Commercial banks and shops were closed down yesterday in Ondo State following the declaration of Jimoh Ibrahim as the PDP candidate by INEC for the forthcoming gubernatorial election in the state.
Riots erupted across many parts of Ondo state as protesters trooped to the streets to protest the substitution of the name of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate, Mr Eyitayo Jegede SAN by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with that of Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim for next month’s governorship election in the state.
As early as 6.30am the rioters had barricaded all the roads leading to Akure, the state capital chanting war songs and paralysed both economic and social activities as commercial banks and shops were closed down.
Workers and students were turned back while commercial vehicle owners deserted the streets.
The protesters made burn fire on all the major roads in the state and resisted all attempts by the security agents to disperse them. In the midst of sporadic gunshots and tear-gas by the combined team of security agents the protesting youths remained undeterred.
Following the outbreak of riots in the state, Governor Olusegun Mimiko hurriedly left the state for the presidential villa to brief President Muhammadu Buhari saying what INEC had done was capable of setting the state on fire.
He vowed that everything possible would be done to make the commission reverse the decision, which he described as shocking.
It was gathered that similar protests were recorded in Ondo town, Ore in Odigbo local government area, Ilara, Idanre, Owo, Okitipupa, Isua Akoko, Ikare Akoko, Ipele and many other towns and villages in the state.
Some of the protesters also stormed the office of the INEC and were addressed by the Resident Electoral Commissioner, (REC) Olusegun Agbaje, who explained the reason behind the removal of Jegede as the PDP candidate.
Agbaje said “We received a court order from the High Court in Akure on Wednesday but there was a subsisting ruling by Justice Abang on Thursday and we had to comply with the order”
He however said that another court order can upturn the situation saying “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. We do not have any candidate but we will always abide by the laws guiding the process.”
As a result of the uprising, Mimiko on Friday morning quickly raced to the presidential villa to formally intimate President Buhari on the developments in the state, appealing to him to intervene in the matter at least to prevent the crisis from escalating.
According to the governor, it was shocking that INEC substituted Jegede with Ibrahim’s name on the final list of various parties’ candidates, saying it was an act of gross impunity.
He recalled that the election that threw up Ibrahim was conducted in Ibadan, Oyo state and was not supervised by the relevant bodies, wondering why Jegede whose election took place in Ondo with the presence of INEC and security agencies as monitors was set outside.
It will be recalled also that Ibrahim was a product of Ali Modu Sheriff factional leadership of the PDP while Jegede belonged to the Ahmed Markifi’s faction.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after his meeting with Buhari, Mimiko said the crisis in the state could assume a wider dimension if the situation was not reversed.
He said: “I am shocked. In logic, in law, in politics, there is no basis for it whatsoever. The Jimoh Ibrahim factor in all of this is predicated on a court order given by Justice Abang. Incidentally that court order is about zonal and state executives of PDP. That order is about 2009 election. Neither Jimoh Ibrahim nor Tayo jegede were parties to the suit.
“So, when that judgement suddenly came and the name of Jimoh Ibrahim was sent to INEC after a primary election which was conducted in Ibadan without INEC monitoring it, without security agencies, SSS or police observing it, INEC took the right decision initially by making it clear that it is not state or zonal executive that is empowered by the Electoral Act to conduct election and also that the Abang judgement on the basis of which they were putting pressure on INEC to accept Jimoh Ibrahim as a candidate was referring to 2009 election.
“There is nothing about 2016 election in that judgement. So, on the basis of this, INEC refused and discountenanced the name of Jimoh Ibrahim as a candidate. Then, they went ahead and filed form 48 and from the blues, the same Justice Abang mandated INEC to replace the name of Eyitayo Jegede who emerged through a primary process that was supervised by INEC, security agencies with all delegates that were supposed to participate. Justice Abang ordered that Jimoh Ibrahim should replace Eyitayo Jegede. Ordinarily, we should have disregarded the order because Jegede was not a party to the suit, neither was Jimoh Ibrahim. But we were also advised that it was very important for us to appeal so that if anybody is up to a mischief, we would have taken the plank off the person.
“Immediately we appealed, that notice of appeal especially when we had filed in our papers, submitted our briefs and got a date, should serve as a stay of execution.
“We don’t want to take chances because somebody in INEC told us that they obey the last order in the commission. Some went to court and obtained two different orders mandating INEC not to substitute Eyitayo Jegede. We served one on INEC around 10 am yesterday, and we served INEC with the other one at the close of business around 3 pm. But around 7 or 8 pm, we got to know that INEC for no justifiable reason had substituted the name of Jegede and replaced it with that of Ibrahim.
“The question to ask is on whose order has INEC done that? Apart from the fact that we have two restraining orders on INEC, INEC knows fully well that Jimoh Ibrahim’s primaries were held in Ibadan. There was no report by any security agency that the security situation in Ondo state warranted the movement of the primaries to Ibadan or anywhere outside the state for that matter.
“Under INEC guidelines, the time for substitution of candidates has even elapsed. This action potentially can cause a breach of peace. In Ondo state in the last seven and half years, we have done everything possible to put good governance on the table. We see this action as potentially dangerous. It can cause conflagration in the state and that is why as the chief security officer of the state, I have come to alert Mr President of the potential danger of this injustice so that we can nib it in the bud.”
Mimiko however stated that his intervention on the protest in the state had yielded result.
“The whole day from 5am, I have been on phone with stakeholders to ensure they keep the peace in the state. The extent of the protest you have seen has been reduced by our intervention to ensure that there is no breach of peace. For the people of the state, it is just from the blues. I have assured them that this injustice will not stay. We will continue to explore all avenues to make INEC see reasons why this impunity must not stand.
“If INEC finds it difficult to obey court order, a credible election starts with a process like this”.
