Obasanjo, Jonathan rift worsens •The Gbenga Daniel connection

The frosty relationship between President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo may have worsened as the latter has refused to openly sympathise with the former over the death of his younger brother, Meni Jonathan.

Meni’s remains are being interred at Otuoke in Bayelsa State on Saturday (today).

Obasanjo is currently in Ghana, where he is monitoring the ongoing presidential election in the West African country.

The former President, who was until April the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, boycotted the last meeting of the board, which was held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The meeting was conveyed to discuss modalities for the election of his successor.

While Obasanjo prefers a former National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Ahmadu Ali for the top job, Jonathan is rooting for Chief Tony Anenih.

These differences on serious political and inter-personal relationship between both men have made any process aimed at attaining a truce difficult and deepened their enmity.

Besides, investigations by our correspondents showed that the status of a former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, has aggravated the rift between Jonathan and Obasanjo.

Saturday PUNCH’s investigations showed that Obasanjo and Jonathan had opposing views on whether Daniel was still a member of the PDP or not.

The investigation showed that Jonathan is of the opinion that all the aggrieved members of the PDP should be brought back into the party’s fold.

It was learnt that the President did not see anything wrong in fraternising with Daniel, who was the Chairman of his Presidential Campaign Committee in the South-West.

The current Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, was said to have been mandated to reunite all the members of the party.

It was reliably learnt that Daniel had recently wormed himself into the heart of the President.

Our correspondents gathered that the former governor had been a regular visitor to the Presidential Villa in Abuja in recent time.

As part of the growing romance between Daniel and Jonathan, it was learnt that some supporters of the former governor had been appointed as members of the Federal Government’s Subsidy Re-investment and Employment Programme (SURE –P).

This, the investigation showed, the former President considered as a slight on his integrity as a leader of the party.

Obasanjo, it was learnt, believes that the former governor should not be allowed to come back to the party.

He was said to have hinged his stand on the role played by the former governor in the 2011 governorship election in Ogun State.

Obasanjo and Daniel had parted ways during the 2011 election, with the former governor’s supporters defecting to the Peoples Party of Nigeria, where they contested the election.

An aide of the former President, who preferred anonymity, said, “Obasanjo believes that no party that is serious about discipline should readmit Daniel.

“In 2011, while he claimed to be a member of the PDP, he campaigned against the party during the governorship poll. The former President is not happy that Jonathan is romancing with Daniel, who now has access to the Presidency.

“No serious party and government will allow the former governor to come back to its fold.”

But a top PDP official explained the position of the President and the party on former members.

According to him, Jonathan and the PDP believe that in the spirit of true reconciliation, the party should not shut its doors against former members.

He stated, “We also believe that Daniel has not left the party, although some of his supporters defected to the PPN in 2011.”

The President and Obasanjo had last month disagreed on the Federal Government’s handling of the Boko Haram crisis.

The former President had criticised Jonathan over his alleged weakness in handling the Boko Haram insurgency, which is responsible for the deaths of many Nigerians and the destruction of property running into millions of naira.

Obasanjo, who spoke in Warri, Delta State and cited the way he handled the Odi crisis, had stated that the Boko Haram crisis had become a major threat because of way the problem was being handled by the Jonathan administration.

But Jonathan had, at a Presidential Media Chat on the Nigerian Television Authority, said the military option used by Obasanjo failed to address the militancy problem in the Niger Delta.

Commenting on Daniel’s status, two PDP factions in Ogun State disowned the former governor.

The Adebayo Dayo-led State Executive of the Ogun PDP backed by party financier, Prince Buruji Kashamu and the Senator Dipo Odujirin faction loyal to Obasanjo, said in separate statements that Daniel had yet to return to the party.

The Dayo-executive warned the leaders of the party at the national level to be wary of the antics of Daniel.

The Odujinrin faction said that Daniel had failed to revalidate his membership of the party in his ward as stipulated by the PDP constitution.

