formidable political organisation
August 7, 2006
At six feet five inches tall, he literally towered above his peers. Like the
late Waziri Ibrahim in the defunct Second Republic Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP),
he preached politics without bitterness and urged his supporters to eschew
violence. In social psychology terms, his interpersonal skills were enviable. He
spoke little but worked tirelessly. He had a brain of a rocket scientist and
organisational skills equal to that of the bosses of the top multinational
corporations. His sole political ambition was to assume the position of governor
of Lagos State. Over the years, from his Dolphin Estate upper middle class
residence, he steadily built a political machinery in Lagos State Peoples
Democratic Party (PDP) that bothered on absolute control.
Out of the vociferous twenty or so aspirants in his party, he was the man to
beat in the primaries. He was offered a ministerial appointment by President
Olusegun Obasanjo after he lost in the 2003 general elections, but he turned it
down. He obviously had his sights on the top job in Lagos State. After two
failed attempts at the governorship position, he was trying for a third, but was
halted in his tracks via assassination. In the strategic calculation of his
assailants and adversaries, it was perhaps the only way of denying him the PDP
slot, and many argue his dream to be the next governor of Lagos State.
Unfortunately, they were dead right. His powerful political organisation, spread
all over the local councils in the state, remains intact but understandably
flustered. Now the great battle is at hand over who inherits Funsho Williams'
political organisation called WILLCO...
NOON time last Thursday, the nation was about to receive this shocking news:
Engineer Funsho Williams, the People's Democratic Party's (PDP) prime
gubernatorial aspirant and many people's pick to contest the office come 2007,
was executed in cold blood at his Dolphin Estate home on 184B, Corporation
Drive. The news of Williams's murder sent a flurry of rage among the thousands
of WILLCO members and other loyalists present at the crime scene. All were
visibly aggrieved and wailed in bereavement with many youths going on record
with sundry insinuations and accusations. WILLCO is an acronym for FUNCO (Funsho
Williams Campaign Organisation).
The WILCO group in PDP, which has chapters in all the local councils in the
state, has about 30, 000 members. Key amongst who are Chief Funsho Adetiba, the
chairman, Mr. Deji Wellington, the director of organisation, Hon. Segun Ajiboye,
the secretary and Mr. Frank Uzuegbunam, the state co-ordinator. Mrs. Bisi Towry-Coker
is also another influential WILLCO member in Ikoyi. Membership has swelled from
within the PDP and various political divide including the Alliance For Democracy
(AD), from where Williams originally belonged. He crossed carpet to the PDP
after the 1999 elections. Consolidating WILLCO's efforts is the Network
Alliance, another loyalist group he formed under the United Nigeria Congress
Party (UNCP) banner, for his maiden attempt at the gubernatorial post. Williams
is a veteran of sorts having tried twice in 1999, and 2003 unsuccessfully.
However, it appeared that for every loss he was dealt, more people came to
believe in him.
His loyalists grew perhaps for his charisma but also for sentimental purposes
particularly after his defeat to the incumbent governor, Bola Tinubu. As an AD
member, Williams lost to Tinubu at a controversial primary election. The
erstwhile Lagos AD chairman, Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu, had initially announced
Williams as the winner of the primary election but withdrew this announcement on
the grounds of "incomplete results." Pained but prevailed upon into accepting
the verdict, Williams defected to PDP where he emerged the prime gubernatorial
candidate again in 2003. Again, he lost to Tinubu albeit marginally: He scored
725, 000 votes against Tinubu's 911, 000. Gradually, with his every loss at the
polls, Williams' followers increased. When he left AD, several of his supporters
went with him. And his popularity and credibility grew exponentially.
At the unveiling of WILLCO at Kosofe Local Council last April, his supporters
were so populous that many consented that he was, justifiably, the most credible
candidate for the PDP ticket. Also at the time, analysts confirmed that his
campaign team controlled 18 of the 20 local governments and wards. And with this
power, WILLCO's confidence grew. Mr. Uzuegbunam, the state co-ordinator said:
"The aspirants for various other positions further proved that WILLCO is very
potent in Lagos state PDP. It was difficult drawing a line between WILLCO and
the Lagos State PDP. Everybody who is somebody seemed to be part of the WILLCO
train." That was five months ago. A recent survey, shortly before his murder,
has shown even more progress. Incidentally, the PDP "captain" (as Williams was
fondly called by associates) has been a victim of his own success. Williams, as
the boss of WILLCO, reported to Bode George, the Vice Chairman PDP South.
Sources said Williams had meticulously oiled the organisation financially
spending close to N5 million monthly on sundry expenses including stipends for
officials, meetings, assistance to party members, travels and printed materials.
But he had others in the party to contend with. The main competitive caucuses in
Lagos State PDP are run by Senators Adeseye Ogunlewe, a former Minister of Works
and Musiliu Obanikoro. The duo like Williams had also migrated to the PDP from
the AD. As investigations into the Williams assassination continues, the police
have arrested Obanikoro and Ogunlewe for interrogation. A PDP member who spoke
on condition of anonymity said ''The whole affair puts them in bad light as
fingers of suspicion are now being pointed at them''. He went on further ''For
all we know, they are innocent but because they are seen as the beneficiaries of
Williams demise, that suspicion may not be good for them politically within the
PDP or eventually with the electorate. Nevertheless, it is bad publicity for
Other pretenders to the PDP governorship candidacy include Tokunbo Kamson, Bose
Oshinowo, Adedeji Aganga-Williams, Tunde Fanimokun, Femi Carera, Soga
Olowolekomoh, Kaoli Olusanya, Kayode Anibaba, David Salis, and Onikepo Oshodi.
WILLCO is by far the most formidable of Lagos State PDP caucuses. In the history
of Nigeria, several political icons had died along with their machinery, while
some had remained intact and formidable, irrespective of the party they joined.
When the late General Shehu Musa Yar Adua was killed by the Abacha regime
through lethal injection, his political machinery, People's Democratic Movement
(PDM) was inherited by Vice President Atiku Abubakar. This machinery would
eventually ensure victory for President Olusegun Obasanjo in the 1999 elections.
It is the same machinery that Abubakar is relying on to seek victory in the
presidential race in 2007. What then does the future hold for WILLCO? There are
several educated permutations.
First, WILLCO may decide to join either the Obanikoro or Ogunlewe caucuses.
Sources said the acrimony between WILLCO and Ogunlewe faction will make that
impossible. In recent weeks, these factions have repeatedly clashed violently at
rallies in Gbagada and Ikorudu where Ogunlewe hails. Alternatively WILLCO, has
been known to enjoy a cordial relationship with Obanikoro. Indeed, there have
been speculations before the Williams assassination that Obanikoro has been his
stalking horse, a strategy that was allegedly being utilized to neutralize other
competing forces in the primaries and ensure victory for WILLCO. Secondly, the
pain, the perceived betrayal and acrimony precipitated by the assassination of
Williams may be too hard for WILLCO members to bear, such that a considerable
part of the membership may eventually end up in another rival party like the AD/ACD
alliance. The PDP has been involved in several reconciliatory moves after the
death of the Third Term Agenda, and sources in the party have said that the
party has a great deal at hand in reconciling WILLCO and its counterparts.
According to one political analyst Kabiru Balogun: ''A mass migration of WILLCO
out of the PDP will almost certainly spell doom for the party's aspirations for
Lagos State in 2007''.
Abridged version of this report culled from the latest edition of Island
News, the free weekly community newspaper for Lagos Island, Ikoyi, Victoria
Island, Ajah & Lekki.