Asked of the President’s response to his request, the governor said “Mr president has promised to look into it and that if there is any injustice, we should be rest assured that it will be rectified.”
In his own reaction to the uprising, the INEC recognised PDP governorship candidate in Ondo state, Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim said the burning of tyres allegedly orchestrated by Governor Mimiko was to give a false impression of security challenge in the state but that the trick would not work.
In a statement he issued yesterday, he said “yesterday, Mimiko called on the drivers’ union in the state, whose chairman is his relative, to gather disused tyres across the state and burn them so as to show that there are security challenges in Akure town. While the tyres were burning, school children were attending their classes, banks were opened, market women and traders were carrying on their economic activities, and courts were sitting”.
According to him, “regrettably, Mimiko’s orthodoxy has played out to be fake, empty and unbecoming of a person that occupies the position of the governor of a state. I am happy to note that Mimiko eventually met with President Muhammadu Buhari, a president that Governor Mimiko had described, in a meeting with the former President Goodluck Jonathan, as unfit to govern Nigeria and according to Governor Mimiko, the president does not have a school certificate. Regrettably, this tyre burning for sympathy will not work as Ondo State remains peaceful.
Meanwhile, Deji of Akureland Oba Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi yesterday appealed to rioters across the state to remain calm and be law abiding. In a statement last night, the Oba appealed to the protesters to allow the law take its full course
The monarch, in the statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Micheal Adeyeye said, “the Akure Deji-in council at an emergency meeting presided over by the Deji and paramount ruler of Akureland, Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade Aladelusi (Odundun II) today (yesterday) reviewed the list of gubernatorial candidates as released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the attendant effect of the substitution of the name of Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) with that of Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim as the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party in the 26th November gubernatorial election in ondo state.
Meantime, the Peoples Democratic Party has said that the confirmation of Jimoh Ibrahim as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party was shocking and surprising
In a statement yesterday, the spokesman of the party, Dayo Adeyeye said the commission monitored the Primary Election conducted in Akure, Ondo State by the Senator Ahmed Moham-med Makarfi led PDP which produced Hon. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, and did not monitor the purported primary election that produced Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim which was said to have held in Ibadan, the Oyo State Capital.
“INEC cited the Order from Justice Okon Abang of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court as the reason for publishing Barr. Ibrahim’s name as PDP Candidate but ignored another order from the Ondo State High Court, which is a Court of Coordinate jurisdiction that compelled INEC to maintain Hon. Eyitayo Jegede’s name as the candidate of the PDP. The least INEC could have done in the circumstance was to maintain status quo and stick to its own earlier decision pending a superior order or Judgment from a superior court. But that did not happen in this case.
“This singular decision of INEC has generated sporadic reactions from the electorates in Ondo state leading to violent protest and damages. This could have been avoided if INEC had adhered strictly to the letters and characters of the Electoral Laws and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We therefore warn that external forces should not sit in Abuja and set Ondo state ablaze. Whatever authority in Abuja, whether it’s the executive that is using the judiciary or vise versa, must realize that they cannot for selfish political reasons toy with the fate of millions of people in Ondo state. Who emerges governor of the state should be the decision of the electorates themselves through the ballot and not from any organ of the Federal Government in Abuja.
“It is a known facts that Ondo people are politically sophisticated and any attempt to truncate the will of the people will be resisted vehemently. References should be made to the 1965/66 and 1983 political violence in the west that brought about the collapse of the 1st and the 2nd Republic. We should therefore be careful not to repeat history.
“Finally, we call on the people of Ondo State to eschew violence and remain calm. We believe in the rule of law and the matter is already in the Appeal Court, and we are certain that the PDP shall get justice on this issue and Hon. Eyitayo Jegede will be returned to contest under the platform of our great Party” he said.
Also, the Chairman of the PDP in Ondo state, Chief Clement Faboyede has argued that “the event culminating in replacing Jegede is a crude hallmark and handiwork of some moles in PDP and some highly placed government officials of APC at the federal level”
He submitted that the moles within the PDP believed that removing Jegede from the race will pave way for easier manipulation of the election results in favour of the APC candidate He however said that Eyitayo Jegede remained the flagbearer of PDP saying “it is not the duty of any court to impose or dictate candidate for the party. It is a pre election matters and the Supreme Court which is the highest organ of judiciary in the land has said it severally that pre election is not a matter of the court.” He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to be father to all and should give room to a level playing ground for the nation’s democracy to survive and allow the wish of the people to prevail, noting that the people of the state voted for Buhari in the 2015 election despite being controlled by PDP government. He commended the protesters for not taking laws into their hands while he urged security agents not to use force to disperse peaceful protesters.
The rejected candidate, Eyitayo Jegede in his reaction expressed optimism that the Appeal Court would revalidate his mandate to fly the Flag of the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] in next month’s election. Jegede said attempts to substitute his name will not stand as justice would be done at the appeal court.
“I am aware of a recent litigation resulting in the announcement of another person as the governorship candidate of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party. However, I wish to assure our teeming supporters in Ondo State that necessary legal steps have been taken to seek justice. Already, the matter is before the Court of Appeal”
He thanked the people of the state for their support and steadfastness since the campaign activities began and their total commitment to his lofty programmes designed to take Ondo to greater heights. Jegede assured that he will not for any reason jettison the mandate freely given to him by generality of PDP members in the state.
Also reacting, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state has described the recognition of Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim as the PDP candidate for the November 26 governorship poll in Ondo State by INEC as dangerous to democracy. Arguing that what INEC did amounted to rigging the Ondo State governorship election in advance, Fayose accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) of turning the INEC into its department and willing tool that can be deployed at will to manipulate election. Fayose said recognising someone who did not emerge through any known electoral process signalled the end of democracy in the country.