Buruji Kashamu: Fight for Soul of Ogun PDP is about Money Not Party Interest

1
Buruji Kashamu

Buruji Kashamu, the senator representing Ogun East senatorial district in Ogun State, tells Bayo Akinloye in this interview that the legal battle between the Adebayo Dayo-led state executive committee and the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party is a fight to the finish. He also calls into question the credibility of the party hierarchy, particularly that of the National Chairman of PDP, Uche Secondus. Excerpts:

The crisis in Ogun PDP seems to have become intractable. Can you tell us the genesis of the imbroglio?
You will recall that it was not until May 21, 2016 when the PDP held its national convention in Rivers State that its national leadership crisis broke out. By this time, congresses at the ward, local and state levels had been held all over the country. As a matter of fact, INEC said it would repeat congresses in Lagos, Sokoto, Zamfara, Yobe, and Anambra states – no mention was made of Ogun State as it was among the states that had their congresses ratified. However, given the desperation of a minority group within the Ogun State chapter of the PDP to factionalise the party in furtherance of the governorship ambition of the son of a lotto merchant, we approached the court to enforce our rights – and a judgment was delivered in our favour which expressly pronounced that INEC and the PDP national leadership should recognise the Engr Adebayo Dayo-led state executive committee until the expiration of our tenure in 2020. An appeal was filed against the judgment but it was dismissed by a court of appeal sitting in Lagos a year after – May 4, 2017 to be precise. That’s not all; another application to have the dismissed appeal relisted was struck out on July 11 this year with a cost of N200,000 awarded against the national leadership.

Do you think some PDP members in the state are colluding with the national leadership?
It is not difficult to hazard a guess. The inordinate governorship aspiration of the son of the lotto merchant earlier mentioned led a faction of the PDP to compromise the national leadership of the party with some financial inducement. You can see why those leaders are fighting against their own tooth and nail in a bid to deliver the gubernatorial ticket to them in complete disobedience of subsisting court judgment. Despite the 2016 judgment, the leadership of the PDP were bent on perpetrating an illegality claiming that the Supreme Court judgment regarding Makarfi-Sheriff leadership tussle had automatically rendered the Dayo-led executive illegal. As law-abiding citizens, some members of the Ogun State PDP again went to court to determine if they could be excluded from participating in the December 9, 2017 national convention of the party – in view of a subsisting June 24, 2016 judgment by a federal high court.

To cut a long story short, on February 9, 2018, a federal high court sitting in Lagos adjudged that the orders in the previous judgment – which I have just shown to you – are subsisting and binding on INEC and PDP. Let me quote part of the judgment found on page 64 and 76 to you: ‘It is clear that the constitution of the PDP is not a statute. A statute is a law passed by a legislative body…It has been held that each political party must comply with Section 222 of the Constitution and that nothing in a political party’s constitution should override this provision and Section 221 of the Constitution….’

So, why did the Dayo-led executive have to go to court again that brought about the recent judgment that the PDP national leadership said it’s contesting?
It is because the executive saw that the illegal faction in Ogun and their collaborators at the national level have continued to disregard subsisting judgments and orders. With the 2019 general elections around the corner, the authentic state executive committee had to approach the Federal High Court in Abeokuta. So, last month – October 2 precisely – the court stopped INEC and PDP from accepting any list of candidates in Ogun State except the one that emanated from the Dayo-led executive committee – I’ve shown you a copy of that judgment too.

So, the Dayo-led executive committee had submitted a list of Ogun PDP candidates for 2019 elections to INEC. Shouldn’t that list be submitted by the national leadership of the party to the commission?
Of course, the national leadership should have been the one to do that. Nevertheless, the national leadership must be seen as a middleman between INEC and executive committees in various states – no list is generated at the national level. They have to come to the states to get approved lists from various committees and submit same to INEC. It is the chairman of the party of a state that is saddled with the primary responsibility of primaries – the national leadership can be present as observers, according to page 44, paragraph 2 of the PDP constitution which states that ‘the functions of the state congress shall be to elect governorship candidate of the party’. The national leadership should stop cutting corners – is it because they’ve taken ‘egunje’ from the other group that’s why they show flagrant disobedience to the rule of law? The Dayo-led executive submitted the authentic list of PDP candidates, following the primaries, to the national secretariat and to INEC. You must note that the PDP national leadership refused to submit the authentic list to INEC. They had replaced it with their illegal list.

