The Monday Discourse
The battle for the soul of Ondo State is gradually inching to a close, with the election billed to hold this Saturday, November 26. Unfortunately, the people of the state are going to the poll to elect a new governor with a disturbing uncertainty hovering over the political atmosphere believed to have been orchestrated by external forces with a stake in the outcome of the election. In this pre-election analysis, James Sowole traces from inception the electoral battle that may have been wittingly or unwittingly reduced to a two-horse race
Preparatory to the November 26 gubernatorial election in Ondo State, a track was adopted from a popular song of Harry Song, a hippo star, to produce a jingle for the Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN after he emerged candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from what was known as a legally constituted primary of the party. The jingle ‘After Mimiko who be next…Eyi…tayo…My people Let us vote for Eyitayo so that Ondo State will continue to be good…Vote Eyitayo Jegede as Governor Ondo State’.
This popular jingle became a household song immediately it hit the airwaves and was also twisted by local musicians for other parties’ candidates whenever they went on campaign. But things have changed in the last three weeks, sequel to the legal imbroglio occasioned by the rivalry between Senators Alli Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi for the control of the party at the national level and which has also had effects on the situation in some states.
The case of Ondo State became worse with the crisis over who is PDP’s standard bearer and which had already affected the chances of the party in the forthcoming election. The musical jingle which was made specifically for the PDP candidate, Jegede, before he was substituted by the Federal High Court, Abuja, with Jimoh Ibrahim, was soon twisted in a way to mock Jegede and the PDP. The people in town now sing thus: After Mimiko who be next…Emi o mo…I don’t know o… I don’t know o!
The message of this twisted version of Jegede’s song actually captured the state of things on the forthcoming governorship election in the Sunshine State as at now, though the three major candidates and their supporters had been going about with their campaigns with the aim of persuading the electorate to vote for them. With just six days to the election, the political field is still widely opened to any of the leading candidates to explore.
Prior to the October 14 judgment, which was enforced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on October 27 with the substitution of the Jegede’s name for Ibrahim, Jegede was leading other candidates due to the fact that he started his own campaign earlier than others. While the APC was still managing the post-primary issues that tore the party apart, Jegede was already on the field campaigning and this enabled him to cover more grounds.
At that time, the Alliance for Democracy (AD) candidate, Chief Olusola Oke had not settled in the party while the All Progressives Candidate (APC), Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN was still consulting with various stakeholders on how to manage the intra-party crisis that arose from the primary that produced him.
Though Ibrahim had embarked on campaign tour of local government areas of the state campaigning, the substitution of Jegede has affected greatly the chances of the PDP to retain the executive power in the state. With Ibrahim as the candidate of the party, it is the belief of many people that the PDP cannot win the election even if Akeredolu and Oke were not in the race. It was also being said by the people that Ibrahim was not out to contest the election in the first instance but out to stop any candidate sponsored by Mimiko.
However, stopping Miimiko’s candidate is tantamount to stopping PDP from election. Despite the substitution of the Jegede’s name, the Ahmed Makarfi faction, which Mimiko belongs, had continued with subtle campaign for Jegede by playing host to different groups in the state and assuring them that they should not be discouraged by the court judgment, because it cannot stand. Mimiko, at different for a, had also urged the people to continue with their campaign for Jegede in order to put those who do not want Jegede to contest to shame because they knew he would win the election.
As the waiting game tarried, anxiety gripped some members of the PDP on the fate of Jegede and PDP. Two thoughts were in the mind of these people. One was that since the Supreme Court is the last destination of issues like the one at hand, it would be disastrous for them to work for Jegede and the PDP to win the election but only for Ibrahim to go to Supreme Court and be declared the governor. To these people, the risk is not worth taking, so, the need to quickly pitch their tents with a candidate whose candidacy is not controversial.
The other thought in the mind of these people is that the Justice Okon Abang judgment had demoralised many people and had made them to shift allegiance to another party because of the pains of waiting for another four years particularly by those who don’t have any other job apart from politicking. Also, it is being peddled that Mimiko was already discussing with a camp in APC. This rumour was vehemently denied by the government and the PDP loyal to Mimiko.
Debunking the rumour, PDP Publicity Secretary in Ondo State, Mr. Banji Okunomo said the rumour circulating to the effect that that there was an understanding to support a person or another party in the forthcoming election is false, absolutely incorrect and erroneous.
“Our party has no other candidate other than Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, who we are determined to work assiduously to make governor through the popular vote of the people of Ondo State. Any contrary view aside from this is unfounded, dishonest and baseless. Therefore, we call on the people to disregard such view totally,” Okunomo stated.
With this statement and other assurances given by Mimiko, all hopes were not lost because what looked like the travails of Jegede only made him more popular because the issue as at the time of filing this report, was the most discussed in the entire country.
That Jegede was popular was not in doubt because the mere granting of his leave to appeal the Abang judgment was greeted with jubilations as people trooped to the streets in various parts of the state to celebrate the ruling of the court to continue with the matter. The decision of the court came despite the application of the factional chairman of the party, Biyi Poroye challenging the constitution of the Special Appeal Panel.