But the OGD faction insisted that Daniel remained the “father figure” of the PDP in Ogun State and could not be sidetracked in the affairs of the party by any person or group.

Dayo pleaded with members of the National Working Committee of the PDP, especially the National Chairman, Tukur, not to be swayed by “OGD’s antics.”

He accused the former governor of “insincerity and a grand plot to weaken the PDP while using its resources and goodwill to float and fund an other platform.”

He described OGD’s alleged conduct as “an unconscionable anti-party act,” wondering why the former governor said he would not direct his followers in the PPN to defect to the PDP “until the last minute.”

He said Daniel and a former minister, Chief Sarafa Ishola, could not claim to be leaders of the PDP while they were leaders of the PPN and the Labour Party.

He said, “The national leadership of our great party has the onerous duty to discourage these hermaphroditic tendencies, especially now that they have misled the PDP-led Federal Government into appointing card-carrying PPN members into the committee coordinating the Subsidy Re-investment and Employment Programme (SURE –P) in Ogun State at the expense of the long-suffering PDP members.

“The chairman of the committee, Mr. Kayode Ajibola, and the other three members – Mr. Kayode Adebayo, Aare Tunde Alabi and Mrs. Iyabo Apampa – are unapologetic members of the PPN. Why these characters are hell-bent on destroying the PDP beats my imagination.”

The Kashamu group faulted the claim that the Presidency wanted the former governor to remain in the PDP.

Kashamu argued that it would be unthinkable for Jonathan, whose administration had launched a crusade against corruption, to continue to fraternise with the former Ogun governor, who is currently being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for corruption.

Similarly, the Odujinrin/Obasanjo faction, in a terse statement by its state Publicity Secretary, Mr. Bidemi Osunbiyi, said that the party in the state had yet to be informed by the chairman in Daniel’s ward that the former governor had returned to the party.

The faction added that it was therefore impossible for Daniel, who was not a member of the party in the state, to exercise any form of control over its affairs.

Asked whether Daniel had returned to the party, the Odujinrin faction spokesman said, “No, not yet. His ward chairman has not said so. In the PDP, you revalidate your membership from the ward level.

“You cannot control a party you are not part of. The PDP has defeated his party, the PPN, twice in recent time.”

But the OGD faction, in a statement by the former governor’s Media Assistant, Gbenro Adebanjo, said the claims by both the Odujinrin and the Kashamu groups were false and misinforming.

Adebanjo said that both groups should be disregarded.

“Otunba Gbenga Daniel remains the father figure of the PDP in Ogun State and he remains an active member of the party which he nurtured into prominence in Ogun State.

“He built the PDP into a formidable political party in Ogun State and that is a fact of history. And when some persons tried to play politics of exclusion, their game plan failed woefully and the fortune of the party nosedived.

“Attempts to exclude him failed in the past and will continue to fail. He is involved in the peace building process currently going on and will continue to be involved in ongoing moves to rescue the party from where people who initiated politics of exclusion led the party to.

“The sincerity of Daniel has never been in doubt and all the relevant organs of the party at all levels are aware of this and relate with him accordingly,” the OGD faction said.

The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, was evasive on the issue.

When approached to react to the issue after a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, Okupe declined comment.

The PUNCH had on Wednesday reported that Jonathan had warned his aides against engaging in any media war with the former President.

But the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisah Metuh, had in an interview with one of our correspondents, explained the membership status of Daniel.

Metuh said, “Gbenga Daniel left the party, but I think he made an approach to come back. Whether he has formalised his coming back to the party, I cannot be categorical about that now. I know he has the interest of the party and he is ready to work with the party.

“We have guidelines and procedures to do that and we have due process for those who want to return to the party. I hope he has gone through that process. As a former governor, he will have a role to play in the party as long as he realises that he chose a wrong path (in the past) and he has purged himself of that path, and he knows that such a thing will not be condoned anymore.”

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