A series of confusing political developments prevailed across Ogun State on Thursday, after loyalists of a faction of the Peoples Democratic Party initiated divergent endorsements of governorship candidates ahead of Saturday’s election.
Moments after Gbenga Daniel, a former governor of the state and strong PDP henchman, announced his unexpected endorsement of Dapo Abiodun, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ladi Adebutu, a federal lawmaker who nearly picked the PDP’s governorship ticket, said he had endorsed Abiodun Akinlade of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM).
But supporters of the PDP in the state said the reasons cited by both of their leaders left them more dumbfounded than their endorsement of opposition parties against a factional body.
Mr Daniel said he endorsed Mr Abiodun because Mr Adebutu did not get the PDP ticket, and since the three of them are of the Remo extraction in Ogun East, supporting one of their own would better guarantee the advancement of their tribe.
Mr Adebutu, however, disagreed in his own endorsement of Mr Akinlade, who is from Yewa geopolitical zone in Ogun West, saying only the APM candidate could be trusted to continue the policies of incumbent Governor Ibikunle Amosun.
Mr Daniel strongly backed Mr Adebutu at the PDP governorship primaries in the state, against Buruji Kashamu, a controversial politician and the senator representing Ogun East Senatorial District.
Mr Adebutu was recognised by the PDP’s national leadership and was given the party’s ticket over Mr Kashamu.
Mr Kashamu was backed by the state’s chapter of the party for the governorship.
But a series of judicial pronouncements, including at least one by the Supreme Court, over the ticket, was in favour of Mr Kashamu.
Mr Kashamu had challenged the PDP’s decision to give Mr Adebutu the ticket, arguing successfully that his own executive committee of the party was authentic and its decisions were valid.
Mr Amosun, who won a senatorial seat on APC platform on February 23, backs Mr Akinlade of APM against Mr Abiodun of the APC.
The last-minute moves by Messrs Daniel and Adebutu stemmed from yet another judicial affirmation of Buruji Kashamu as the state’s bona fide governorship candidate on Wednesday at the Federal High Court in Abeokuta, the state capital.
“Going forward, I have directed all our structures statewide to cast all their votes on Saturday” for Mr Abiodun,” Mr Daniel said after lamenting the failure of Mr Adebutu to be the PDP’s candidate.
But Mr Daniel told his supporters who were present at the endorsement at his country home in Shagamu, a major commercial centre in Ogun State, that the support came “despite current party differences” with Mr Abiodun, whom he described as a bona fide son of Remo.
Mr Abiodun was present at Mr Daniel’s residence during the endorsement Thursday afternoon, and the politicians’ offices circulated pictures of a jubilant atmosphere that prevailed throughout.
Multiple strings attached
While Mr Daniel did not immediately say whether or not he was positioning himself for political benefits in a potential Abiodun administration, Mr Adebutu appeared to make it clear that his accord with Mr Akinlade would be mutually beneficial.
A press statement described the endorsement as “a merger,” with Mr Adebutu describing Mr Akinlade as “a responsive and an upright man who has what it takes to move the state forward.”
Despite being a Remo man who until yesterday earnestly sought his party’s ticket for governor, Mr Adebutu said he endorsed Mr Akinlade because he believed it was a fair and balanced thing to do for Ogun State.
Mr Akinlade’s governorship “will bring fairness and justice” to power equation in Ogun State.
Ogun West has never produced a governor in the state’s 43 years history.
Mr Adebutu and his supporters described Mr Kashamu as “a misfit” because he lacked adequate formal education, as well as the numerous criminal allegations, including drugs peddling, for which the senator had for years fought to extricate himself in and out of Nigeria.
Mr Kashamu has run a campaign with conciliatory tone following the bitter rivalry for the PDP’s ticket.
A few days after tapping journalist Reuben Abati as his running mate, the senator said he was open to working with Mr Adebutu if the court battle that was underway at the time favoured his opponent.
But Messrs Daniel and Adebutu have relentlessly castigated Mr Kashamu as unapproachable for political cooperation.
But coming barely 48 hours to the opening of ballots across the state, the endorsements today might ultimately not count for much, or their success would be difficult to measure in the least, said political analyst Sola Olubanjo.
“The whole thing is a mess right now,” Mr Olubanjo said. “How many people do they expect to get their message within this short period?”
“And when you consider the legwork that is usually required for things like this to work, you’ll recognise that it most likely just a symbolic exercise whose impact would not be felt or difficult to appreciate if it made any difference at all,” Mr Olubanjo added.