the report of the meeting on my platform few hours ago. The report states that the likes of Governors Olusegun Mimiko and Ayo Fayose, as well as Chief Bode George, did not attend. That those present criticised them and denounced their leadership of the party in the Southwest. It was also in the report that when Dimeji Bankole entered the hall, there was loud ovation that recognised his presence. That Bankole told the gathering that he was invited on phone by Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun to attend the meeting and he suggested that a meeting that will embrace all party leaders in the zone should be organised. At this point, Chief Jimoh Ibrahim snatched the microphone from Bankole and announced that, henceforth, Kashamu is the Southwest leader of the PDP.
You can understand why I said the Ibadan meeting was a deceit. There can’t be reconciliation in the PDP, if it was not genuinely done. The PDP members in Ogun State are tired of Kashamu. Ogun is an elitist state. Kashamu can’t lead Ogun. The likes of Kashamu can’t be a councillor in Egbaland, because of his dented image. He can’t lead our campaign; people will look at your leader and judge you. We are playing politics. We have the right to choose our leader.
In your view, what is the way forward for the PDP?
I believe in genuine reconciliation that will have a human face. Anything built on falsehood will not stand. You can’t deceive people that you are out for reconciliation when people know you and what you stand for. That is why I am advocating genuine reconciliation in PDP for the party to rise again and regain power at the centre in 2019. The PDP stand a good chance of regaining power, provided we are able to put our house in order. Nigerians have tasted the PDP and the APC; they can compare and contrast.
Will you contest the result of the recent local government election?
The local government election conducted last Saturday in Ogun was a sham; it was the height of disappointment. That election took us back to the era of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in the Second Republic, when ballot box snatching, physical attacks on opponents, maiming and killing of voters were the order of the day. If the APC was popular, they shouldn’t have resorted to ballot box snatching.
Voting materials were not supplied in riverine areas of the state, yet results were declared. Many people who were shot are still in the hospital receiving treatment. It was barbaric, uncivilised and condemnable. The decision to contest the election result will be collective. When the party executive meets, we will discuss and take a decision.