By Wale Adedayo
Freedom from judicial sanctions for alleged corruption concerning former Speaker, House of Representatives has certainly opened a fresh window of political opportunity for Hon. Dimeji Bankole. Speculations persist the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is preparing him as consensus candidate for the gubernatorial race in Ogun State. But similar rumour abound about the interest of the Northern establishment in picking Bankole as running mate to a Northern presidential candidate IF the North persists in its quest for a return of The Presidency to that section of Nigeria.
Till date, a number of undiscerning political pundits in Ogun State and beyond continue to be amazed about how former Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, lost his re-election bid during the 2011 general elections. Many were shocked that given the small size of his constituency – only Abeokuta South Local Government – and the fact that he was a sitting Number Four Citizen, he should not have lost.
Sources within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abuja volunteered during a discussion in 2012 that Bankole had to be taught a lesson during the election of the previous year given his role in ensuring that President Goodluck Jonathan was not allowed to act in place of his ailing boss, late President Umaru Yar’Adua, long before the man died. Unconfirmed reports even claimed Bankole knew he would be ‘prevented’ from going back to the House of Representatives by a combined team of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Jonathan using every official and unofficial means to achieve this result.
Technically, Bankole was Nigeria’s acting president while Yar’Adua was alive. He was trusted by the late president and his aides, including Turai, Yar’Adua’s wife. This did not go down well with Jonathan, who felt his position as Number 2 citizen was being usurped by Bankole. Senate president, David Mark, was also filled with fury being leader of the upper legislative chamber of the National Assembly, who by ranking was Bankole’s senior.
Had civil society organizations and key activists in the country not intervened on Jonathan’s behalf, it is possible he would not have assumed the mantle of acting president at the time he did. But contrary to a perceived notion that a personal agenda was at play while Yar’Adua was ill, it has since come to light that a fear of the North ‘losing’ The Presidency to the South was actually at play while the game of stalling Jonathan from becoming acting president played out. Jonathan was not trusted by those who saw themselves as custodians of the Northern hold on power while Yar’Adua was still alive. They preferred Bankole, who they believed would not betray Northern interests.
A Bankole as gubernatorial candidate in Ogun State should ensure that at least 60 per cent of Labour Party members return to their base in the PDP. This should see the emergence of former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, as Leader of the PDP in Ogun State instead of party financier, Prince Buruji Kashamu. Although inactive in Ogun State PDP till date, Bankole attended the last National Convention of the party in Abuja parleying with Kashamu and other leaders at the event.
His appearance at the PDP National Convention put paid to speculations that Bankole had joined the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which has since metamorphosed into the All Progressives Congress (APC). The rumour mill did not act without reason. Bankole had become very close to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu with whom he exacted a pound of flesh from Jonathan and Obasanjo by ensuring that the PDP’s choice for Speaker, House of Representatives, did not emerge the winner as he stepped down from the seat. ACN legislators in the lower chamber of the National Assembly on Tinubu’s instruction after a deal had been sealed with Bankole voted alongside the former Speaker’s loyalists to install Hon. Aminu Tambuwal as successor to Bankole.
Unless Jonathan decides against seeking a second term in 2015, there is no way Bankole’ll fit into a running mate mode in PDP’s national calculations. But if the president carves in to Northern pressure and refuse to contest, a Northerner could emerge presidential candidate with the South-South and South-East certain to feel let down. A Bankole as running mate could then galvanise Yoruba votes for the PDP. In a way, he has national grassroots spread. In Nigeria’s Third World politics, members of the House of Representatives are second to local government council chairmen in terms of potentials to mobilize votes during a general election. Their constituencies are often small and manageable with the grassroots closer to them than a senator, who may have to deal with many local governments. A sizable number of those still in the House of Representatives and others who could not make it back see themselves as Bankole’s loyalists.
Either way, it is not likely the man just savouring his freedom is likely to join the opposition despite the fact that the ‘North’, who see him as ‘their’ own wants The Presidency through the APC, IF Jonathan decides to seek re-election. Caterpillar’s son might just return to his roots and look at the senate or, or, or, Gomina.