Segun Seriki, a Former Member of the House of Representatives
Segun Seriki, a former member of the House of Representatives and one of the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State has blamed former President Olusegun Obasanjo for the protracted crisis rocking the party in the state. He also lamented the continuous flagrant disregard to court orders by the former president’s faction of the party, among other issues. He spoke to Omololu Ogunmade. Excerpts:
What really is the problem with Ogun PDP?
I am a founding member of the PDP in Ogun State and currently a leader of the party in the state. I was in the House of Representatives in the aborted Third Republic on the platform of Social Democratic Party (SDP). I was in the same House when (Bola) Tinubu and (Jubril Martins) Kuye were senators, while Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso was also a member of the federal House. So, I am not just a member of the state executive committee in Ogun State, I am privy to everything that happens in the party.
The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ogun State is Dayo Adebayo and all this insinuation of "authentic leader" is the imagination of disgruntled members seeking relevance by creating another state executive that is unknown to the law. In all honesty, it is good to give a background to the problem. It is quite unfortunate that PDP finds itself in this situation as a result of the interplay of interests where people who are not popular choices are aspiring to be representatives of the people.
After Governor (Gbenga) Daniel came into the party and ran a very expansive people-oriented campaign that led to his victory in 2003, there came an argument on who would be custodians of the structure of the party between him and those who hitherto had been in the party as led by Chief Jubril Martins Kuye. But the truth of the matter is that activities of the governor had changed the political equation in the state vis-à-vis its relevance and popularity. In between this disagreement, a third force came into play, that was Prince Buruji Kashamu.
Naturally in politics, the essence of aspiration to high office and control is fundamental, that is to say anybody worthy of his salt should aspire to be in control. It is not a shameful thing for any politician to wake up and say 'I want to be the president of the Federal Republic or I want to be in control.’ So, a third force came into play but the truth of the matter is that in the dynamics, Governor Daniel held forth with a lot of control on the executive members at the time while Prince Kashamu walked his way into a substantial control of the executive of the party. In all this, other political office holders, including Kuye were more or less partying and playing on old reputation and glory, including former President (Olusegun) Obasanjo.
At what point did the national secretariat of the party intervene in the crisis?
These political office holders that I mentioned held on to their positions and perceived glory without any semblance of connect with the people. It was this disagreement that led to the national executive's intervention. They requested for harmonisation of the parallel executive committees. At the point of harmonisation, the best that could be said was that the struggle was between Governor Daniel and the opposition or between Governor Daniel and JMK. But truly and honestly, the JMK group was just a symbol of the opposition and it had been a name that we had been using since he contested the governorship election but in the real term, it was Prince Buruji Kashamu that had people who symbolised the JMK group, unless they were just asking these people to go and write names. But at the point of harmonisation, they both harmonised.
Yours truly was a key loyalist and aide of Governor Daniel at that time. When the harmonisation came, it was our perceived belief in the OGD group that as a ruling party and we being in government, we could not agree. There was disagreement. I think the disagreement prompted Prince Buruji Kashamu to approach the court. That court case led to the Justice Kafarati judgment in which the OGD group lost in court by that judgement. A judicial unification had been created in the party. If we were to be a civilised society, you were at liberty to disagree with the judgment by which a lot of followers of Governor Daniel went to form (Peoples Party of Nigeria) PPN but it is unthinkable in the modern world for you to demonstrate sharp disagreement with a competent court judgment by flouting the judgment.
It was this judgment that enabled PDP to run for election in 2011 because there was no judicial unification of the party. That was why I said there was judicial unification of the party at the point of Kafarati judgment because we presented a candidate for the election and it was not factionalised. I need to clarify a position so that we understand the sincerity of yours truly because my dabbling into politics is predicated on the observance of the rule of law. I was a member and key loyalist and up till now, I am still a very good aide of former Governor Daniel. I was in the Daniel group and was aspiring to the federal House in 2011 but at the point where I obtained and paid for my form in the party, I realised that there was a subsisting court order that prevented the OGD group from conducting primaries. I drew the attention of the former governor to it. We disagreed on principle.
