Axing Obasanjo’s Men

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The crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party reaches a frenetic level with the axing of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s loyalists

Despite repeated denials by national leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, of an internal crisis, recent developments within the party seemed to have confirmed that. The recent sacking of party officers from the South West and dissolution of its zonal executive councils was believed to be part of an intricate power play orchestrated by the Bamanga Tukur-led National Executive Council, NEC, to strengthen its grip on the party machinery.  But the move, which perceivably has President Goodluck Jonathan’s blessings, is not without its causalities. The biggest  is former President Olusegun Obasanjo, whose loyalists were chucked out of the national, state and zonal offices. Although, the leadership of the party has rebutted claims that its action was not intended to whittle down the former president’s influence, many watchers believe it is unlikely so. This is viewed against the background of Obasanjo’s bitter criticisms of the Jonathan administration’s feeble fight against corruption and its handling of the nation’s security challenges, particularly the Boko Haram insurgency. The pervading belief that Obasanjo may not back President Jonathan’s rumoured ambition for a second term could be a reason for the action.

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The unfolding intrigues began with the removal of former Osun State Governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola as the party’s National Secretary on 11 January. His ouster was based on the ruling of Justice Abdu Kafarati of an Abuja Federal High Court on the reason that the South West zonal congress which produced him was null and void. The suit, which was instigated by the Bayo Dayo-led faction of Ogun PDP chapter, was a continuation of two others earlier filed against the party and a rival faction headed by Senator Dipo Odujirin. While Bayo Dayo faction is promoted by the Dayo Soremi-led harmonised executives in the state, Odujurin, a product of the nullified congress, is backed by Obasanjo.

With the entry of controversial multi-millionaire Kashamu Buruji into the state’s politics during former Governor Gbenga Daniel’s tenure of office, a new sphere of influence was carved from the originally known power brokers –Daniel and Obasanjo. Buruji has since become the arrowhead of attacks against the former president and his interests in Ogun politics.

It was double whammy for the old war horse penultimate week when the party, citing the court judgments, sacked his other loyalists from national offices of the party. Rising from a meeting in which it said it deliberated on the report of the protracted crisis of its Ogun chapter and the contentious southwest congress, Bode Mustapha and Engineer Segun Oni became the latest casualties. Mustapha and Oni, both Obasanjo’s anointed for the positions, were formerly national auditor and zonal chairman respectively. It became suspicious the party’s sudden volte-face in considering the different court rulings it had previously treated with contempt and utter indifference. The party has gone a notch further to swear-in Fatai Adeyanju, an accountant, who was said to be duly elected and qualified, as Mustapha’s replacement. Not only that. It equally set up a 17-man Caretaker Committee, headed by Chief Ishola Filani, to oversee the party’s affairs pending when a proper congress would be held, but, with candidates sponsored by the Dayo Soremi-led harmonised executive.

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The decision to confer recognition on the Soremi-Kashamu group has literally demystified ex-President Obasanjo’s larger-than-life influence in the state. A source within the aggrieved Obasanjo camp told the magazine that strategic meetings are being held to counter the implicit move by Tukur and the Presidency to render them powerless. It claimed that rather than reconcile the warring factions, the action has further polarised the party. “How can they shove aside people who have worked tirelessly to build the party from the ward level over the years to please a stranger (Kashamu). Do they expect us, or our leaders, including Baba Obasanjo, to take orders from him? It is impossible,” he stated.

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Just barely a month ago, the PDP southwest zone decided to celebrate the former president’s homecoming since his voluntary resignation as the party’s BoT chairman. The reception surprisingly turned into a national event attended by former Ghanaian President John Kuffuor, Vice President Namadi Sambo, who represented President Goodluck Jonathan, governors, as well as party leaders, led by Tukur.  With the recognition accorded the Soremi faction, former Governor Daniel, whose loyalists are part of the harmonised executive, may regain lost grounds.

Interestingly, Daniel and Kashamu are not the only ones having the last laughs. Bode George, who fell out with Obasanjo, seems to be in Tukur’s good books, with the nomination of a few of his loyalists into the Caretaker Committee. However, there is no doubt that the Obasanjo group would fight back. Despite Obasanjo’s silence thus far, many are waiting with bated breath to see what the old master does next.

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