Raheem Akingbolu agrees with stakeholders in Ekiti State continue to mount pressure on a former governor of the state and an aspirant in the just concluded gubernatorial election, Chief Segun Oni, to sheathe the sword and settle out of court with Dr. Kayode Fayemi, winner of the July 14 governorship election
With the conduct of the July 14 gubernatorial election in Ekiti State, which produced Dr. Kayode Fayemi as winner, it was believed that a fresh chapter, devoid of acrimony, had been opened in the state. But the decision of a Deputy National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and a gubernatorial aspirant of the party in the state, Chief Segun Oni, to remain in court after the election, despite pleas from stakeholders, appears to be sending a wrong signal.
Though the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the state Deputy Governor, Olusola Eleka, announced his determination to approach the election petition tribunal to challenge Fayemi’s victory, his decision didn’t surprise political watchers, given the nature of politicians, who hardly accept defeat in any contest.
To many political observers, especially those who believed the election was peaceful and transparent, PDP and its candidate had taken the decision to either keep their followers ahead of 2019 elections or distract the incoming governor, when he eventually assumes office.
Oni’s decision to allegedly thwart Fayemi’s victory didn’t start now –it’s dates back to May 12 when Fayemi won the APC governorship primary held in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, by polling a total of 941 votes to beat Oni, who scored 481 votes.
After the primary, Oni filed a suit at a Federal High Court in Abuja, challenging Kayode Fayemi’s emergence as the party’s standard bearer for the July 14 governorship election. He asked the court to determine if it was proper for the former Minister of Solid Mineral Development to contest in the primaries without resigning as a member of the federal cabinet.
With Fayemi’s victory in the July 14 governorship election, many people believed that as a leader of the party, Oni would magnanimously put everything behind him and celebrate with his party man, who had just been elected.
A leader of the party from Ekiti West Local Government Area, Hon. Issac Ogunniyi, in an interview with THISDAY recently said many members were disappointed when they discovered that Oni was yet to withdraw his case against Fayemi.
“Until now, the belief of many of us was that Oni was not desperate for power, but he appears to have proved us wrong. The worst part was that he made people believe at the beginning that he had no hand in it; a situation which made some of us think he had been hijacked by his followers. But like the late Chief Moshood Abiola would say, ‘it is not possible to shave someone’s head in his absence,’” he said.
Speaking further, Ogunniyi said the decision of the party chief to add the outcome of a panel set up by Governor Ayo Fayose, which disqualified Fayemi, as one of the basis why he is calling for the governor-elect’s dismissal has given Oni away.
“From day one, the rumours were everywhere that Fayose was working with some chieftains of APC, who saw Fayemi as a formidable candidate to get the former minister disqualified, but nobody ever imagined that a respected leader of the party like Oni could believe in such a charade. I fear the outcome of the ongoing case, if not well managed by Segun Oni Campaign Organisation, may dwarf the political status of the leader of the group,” Ogunniyi said.
However, the issue of whether Oni has the right to challenge Fayemi’s candidature or not has become a subject of debate for political and legal analysts.
To Chief Adekanmi Fadare, a PDP leader in Alimosho area of Lagos State, Fayemi’s decision’s not to resign before participating in his party’s primary has simply put question mark on the current administration’s war against corruption.
“What happened in Ekiti State was unprecedented; I have not witnessed a situation where a political office holder goes into election without resigning from office. It sounds illogical,” Fadare said.
Reacting to the same issue, a Principal Partner at Salawu and Akingbolu Chambers, a Law firm based in Ikeja, Lagos, Mr. Kabir Akingbolu, dismissed the issue as nothing but efforts in futility.
He said: “Those talking about Oni’s suit as a basis to say Fayemi was not qualified for governor are living in a world of fantasy or better still, talking out of ignorance. This is because time for resignation by party constitution is different from time for resignation by 1999 Constitution.
“By APC constitution, an aspirant who is also a party executive member must resign at least a month before the primaries of the party, but by the 1999 Constitution, an aspirant must resign not later than a month to the election after emerging as a candidate. To worsen the case for Oni and his associates, no single member of a political party has the locus standi to file a suit to challenge the candidate presented by a party. This is because under our electoral jurisprudence, that right belongs to the party exclusively. It is the party that can decide if someone is not its candidate,”
On the issue of disqualification of Dr. Fayemi by a purported panel of enquiry, the lawyer argued that such enquiry has no basis in law because it is only a competent court of law that can indict any citizen in Nigeria.
“Of course everybody knew that the Panel of Enquiry set up by Governor Ayo Fayose was nothing but a mere witch hunt. This position has been made elaborately clear by the Supreme Court over time in a lot of celebrated cases like the case of Abubakar Atiku, Umar Yar’Adua, Rotimi Amaechi and Nasir El-Rufai.
“Nigeria House of Representatives once sat and passed a vote of no confidence that El-Rufai should not occupy public office for 10 years. Today, he is Governor of Kaduna State. INEC disqualified Atiku on a purported indictment by white paper but Supreme Court held otherwise that INEC has no such power. In the case of Amaechi, Supreme Court held that it is only a court of law that can criminalise anybody,” the legal practitioner added.
In a genuine move to resolve the issue amicably, leaders of the party under the auspices of the All Progressives Congress Elders’ Forum in the state has appealed to Oni to withdraw the suit challenging the eligibility of the governor-elect. The APC elders came out with the position at a meeting held in Igbara Odo, Ekiti Southwest Local Government Area.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the APC elders said the withdrawal of the case by Oni and his group would facilitate an out-of-court settlement
The communiqué signed by their Chairman, Chief George Akosile, and the Secretary, Chief Abiodun Ajayi, appealed to Oni and his group to withdraw the case as to facilitate an out-of-court settlement in the interest of the APC family in Ekiti State in particular and Nigeria in general.
However, beyond the merit of the case or lack of it, the time for Oni to demonstrate his love for his people may be now. For a state that has remained in the news for bad reasons, it can only be wise for stakeholders to embrace peace and support the incoming governor to succeed in his poise to restore values.