Yet, the unexpected came to the camp of Jegede last Friday, following the indefinite adjournment of the judgment of the appeal filed by Jegede against Abang’s judgment. The Justice Ibrahim Saulawa-led panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja adjourned indefinitely the judgment on the appeal filed by Jegede. The Saulawa panel also adjourned all other pending appeals, including one filed by Makarfi, relating to the dispute over the governorship ticket of the PDP in November 26 election.
The panel said on Friday in its judgment on Jegede and Makarfi’s appeals, which it heard between Wednesday and Thursday that it took the decision to adjourn “sine die” (indefinitely) to await the decision of the Supreme Court on interlocutory appeals filed by the respondents.
Saulawa also cited the motion filed by the respondents before the Supreme Court last Thursday, asking for an order of the apex court to disband the Saulawa panel and take disciplinary action by going ahead to hear the appeal in defiance of established judicial principle. The nine respondents led by Poroye, who filed the motion before the Supreme Court are state officials of the Sheriff-led faction of the PDP in the South-west zone.
Disturbed by the decision of the Court of Appeal, the Makarfi faction of PDP, in swift reaction, cautioned the judiciary not to experiment with the destiny of the state by its handling of the case bothering on the candidacy of its candidate in the election.
The party urged the Supreme Court to rise to the challenge before it by giving the case expeditious hearing as election is around the corner. The party, in a statement by its Director of Publicity, Ayo Fadaka, said the issue on hand is about the destiny of a state and the person the people of the state want as their governor, adding that any attempt to truncate this wish would spell doom, which the judiciary is in the position to avert now.
The party commended the Court of Appeal over what it described as its obvious commitment to the administration of justice in the matter by giving it expeditious hearing.
Appealing to the Supreme Court to equally rise to the occasion and dispense the case in good time, the PDP said it noted with aghast the further prolongation of the pre-election matter involving it “based on the premature appeal by Jimoh Ibrahim and his band of fifth columnists to the Supreme Court.”
The party said it continued to be taken aback by the grandiose plan to stop it from contesting the election through the foisting of “this needless crisis on our party by elements within the corridors of power, who are doing everything possible to deny the people of Ondo State the right to choose from the myriad of choices available to them in the forthcoming governorship election.
“We have stated clearly that Jimoh Ibrahim is not in any manner a member of our Party and the fact that he today parades himself as our standard bearer is through the contrived instrumentality of the Court,” the statement said, stating further that the nation has descended again into the dark days of rape of her democracy as the ruling party, APC, has used its privilege advantage of controlling federal power to muscle her democracy and also capriciously rape it mercilessly.
Submitting that “this action is geared towards giving undue and unmerited advantage to the APC candidate in the election, “the PDP said it is most certainly not only ungentlemanly, but confirms the fact that those atop of the nation’s commonwealth today are not statesmen.”
The party said the fact that Jimoh Ibrahim is not its candidate,”the fact that he is being foisted on our party is due to the fact that he is not electable as he remains a political albatross the people of the state will not touch. The highest number of votes he can ever poll in any election in Ondo State cannot exceed 2,005 only, and this generally known fact is the reason characters in the APC are using him to destroy our party.”
Positing that “posterity will certainly judge in this ugly development” the party said it is watching, but also wish to declare that “a dangerous and desperate precedent has been set, the aim of course to rig the APC to power in Ondo State. We also bring to the president’s attention that under him, institutional rape is the order of the day, we also wish to remind him that under the reign of President Goodluck Jonathan, his immediate predecessor, there was respect for institutions, political desires and expressions.
“Mr President is the leader of the entire nation and not for his Party, APC alone. He must ensure the health of the nation, even as we restate that Nigeria is a democracy and we will struggle to maintain that status,” Fadaka stated
On the other hand, the adjournment of the case at hand was the tonic that Ibrahim’s camp needed to forge ahead in its campaign. The Sheriff faction, in a statement by the Director of Publicity, Yemi Akintomide, commended the three-man special Appeal panel.
“Indeed, this is a bold, moral and right action taken by the panel to adjourn sine die since the respondent in the suit, Biyi Poroye had approached the Supreme Court to challenge the leave given to Eyitayo Jegede to appeal the June 29, 2016 judgment delivered by Justice Okon Abang of Federal High Court, Abuja which declared Poroye as the authentic chairman of PDP in Ondo State.
“This has renewed our hope and belief in the judiciary as the last hope of common man and put to shame desperate politicians, who before now, thought that they could bribe their way into the mentality and integrity of the judges.
“We use this opportunity once again to salute the courage and resilience of our amiable chairman, Biyi Poroye and the ‘Joshua of Time’, Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim (CFR), who the Lord has ordained at this period of time to take our Sunshine state out of the Egypt to its Jerusalem city of fulfillment”, he said.
