- Court to hear matter expeditiously Nov. 1-3 Protest continues over substitution of Ibrahim for Jegede
Tobi Soniyi and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, and James Sowole in Akure
In an effort to resolve the Peoples Democratic Party governorship tangle in Ondo State as expeditiously as possible, the Court of Appeal has fixed November 1 to 3 for the hearing of the various appeals and supporting motions on the matter. A three-man panel of the appellate court led by Justice Jumai Sankey fixed the dates yesterday in Abuja when the matter came up. That was after parties to the appeals harmonised all pending preliminary applications bordering on the substantive issues on appeal.
This was as protests continued at the weekend in Akure, the state capital, and other towns in the state over Thursday’s substitution of Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, with Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim as candidate of PDP in the final list of candidates for the November 26 governorship election published by the Independent National Electoral Commission. Alleging bias, Jegede’s supporters had on Friday taken their anger over his court-ordered replacement onto the streets of Akure, Owo, Ondo, Ikare, Isua, and the Ilaje areas.
But INEC insisted at the weekend that it did not act under any political pressure when it replaced Jegede with Ibrahim. Jegede, the nominee of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led PDP national caretaker committee, had been previously accepted by the commission as the party’s candidate before an order by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on October 14, which directed INEC to accept Ibrahim as the PDP governorship candidate.
Chief press secretary to the chairman of INEC, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said contrary to the allegations of bias, the commission acted in strict compliance with its commitment to always obey valid court orders. Just before the publication of the candidates’ list, Ibrahim had accused an unnamed INEC staff of demanding a bribe of $1 million to facilitate the inclusion of his name on the list in line with Abang’s order.
Last week, the Makarfi caretaker committee began in earnest the legal process to try to reverse the replacement of its nominee, Jegede, with that of the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction of the PDP, Ibrahim, by INEC. The replacement followed a judgement on June 24 and the October 14 order by Abang. Members of the Makarfi group, including Jegede, and others had filed several motions and appeals in relation to the two decisions by Abang.
The group filed a counter-affidavit on Friday to counteract the objection to its appeals against Abang’s decisions by the Sheriff faction. In the affidavit, the Makarfi camp stated that the lawyers engaged by the Sheriff faction deliberately hid the suit decided by the lower court from legitimate authorities of the PDP, accusing the lawyers of professional misconduct.
The caretaker committee alleged that the post-judgement order by Abang was given in “naked exercise” of the appeal court’s jurisdiction and was not predicated on any claim placed before him.
The counter-affidavit was deposed to by Dolapo Kehinde, a lawyer in the law firm of one of the lawyers to the Makarfi faction, Ahmed Raji (SAN).
Kehinde averred, “Godswill Mrakpor, O. Fakunle (SAN), and Raphael Oluyede have no scintilla of legal authority to challenge any of the processes filed on behalf of the appellant (PDP) in this appeal or to appear for the appellant.
“The name of Olagoke Fakunle (SAN) of 84 Kwame Nkrumah Crescent appears boldly on the originating summons as taking it out on behalf of the plaintiffs, but he appeared for the second defendant (PDP) in the same proceedings on the instructions of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff of which the plaintiffs are his surrogates.
“The aforesaid scenario played itself out again when the law firm of Raphael Oluyede, founder of TRLP LAW, filed on behalf of the plaintiffs, a motion to enforce the judgement of Hon. Justice Abang, but Raphael Oluyede appeared for the second defendant in respect of the same motion his chambers filed on the instructions of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff of which the plaintiffs are his surrogates.
“The scenario that played out at the court below was almost entirely between Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and his surrogates appearing as defendant and plaintiffs with the consequence that proceedings at the lower court were concealed from the legitimate authority of the appellant (PDP).
“The order referred to as Exhibit GS1 is an interlocutory order that was not predicated on any claim before Hon. Justice Abang and is a naked exercise of appellant jurisdiction by Hon. Justice Abang over the decisions and orders of courts of coordinate jurisdiction.
“The judgement of June 29, 2016 and post-judgement order of October 14, 2016, in clear violation of the appellant’s constitution and innumerable decisions of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, purported to negate the firmly entrenched rule that only the National Executive Committee or the National Working. Committee of the appellant and not the State Executive Committee of the appellant, is competent to conduct gubernatorial primaries for the purposes of nominating its candidate.
“The appellant (PDP) gave no instructions whatsoever for the withdrawal of this appeal, but is anxious to pursue this appeal so as to affirm the supremacy of its National Executive Committee or National Working Committee to conduct gubernatorial primaries in line with provisions of its constitution and Electoral Guidelines.”
The Makarfi group stated that its national caretaker committee had been affirmed by an order by Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, on July 4.
Some of the motions by the Makarfi group sought to stay the execution of the Abuja Federal High Court decisions, while others sought the leave of the appellate court to appeal the decisions. Yet some wanted extension of time to compile record and appeal, and to deem the appeals filed as properly filed.
But on Friday, Dayo Akinlaja (SAN), who represented Makarfi; secretary of the caretaker committee, Ben Obi; and Jegede, withdrew the motions for stay of the judgement and post-judgement order by Abang. Akinlaja said his decision was due to the “pre-emptive action” of INEC in substituting Jegede with Ibrahim before the motions could be heard.
The Sheriff faction had on October 27 filed an objection to some of the appeals filed in the name of the PDP by the Makarfi group on the grounds that the Makarfi group was not authorised by the party to appeal on its behalf. It urged the court to strike out the appeal and all documents filed along with it because they did not instruct Ahmed Raji and others, who filed the appeal for the Makarfi leadership of the PDP, to act on their behalf.
The eight appeals originated from the judgement and order by Abang are marked: CA/A/551/2016; CA/A/551A/2016; CA/551B/2016; CA/A/551C/2016; CA/A/402/2016; CA/A/402A/2016; CA/A/402B/2016 and CA/A/402C/2016. Three of them were withdrawn as at Friday, leaving five of the appeals filed by Jegede, PDP and Makarfi.
Meanwhile, the chief press secretary to Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman, Oyekanmi, told THISDAY yesterday that the commission was merely obeying the law when it substituted Ibrahim for Jegede as the PDP candidate.
Oyekanmi said, “To put the record straight, INEC monitored the primaries that elected Jegede in August and he was on our list as at August, before the latest legal fireworks began. It has nothing to do with the drama that Jimoh Ibrahim came to do at our premises. What he did was of no effect, the thing is that if there is a standing court order we will respect that order.”
He added, “We are not supposed to be interpreting judgements, what the court said was very clear and we took it.
“In this circumstance, what INEC tries to do is to obey court judgements and it will always take the latest in time, meaning that if there was a court judgement on Monday saying Jimoh Ibrahim should be taken and there was another judgement from the Court of Appeal saying that Jegede should be returned, then we would take the appeal court judgement because it is the latest in time.”
In the meantime, the wild protests in major towns of Ondo State, greeted the news of Jegede’s replacement, continued at the weekend. Yesterday’s protesters, who were led by the state chairman of the Makarfi leadership, Mr. Clement Faboyede, vowed that Ibrahim would never be the candidate of PDP for the November 26 governorship election. Earlier, the Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Mrs. Jumoke Akindele, who spoke with journalists on behalf of the PDP members in the Assembly, insisted that Jegede was the candidate of the party.