Top Candidates and Burden of Litigation

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With a few days to the November 26 governorship election in Ondo State, the three leading candidates are encumbered with intra-party legal battles whose outcomes may not augur well for the parties. James Sowole, in Akure, reports

Ondo State is one of the seven states of the federation whose governorship elections hold outside the scheduled national general election calendar. The others are Anambra, Ekiti, Edo, Kogi, Osun, and Bayelsa states. The alteration was caused by judgements arising from the April 2007 general election.

Yet, none of the other states has had the kind of pre-election matters currently being experienced in Ondo State ahead of the November 26 governorship election in the state. With the volume of litigation preceding the poll, the forthcoming election promises to be a watershed in the history of elections in the state.

Whatever be the outcome of litigations involving the candidates of the three leading political parties would definitely be important reference material for the future.
The three leading parties in the election are the Alliance for Democracy, All Progressives Congress, and Peoples Democratic Party.

PDP Controversy
Of the three parties, the one whose matter has generated the greatest controversy is PDP, where the Federal High Court, Abuja, presided by Justice Okon Abang ruled that the Independent National Electoral Commission should substitute the name of Mr Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, with that of business mogul, Mr Jimoh Ibrahim as the party’s candidate.

While Jegede emerged the candidate of PDP from the INEC-monitored primary election held at the new State International Event Centre, The Dome, by the Ahmed Makarfi-led PDP national caretaker committee, Ibrahim emerged from the Alli Modu Sheriff faction at a primary held at Premier Hotel, Ibadan, Oyo State.

The enforcement of the court judgement by INEC has greatly affected the campaign plan of Jegede, who was the first to move out and campaign for votes in the PDP-governed state. That was a time the main opposition party, APC, was still battling with crisis that erupted from its September 3 primary election that was held at the same Ondo State International Event Centre, The Dome.

The outcome of the APC primary led to the revival of AD, when the former candidate of AD, the pre-2003 election leading political party in the South-west, Mr Akin Olowokere, surrendered his ticket to the second runners up at the APC primary, Chief Olusola Oke.

Since his coming to AD and his listing by INEC as the candidate of the party, the party has become one of the three parties being tipped to win the election. The name, Oke, has become a rallying point for the party that is now waxing stronger and stronger on daily basis despite complaints by some national leaders of the party on his emergence.

As at now, the case of PDP, where Sheriff and Makarfi factions are engaged in an intractable disagreement, looks most serious. This is mainly due to the enforcement of the court judgement that has become a matter at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, with attendant controversy in the party.

The fate of PDP in the forthcoming election seems uncertain and confusing, as the legal battle has created lull in the activities of the party in the state. While it has been difficult for Jegede and his supporters to continue with their campaign, Ibrahim and his supporters have not been visible in the state, apart from the visit he paid to some communities in Ondo South senatorial district that terminated at his hometown, Igbotako in Okitipupa Local Government Area.

Jegede’s campaign jingles have been suspended on the airwaves. However, protests by various interest groups have continued, as INEC’s state headquarters has been playing host to different groups who came to show their displeasure at the court judgement on Ibrahim’s candidature and its enforcement.

AD Defection Dilemma
On the AD candidate, a suit has been filed at the Federal High Court, Akure, to challenge the sudden emergence of Oke, who the plaintiffs say was at no time a member of the party. They allege that he was brought in by some National Executive Committee members and Olowokere, who emerged from the legally organised primary election. Though, apart from the filling of the suit, nothing has been heard about it, the fear of many is that should the matter be pursued, it would constitute a problem for the ambition of Oke.

The national legal adviser of AD, Mr Kehinde Aworele, insists that the issue of Oke’s emergence remains an issue. Aworele has threatened to go to court to challenge Oke’s eligibility as the party’s candidate. He believes Oke does not meet the party’s requirements to contest on its platform.

According to Aworele, “Although, there is a pending suit before a Federal High Court in Akure, which I do not want to pre-empt, as the national legal adviser of AD, I will challenge Oke’s eligibility to contest on the platform of our party in court anytime from now.

“Obviously, for anybody to contest on the platform of AD, the person must have spent a minimum of 10 weeks as financial member, the requirement Oke did not meet. Besides, the process of presenting such candidate must be tabled at the quorum of the National Executive Council of the party and not just by three leaders, as they did in his case.

