Mr Daniel, an ally of a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, recently joined the ruling All Progressives Congress.
In a move that appeared to have shocked members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a former governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel, on February 16 announced he was joining the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
He was welcomed into the party by five state governors at his Asoludero residence, Sagamu, where he was presented with a broom, the symbol of the APC.
The governors who welcomed him were Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State and Abubakar Bello of Niger State.
Mr Daniel’s action comes barely two years after he resigned from the opposition PDP, saying “he was pulling out from partisan politics.”
Gbenga Daniel’s reign in Ogun politics
Mr Daniel served as the governor of Ogun State from May 29, 2003, to May 29, 2011, under the banner of PDP.
His election in 2003, according to political analysts, remains the biggest electoral victory in Ogun State after securing 449,335 votes against the then sitting governor, Olusegun Osoba, who scored 231,982 votes.
His reelection in 2007 was disputed by Ibikunle Amosun who was the candidate of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) but the state’s election petitions tribunal in August 2009, dismissed Mr Amosun’s petition.
Upon handing over in 2011, he returned to his business but did not stop funding many youth development initiatives in the state. With this, he continues to enjoy support among many youth in the state.
First exit from PDP and return
Following internal squabbles that divided PDP into factions, Mr Daniel dumped the major opposition party. He later joined the Labour Party (LP) in 2013 and many leaders of the party declared their loyalty to the ex-governor.
His media aide, Adenekan Seun, quoted ex-governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State to have described Mr Daniel as “the biggest stakeholder in the Ogun project.” Soon, LP became the most popular opposition party in the state, taking over from the PDP.
On May 17, 2014, while speaking at the commissioning of the state headquarters of the Labour Party, located at Onikolobo area of Abeokuta, Mr Daniel said: “this is the first time that I’m appearing in a political environment since 2011. I want to tell you today that the Labour Party is the right party,” he announced formally.
After several reconciliation meetings with leaders of the PDP, Mr Daniel re-joined the party in October 2014.
“I have returned to my party. There is no situation in which there are no differences, these differences have been settled. All the challenges we have in PDP have been settled. If Labour Party is actually strong in Ogun state, can it swallow PDP? It is the big fish that swallows the small fish and today PDP has swallowed Labour Party,” he said then.
By December 2014, Mr Daniel declared his ambition to run for the Senate seat for Ogun East district in the 2015 elections but the party eventually chose late Buruji Kashamu.
Mr Daniel later announced his withdrawal from the race. According to the then chairman of PDP in Ogun, Dayo Bayo, the ex-governor tendered a letter of withdrawal to the chairman’s office but did not disclose the reason behind his action.
“I can tell you that my leader, the former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, has submitted a letter of withdrawal for the Senate race to my office and he is not contesting in the primaries,” Mr Dayo was quoted.
Many months after the election, Mr Daniel told PREMIUM TIMES his reasons for not pursuing the ambition.
“I was offered the ticket at a price but I rejected it because I could not come to terms morally and in good conscience with purchasing a ticket to contest election to serve. Some people even tried to pay the price but I stopped them. Insiders are fully aware of these details. Just setting records straight with respects,” he stated.
“I voluntarily declined, as I was engaged to coordinate President Jonathan’s campaign in the South West for PDP, while supporting most of our cheated candidates who went to PPN at that time.”
In 2017, he ran for the national chairmanship of the PDP, running some of the sturdiest campaigns at the time, but lost to Uche Secondus at the party’s national convention.
Even as a member of PDP, he refused to support the party in the 2019 governorship election in Ogun due to his fight with Mr Kashamu (PDP candidate). Instead, he threw his weight behind Mr Abiodun of the APC, who won the election.
Leading Atiku’s campaign
In the build-up to the presidential election in 2019, ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar appointed Mr Daniel as the Director-General of his campaign.
Mr Abubakar in a statement said the ex-governor “has vast knowledge of the Nigerian political terrain and has a wide network of contacts and friends all over Nigeria, and these are a few of the assets he will be bringing to our campaign organisation.
“I am in no doubt OGD is a very positive and welcome addition to our campaign and I look forward to working with him as he leads our campaign to victory come February 2019,” he said with full optimism.
Alas! The election did not go as planned for him as President Muhammadu Buhari won re-election under the banner of the ruling APC with 15,191,847 votes to Mr Abubakar’s 11,262,978 votes.
Barely a month after the election, Mr Daniel resigned from active and partisan politics, saying he would concentrate on running his charity and political foundation.
The first person to condemn Mr Daniel’s resignation was Femi Fani-Kayode, former minister of aviation who took to Twitter to describe the resignation as sad.
“For the Director General of Atiku’s Presidential Campaign Organisation and his closest confidante in the South West to dump the PDP and join the APC even before the conclusion of Atiku’s election petition, is sad.”
Mr Fani-Kayode made the remark even though Mr Daniel did not disclose that he would be going to the APC.
Unfounded political retirement
His resignation came as a shock to many who believed that there is no retirement age for politics. Having understood this fact, both the APC and the PDP tried to lure him.
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State visited him in January 2021, appealing to the ex-governor to return to the PDP as the best person in the position to provide leadership for the party in the state.
But a month after, Mr Daniel chose to go with the APC. He told his supporters in a statement that the move was in the best interest of “our people”.
