A former governor of Ogun State, who is now the senator for Ogun East district, Gbenga Daniel, has revealed the reason for the sour relationship between him and his longtime friend, Governor Dapo Abiodun.
Both men won their elections this year on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and had been friends long before Mr Daniel served as governor from 2003 to 2011.
But the former governor said the current one fell out with him for his unflinching support for President Bola Tinubu in the APC 2023 presidential primaries.
It will be recalled that the APC in Ogun State, which is under the control of the governor, did not campaign for Mr Daniel in the senatorial election.
Speaking in an interview with ThisDay newspaper, Mr Daniel traced the roots of his feud with Mr Abiodun to the different choices both of them made in the presidential primaries.
Mr Daniel said he faced victimisation in the party in the state for standing behind Mr Tinubu when the governor led the state chapter of the APC to support former vice president Yemi Osinbajo.
“I think the genesis is connected to my unflinching support for Asiwaju’s presidency. A lot of people do not know and continue to make statements without understanding the genesis. At that time, my governor had a different view. At the primary, my governor had his team.
“As God would have it, a good number of his people are firmly with us. We sat in Abuja and decided that we would all vote for Asiwaju. For me, it was difficult not to support Asiwaju because we can call Asiwaju our overall boss. When we won elections in 1999, I served him in the Transition Committee. I was the Chairman of the sub-committee on infrastructure. We can therefore say that Asiwaju is our overall boss.
“Another presidential contender was Asiwaju’s attorney general for eight years. He also happened to be my good friend and brother. I share a bias that if there is anything between you and your boss, let the boss have it. For me, it is difficult not to support Asiwaju’s presidency because he is our overall boss. That is different from the position of my governor. But I understand where he was coming from; he was not really one of us at the beginning of the transition in 1998/1999. The contest did not go the way my governor wanted.”
Mr Daniel also explained why the party won the presidential election big in the state but struggled to get the governor re-elected.
“A lot of people did not really understand that we had difficulty starting the campaign of my governor. First, the 2019 election was not an overwhelming victory for the governor. He won with only 19,000 votes. When I compared that with when I contested the governorship election 20 years ago, my margin of victory was over 200,000. With a win of 19,000, it was not an overwhelming victory. It simply means there was a hot contest somewhere.
“The last election was a bit different. Virtually all the contending parties agreed to support Asiwaju in the presidential election. In my own senatorial election, virtually all the contending parties agreed to work for me. When we had the first elections, everybody went the same way. But the governorship election was different.
“If my governor will go beyond what some people whispered to him, he should be able to see what went wrong. His election was keenly contested between him and his kinsman in Iperu. Both of them are in the same ward, town and federal constituency. There was indeed a contest.”
The ex-governor also said it was difficult for Mr Abiodun to secure his second term in office owing to the low rating of President Muhammadu Buhari on security and the economy.
“Some people must find excuses for what happened. The party was not doing well. His victory in other locations was marginal. We all know why the party was not doing well. First, the rating of former President Muhammadu Buhari has gone low because he failed to tackle insecurity as people expected. People also expected that he would have brought inflation down. But that did not happen. People are unhappy with the collapse of Naira.
“All people expected under former President Buhari did not happen. Aside, Buhari was no longer a factor during that election. The people of Ogun State were also complaining. I am in position to know because I have my network across the state. I know a lot of people were not particularly excited about his election. Civil servants have the issue of unpaid allowances. Teachers, too, have their own issues with him. Pensioners have issues with the governor.
“To make the matter worse, my governor had to contest with his brother. As a result, Remo Nation was divided into two. That was what happened in the Ogun East. I thought that the governor should have taken those issues more seriously.
“Building on the euphoria of the first election, we had an overwhelming victory. But people’s perception about the presidential election was different. People were warning us as we were going from place to place. People kept telling us that they would support Asiwaju. But they said we should leave them to take their decision during the governorship elections.
“The governor cannot tell me that he was not aware of the sentiment in the street, and most unfortunately, he relied more on sycophants and the fabricated stories they fed him with.”