THE court “imposed” governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State has actually taken advantage of the law. But the question of whether Mr Jimoh Ibrahim can make the best use of this advantage is a concern to many, including those in his camp who are celebrating his victory.
But the ruling party believed Ibrahim’s victory would be short lived. His sudden recognition as the PDP candidate by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) following a court ORDER has made many in some quarters to allege whether he is not a pawn in the hands of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) at the federal level to shut out Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) and pave the way for their embattled candidate in the state in the Nov 26 poll, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN).
Eyitayo Jegede and Jimoh Ibrahim The allegation of doing a spoiler’s job may be valid to the extent that Ibrahim has no structures in any part of the state. And he has never won any election even in his local ward in Igbotako area of Ondo. Aside the campaign office, which he opened about a month ago in Akure, the state capital, there is nothing on ground to show that he is a contender of reckoning in the coming election.
His posters are virtually non-existent across the state while the campaign office remains locked most of the time. And the primary election which produced him was not witnessed by INEC and was done in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, while that of Jegede had all the stakeholders that supervise such election in attendance.
Ibrahim, popularly called JI, some analysts believe, is just out to fight Governor Olusegun Mimiko of the PDP for allegedly not giving him the respect due to him as one of the Very IMPORTANT Personalities VIPS in the Sunshine State. Jegede, who was the party’s candidate before the court verdict by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which ousted him, is generally seen as a serious contender who was sure of winning the election going by his wide acceptance across Ondo. With the court verdict against Jegede , the coast seems clear for the APC to win the November election.
But with the appeal against the court ORDER obtained by Ibrahim still in progress, anything can still happen.
The crisis in the Ondo PDP, less than a month to the governorship election, is an indication that the situation in the ruling party in the state remained volatile. The legal battle over the national leadership of the party has snowballed into the state, creating confusion and uncertainty. Campaign managers To show that Ibrahim isn’t serious about the contest, he openly said, when asked why he had not been campaigning, that Mimiko and the other factional candidate, Jegede, were his campaign managers as he had no business campaigning across the state.
He added that the court would eventually pronounce him the governorship candidate and this manifested last week. Whereas the Senator Ahmed Makarfi faction of the PDP national leadership is always gett ing favorable court rulings in Port Harcourt, the Alhaji Ali Modu Sherriff faction seems to always coast home to victory in Abuja courts. The last week judgment by Justice Okon Abang, in an application filed by the Chairman and Secretary of the Sherriff faction in the state, Biyi Poroye and Ademola Genty, apparently threw spanner in the works of the other faction which produced Jegede and hitherto recognized by INEC.
The said application was for the enforcement of a June 29 judgment of the court affirming Poroye, Genty and others who emerged from the May 10, 2016 congresses of the PDP in the South-West as the authentic leaders of the party in Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo, Osun, Ogun and Lagos states. In the judgment, Abang ORDERED INEC to accept only the name of the candidate sent by the Poroye and Genty leadership as the actual candidate of the PDP for the Ondo governorship election.
The applicants had applied to the court for themselves and on behalf of the Ondo Executive Committee of the PDP, stating that the post judgment application was informed by INEC refusal to accept their candidate’s directed by the court in the June 29 judgment.
They contended that the electoral body was aware that the judgment of the court relates to five other states where the general elections would hold in 2019 and is in good position to understand the implications of the judgment for Ondo where election would hold in 2016,but chose to ignore the implication.
The plaintiffs stated that INEC was also aware that the judgment was predicated upon the May 19, 2016 letter of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP addressed to it (INEC), confirming that Poroye and Genty are leaders of the authentic State Executive Committee of the party in Ondo. In his ruling, Abang held that INEC was without any reason not to accept the candidate submitted to INEC by the plaintiffs.
He noted that not only did INEC participate in the proceedings leading to the June29 judgment, it was also on record that the judgment has not been appealed. He also noted that since INEC did not contest the case and appeal the judgment, he wondered why it chose not to obey it. The judge therefore ORDERED INEC to “accept and process for the purpose of its functions and activities in the organisation and conduct of the Ondo governorship election only the nomination of Ibrahim, who emerged from the primary election conducted by the 1st and 2nd plaintiffs/ applicants, as candidate ofthe2nd defendant (PDP) in the said governorship election”. 2019 general elections But a statement, issued on behalf of the Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee of the PDP by Dayo Adeyeye, said the ruling “does not in any way affect the matter of the PDP candidacy” in the Ondo election .
“The issue of Ondo State governorship was not the matter before Justice Abang in the suit. The matter before the lordship was in relation to the 2019 general elections. For the avoidance of doubt, Eyitayo Jegede remains the flag bearer of the PDP in the Saturday, November 26, 2016 Ondo State governorship election.” Adeyeye added. “ We therefore call on all our members,teeming supporters and the electorate in Ondo State not to allow this ruling to distract them”.
To drive home the point and restore hope in the party members who became disillusioned, the Chairman of the Makarfi -ed PDP in Ondo, Clement Faboyede, had raised the alarm over alleged unholy alliance between Justice Abang and a faction of the party, saying the party had petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC) in respect of the various rulings of Abang on the governorship candidate of the party.
“The unholy alliance to subvert the will of the people” by Justice Abang and a faction of the party in the state in respect of the Party’s candidate in the coming election”, Faboyede said. “We have submitted petitions against Justice Abang and we are awaiting the investigations or the outcome of the investigations”.
