The appearance of the name of the business mogul, Jimoh Ibrahim, as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party ahead of the November 26 governorship election in Ondo State has caused confusion within the ruling party in the state. James Sowole, in Akure, reports
The state of uncertainty among the leaders and members of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ondo State over the party’s candidate for the November 26 governorship election intensified on Thursday when the Independent National Electoral Commission released the names of candidates for the poll, with the inclusion of Dr Jimoh Ibrahim as the PDP candidate.
The recognition of the business mogul by INEC was sequel to the October 14 judgement of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in which Justice Okon Abang ordered the commission to recognise Ibrahim as the candidate of the PDP for the governorship election.
The order generated controversy and brickbats among the stakeholders, INEC and other institutions that have something to do with the decision of the court.
The order also constituted distractions in the camp of Jegede, who is the PDP candidate from the Ahmed Makarfi led national caretaker committee, while acting as a morale booster to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, and the Alliance for Democracy candidate, Chief Olusola Oke, who had embarked on full swing campaign across the state.
Prior to Thursday’s action of INEC, two separate ex-parte orders were granted by two judges of the Ondo State High Court. The first ex-parte order was granted on October 26 by Justice Olamide Williams restraining INEC from removing the name of Jegede from the list of candidates that would contest the governorship election. Olamide gave the ruling sequel to an ex-parte order sought from his court by the Clement Faboyede-led PDP faction in the state.
In his ruling, Olamide said it would be out of order for INEC to replace Jegede’s name pending the determination of the motion on notice, saying that would contravene the principles of equity, justice and fairness. He directed the PDP to ensure service of the order granted, which is the motion on notice and originating summons, on INEC before the next date of hearing fixed for the November 7.
The judgement 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.”
In another ex-parte order on the same issue, the Chief Judge of Ondo State, Justice Olasehinde Kumuyi, granted an order restraining Ibrahim from parading himself as the governorship candidate of the PDP in the election.
The order was subsequent upon a suit filed by Chief Bamiduro Dada, which sought to stop Ibrahim from identifying himself as the candidate of PDP pending the determination of the case. Dada was one of the aspirants who participated in the PDP governorship primary election, which held in Ibadan through which Ibrahim emerged.
In his suit, Dada pleaded that the court grants, “An order of interim injunction restraining the third defendant (Jimoh Ibrahim) from parading, presenting or holding himself out to the first defendant (INEC) or any person at all as the governorship candidate of the second defendant (PDP) in the governorship election slated for 26 November 2016 or any date at all pending the final determination of the motion on notice filed contemporaneously with this application.”
Granting the order, Kumuyi said he was convinced that the application of Dada had merits. He consequently, granted Dada’s plea and said the motion on notice be adjourned till November 9.
While the Jegede’s group armed itself with the ex-parte orders, Abang rejected Jedege’s application to be joined as a party in the suit in order, which would have enabled him to appeal the October 14 judgement.
Observers have said Mimiko, who is a major sponsor of Jegede’s ambition, ought to have had an alternate platform, like Oke seemed to do in the aftermath of the APC primary that also generated controversy. To the proponent of this option, Mimiko should not have taken anything for granted considering the fact that it was this same Sheriff faction of PDP that had stalled the national convention of the party twice.
However, it was the belief of the Jegede camp that the position of INEC that it would accept candidates only from the primaries it monitored should be enough to determine who the candidate of the party was since the commission only monitored the exercise that produced Jegede.
It was also gathered that Jegede also relied on Supreme Court judgement, which stated that it was the National Working Committee of a party that should nominate candidates for governorship election as was the case in the Edo governorship election, where INEC accepted Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who was nominated by the Makarfi caretaker committee. But, the question being asked is, who constitutes the NWC in the current circumstance?
Another argument put forward by an Akure-based legal practitioner was that the Ondo State chairman of PDP, Hon Clement Faboyede, should have applied to be joined in the original suit filed by the factional chairman, Mr Biyi Poroye, and others in the South-west, which was determined on June 29. The legal practitioner said though, the matter had to do with 2019 election, since Faboyede was expected to be in office beyond that time, he should have taken appropriate action by joining the suit.
