Ondo Guber Poll: Why Stir the Hornet’s Nest? 

By Emmanuel Ajibulu
That is the question on the lips of political analysts, commentators, observers, and concerned citizens of Ondo State as preparations for the State’s governorship elections, billed for November 26, reach an anti-climax replete with absurdities
Ondo State governorship elections have always been contentious, acrimonious and controversial. The results have also always been keenly contested.This pattern started in 1983 when the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO), under Justice Victor Ovie-Whiskey controversially announced Chief Omoboriowo as the winner. Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin was the incumbent then, having served his first term from 1979.

 The announcement led to widespread and unprecedented riots, vandalisation of properties and killing of several people. The Ondo State post-election crises and the general economic and security situation in Nigeria precipitated the December 31, 1983 military putsch which saw the emergence of Gen Muhammadu Buhari as the Head of State.

On return to democratic rule in 1999, Chief Ade Adefarati won the election on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy. In 2003 when he re-contested for a second term, he lost to Dr. Olusegun Agagu of the PDP. Dr Agagu thought he had broken the jinx of “no second term” when he was declared the winner of the 2007 elections against Dr Mimiko who quit PDP to contest on the Labour Party platform, but the Appeal Court in Benin upturned his victory and restored the mandate to Dr Mimiko.

In 2012, Dr Mimiko won a re-election and became the first governor in Ondo State to run two terms. His tenure expires on 24th February, 2017, but the election to choose his successor must be held and concluded 90 days before the end of his tenure.

That is the setting for the November 26 election election. While previous controversies have mainly centred on post-election issues leading to recourse to judiciary, this is the first time that the judiciary is playing a critical role in having the final say in who contests on the platform of a political party. Justice Okon Abang has no doubt done a lot to stir up the complex and controversial issues that the Appeal and Supreme Courts are now grappling with.

Never in the history of Ondo State has there been so much tension, anxiety, and uncertainty with few days to the election. Between Justice Abang and INEC, the stage has been set for a dramatic and needless run-in to the governorship election. By inexplicably and controversially replacing Mr Eyitayo Jegede’s name with that of Jimoh Ibrahim at the last minute based on a spurious court order that has no basis in law or morality, INEC has set a dangerous precedence that is now threatening the peace of Ondo State.

Meanwhile, the good people of Ondo State irrespective of the side of the political divide got a shocker when the Abuja Division of the Appeal Court on Friday suspended all pending matters relating to the ongoing judicial battle for an Ondo State gubernatorial ticket, pending the determination of applications at the Supreme Court.

 Justice Ibrahim Salauwa who led a three-member panel of justices at the appellate court in his wisdom noted that the matter had been affected by ‘unfavourable motions’ from the applicants at the apex court; and the panel set up to address the crisis, under his leadership, would not want to further complicate the matter.

This pronouncement utterly truncated the plan of the Court to decide on the authentic candidate to represent the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Of course these latest shenanigans became activated on Friday when it was obvious Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) was close to getting justice, and ultimately to be pronounced as PDP standard bearer for the November 26 guber poll.

I hate to comment on this matter because it is subjudice; but for the price that we owe history it became necessary for me to share my perspective on it. It would be recalled that Ondo State PDP had its free and fair primary in Akure which produced a competent, affable and amiable individual, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) as its candidate.

 This exercise had full participation of all elected PDP political office holders from Ondo State including party’s stalwarts at Ward levels, LGAs, and State and at Federal levels. The exercise was equally witnessed and monitored by INEC officials and security personnel across board. All these are captured both in print and audio-visual form as indisputable evidences to authentic Jegede’s candidature.

Meanwhile Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim purportedly emerged candidate from the faction led by former Borno State governor, Ali Sheriff.  Subsequently, the Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Okon Abang on October 14 ordered INEC to recognise Mr. Ibrahim as PDP’s flag-bearer in the election. Mr. Abang’s decision was based on a previous judgment delivered by his Court on June 29, where a faction of the PDP led by Mr. Sheriff was recognised as the authentic camp of the PDP which cannot stand in Ondo State and deeply repelled by the people.

As a law abiding individual, Mr. Jegede approached the appellate court with a request that it sets aside the decision of the lower court. When the case was slated for hearing and determination on November 1, a factional chairman of the party from Mr. Sheriff’s camp, Prince Biyi Poroye, accused the former panel led by Jummai Sankey of corruption leading to the introduction of a new panel led by Mr. Salauwa.

Dissatisfied with the decision of the Appeal Court President, Zainab Bulkachuwa in setting up a new panel, Mr. Poroye’s lawyer Beluolisah Nwofor asked that the panel be dissolved.

 When the application was refused, he approached the Supreme Court to challenge the ruling of the appellate court and demanded that the Appeal Court stays proceeding pending his application at the apex court.
It clearly does not take a genius in this instance to know that counsels to Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim are simply playing on the technicality of the law and using delay tactics to subvert the will of the teeming voters who are on the side of Jegede as their preferred candidate.

For the umpteenth times we call on President Muhammadu Buhari, the leadership of National Assembly, National Judicial Council and other relevant stakeholders in our country to safe Ondo State from crises of monumental proportion which has the capacity to truncate our democracy if not quickly nipped in the bud.

What surprised the world and of course political pundits was INEC’S recognition of illegality, featuring the name of an individual who is not recognized by the party. This is preposterous, sad and totally unacceptable. We can no longer be hoodwinked or pretend that all is well; there is apprehension in Ondo State.

Given the way Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman behaves as “a less than objective umpire”, history may be repeating itself in Nigeria especially when push comes to shove. In other words, political pundits entertain fears that what happened in the 1964 general elections may be replicated.
That year, the then electoral commission, headed by Chief Eyo Esua, in concert with the dominant Nigerian National Alliance (the Northern People’s Congress, NPC, and others) engaged in massive disqualification, intimidation, probe and imprisonment of political opponents.
All these precipitated the crises that brought in the military in 1966. In the same vein, analysts argue that after the First Republic was destroyed by a faulty electoral process, the hope of survival of the Second Republic was dashed by another wonky electoral system.

It is deeply sad to observe that there are some politicians whose names are spontaneously recalled in our memories whenever crisis or corruption is mentioned. Whatever the activities of any politician, good or bad, would always be recalled in the memories of the people.

Whatever a politician does would stick on his personality like a leech. A wise politician would endear himself to his publics by staying away from controversies, shame, confusion, and illegality, vicious and treacherous tendencies.

However, this sheer injustice in Ondo State must be vehemently fought, rejected and condemned, definitely it cannot stand. Facts are however playing out every hour, we now know the enemies of the common man in our state and those who are desperate for power using the back door in spite of the fact that they have been rejected by Ondo State voting public.

On the part of INEC it has grossly displayed partisanship, bias and incompetence. Rigging election before it is conducted can never stand in ONDO STATE. The people have spoken; Eyitayo Jegede is their preferred choice who doubles as the candidate of PDP. Ondo State cannot be used as litmus test for electoral fraud and perversion of Justice.

 In the interest of peace INEC at a time like this needs to clear its name from the complicity of bias, partisanship and incompetence by postponing the Ondo governorship election at least by three weeks so as to allow the Supreme Court lay to rest all matters pertaining to this election. Shifting election date is not out of place; Edo State had its guber election postponed inspite of the fact that the atmosphere then was peaceful; Ondo State shouldn’t be an exception.

Emmanuel Ajibulu, a public affairs analyst from Akoko North-West Local Government of Ondo State, wrote via emmanuelajibulu@gmail.com