Since Otunba Gbenga Daniel was appointed Director General of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation last month, many people have been wondering why the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar had so much faith in OGD to have entrusted him with his campaign. City People gathered that, it is because of the remarkable way OGD conducted his recent campaign for PDP chairmanship in 2017 when he ran a never-seen-before extensive campaign across the 36 states as if he was running for the presidency.
Atiku has also come to respect the influence OGD wields, especially within the PDP. For those who forget so quickly, let’s re-jig your memory about how OGD blew the minds of many PDP members last year.
It dates back to sometime in 2017 when OGD with the National Chairman of PDP Caretaker Committee, Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi commenced a major tour of the South West, which facilitated the return of Senator Ladoja from Accord Party, Engr Seyi Makinde from SDP, Ali Sarafa from LP and several other major stakeholders back into the PDP fold. The ripple effect of that initiative was such that Governor Ajimobi of Oyo State had to quickly make up with his predecessor, Otunba Christopher Alao Akala to forestall the imminent return of Akala back to the PDP.
This initiative was extended to other South West states like Osun State as well. All of a sudden it was beginning to look like the South West was looking good for the PDP again.
This terrain appeared to be quite easy for Otunba Gbenga Daniel as people readily recalled how he successfully coordinated the South West successfully for President Goodluck Jonathan.
Then, from the blues speculations were ripe that OGD may join the Chairmanship race of the Party. He eventually did and when he formerly declared at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, it was clear that something big was coming. This was followed by an unprecedented nation wide campaign that took the OGD machinery across the nooks and crannies of the country visiting the Leaders and Founders of the Party, and major Traditional Rulers like the Sultan, other Obas and Obis and major opinion leaders across the spectrum.
The campaign was so massive that people started wondering if he was gunning for the Chairmanship or the Presidency which incidentally was already zoned to the Northern zone of the Party.
Again, on Sunday 28th January 2018, OGD hosted his annual thanksgiving service and Remembrance Aniversary of hs fathers death at The Abraham Tabernacle at his Sagamu homestead which became a scene of traffic jam for several hours as dignitaries from across the length and breadth of Nigeria converged on Sagamu despite the acute fuel shortage, all ostensively to honour OGD.
Many of the attendees came from far away places like Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Plateau, Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Cross Rivers, Kogi, Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti. The high points was the sudden appearance of several gubernatorial sspirants and stalwarts across Party lines at the event. They included Sen. Iyiola Omisore from Osun State, Amb Bejide from Ekiti State, Seyi Makinde from Oyo State, another from Plateau State and virtually all the major Aspirants from Ogun State included Hon Ladi Adebutu, Gboyega Isiaka, both of PDP, Prince Rotimi Paseda of UPN and even Sen Olamilekan Yayi of APC !!!.
Consequently, tongues began to wag on where exactly OGD was headed. Locally in Ogun State, many of the political players and his supporters and they are legion, would rather have OGD go to the Senate as its is generally believed that his Senate candidacy will add value to their campaigns and eventual success in the elections because of his goodwill. Not a few would argue that with his crowd pulling capacity, he is probably still one of the most popular political personalities in the state.
However, nationally, his name continued to reoccur like a decimal in the camp of many of the top Presidential contenders as a frontline material for Vice President who could add value to the race, especially because of his wide network especially across the South West and his fabled capacity for organization and strategic success in his various endeavors.
OGD’s decision to embark on moving round the 36 states to campaign didn’t go down well with some of the older members of the party who felt the campaign for chairmanship ought to have been done the old and archaic way, of just handpicking a candidate and shutting others off. They felt OGD had not only raised the stakes by doing that, he has also changed the old order of doing things. By choosing to go around the country, state by state, zone by zone to openly canvass for support from influential PDP members and powerful friends/stakeholders of the party. He has made the campaign for the national chairmanship a lot more tedious and rigorous. And they felt there was a need to stop him quickly.
It was on Thursday 2nd November, 2017 that Otunba Daniel embarked on this his rigorous nationwide tour of all the 36 state chapters of PDP consulting with leaders and potential delegates, preaching the gospel of internal democracy and returning the party to the people at the grassroots. He visited very many Northern States like Kano, Sokoto, Minna, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano.
In a letter dated 31st November, 2017, he informed the Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of the party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, through a letter, saying that he would be going on tour, ahead of the National Convention of the party slated for 9th December, 2017. According to him, “The purpose of the tour is to sensitize the people about the efficacy of our party while also meeting the delegates and Leaders of our Party nationwide. The tour commenced in Sokoto where we paid a courtesy call on the Sultan and seized the opportunity to celebrate with him on the 11th anniversary of his coronation.
