Ondo Poll: PDP, 20 Parties Insist on Postponement, INEC Refuses

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  • Mimiko alerts Buhari on looming security threat
  • Protesters storm electoral body’s office in Akure

Jimoh Ibrahim’s police escort accused of shooting at rival’s campaign office

Tobi Soniyi, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and James Sowole in Akure

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) monday continued its clamour for the postponement of the governorship election in Ondo State, demanding that the poll be shifted by at least three weeks by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Twenty opposition political parties and youths in the state also joined the PDP to seek the postponement of the poll, warning that the level of insecurity in Ondo due to unresolved legal issues concerning the PDP candidate in the governorship race could rise to alarming proportions.

Their position was buttressed by Governor Olusegun Mimiko who yesterday visited President Muhammadu Buhari for the second time in weeks to apprise him of the looming security threat in the state over the governorship election.

But their pleas fell on deaf ears, as INEC said there were insufficient grounds to defer the election in Ondo.

Addressing journalists yesterday in Abuja after a meeting of the National Caretaker Committee of the PDP, with former ministers from the party’s platform, the spokesman of the PDP, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, said since INEC was partly responsible for creating the confusion over its candidacy, the body should postpone the election to allow the court decide on who should pick the ticket of the PDP.

“The point we are trying to make is that INEC should immediately postpone ‎the Ondo election. We have reasons for saying that. In the case of Edo State, they postponed it for no just cause. In the case of Rivers, they also postponed it, and with respect to Ondo State there is enough justification for postponing the election.

“The fact is that a major political party has issues regarding its candidacy and in a matter that was principally caused by INEC, because it monitored the primary conducted by the National Caretaker Committee which produced Eyitayo Jegede as the PDP candidate for the election.

“It did not monitor the primary conducted far away in Ibadan by the Sheriff-led illegal committee that produced Jimoh Ibrahim. And when candidates’ names were announced, Jegede’s name was announced as the candidate of the party,” Adeyeye said.

He noted that the party would have expected INEC to act in the same manner as Edo State where it said that it monitored the primary that produced Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the candidate and rejected the other candidate whose primary was not monitored.

“INEC should be held responsible for the confusion that has arisen on this matter. We are asking that in view of the fact that they caused this confusion in the first place, it should wait for the Supreme Court to decide on the rightful candidate of the party before proceeding with the election.

“In view of the fact that our candidate, Jegede, has been denied campaign time for the last few weeks, in the interest of justice, fair play and in order to ensure that the will of the masses in Ondo State prevail, it should postpone this election by a minimum of three weeks,” he said.

Adeyeye added that the PDP caretaker committee also met with former ministers on how to find solutions to the problems besetting the party.

Speaking on the outcome of the meeting, a former Minister of Special Duties, Alhaji Taminu Turaki, said the former ministers were joining in the call for the postponement of the Ondo governorship election in order to allow for justice and a level playing field.

“We note with concern the way INEC handled the Edo election. Even though the matter is now in court and is now sub judice, we would like to say the way and manner a public institution like INEC that is funded with tax payers’ money will come out to take sides and to become partisan on an election matter is not proper; it is unfortunate.

“We also frown on what INEC is doing, in collaboration and in conspiracy with some other political parties ‎trying to manipulate the process in the Ondo State election.

“We therefore want to join the call made by the leadership of the PDP to ask that the Ondo election be postponed to allow for the issues in court to be resolved and for all parties to have a level playing field. We believe that what INEC needs to do is to ensure that there is a level playing field.
“It is not in the interest of the country if INEC continues in the way it has been handling highly sensitive election issues in the country.

“We want to call on members of the PDP and public to remain resolute that PDP will not go down,” Turaki said.

He also said that the PDP former ministers’ forum assured the committee led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi that it is in total support of the committee’s efforts to reposition the affairs of the party.

20 Parties, Youths Want Poll Deferred

Similarly, 20 other political parties monday joined the PDP to seek for the postponement of the Ondo poll.

The parties said their decision to ask for adjustment in the election date was based on the level of insecurity in the state, which had risen dangerously due to unresolved legal issues concerning the candidacy of the PDP in the governorship race.