The National Publicity Secretary of your party, Kola Ologbodiyan, was reported to have claimed that the state executive isn’t permitted by the electoral laws to conduct primary elections or to print nomination forms. Is that correct?
Ologbodiyan or what did you call his name is nobody – all of us are nothing. The Almighty Allah is the most powerful. The man doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The PDP constitution clearly allows the state chairman of the party to do just so. Two, the courts have already ruled on this issue. I don’t expect them to do the right thing because they’ve collected money from Adebutu. This man that was talking doesn’t understand what he was saying; he doesn’t even understand the guideline of INEC. In their guideline, the electoral body stated that it can only receive list of party candidates from the national chairman or secretary. But in the same guideline – let me show you – INEC states that except where there’s dispute in any state when it involves court orders, they will respect that court order. So, why is the national leadership of our party ignoring such guideline and court orders? Frankly, Ologbodiyan and Secondus should be arrested – the two of them should end up in jail. They can’t continue to act as if they’re in a banana republic. They should be arrested and prosecuted for the disobedience of court orders and judgments. Also, consider what INEC says in its guideline, I quote: ‘Political parties are to note that where there is a court order in respect of the nomination of any candidate, the commission shall be guided by such order.’ What’s the so-called PDP spokesman talking about then?

Do you see any political solutions to the lingering legal tussles between the national leadership of the party and its Ogun State chapter?
If there’s no political solution to the legal crisis, it’s because of the ‘egunje’ being collected by the party leadership.

But you don’t have any evidence to prove that?
Let me ask you: what’s the interest of the national leadership – when two groups in a state are laying claims to the party structure – to be favouring one group against the other? Should the national leadership not be an impartial figure in the matter and amicably settle the differences? They ought to call the warring factions to Abuja and make them one united party again. I don’t know how Secondus, the PDP legal adviser and the so-called national publicity secretary – really, I don’t know. How could they imagine that they are superior to the constitution of the country? They are under obligation to respect the rule of law and the constitution of Nigeria. Why will they be bent on supporting illegality? They are trying hard to destroy the legacy of other members in PDP. They can’t succeed. I won’t bury my head and allow such impunity to take place. I hate injustice and I’ll never allow anybody to use me to perpetrate injustice. Who are they?

Did you mean that hasn’t been done?
Never!

But are you interested in a political solution to the crisis?
Don’t forget that I have passion for PDP. Also, don’t forget that I am a leader – and, don’t forget that I’ve never accepted any contracts from the government. I’ve been spending my money for many years to support PDP, particularly in the South-west. I was like a bulwark to the party during the era of Bamanga Tukur as the party’s chairman. In the 2015 general elections, despite (Governor Ibikunle) Amosun’s power of incumbency – Amosun is a good governor, performing very well and my conscience will never allow me to say any bad thing about him because he has done a lot for Ogun State and it doesn’t matter if he’s not an advocate of ‘stomach infrastructure’ – PDP with my unreserved support and the people had a successful outing getting nine seats in the state’s House of Assembly, two seats in the House of Representatives and one senatorial seat. It is this same platform that Adebutu used to become a member of the federal legislative chamber. I was the one that gave him sharp ‘teeth’ which he’s now using to ‘bite’ me.

Adebutu has said on a TV (Channels) programme he’ll be willing to work with you based on the outcome of the latest lawsuit filed by the national leadership of the PDP.
Which lawsuit? It’s an abuse of court process. It’ll not see the light of day. Our lawyers have responded to them. It’s rubbish. These people aren’t acting with integrity. They’re saying we printed the forms on our own; that we didn’t buy the forms from the national secretariat. What are they calling forms? Where is all the money of the forms they had collected from other states? They’re not paying the money into PDP’s account. The money is being paid into personal and so-called consultancy firms’ accounts and they’re using the money. This time they’ve collected over N2 billion. Where’s the N2 billion? They’ve shared that among themselves. There’s nothing called ‘forms’; nothing statutory that you’ll say you want to go and use in INEC. INEC has its own forms and it doesn’t sell them. When the party knows there can only be one governorship candidate, why is it collecting N11 million from 20 aspirants in one state?

