The pillars of smokes that flared from burning tyres on major streets of Akure last week bring back to memories of the post-election violence that ravaged the state in 1983. 33 years later, the state governor, Olusegun Mimiko has rushed to President Muhammadu Buhari to tell him the danger he believes the latest decision taken by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will pose to the stability of the state if allowed to stand.
The struggle for the man who succeeds Mimiko as the state governor is getting intense by the day. The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja will now decide the substantive flag bearer of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) for the November 26 governorship election. Whatever the outcome of the appeal, it is capable of deciding who wins the election.
What you might have missed about the ‘wrestle’ between two PDP flag bearers for the #OndoDecides
The national leadership tussle of the PDP also played out in the nomination of the party’s candidate for the Ondo state election. Two primary elections of the party were held in August. Eyitayo Jegede emerged the winner of the Ahmed Markafi-led PDP while Jimoh Ibrahim was announced the winner of the primary coordinated by the Ali Modu Sheriff faction.
INEC had resolved to recognize Jegede as the bonafide PDP flag bearer since it monitored the primary election that produced him. However, the electoral body changed its position last week. INEC said its new stance was triggered by a ruling handed down by Justice Abang Okon of the Federal High Court, Abuja, ordering the electoral body to replace Jegede’s name with Ibrahim’s.
As it stands, “The situation will continue that way until the matter is decided by the Supreme Court if the parties choose to proceed to the apex court,” said Ondo state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Olusegun Agbaje.
Eyitayo Jegede, the PDP, and sympathizers have reportedly filed four different suits before the Court of Appeal challenging the ruling of the Okon-led Federal High Court, all in a bid to restore Jegede’s name as the authentic PDP candidate on INEC’s list.
Considering the peculiarity of the suits, the three-man panel of the appellate court led by Justice Jumai Sankey has fixed November 1 to 3 for the hearing of the various appeals and supporting motions on the matter.
The eventual judgement at the Court of Appeal will either validate Jimoh Ibrahim’s candidacy or restore that of Eyitayo Jegede. In any of those ways, the political tussle may still be far from over; the parties involved will be left with the option of approaching the Supreme Court to seek redress if any them is not satisfied.
In spite of the opportunity to progress to the Supreme Court, there are insinuations that what may play out at the country’s apex court, after all, may not be different from what will be decided by the Court of Appeal now. This has made all parties involved to see this stage of the case as very important, strategic and crucial to their chances.
Olusola Oke may be the biggest beneficiary of a Jimoh Ibrahim win in court
If Jimoh Ibrahim scales all the ‘court hurdles’ ahead and remains the INEC-recognized PDP gubernatorial candidate, a massive shift of political allegiance is very possible. The billionaire businessman and governorship hopeful has very little support and popularity in the state wing of the PDP, which is largely controlled by the outgoing governor.
Speaking to Ventures Africa, a member of the PDP in Ondo state and the Secretary of Orange Youth Network, Fagbemigun Israel insisted that Eyitayo Jegede is the choice of the party. When asked if party members in the state will be willing to support Jimoh Ibrahim if the Court of Appeal eventually rules in his favour, Israel said “No we won’t, because he lacks the integrity and goodwill. However, we know it won’t go his way unless we want to rewrite the entire electoral law of the country.”
A win for Jimoh Ibrahim will be a very big blow to Mimiko and Jegede’s camp. This could make many PDP supporters in the state and objective followers of political events decide differently on whom to vote for later in the month.
Despite being one of Nigeria’s most successful and popular businessmen, Jimoh Ibrahim has not done enough to carve out a substantial political niche for himself to the extent that he will be regarded as a force to reckon with. Without the support of Governor Mimiko and members of the state PDP, he only has little chance of coasting to victory.
Olusola Oke of the Action for Democracy (AD) looks the most favourable of other aspirants to be considered by PDP supporters in the state if the Jegede project fails. Oke is a grassroots politician who seems to understand the state’s political landscape better.
He has been in the PDP, the APC and now the AD. Oke decamped from the APC to the AD after he emerged the second runner up in the controversial APC governorship primary election which produced Rotimi Akeredolu as the APC candidate. He would be seen as a preferred choice to Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in a PDP-controlled Ondo state.
Oke comes from a loosely contested southern district of the state, unlike Rotimi Akeredolu who is from a keenly contested northern district of the state. In the last decade, PDP’s grip of the southern areas of the state has been steadfast and this could prove a point for Oke this time again, at the expense of Akeredolu’s consideration.
In the 2012 gubernatorial election in the state, Oke came second, after Olusegun Mimiko who won the poll. Apparently, Olusola Oke has more political experience and better antecedents compared to Akeredolu and Jimoh Ibrahim. A governorship election without Mimiko’s Eyitayo Jegede will be more of a blessing to Olusola Oke than any of the other candidates.
On the other hand, a victory for Eyitayo Jegede at the court will be a great relief to the Ondo state PDP. In fact, it could serve as leverage for Jegede’s campaign and election in the November 26 poll.