After the visit to Sokoto, the campaign train of OGD moved to Gusau in Zamfara State in the morning of Friday, 3rd November and proceeded to Katsina State in the afternoon of the same day. Daniel, who many have applauded for his ambition, touched down in Kano, for the campaign in the afternoon of 4th November before berthing in Dutse in Jigawa State in the evening of the same day. Gombe in Yola State played host to the man acclaimed to be the choice of the people in the afternoon of 8th of November before he touched down. In Yola, in Adamawa State in the evening of the same day.
Jalingo, in Taraba State was his next point of call on November 9th, while he went to Lokoja, Kogi State on 10th November. OGD travelled to Minna, Niger State and Kaduna in Kaduna State on November 11, while he visited Bauchi, and Jos in Plateau State on 13th November.
OGD, who ruled Ogun State for 8 years, from 2003 to 2015, with enviable achievements, moved his campaign train to Makurdi in Benue State and Lafia in Nassarawa State on 14th November, 2017 while he travelled to Maiduguri in Borno State and Damaturu Yobe State on 16th November to meet with the party’s faithfuls on why he should be their next National Chairman. The campaign tour continued on 17th November in Birni Kebbi, Kebbi State before he started the Eastern tour on November 21 in Imo State in the morning before moving to Umuahia in Abia State in the afternoon. The tour continued on 22nd of November in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State in the morning before it was rounded off in Enugu, Enugu State in the afternoon. OGD resumed the tour in Awka, capital of Anambra State in the morning of November 23 before moving to Asaba in Delta State in the afternoon of the same day. The campaign train visited the South-South State of Edo and campaigned in Benin in the morning of November 24 before moving to Akure in Ondo State in the afternoon of the same day.
OGD rounded off the campaign with a visit to the South West State of Ekiti in Ado Ekiti in the morning of 25th November before the campaign held in another South West state of Osun in Osogbo in the afternoon of the same day. Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State hosted the campaign team on 26th November before the team proceeded to Lagos, the centre of excellence on November 27, while Ilorin in Kwara State was the base for the campaign of the versatile politician and engineer on 29th November. OGD and his campaign train proceeded to Yenagoa in Bayelsa State and Port Harcourt in Rivers State on November 30 before travelling to Uyo in Akwa Ibom State on December 1.
Also, Calabar in Cross River State played host to OGD and his team on 2nd December, while the campaign of the cerebral politician was rounded off in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, his home state with a rally on Sunday, December 3rd.
OGD also visited the likes of Gen. TY Danjuma (rtd.), former head of state, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd.), ex-governor of Kano State, Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau, and former head of state, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar.
Other people that OGD consulted on his ambition included a former governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema and former President Olusegun Obasanjo amongst several others.
Whilst the race lasted, OGD topped the list of aspirants. Of course, he has many things going for him. As an Engineer, he is blessed with an analytic mind, and has a way of subjecting everything to SWOT Analysis most times. He has age on his side. He is younger than the 3 older party topshots in the race.
Part of what works for OGD is that of all those contesting, he is the only one who has contested and won elections before, not only once, but twice. Two, he has supervised elections severally and none of the others have. Three, the fact that he comes from a private/business background into public life.
He had made several friends along the line in his business life and so he could reach out to tap from there as well as in public relationship where he has had privileged of building large followers and loyalists. He was also the youngest aspirant despite being 61. It was all these qualities that Atiku saw in OGD that made him realise that OGD was the man he needed to run his campaign, revealed an insider.
Many also do not know that OGD and Atiku have come a long way since the Obasanjo administration in 1999 when Atiku was Vice President and OGD was Ogun governor. Both had stuck a friendship from that time. OGD admired Atiku’s toughness and understanding of issues. He also found very remarkable Atiku’s understanding of economic issues.
Atiku also admired OGD’s sagacity and doggedness how he with stood the crisis that his enemies sponsored against him to bring him down. Don’t also forget that both Atiku, OGD were persecuted by Obasanjo because they held very contrary views to his.
So, recently when Atiku looked around for a strong South-West politician in PDP who has influence within the region OGD’s name kept popping up. Atiku had realized that it was only OGD that has a strong political machine which he built up to enable him win the PDP National Chairmanship until it was zoned to South South. With the Chairmanship zoned to that area of the country and with Atiku himself coming from the North, there was the need to balance the equation.
Atiku didn’t mine words. He called OGD and both of them held series of meetings to agree on the workability of Atiku’s proposal. Atiku wanted to make use of OGD’s political machinery.
Over the last 4 months OGD and Atiku had been talking and attending events together. They were in Dubai for days in a few months back. And at every event Atiku attended OGD was bound to be there.