Tobi Soniyi and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept Jimoh Ibrahim as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo for the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
In a statement, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said that it’s choice of candidate for the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo state still remained Hon. Eyitayo Jegede despite the ruling of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court Abuja.
Justice Okon Abang gave the order while ruling on an application filed by the Chairman and Secretary of the PDP in Ondo State – Prince Biyi Poroye and Ademola A. Genty and their counterparts in Osun and Oyo states.
The application was for the enforcement of a June 29, 2016 judgment of the court affirming Poroye, Genty and others, who emerged from the May 10, 2016 congresses of the party in the South west, as the authentic leaders of the party in the Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo, Osun, Ogun and Lagos states.
In the June 29 judgment, the court had ordered INEC to accept only the name of the candidate sent by the Pororye and Genty Executive Committee as the actual candidate of the party for the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo State.
Poroye and Genty, who applied to the court for themselves and on behalf of the Ondo State Executive Committee of the PDP, said the post-judgment application was informed by INEC’s refusal to accept their candidate, as directed by the court in its June 29 judgment.
The plaintiffs said INEC was aware that the judgment of the court extended to five other states where the general elections would hold in 2019 and should have taken cognizance of the implications of the judgment for Ondo State where elections would hold in 2016, but chose to ignore the obvious implication.
The applicants also stated that INEC knew that the judgment was predicated upon the May 19, 2016 letter of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP, which was addressed to it (INEC), confirming to it that Pororye and Genty are leaders of the authentic state Executive Committee of the party in Ondo State.
In his ruling, Justice Abang held that INEC had no reason not to accept the candidate submitted to INEC by the plaintiffs.
The judge held that not only did INEC participate in the proceedings leading to the June 29 judgment, it had also not appealed the judgement.
The judge wondered why the commission chose not to obey it.
“INEC knew that issues were not joined by parties on the date of the election, but issues were joined by parties as regard who INEC was ordered to deal with exclusively during the plaintiffs’ tenure as executive officers.
“As for PDP in Ondo State, the purport of the order of court being that any election conducted by INEC during the applicants’ tenure in office, INEC has no choice than to accept the list of candidates from the instant judgment creditor applicants herein,” the judge said.
Justice Abang ordered INEC to “accept and process for the purpose of its functions and activities in the organisation and conduct of the Ondo State governorship election only the nomination of Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim Folorunso, who emerged from the primary election conducted by the 1st and 2nd plaintiffs/applicants, as candidate of the 2nd defendant (PDP) in the said Ondo governorship election.”
He also ordered INEC to “reject and jettison any other nomination from(s) submitted to it by any other person(s) apart from the 1st and 2nd plaintiffs/applicants, indicating that no other person, apart from Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim Folorunso, is the candidate of the 2nd defendant for the Ondo State governorship election.”
The PDP in a statement issued by its Spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye on Friday night, said that Justice Abang’s had no impact on the candidacy of the PDP for the gubernatorial contest in Ondo State.
“The ruling of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja today, Friday does not in any way affect the matter of the PDP candidacy in the forthcoming Ondo State Governorship Election.
“The issue of Ondo Governorship was not the matter before Justice Abang in the Suit. The matter before his Lordship was in relation to the 2019 General Elections.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Hon. Eyitayo Jegede remains the Flag Bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Saturday, November 26, 2016 Ondo State Governorship Election.
“We therefore call on all our members, teeming supporters and the electorates in Ondo state not to allow this Ruling to distract them; but should continue with the Guber campaigns to ensure the victory of our flag bearer, Hon. Eyitayo Jegede in the election”, the statement said.