“Our cause is just, well-considered, not for any personal gain or aggrandisement but in the overall interest of our people. What we all need to do is to be active and proactive with our responses as there will be no time for briefing.
“We all know what has happened to the intractable problem in the Ogun State PDP over the last decade or more with no end in sight. We can see the unfolding crisis in the SW (South-west) and the national situation does not look any better. The situation in the country also calls for serious engagement across the board.
“Not that there won’t be challenges in the other parties but all considered and the benefit of what I know, this is the best thing to do now. If the dynamics change at any time we will take it as it comes. Regards to all,” his statement read.
How it would affect PDP, APC in Ogun
From that statement, one could tell that Mr Daniel’s political retirement is not near.
The APC in the state welcomed him enthusiastically, saying “for now, the ruling party has colonised the state.”
The party’s spokesperson, Tunde Oladunjoye, in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES said Mr Daniel was coming to the party to lead them to glorious showings in next elections.
“Let me start by making clarification on behalf of Gbenga Daniel. He did not defect, he resigned after his work for Mr Atiku and said he was leaving politics. What happened last month was that after several thoughts, he joined the APC and not defected.
“His coming to APC as it has been seen by many is a big boost for APC because you cannot take away the fact that as a former governor, he has supporters and followers. Having him is a good catch for our party at the national and state levels.”
He also said Mr Daniel’s decision was a further demonstration of his love for Governor Abiodun.
“You will recall that prior to the 2019 election, he told his followers to support Dapo Abiodun. They have been friends for decades and they have to support one another.
“On the party level, it is clear without sounding victorious, Ogun State is now a one-party state and our party is bound to win subsequent elections. This is the first time in the history of politics in Ogun state to have four governors in a party. We are also having all the deputy governors in a single party not to talk of senators and even former.
“APC has colonised party politics in Ogun. This is also the first time of having governorship candidates who lost in the election joining hands to work with the incumbent governor.
“If Governor Abiodun is a lover of noise, he would have called Sunny Ade or Wasiu Ayinde to celebrate the recent activities of the party in Ogun. The top guys are the ones reported in the media but we have many people even at the local level and the ward level joining APC. Today, as far as Ogun politics is concerned, you don’t tell a deaf man that the market is over. The opposition can see for themselves.”
Asked how the party would manage its galaxy of political leaders, Mr Oladunjoye simply said “I don’t envisage a leadership crisis. As of today, Dapo Abiodun is the leader of the party. There are protocols and there could be issues relating to ambition but I can assure you that there are mechanisms to address differences in the party”.
The opposition PDP, however, also put a positive spin to Mr Daniel’s latest movement, saying he is one of the major influencers of crisis in the party since he fell out with some leaders in 2011.
A chieftain on the PDP in Ogun, Oyejide Sunkanmi, told PREMIUM TIMES that the exit of Mr Daniel would allow the party to end most of its internal crisis and work towards regaining power in the state, saying “big names have no relevance like grassroots politicians.
“In politics, it is expected that some set of people will say they want to shift ground. Otunba Gbenga Daniel asked his people to follow Dapo Abiodun during the 2019 election, so getting the news that he joined the APC did not surprise us.
“The PDP Ogun State is different from what people used to know. It is not the PDP of the big names. These leaders are no longer relevant. We respect the opinions of Gbenga Daniel and we are not disturbed because Ogun PDP is capable”, he said.
He said despite not having any “big name” in PDP, the party is still a formidable opposition ready to unseat the APC.
“We are trying to put our house in order and ensure that we sort out our in-house crisis. We are interested in people at the grassroots to unseat the APC. This government has not met the expectations of the people and they (people) want us (PDP) to return.
“It is not only the PDP that has crisis. Even APC has their crisis. No party is crisis-free. We have our crisis and I am not disputing that fact. Gbenga Daniel who emanated from nowhere and was given opportunity to become governor could not find common ground with other leaders after he left the position as governor
“The problem we have today emanated in 2011 from Gbenga Daniel but the national leadership of the PDP has set up a reconciliation team and meetings are ongoing. Very soon, you will see all the warring factions come together. We don’t really need any big name to achieve results.”
Internal crisis management to determine the future
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES on the development, a political analyst, Jide Ojo, said the way the two major political parties manage their internal crises will determine their future and strengths in the state.
“It is the right of any politician to join any party of his or her choice and in the case of Ogun, people pay more attention to individuals than parties they represent right from the days of Olusegun Osoba. Yes, big names alone do not win elections and local politicians must also be respected.
“The normal thing is that people want to migrate to where things are happening. People want where they can get political asylum, contract and many others things.
“Considering all of these, it lies within their right if they want to defect or quit the party. What matters now is how the PDP reconciles their warring factions and how the APC manages internal crises that may occur.
“If we want to see better politics in 2023, PDP must get its house together. It is two years to the next general elections, it can put up a good fight. The party needs to do better with reconciliation,” Mr Ojo said.
Another political analyst, Abass Oyeyemi, said “there will always be internal crises but we don’t know which party it would affect. All of these guys are people of different political backgrounds. They may not be in the same camp, but they have the same goal. It is expected that if they are not satisfied, they will still defect.
“PDP in Ogun state is built on crisis. However, APC may also have problems in the future over the structure, leadership and control of the party. If all of these are not properly managed, they may be detrimental to the unity of the party as well.”