The leaders of the parties who converged on the national headquarters of Labour Party in Abuja to address a press conference, lamented that the situation has forced their candidates to stop campaigning across the state.
The parties threatened that if INEC refused to postpone the election, they would take the necessary steps to protect the interest of the people in the state.

The National Chairman of the Labour Party, Alhaji Abdulkardri Abdusalam, who spoke on behalf of other parties, said Nigeria could not afford to have Ondo engulfed in an avoidable political crises orchestrated by a few individuals.
He enumerated the challenges standing in the way of the smooth conduct of the election on Saturday, saying: “It is important to note that the political parties fielding candidates in the Ondo governorship election feel very insecure and hard pressed to campaign freely and unfettered in the present fragile and volatile environment.

“The situation will obviously affect the electoral outcome, possibly leading to another ‘inconclusive election’.

“Moreover, given the above situation, the electorate in Ondo State is not fully sensitised for the election that has not offered room for robust election campaigns, debates and the gravitas of election.

“The people will definitely be short-changed if they elect their governor based on the apparent opaque electoral information, which will amount to a blatant rape of democracy and handing out the ‘mandate of the minority’ for the victor or winner, if INEC does not shift the polling date, as canvassed here.

“This uncharitable, uncharacteristic and inelegant testament of the governorship election will be quite regrettable for the politically resourceful people of Ondo State.

“Another critical concern is the growing level of violence and insecurity in the Ondo political environment as precedent to the governorship election on Saturday.

“In recognition of this ugly fact, we also take this opportunity to call on the relevant security agencies – the police, DSS, NSCDC, etc. – to immediately put pressure on INEC to shift the election date to a possible date after the court processes have been completed, but within the constitutional provisions, to guarantee a peaceful and healthy political environment for the election.

“If INEC is blatantly intimidated into abdicating its rudimentary function of monitoring and certifying the validity of party primary elections for the selection of candidates, and instead acquiesces by allowing the court to arbitrary pick candidates without INEC-monitored primaries, then our democracy is becoming gravely injured, needing urgent ambulatory care and political surgery.”

Some of the political parties that demanded the postponement included the United Progressives Party (UPP), National Conscience Party (NCP), African Democratic Congress (ADC), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA) and Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), among others.

Also, citing the non-resolution of the candidacy of the PDP for the Saturday’s gubernatorial election, hundreds of youths yesterday invaded the headquarters of INEC in Akure, calling for the postponement of the election.
The youths, who moved from the PDP secretariat at Alagbaka to some streets in the state capital as early as 8 a.m., also called for the inclusion of the name of the candidate of the party, Eyitayo Jegede.

The protesting youths said the call had become imperative to allow the courts to conclude the case on the authentic candidate of the PDP in the election.
Armed with placards of various inscriptions, the protesters said the action would continue until the injustice is addressed.

The protesters, however, could not gain access to INEC’s office as stern-looking security operatives of the state Police Command and National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) mounted a barricade to prevent them from advancing beyond a certain point.

Speaking on behalf of the youths, Oluwatuyi Adekanmbi said the youths across the state were protesting against the decision of INEC to go on with the election without waiting for the outcome of the suits pending before the courts.
According to him, it would amount to a rape of democracy if INEC cleared a member of the party as the party’s candidate for the governorship election in the state.

INEC Remains Adamant

Addressing the protesters, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Mr. Segun Agbaje, said the commission would obey a higher court order on the matter anytime it comes.

Agbaje said he would resign his appointment from the commission if the commission refuses to obey the directive of a superior court on the matter.
However, when the national headquarters of the electoral commission was contacted in Abuja, it stated that there were insufficient grounds to call off the election.

The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, who responded to THISDAY’s enquiries through text message yesterday afternoon, said preparations for the poll have reached an advanced stage, adding that 12 out of 14 activities planned for the poll had already been carried out.

“As I write this, INEC has no plan to and does not intend to postpone the election. Preparations for the Ondo governorship election started since March and 12 out of 14 activities planned for the poll have already been carried out.

“Besides, the grounds for postponing any election is enshrined in the Electoral Law and certainly, such calls for postponement are none of the grounds.

“The 13th activity, namely the stakeholders’ forum will hold tomorrow (Tuesday). The commission therefore will not postpone the election,” he said.