“Chief Olusola Oke is a senior lawyer; he should go and read the party’s constitution and should not be deceived by few leaders. Personally, I have nothing against him, but he cannot join the party through the back door.”

However, chairman of the Lagos State chapter of AD, Mr Ajayi Kola, said Oke should have communicated his intention to run on the party’s platform better. Kola said it was bad for the majority of the members to know that Oke was the party’s governorship candidate on the pages of newspapers.
The chairman said nobody was against Oke’s candidature, but urged him to go through the necessary procedure.
Kola stated, “What we are saying is that he should go through the normal way; if he wants to fly the party’s flag in the election, it is beyond two or three people. You do not make your intention known to party members on the pages of newspapers.

“We have hierarchy; we have a national leader, a national chairman, we have the National Executive Committee, and we have the National Working Committee. They are supposed to be briefed; he ought to have met these people and not go through the backdoor. “There are certain rules in the party’s constitution that the leadership of the party must iron-out with him before he receives the nod to go ahead.
“He is a very good candidate, a good brand and a saleable one at that; these people will be of great assistance to him if he meets with them. Nobody hates him. Oke is `a big fish’ which every party would love and want to have.”

APC: Squabbling Over Primary
For the APC candidate, the first runners up in the September 3 primary election, Dr Olusegun Abraham, has filed a motion ex-parte in court and listed the APC, Akeredolu, the national chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and INEC as the first, second, third, and fourth defendants, respectively. In the motion ex-parte filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja, before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba and supported by an 84- paragraph affidavit, Abraham sought some injunctions that may affect the candidature of Akeredolu if granted by the court.

Abraham’s affidavit contains mainly issues bordering on the list of delegates used for the primary election of the party and the accreditation of the delegates, which was done at three points outside the actual voting venue.

The plaintiff alleged that though, the chairman of the election committee and governor of Jigawa State, Badaru Abubakar, informed all the aspirants of a new delegates list dated 1/9/2016, he was not given the list to examine before the primary that held on September 3.
He alleged that he secured the new list after the conclusion of the primary and was therefore denied the opportunity of thorough check and scrutiny of the list before the accreditation leading to the primary election.

Abraham said after cross checking the list, it was discovered that a total of 157 strange delegates’ names were injected into the list of 12 local government areas of the state. He cited specific wards and local governments and names of officers that were allegedly substituted with those who were not delegates.
Abraham alleged that accreditation was hastily done, which led to the mix up that allowed non-delegates to vote.

Following these allegations and others contained in the affidavit, Abraham sought the following orders:
“An interim order of injunction restraining the fourth Defendant/Respondent, either by itself, agents or privies from recognising the second defendant/respondent as the governorship candidate of the first defendant/respondent in the Ondo State governorship eection slated for 26/11/2016, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice already filed in this suit.

“An interim order of injunction restraining the first defendant/respondent from parading the second defendant/respondent as the governorship candidate of All Progressive Congress for Ondo State election slated for 26/11/2016 pending the determination of the motion on notice already filed in this suit. “And interim order of injunction restraining the second defendant/respondent from parading himself as the governorship candidate of All Progressive Congress for Ondo State election slated for 26/11/2016, pending the determination of the motion on notice already filed in this suit.

“And for such further order(s) as this Honourable court may deem fit upon reading the affidavit in support of the motion ex-pert deposed to by Dr. Olusegun Michael Abraham, Christian, Nigerian citizen and civil engineer of plot 2016, Ikare Street, Ijapo Estate, Akure, Ondo State, and filed at the Court Registry.”
After hearing Prof. Yemi Akinseye George SAN, with Kelvin Mejulu, and Omoba Joseph for the plaintiff/applicant, the court ordered as follows:
“That the respondents shall appear before the court by noon on 28th day of October, 2016 to show cause why the interim preservatory orders sought should not be granted.

“Matter is hereby adjourned to 28th day of October, 2016 by noon for hearing” the motion ex-parte contained.
Though not much has been reported about the suits that affect the AD and APC candidates, unlike the case of the PDP, the general feeling in the state is that of uncertainty. Many believe the three leading candidates have legal encumbrances that can affect the conduct and outcome of the November 26 election.