But keeping hope alive, Jegede after the adjournment called for calm among his supporters. In a statement by the Head of Media and Publicity of his Campaign Organisation, Kayode Fasua, Jegede said he was not unmindful of the fact that the temporary setback is the handiwork of some anti-democratic elements hell bent on truncating his mandate for the November 26, 2016 polls.
He, however, said as a true believer in the rule of law and the judiciary, he would be at the Supreme Court tomorrow (Tuesday) to thrash out issues raised by the appellants. He said the objective of the appellants was to stop a review of Abang’s contrived judgment through various baseless petitions, spurious blackmail and media propaganda, adding that the day of reckoning was near for these anti-democratic elements.
Jegede appealed to his supporters and believers in his course that despite the hurt they feel they should not take laws into their hands but remain resolute and intensify their door-to-door campaigns, restating that he would contest and win the upcoming poll.
“I call on our supporters to remain calm, and not be weighed down by the latest developments, which I believe should only strengthen our resolve in ensuring that despite all contrivances and manipulations, we will contest and win the November 26, 2016 governorship election.” he said.
He said his team of lawyers is working assiduously to ensure that this grave injustice to subvert his mandate through several devious means of propaganda, blackmail and unprecedented assault against the judiciary is corrected using available legal means
“For us, there is no looking back. We remain resolute and focused in our desire to bring development, progress and prosperity to our people. This is our Article of Faith and with God, we will triumph,” he said.
In politics, the more problems one’s opponent has, the better for the others. So, that the PDP is “technically” being edged out of the race, the better for the APC and AD. It was generally believed that should Jegede be allowed to contest on a level-playing field, Mimiko would definitely work for him and deploy state apparatus for the election. It is expected that Mimiko would work for Jegede, it is expected that the federal government would use the federal might to back the APC candidate, Akeredolu.
Interestingly, with the situation on the ground, it is generally assumed that the battle for the number one job in the state is essentially between the APC and the AD candidates, except something changes in the last minutes of the election.
For Oke, the Jegede travails had become his own advantage because the old PDP members and the aggrieved APC members had teamed up with him for the election. It is also believed in many quarters that should Jegede be out of the race, the APC would do everything to crush AD, using the federal might.
Suspecting the likelihood of this, the AD had been raising the alarm that the APC was poised to win the election at all cost.
Oke, who spoke through the Chairman of his Publicity Team, Kolawole Olabisi, warned that the era of election rigging and the use of the federal might to rig had gone forever and asked those contemplating such to perish the thought forthwith.
Speaking against the backdrop of insinuations from certain quarters over boasts by members of the APC that federal might would be used to win the election at all cost, Oke advised that the electoral process in Nigeria has grown beyond the era of ballot boxe snatching and stuffing.
While commending President Muhammadu Buhari, whom he described as a democrat, Oke warned that those planning to rig should be ready for the wrath of the people of the State.
“We have a president who is a democrat and a complete gentleman; one who does not believe in this rigging plan by members of his Party. Those who believe in the snatching of ballot boxes should know that that belongs to the past, it is now anachronistic. Those who think that results can be manufactured for them and be announced should know that that is no longer fashionable.
“It is very ridiculous that people can boast of rigging and scaring the people in this era. Our electoral processes have grown over time and with the introduction and insistence on the use of card readers for the election, how much can somebody do?”
While describing as laughable the antics of those who think that this was the APC primaries that they could rig with ease, Oke said it was lamentable that while he was busy traversing the length and breadth of the state, some people sat in the comfort of their offices threatening the people to rig with federal might, warning also that the people who want to rig the election must be ready for the consequence, insisting that the election cannot be rigged by anybody.
“This election is not available for rigging. Power now resides with the people and they will determine who they want. And I am relying on the strength of the people of Ondo State for this election. That is why till the very last day of the campaigns, I will relate with them, canvass for their votes. Let them come out in their numbers and cast their votes for me.
“Let those who are boasting of rigging come along and manipulate the election; it is ridiculous. This whole idea about federal might because it doesn’t exist anywhere is an illusion,” Oke stated.
To the APC, the suspicion about plans to rig the forthcoming election needs not arise because Akeredolu had traverse the length and breadth of the state, canvassing for votes.
Speaking on this, the APC Deputy Chairman, Mr. Ade Adetimehin said Akeredolu remained the most popular candidate because of his consistency and pedigree. He said Akeredolu had demonstrated his popularity during the keenly contested primary of the party and would replicate this on November 26 and Ondo State would be better for it.
Adetimehin said the AD candidate had demonstrated his desperation to become the governor by belonging to three different parties within 18 months simply to become the governor at all cost. He said Akeredolu had done all that was needed to win the election and by the Grace of God, he would win the election.
With the state of the parties so far, the twisting of the music track in the jingle produced for Jegede actually summarised the uncertainty about who is likely to win the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo State. But for whoever emerges, it is not going to be a tea-party, not only because the stakes are high but because the intrigues are also overwhelming.