The party may want to use the money for ‘logistics’ don’t you think?
Is that why they want to use ‘419’ to achieve that when they know it’s only one person that will eventually represent the party and knowing that they’re never going to be transparent in such exercises? They’ll be the ones to generate list of delegates, so why are they messing people up? Political parties shouldn’t be milking people genuinely interested in the development of their people and society. Why allow aspirants to waste N50 million or N100 million – by borrowing money from the bank – and at the end of the day, you don’t give them the ticket? What’s going to happen? They’ll commit suicide!

But it is a choice to buy such forms. Isn’t it? Afterall nobody forced anyone to buy?
Maybe, you understand what I’m saying. Even if they want to do that the party should be straightforward and put in place a transparent process. But why on earth should they collect people’s money when they’re running a crooked process? That’s what’s happening in Ogun State: there’s an authentic EXCO and the national leadership went ahead to create an illegal EXCO, knowing full well that the person (sponsoring the latter EXCO) has money and his father is wealthy too.

Do you understand what I’m saying? If they’re not receiving money from that person why couldn’t they tell the person that there’s an authentic EXCO on the ground which they should be part of.

It appears that the Secondus-led PDP doesn’t want you anymore in the party as you’ve once been expelled by the national leadership. What do you think is your sin?
Can I tell you something? The party doesn’t belong to Secondus. Secondus is there to spend four years and after that he’ll leave the position. If there’s the need to battle the national leadership of PDP until their tenure expires, I’ll be willing. I’ll never bow to injustice. My expulsion from the party was illegal. But at the end of the day, the court vindicated me.

It is apparent this is a fight to the finish. Are you not worried about its negative impact on the general elections?
How does that affect me? We’re mobilising our people. We’re grass-roots people. We’re encouraging them to remain united in their choice of voting the right candidates in 2019. Whatever differences that may exist in Ogun we’re determined to resolve them.

We don’t need the national leadership to be successful. Secondus can’t come to my state thinking that the people will listen to him. But they’ll listen to me and other leaders in the state. There’s nothing Secondus can do in my state. What can he do? PDP doesn’t belong to them; it belongs to all Nigerians. If they’re not ready for justice, Ogun State chapter of PDP won’t tolerate any injustice. They’re like parents with three children who tried to drown two of them, claiming only one belongs to them. What do you think will happen if those two survive? Will they recognise them as parents? That’ll be difficult. There’s no way the rule of law will bow to Secondus. Secondus will be the one to bow to rule of law. Therefore, we shall prevail against them.

But how will you respond to the allegation that what you and your allies have been able to obtain from the courts are ‘compromised court judgments’?
They have very good lawyers – best of the best of lawyers. Similarly, the authentic Ogun PDP EXCO has best of the best lawyers. It’s legal fireworks. The truth is you can’t build something upon nothing in a law court. They’re at liberty to say whatever they want to say. They’re the ones promoting illegality. They’re deceptive and don’t believe in the rule of law. And the problem, you know, is Fayose. I assisted Fayose heavily but he betrayed me because of the structure of the party at the South-west and national levels which he wanted to take from us. Little wonder, he used this Adebutu to fight against me in a bid to take over the Ogun State structure of the party. They already have the NWC in their pocket. The deputy national chairman of PDP South-west, who I don’t consider as a man of impeccable character, belongs to Fayose’s group.

Do you think this internal wrangling can adversely affect the chance of Atiku Abubakar in winning the 2019 presidential poll?
If these people are acting this way, it appears they don’t want PDP to succeed. Do you understand? If injustices by leaders of the party is pervasive across the nation then that may not bode well for PDP. It’s a reason we lost in Ekiti and Ondo states. If we, as the major opposition, can’t put our house in order can successfully execute our electoral strategies? I’m not a magician and I can’t say the level of success we’ll achieve. But if God says we’re going to win, we’ll win. I can only beg almighty Allah to crown our efforts with victories.

What informed your choice of Dr. Reuben Abati as the deputy governorship candidate of the PDP in Ogun State?
He has the qualities. He’s a good man. He’s a valuable man.

Some people think he doesn’t have electoral value to add to PDP.
Who are those saying so? He has been in the government at a top level and has remained a good person – well-educated and very intelligent. I’ll like to have that kind of person in my family whether he has electoral value or not. I’ll be happy to have that kind of person in my family who has been away and has chosen to return home, you’ll see the way everybody will embrace him.