The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday shelved further comments on the de facto candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to contest the Ondo State governorship election slated for November 26, 2016, until the Appeal Court ruling, among others, this week on which of the candidates should fly the party’s flag.
Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) had emerged the candidate of the party last August after it held its primary in Akure, the state capital, that was monitored by INEC.
However, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim emerged as the candidate of the party recognised by the Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction of the PDP, in a primary held a few days later in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Subsequently, Ibrahim challenged the emergence of Jegede as the candidate of the PDP at the court and obtained a ruling declaring him the candidate of the party.
On this basis, INEC which had earlier rejected the factional candidate of the PDP in the Edo State governorship election, last Friday, surprisingly substituted Jegede’s name for Ibrahim’s as the candidate of the PDP in the Ondo poll.
Since the decision, the state has been enveloped in tension, with protests breaking out over INEC’s decision at the weekend.
Providing further clarification on the crisis, the Chief Press Secretary of the INEC chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the commission, which was slated to speak yesterday on the controversy caused by its decision, would now wait till this week after the decisions by the courts on the rightful candidate of the PDP.
He said by text message: “We are stepping down our official statement due to the several court cases on the issue slated for hearing this week. We don’t want to be accused of prejudice or attempting to influence the decision of the courts.”
PDP Lawmakers Reject Ibrahim
Ahead of the ruling, however, the 21 state PDP lawmakers at the weekend rejected the substitution of Jegede for Ibrahim as the candidate of the party in the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
The lawmakers under the PDP caucus of the state assembly were led by the speaker, Hon. Jumoke Akindele. They rejected Ibrahim at a news conference in Akure.
Speaking on their behalf at the state assembly, the speaker said that as statutory delegates of the party involved in the election and the selection of the party’s candidate, Jegede remained the candidate of the party.
She said the lawmakers never participated in the process that produced Ibrahim as the PDP candidate.
Akindele, who specifically stated that Ibrahim was not a member of the party in the state, said he never participated in the primary of the party.
She alleged that Ibrahim had dumped the party for another political party before the conduct of the primary towards the governorship election.
She said: “On August 27, 2016, the delegates of the PDP, in a primary election properly conducted in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Electoral Act, gave their mandate to Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, but recent events showed that injustice is walking bare footed on our land.
“We reject injustice that can bring anarchy to the land of Ondo State. We have come collectively to state that this travesty of justice must not stand, as it borders on the democratic existence of our dear state and the peaceful co-existence of its people.
“The entire people of the state are still in shock over the ungodly court order directing INEC to substitute the PDP candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, with an individual unknown to the party, one Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim.
“As a matter of fact, Ibrahim has no moral or political strength to be the PDP governorship candidate of Ondo State, having defected from the party before now and the process that led to his emergence is antithetical to the PDP constitution and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Akindele said as representatives of the people of the state, “the people condemn the substitution of the name of Jegede with Ibrahim in its entirety”, describing it as an advanced political fraud and coup against the will of the people.
She added: “We are representatives of the people of the state who are known to be enlightened people and too politically conscious for their rights to be trampled upon.
“To this end, the Ondo State House of Assembly, PDP Caucus, comprising 21 members out of the 26, was totally embarrassed by the judgment delivered by the Justice Okon Abang imposing Jimoh Ibrahim on the PDP in Ondo State as the governorship candidate.”
She stressed that historically, the state was politically sensitive, noting that the citizens are always conscious of their rights and would not allow any external force to chose or impose any candidate on them.
The lawmakers appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari not to allow democracy, which is the hope of the common man, to be trampled upon, saying that the protest embarked upon by the people of the state “was not orchestrated by any forces, but the real reaction of the people of Ondo State”.
APC Accuses Mimiko of Planning Crisis
However, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ondo State chapter has accused Governor Olusegun Mimiko of plotting to cause mayhem in the state.
The publicity secretary of APC in the state, Mr Abayomi Adesanya, made the allegation in a statement in Akure yesterday.
“We have been reliably informed of the intense mobilisation of thugs and militants, running into thousands, by the executive governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko,” Adesanya said.
He alleged that the governor intended to use the recruits to “protest and unleash terror on the good people of the state from Monday, October 31, in Akure, Ondo, Akoko areas and Owo, Ore and Okitipupa”.
He alleged that Mimiko on Saturday started disbursing money to mobilise militants and hoodlums from Delta and Edo States, as well as a faction of Oodua People’s Congress from Ekiti and Lagos States.
He appealed to Buhari to direct the security agencies to beef up security in and around Ondo State till the governorship election was concluded.
Adesanya said that the people of the state were desirous of peace, which should not be disrupted by the few self-seeking individuals for political gains.
Reacting to the allegation, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Eni Akinsola, described it as baseless. “This is a baseless allegation. In the last seven and a half years of Governor Olusegun Mimiko’s administration, we had no history of violence. The people of Ondo State are capable of defending themselves and protecting their territory.
“We have a history of defending our votes and we do not have a history of depending on external forces and this will not be the exception,” Akinsola said.
AD Blasts PDP
Meanwhile, the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Ondo State yesterday condemned the spate of protests in parts of the state, after the substitution of Jegede’s name with Ibrahim as the candidate of the PDP.
The party also accused the state governor of sponsoring some thugs to cause mayhem in the state in the name of protests.
It joined the APC by calling on Buhari to call the governor to order and direct him not to cause mayhem in the state.
The AD’s position was contained in a statement issued by the state secretary of the party, Dr. Sola Agboola.
Agboola said the governor should be held responsible for any breakdown of law and order in the state.
“PDP thugs and street urchins were hired to carry out the acts of brigandage and were blocking roads in Akure, the state capital, to sustain the lies,” he stated.
AD described the development as an irony, saying Mimiko who got into office via the instrumentality of the court was surreptitiously resorting to violence, even before an appellate court could redress the matter.
It posited that it amounted to deceit to resort to violence to seek justice.
Reacting, the publicity secretary of the PDP, Mr. Banji Okunomo, said the AD was being mischievous by making the allegation, saying it was the “people that reacted to the alleged meted to Jegede”.
“They were intimidated by the emergence of Jegede as the candidate of the PDP, that is why they want to do all things possible to stop him. We all know that this is a conspiracy against us.
“We did not sponsor anybody to protest, the people of the state came out spontaneously to protest against the injustice. Jegede is a threat to them and they would soon be put to shame,” he said.