Based on that singular court order, I chose to go to the other group and do my primary there. And I won as a law-abiding citizen in the opposition group because that was what the law said. As the court vindicated the primary, my position was also vindicated because Governor Daniel had his own primary, which the court had stopped. As an aspiring lawmaker and a former lawmaker, I could not allow myself to condescend to do a primary in a place where the court had said it should not be done because I could remember that when we were in the university, there was a saying that an order remained an order until it was set aside.
In the face of subsisting court order in Ogun PDP, what is the fate of the party?
I so believe that if you don’t obey rule of law, the future of the country is doomed. So, after we won the judgment in Abuja which vindicated my position, I am still shocked when people talk about factions in Ogun PDP. In the real PDP, the court had said ‘this is the PDP.’ So, we ran for the election. But things become worse when you realise that eminent Nigerians, former exalted office holders, can condone illegality because it rubs off on the image of the country. I was a contestant and by virtue of that, I had been incorporated into the caucus of PDP controlled by Prince Buruji Kashamu now. I was privy to the fact that our respected leader, former President Obasanjo singlehandedly and unilaterally nominated Brigadier General Tunji Olurin for that governorship election under the Dayo Soremi-led executive committee.
I had my reservation on that as a result of my perceived knowledge of political interaction with the former president. But he had his way and we fielded General Olurin. The question that an ordinary Nigerian should ask is: should we now disagree with the Dayo Soremi executive after you had used the most valuable price electorally available to that committee. We are Nigerians and fundamentally, a situation where we fold our arms and allow people who ordinarily had been in better positions when they were younger than us to continue to manipulate our future is arrant stupidity on our part.
By my current age, I would have been older than former President Obasanjo when he was military head of state. I am not a soldier but somebody was a soldier and outside the schedule of his job, became head of state. Yet this person was younger at that time than me now but he had the opportunity. And now, we want to administer democracy, you cannot sympathise with us for not having the honour of the right you had and you are still frustrating the political process.
How did the crisis degenerate after the general election?
After the election, one would have expected that in a reasonable clime, given our loss, given the circumstances which had vindicated my earlier stated position that there were only two gladiators politically in Ogun State, who had meaningful electoral value, that is former Governor Daniel and Buruji Kashamu, the reasonable attempt should have been how to bring the PPN back to PDP, but that did not happen because some former office holders, some opportunistic office aspirers and jobbers are running under former President Obasanjo because the system allows the unilateral presentation of appointment to the president without laid down rules. Unfortunately, Daniel is in PDP while majority of his followers are in PPN. But Buruji has been wholly and totally in PDP.
What mainly is Obasanjo’s role in all of this?
After we lost the election, they wrote Dayo Soremi to send 10 names of people to be considered for political appointments. I was among the leaders that went to former President Obasanjo’s house to ask him to guide us. He asked us to go and bring three names from each senatorial district, which amounted to nine. And we fully gave him one of the nominees but what did we have? He collected the names and changed the whole list, which was not what we ought to do if not for honour. We were supposed to have sent the list by ourselves but we deferred to him because we had the burden of housing the former president in the state.
But against agreement, he changed the names. We have two ministers from the state now who are not from the political terrain but they were nominated by him. That is not the kind of politics that can liberate Nigeria. Anyway, that is not bad enough. I concede the fact that he has the right to do so because of his contributions to the political growth of the country to get what he aspires for. That is what he chooses to do with his eminence but he does not have the right to subvert the rule of law. I agree that he is a former president. Whatever has to do with that office, he has the right to do it as he likes. But when there is a compelling court judgment that says ‘Mr. Big man, submit yourself to rule of law,’ you are supposed to honourably comply. That is the unfortunate part that is painful to young people like us.
Obasanjo is the nemesis of PDP in Ogun State. For somebody who is not a captain of democracy and yet unilaterally nominated a governorship candidate to now turn around to be fighting the same executive that accepted the governorship candidate from him, it’s unfortunate! We cannot be in a society ruled by arbitrariness. We will fight to the end, logically, and within the ambit of the law. It is criminal to be asking, ‘how do we wriggle out of this problem?’ It is wrong for distinguished personalities to sit down and allow disobedience to the rule of law.
If the law allows me to be the President of Nigeria, what do the people expect from me? Ogun State is a test ground for Nigeria to know that democracy is not only about the conduct of free and fair election, but rather about a process that has been bastardised. When you allow somebody to bastardise your electoral value and present unqualified candidates before you, is that in the spirit of free and fair election?