Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Alex Enumah in Abuja and James Sowole in Akure
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has listed the candidate of the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Jimoh Ibrahim, as the party’s candidate for the November 26, 2016 governorship election in Ondo State.
The electoral body, at the end of its meeting last night to approve the list of governorship candidates for the election, resolved to substitute the name of Prof. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) for Ibrahim in obedience to an order of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The decision of INEC, however, ran contrary to the decision of an Akure High Court, Ondo State, presided over by Justice Williams Olamide, which restrained the commission from substituting Jegede yesterday morning.
The spokesman to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, who confirmed the decision of the commission to THISDAY yesterday evening in a telephone interview, said that Ibrahim’s name is prefixed ‘Court’ indicating that it came through a court order and that it is also subject to further changes based on any superior court ruling on the matter.
Before the verdict of the commission, there was an air of apprehension and anxiety yesterday among supporters of rival factional governorship candidates of the PDP as all awaited the release of the list of approved candidates by INEC.
According to the official list of candidates released yesterday by INEC’s Secretary, Mrs. Augusta C. Ogakwu, the candidate of the Sheriff-led PDP faction, Ibrahim, is to be the PDP governorship candidate for the Ondo election, while Chief Rotimi Akeredolu will contest on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Other candidates include, Adeuti Stephen Taye who will fly the flag of Labour Party, Francis Adeyemi Alao (APGA) and Olusola Alex Oke is to represent the Alliance for Democracy.
The replacement of the PDP candidate, Jegede, with Ibrahim followed the ruling of a Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Okon Abang. The court had ordered INEC to accept Ibrahim as the candidate of the PDP in the governorship election in Ondo State.
Abang also gave the order in a ruling on an application for the enforcement of his earlier judgment delivered on June 29 this year, in which he ordered INEC to only accept the names of the candidates sent by the faction of the Ondo State Executive Committee of the PDP led by Mr. Biyi Poroye and Mr. Ademola Genty, which has the backing of the Senator Sheriff-led National Working Committee.
Poroye and Genty, who applied to the court for themselves and on behalf of the Ondo State chapter 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.
Abang also refused an application brought by the governorship candidate of the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction, seeking permission to appeal the court’s earlier decision.
The candidate, Jegede, had approached the court, presided over by Abang, for permission to appeal its October 14 judgment.
The judge said section 31 of the Electoral Act only allows the party and not the candidate to contest the judgement.
“The only case where the applicant would have been considered as having a locus standi to contest the October 14 judgement is if he had taken part in the August 29 primaries conducted by Mr. Sheriff’s faction,” said Abang.
Earlier yesterday, an Akure High Court had restrained INEC from removing the name of Jegede as the candidate of the PDP for the governorship election.
Olamide had ruled sequel to an ex parte motion brought before his court by the Clement Faboyede-led PDP faction in the state.
In his ruling, Olamide said that it would be out of order for INEC to replace Jegede’s name, pending the determination of the motion on notice as it would contravene the principles of equity, justice and fairness.
He directed the PDP to ensure service of the order herein granted, which is the motion on notice and originating summons on INEC before the next date of hearing fixed for the November 7, 2016.
The judgment read in part: “The defendant/respondent is hereby restrained either by itself, chairman, commissioners, agents and servants, officers or privies or through any person or persons, howsoever from changing, replacing, removing, substituting or in any manner tampering with the name, Eyitayo Jegede SAN as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the governorship election slated for November 26, 2016 pending the determination of motion on notice.
“In the interest of justice and fair hearing, the claimant/applicant is hereby ordered to ensure service of the order herein granted, the motion on notice and originating summons on the defendant/respondent before the next date of hearing.”