Although the governorship election in Ondo State, South-West Nigeria has come and gone, the conduct of that election and preceding incidents raise vital issues that are of interest to all and sundry. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has been embroiled in a prolonged crisis that factionalised the party between the Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi groups. The factions which came from national level trickled down to the wards in Ondo State. As bad as the crisis at the national organ of the party, the political scenario at the Ondo State level of PDP had been tempestuous but only shielded from public glare. Reason was that the national problem became more noticeable. Governor OlusegunMimiko had been accused of being too high-handed in his decisions. One that stood out was his imposition of EyitayoJegede who hails from the same central senatorial zone with him as PDP’s candidate for the governorship election. Mimiko was said to have disallowed any level playing field in Ondo State. When the authentic candidature of the PDP became an issue, as the political party could not settle their issue in house, the gladiators took their case to the court room. That was how, on June 26, 2016, Justice OkonAbang of the Federal High Court, Abuja who has become controversial for his judgments and for which he has been upbraided in and out of the court room, ruled in favour of MrJimoh Ibrahim as PDP’s Ondo State governorship candidate. That verdict was set aside on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 by the Appeal Court Abuja, and paved the way for Jegede to run the election. Before then, each of the factions rigidly held on to its position. In fact, they still do even after the governorship election has been held. Being that on Friday, November 25, campaign ended, that left Jegede with only one day to campaign. Such a situation could not have augured well for PDP, and as event has since proved, it did not. By the time the crisis were resolved in the court rooms, MrEyitayoJegede, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, became the victim of PDP’s in-fighting. And as we all know, campaigning for election is usually a rigorous exercise. But it was not the fault of any person or group other than the PDP that has refused put its house in order. Such was the case that Chief OluwarotimiAkeredolu, also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and candidate of the All Progressive Congress, APC, was declared as governor-elect.
The conduct of that election has indeed thrown up many issues, some of which were known even before the election date. PDP’s EyitayoJegede was already disadvantaged before he ran the election. Section 34 of the Electoral Act prescribes that INEC should display the list of candidates at least 30 days before the election date. That was not the case with EyitayoJegede whose name was removed from the list since October 27, 2016 and replaced with that of his rival, Ibrahim Jimoh. Jegede’s name was re-listed only two days to the election, and had only one day to campaign. Also, INEC gave Jimoh Ibrahim when he was to have contested the election, long enough time to present his polling agents. Jegede did not enjoy such a right or privilege. The electoral body refused to make any adjustment that would have given him two weeks to present the list of his agents since he could not use the list submitted by Jimoh Ibrahim with whom he had been entangled in the political war of attrition. EyitayoJegede’s argument that since the sitting governor, DrOlusegunMimiko would be in the office till February 2017, there was still enough time between November 26, 2016 and February 2017 to conduct the election and the handover without disrupting the electoral calendar did not impress INEC. In fact, the electoral body insisted that a shift in election date could be necessitated only by violence, natural disaster or any other emergency, and maintained that the situation that led to the postponement of Edo governorship election was not the same as was canvassed for in Ondo State. INEC stressed that Jegede’s case was brought about by intra-party crisis whereas in Edo State, it was due to security matters. There have been many diverse legal and other informed opinions on the issue as are the people canvassing them. Even though the PDP and its candidate have not yet proceeded to the tribunal, from all indications, they are most likely going to spend some time doing legal battle to finally settle who will be the substantive governor of Ondo State. Indication to this came from the call by the Makarfi-led PDP’s instruction to Jegede to go to tribunal. How all these will play out, nobody knows. We do not know what to make out of Governor Mimiko’s position by going against his own faction of the PDP led by Alhaji Makarfi, to congratulate Chief Akeredolu as governorelect of Ondo State. For sure, the days ahead will unfold the drama.