He, however, said the party had taken “steps to affirm the validity of Jegede’s candidature and expose the flaws in the decisions of the court targeted at subverting the will of the Peoples’ Democratic Party and the generality of the people of Ondo State”. The party leader described the verdict by Abang “as having inherent weakness and obvious ineffectiveness against Jegede’s governorship candidature. Backdoor A statement by the PDP Publicity Secretary in the state , Banji Okunomo, also said the party’s governorship candidate could never be produced through the back DOOR or unconstitutional procedures.
“The Supreme Court of Nigeria has made it clear that only the National Executive Committee (NEC) of a party could nominate the governorship candidate”, Okunomo said. “This was done in the nomination of Mr Eyitayo Jegede (SAN). As such, no High Court can invalidate or alter this position which is clearly defined by the highest ruling court in Nigeria.
“The PDP wishes to allay the fear of party members as appropriate steps are already being taken in this regard to quash obnoxious and baseles ruling. “Such judgement or ruling, if it ever existed, is appealable with expedition and for want of legal justification shall never stand. More so, Mr Jimoh Ibrahim who took the case to court is not a registered member of the PDP. “Mr Jimoh Ibrahim is a verified non-member of the PDP at any level- ward, local government or state, having openly defected to the Accord Party.
His intention to destabilize the party can never be effectual. “He would fail and is only working for some fifth columnists outside the PDP. “The intention of Jimoh Ibrahim and his sponsors is to put Ondo State under subjugation”. Meanwhile, protests erupted in many parts of Ondo following the substitution of Jegede with Ibrahim as the PDP candidate by INEC. Economic and social activities were paralysed as protesters stormed the streets chanting war songs.
They called on INEC to reverse the decision, saying Ibrahim is not a member of the PDP in the state but of Accord Party. The protesters made bonfire on major roads in Akure, the state capital, and other parts of the state and defiled attempts by security agents to disperse them. They defied sporadic gunshots by security agents and firing of teargas.
Open secret Their spokesman, Akiwunmi Ilori, accused the APC Federal Government of being behind the crisis in the state PDP. Ilori said: “The APC is using Jimoh Ibrahim to cause crisis within the PDP. It is an open secret in Ondo that Jimoh is no longer member of the party. They are only using him to clear the ground for their candidate and this will not work.
“This is Ondo and it is a very volatile state when it comes to politics. We want them to remember the 1983 saga, we don’t pray for such but if our right and the mandate of our candidate is trampled upon, this election might be another war”.
He said the turn out of people protesting against the emergence of Ibrahim signified that he was not a popular candidate in Ondo. Some of the protesters also stormed the office of INEC in Akure and were addressed by the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Olusegun Agbaje, who explained the reason behind the removal of Jegede as as the PDP candidate. Agbaje said: “We received a court ORDER from the High Court in Akure on Wednesday but there was a subsisting ruling by Justice Abang on Thursday and we have to comply with the order”.
He, however, said another court order could upturn the situation, saying: “The situation will continue that way until the matter is decided by the Supreme Court if the parties choose to proceed to the apex court. We do not have any candidate but we will always abide by the laws guiding the process.” Also, the Director of Legal Services, Eyitayo Jegede Campaign Organisation, Chief Kunle Ijalana, described the judgement of Abang and replacement of Jegede’s name with Ibrahim as a coup against democracy.
Ijalana noted that granting an ORDER in favour of someone who is not a member of a political party against the party is alien to legal jurisprudence, saying INEC was forced to do the bidding of a cabal. Jegede, in his reaction, expressed optimism that the Appeal Court would revalidate his mandate to fly the Flag of the PDP in the Ondo election.
According to him, attempts to substitute his name will not stand as justice would be done in this matter. “I am aware of a recent litigation resulting in the announcement of another person as the governorship candidate of our great party”, he stated. “However, I wish to assure our teeming supporters in Ondo State that necessary legal steps have been taken to seek justice. Already, the matter is before the Court of Appeal”.
‘Recognition of the will of the people’ Also reacting, the Director, Publicity and Communication, Jimoh Ibrahim Campaign Organisation, Sola Akinuli, said: “We welcome today’s official recognition of Barr Jimoh Ibrahim as the authentic Candidate of the PDP in the Nov 26,guber polls in the state by the INEC.
“This is not only a justification of the truth but also a recognition of the will of the people as demonstrated in his overwhelming victory at the party primaries and the applause that has heralded his declaration by INEC. “We cannot but acknowledged the rough and tortuous road we had traveled which has finally culminated in this sweet victory.
“We appreciate the INEC (in spite of it’s initial ambivalence) for bowing finally to the rule of law despite conscious attempts to abridge the truth. Also on record is the courage of Justice Okon Abang who despite all attempts to truncate him stood firmly on the side of truth,fair play and justice. “We wish other judges will judges will emulate his exemplary courage which gave birth to this landmark rulling.
“The campaign office salutes the courage and ruggedness of our candidate, Barr Jimoh Ibrahim and state chairman,Prince Biyi Poroye.” Separately, Sunday Vanguard learnt, at the weekend, that four cases had been listed for hearing before a panel, led by Justice Jumai Shankey, of the Appeal Court, Abuja, to kick out Ibrahim as the PDP candidate for the Ondo governorship election. Jegede, PDP, Makarfi and Faboyede are believed to have lodged different appeals on the Ondo PDP gubernatorial candidate.
Jegede and the three others are fighting to reverse the two judgments delivered by Abang stopping Jegede as the Ondo PDP candidate. A source said, last night, that the cases may have been consolidated and may be decided by Tuesday. This week will determine who laughs last.