Mimiko Meets Buhari

INEC’s position, notwithstanding, ‎the state governor met with President Buhari monday on the rising tension in the state and denied claims that he was considering joining the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Mimiko, who spoke with State House correspondents after meeting with the president, said people should not misinterpret the courtesy he ‎extended to Buhari to mean that he was planning to move to APC.

According to him, ‎he only extended the courtesy due to a president who was visiting his state, no matter the party affiliation.‎

It was Mimiko’s second visit to Buhari since ‎his preferred candidate for the Ondo State governorship election, Eyitayo Jegede, was replaced with Jimoh Ibrahim by INEC.

Details of Mimiko’s meeting with Buhari were however not made public.
He was at the State House a fortnight ago when he came to express his displeasure with the decision of the commission to replace Jegede with Ibrahim.

APC held a mega rally in Akure, the state capital on Saturday, attended by Buhari, who was received on arrival at the airport by Mimiko.

When asked yesterday why he had become a frequent visitor to the Presidential Villa‎, he replied: “What is frequent. This is my second visit to the villa since this crisis in our party started. Like I said, as the chief security officer of my state, if there is any credible threat to security, I owe the responsibility to Nigerians to apprise Mr. President of what is going on in the state.

“Mr. President was in my state to campaign for his party. I extended to him the courtesies of receiving him at the airport and seeing him off as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, not as APC.
“I understand that people have speculated that this means I am going to APC. There is nothing of such. I only extended him the normal courtesy that protocol demands.

“As the governor and chief security officer of the state, if the president is visiting, no matter the party he belongs to, it is only appropriate for me to extend the courtesy to him. That was what I did in Akure.

“And I have also come to brief him about the security situation in my state.”
On the crisis in the PDP and the chances of Jegede, Mimiko insisted‎ that he was standing by his candidate in ‎the coming poll, adding that the whole of Ondo State would erupt in joy if the Supreme Court ruling eventually goes his way.

He said: “I am just concentrating on the case of my party in court. The whole of Ondo State will erupt in joy and it will be so self-evident.”
The APC National Leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Governors Akinwunmi Ambode, Abiola Ajumobi and Rauf Aregbesola of Lagos, Oyo and Osun States, respectively, were conspicuously absent at the ruling party’s mega rally at the weekend.

However, commenting on their absence yesterday, the Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong yesterday said that the APC leader was not at last Saturday’s rally due to ill health.
Lalong, who is also the chairman of the APC governorship campaign committee in Ondo, spoke with State House correspondents after meeting with the president.

He also said that ‎the absence of Tinubu and other South-west governors did not affect the success of the rally.
He said: “Their absence was not a problem, We explained their absence. They sent in their apologies. You heard what happened there. As far as we are concerned, the president who is the leader of the party was at the rally.
“The national chairman was also there, so as far as we are concerned, everybody was there.”

Ibrahim’s Trigger Happy Police Escort

Meanwhile, the PDP in Ondo State monday called on the federal government, to as a matter of urgency, withdraw the security escorts deployed to Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, following the alleged shooting spree perpetuated by Ibrahim’s police escorts at Jegede’s campaign office in Akure.

According to a statement by the Director of Publicity of PDP in the state, Mr. Ayo Fadaka, Ibrahim allegedly led a detachment of police to Jegede’s campaign office located on Ijapo Road on a shooting spree.
Raising the alarm over what it described as the “thuggish attitude of this fellow, in conjunction with the personnel that accompanied him”, the statement said Ibrahim’s action was not only criminal but an absolute abuse of an unmerited privilege conferred on him through the deployment of security escorts to him by the federal government.

Fadaka declared the action as a further infringement on the fundamental rights of Jegede whose mandate to fly the flag of the party he (Ibrahim) blatantly stole and described it as a flagrant invasion of Jegede’s privacy.
The PDP further described the attack as “the most unethical action that a man who aspires to the office of the governor of Ondo State has ever taken”, adding that “the PDP has been provoked beyond measure and as such wishes to let the presidency know that Jimoh Ibrahim has taken a giant leap to compromise the peace of the state”.

The party also demanded that the government, as a matter of compulsion, must withdraw that privilege of the security escorts from him immediately so that the lives of Ondo citizens are safe and protected from the maniacal attack of any man.

When contacted on the matter, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for the Ondo Police Command, Mr. Femi Joseph, said the matter was not reported to the command.