By; Samuel Ogundipe
Gbenga Daniel, a former governor of Ogun State and chief strategist for the Atiku Abubakar presidential campaign, has resigned from active and partisan politics.
Mr Daniel, a longtime chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, said in a letter to the party’s chairman, Uche Secondus, that he abandoned politics after realising that he had reached the peak of his career.
The 62-year-old would now spend the rest of his retirement running his charity and political foundation, he said in the March 14 letter.
A career engineer with renown background in installation and maintenance of elevators, Mr Daniel joined the PDP in 2001 to run for governor in Ogun State. He defeated incumbent Olusegun Osoba in the 2003 general elections, and went on to serve two terms until 2011.
Mr Daniel said a crisis that engulfed the PDP in Ogun State shortly before he left office lingers 10 years on, desperate concerted efforts by party loyalists to find a lasting solution.
He was arraigned for alleged corruption shortly after leaving office by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and disappeared into political oblivion as he struggled to extricate himself of the multi-billion naira charges of misappropriation of public funds. Several years after his arraignment, however, no verdict had been reached by the federal court on his matter.
Mr Daniel regained political prominence in 2017 when he ran to be national chairman of the PDP. Even though he ran some of the sturdiest campaigns at the time, he ultimately lost to Mr Secondus at the party’s national convention in December 2017.
Although Mr Daniel shared the sentiments of other Yoruba politicians who alleged widespread injustice and conspiracy in the convention’s outcome, he soon re-emerged as the main man of Mr Abubakar’s presidential exploratory panel in early 2018.
In May 2018, Mr Abubakar confirmed widespread expectation and named Mr Daniel his campaign director. But following Mr Abubakar’s victory at the presidential primaries in October 2018, Mr Daniel was dropped as the director general, replaced by Bukola Saraki, Nigeria’s Senate President.
But Mr Abubakar kept Mr Daniel as a key strategist with somewhat undefined but sweeping roles in the campaign structure.
Multiple sources close to Mr Daniel told PREMIUM TIMES Saturday that his resignation was a fallout of the outcome of the presidential election, which saw President Muhammadu Buhari declared winner against Mr Abubakar with nearly four million votes difference.
Mr Daniel felt he could have done better to ensure victory for the party but for his removal as the head of campaign committee, according to a source close to the former governor.
“He was rejected because he is a Yoruba when he contested for the party’s chairmanship,” an associate of Mr Daniel knowledgeable of the discussion that preceded his resignation from the PDP told PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday. “Then he was humiliated by being removed as the DG of campaign shortly after securing the presidential ticket.”
Mr Daniel did not publicly oppose the appointment of Mr Saraki as the campaign DG, and insisted in his letter that the decision to quit politics was strictly personal and not borne out of ill-feelings against the party or elements within it.
Kola Ologbondiyan, a spokesperson for the PDP, told PREMIUM TIMES Saturday afternoon he had not seen Mr Daniel’s letter to the party, and would, therefore, not be able to comment.
A spokesperson for Mr Abubakar was unavailable for comments Saturday afternoon.