Chief Olusola Ebiseni was the only aspirant that contested the Modu Sheriff factional gubernatorial primary of the Peoples Democratic Party against Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim in Ibadan, Oyo State. In this interview with James Sowole, he argues that the exercise would not stand and gave his reasons. Excerpts:
Until recently you were a commissioner in the government of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, what brought about the disagreement?
Our disagreement with Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, the governor and leader of the party in the state was on the principle that he could not unilaterally impose a gubernatorial candidate on the party and even from his own Central Senatorial District, where he is concluding unprecedented eight years tenure.
What’s the difference between what the Governor did and the endorsement of a candidate by the APC leadership?
It is wrong to compare the endorsement Asiwaju Bola Tinubu said to have given Abraham in APC, which itself is a major cause of the hiccups in their party, with the brazen and dictatorial imposition by the governor. In our own case, the governor only recently told me that he had made up his mind about his successor about a year ago but continued to encourage us, other aspirants, most of whom were members of his government, who sought his consent to contest.
To give authoritative effects to his pronouncement, the governor summoned other aspirants and asked them to step down for his candidate. At different times within two weeks, he also summoned the state cabinet, members of the State House of Assembly, all statutory delegates, party Executive Councils at all levels, women and Youth Leaders, different associations, market women, non-indigenes, artisans and all, briefing them on his choice and seeking voice votes of approval immediately.
The rest assignment was left for the obsequious political office holders to ensure the ‘perfection’ of the delegates’ list by excluding perceived non-conformists. In all cases, the governor, political office holders and party executive members became campaign managers and cheerleaders of the governor’s candidate several weeks before the hoax of a primary.
As all contrary entreaties and appeals were rebuffed by the governor; the only option we were left with was to seek our fate outside of the governor’s area of immediate influence.
Why the choice of the Sheriff group?
Interestingly, the Alli Modu Sheriff-led PDP was the only group in the state to which all, including the governor belonged. In fact, it may safely be said that none of the two parallel state exco of the party is a product of Senator Makarfi’s leadership. The governor created factions when he left the existing Sheriff group and pitched tent with the new Makarfi Caretaker at the wake of the first botched Port Harcourt Convention. The rest of us remain with Sheriff as the alternative platform to ventilate our political aspirations.
What informed the holding of your faction’s primary outside Ondo state?
The shift of the primary to Ibadan was not against the PDP constitution which doesn’t stipulate any specific venue for the holding of the gubernatorial congress. There are enough precedents for its justification, one of which was Taraba 2015 affirmed by the Supreme Court. Our grouse is that what took place in Ibadan could not be referred to as any form of election by any stretch of the imagination. There was no means of identifying who really were delegates.
No delegates’ list or register presented. No accreditation of any form, which faulted the entire process. How could an election, which lasted barely an hour could have involved accreditation of almost 1000 delegates? It was unfortunate that some people would, out of indiscretion, desecrate the altar of integrity on which the Sheriff group in Ondo State worship and for which we sought a separate tabernacle in the first place.
Was it true that three of the aspirants stepped down in favour of Chief Jimoh Ibrahim, who was eventually declared the winner?
Of course, it is not a crime for some aspirants to step down or withdraw from a race but it was indecent and unacceptable for the organisers at the point of so-called voting to have allowed campaigns by three of the aspirants, who came up that they were not only stepping down for one of the aspirants but urged the unidentifiable delegates to vote for my brother Jimoh Ibrahim because, according to them, he was the one funding the activities of the party at all levels. The whole exercise was a sham conducted in a hurry and a rowdy market place predetermined to favour a particular aspirant. It was such a shame.
But you participated, so why complaining?
Of course I protested prior to the election and some notable elders of the party led by Senator Omololu Meroyi also complained in writing. In spite of that and to answer your question directly, only those who participate in an election, not a meddlesome interloper, can raise petition about its outcome. Thus, as required by the party constitution, we have expressed our reservations and objections by petition addressed to the appropriate organ and leadership of the party.
But nomination forms are said to have been issued to the declared winner?
I have seen forms displayed on social media by several claimants to the candidacy of the PDP and I am amused that it is either some persons are playing pranks or the INEC is just enjoying itself by such shenanigans. In the Sheriff group, the committee that conducted the primary just submitted its report to the National Working Committee (NWC) on the 6th of September after my petition has been received, yet purported Certificate of Return dated 1st of September had earlier been on display including form CF001 which is supposed to be obtained by the National leadership of the party.
It is unfortunate that rather than see the Sheriff group as a veritable higher credible platform for power, some members, especially the state exco, merely use it as an engine of vengeance against Mimiko and anyone ever associated with him. Our choice of the platform brought colour, glamour, greater credibility and acceptance by the people. Unfortunately, these assets attracted suspicion and campaigns of calumny and we were immediately denounced as Mimiko agents while some even wickedly said the governor, from whose cabinet I have resigned out of irreconcilable differences, paid my nomination fees.
What then is the way forward?
For me, it is a general prescription. The conclusion by our petition is that the Sheriff faction hasn’t conducted any primary as what happened in Ibadan was an illegal anti-democratic contraption that cannot stand. On the other hand, the governor’s handpicked candidate against democratic tenets and just political culture of the people is also bereft of legitimacy ab initio making the PDP in the state, currently a giant with the feet of clay. That is why two months to the election no campaigns could be reasonably and safely held. Power is being sought from judicial technicalities rather than meeting the people.
No wonder, worn out strategies of coerced ward meetings with threat of loss of appointment is now the order of the day and nostalgic tunes of a possible return to old tents now dominate the new political songs. The Governor as leader of the party in the state and for the abundant grace of God has enjoyed politically. He once philosophically saw the PDP in the state as a party capable of defeating itself.
Yet, unmindful of this, the leader sowed the seed of discord by the unilateral proclamation of who to succeed him seeking inexplicably to retain power in his senatorial district after his unprecedented 8 years. This eating of the sour grape by the leadership has set the political teeth of the party and its members on edge. This crisis will extend beyond the close of submission of candidates’ names and even the election. That state of uncertainty portends unimaginable danger and demands uncommon demonstration of leadership.