That argument however, may not hold because the PDP in the state had challenged Poroye to produce evidence of how and where he emerged as the factional chairman of the PDP. The PDP had also stated that Poroye was a delegate at the conference that produced Faboyede as the party’s candidate in the state, insisting that there is no faction in Ondo PDP.
The other option that some people thought should have been explored was for Jegede to leave the PDP immediately the October 14 judgement and negotiate with a candidate of a weaker party in order to contest using the platform of his former boss, Mimiko, like Oke did.
The recognition of Ibrahim has generated reactions from the two factions of the PDP. The publicity secretary of the Makarfi-led PDP, Mr. Banji Okunomo, said the commission was biased in its action, saying it is at variance with the court order restraining it from declaring Ibrahim as the candidate.
Okunomo said, “Jimoh Ibrahim is INEC candidate and not PDP candidate and it is unfortunate that the INEC that is supposed to be an unbiased electoral umpire has allowed itself to be used by those whose intention is to truncate the nascent democracy we have in this country.
“There are different orders before the INEC and if those court orders are conflicting, where we have different court orders on the same particular matter, it is expected that the INEC should maintain the status quo pending the time the higher court will make high pronouncement on the dispute.”
He said they would challenge the INEC pronouncement at the appeal court.
Similarly, the director of publicity of the Makarfi PDP said the development was shocking, saying Ibrahim is not a member of the PDP. “This development is not only shocking but a complete aberration, as a man absolutely unknown to the party has been made our candidate.”
Fadaka, however, expressed hope that the temporary setback would be resolved by the appeal court in Abuja that would sit on the matter. “We are sure that justice will be done on this matter,” he stated.
Jegede has also reacted with a message of hope, saying the substitution of his name will not stand.
Jegede stated, “I am aware of a recent litigation resulting in the announcement of another person as the governorship candidate of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party. 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.”
He continued, “Eyitayo Jegede, your son and brother, has not in any way abdicated the general consent given to him by the law-abiding members of the PDP to seek election into the office of the governor. Like I have always said, I am guided by the Almighty and the shared vision to transform this state to a land of wealth and prosperity. You remain my priority as we, in faith, match on to the Promised Land.”
But the state chairman of the Sheriff faction, Poroye, commended INEC for obeying the court order. He said, “That is the will of the people, you can see the joy in the face of our people, jubilation everywhere. INEC has come out to respect the rule of law. It is a federal agency and honoured federal high court judgement.”
The Jimoh Ibrahim Campaign Office, in a statement by its director of public communications, Sola Akinuli, welcomed praised Ibrahim’s recognition as the PDP candidate.
“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,” the statement said regarding Ibrahim. It added, “We appreciate INEC 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.”
But the situation has given rise to insinuations and suspicion on the real intention of the Sherrif-led faction of the PDP in the state. Many believe that Ibrahim would need to do more than the ordinary for the miracle of victory. He has not been very visible in the state since the controversy started and his only visible presence in the state is an office located on Oyemekun Road Akure.
There are insinuations that the Sherriff faction may be only out to distract and confuse PDP members with uncertainties so that many of them may decide to support either the APC candidate or the AD candidate.
Yet there are those who think the whole thing is being done to pave the way for the APC candidate. Before the replacement of Jegede, many believed that the battle would be basically between the “state apparatus” personified by the sitting governor, Mimiko, and the “federal might”. To those who subscribe to this view, Mimiko would deploy the state structure for the Jegede project while the federal might would be in support of the APC candidate, Akeredolu.
So, should Jegede, who was expected to be backed by the state machinery, get out of the way, the federal might may want to do everything to suppress the AD candidate, Oke, irrespective of his popularity among the electorate. But as the saying goes, no time is too short in politics and it is not over until it is over. Nigerians can only to see how the issues will play out before the November 26 governorship poll.