We will start by first making reference to the letter written and signed by six leaders of the ruling party from Ekiti State to the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Interestingly, all the writers except Otunba Ben Oguntuase (who came along with Chief Segun Oni from PDP to APC) were original members of the defunct ACN and are also former members of the National Assembly.
Other signatories to the letter are Senator Tony Adeniyi, Senator Babafemi Ojudu (Special Adviser on Political Matters to the President), Hon. Dr Ife Arowosoge MHR, Hon. Oyetunde Ojo MHR and Hon. John Akintoye MHR.
ACN was the party in power in Ekiti State when Dr Kayode Fayemi was the governor between 2010 and 2014 while Chief Segun Oni had earlier governed the state between 2007 and 2010 under the platform of PDP. Both Chief Segun Oni and Dr Kayode Fayemi are foundation members of the ruling APC party and Chief Segun Oni was the first Deputy National Chairman of the party.
The writers of the letter alleged that the suspension of Chief Segun Oni, from APC, was master-minded by Governor Kayode Fayemi.
They also alleged that Fayemi demonstrated nepotism and clannishness when he was a minister and now as governor in both his federal and state appointments and that most of his cronies who he favoured with federal appointments have also been rewarded with state appointments.
They revealed efforts made by their groups to achieve success for APC in both the governorship and presidential, national and state Assembly elections in Ekiti State, insisting that without their cooperation, in spite of glaring marginalisation by Fayemi, the situation in Ekiti could have been similar to that of Imo, Ogun, Zamfara and River states where APC lost in all and some elective posts at the federal and state elections to the opposition PDP due to intraparty conflicts.
They, therefore, warned that unless the party at the national level wades in, the illegal suspension of Chief Segun Oni may be the beginning of a major crisis in the party.
Until the press release of Segun Dipe, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) (Public Communication) to the Governor, the activity of the Ifaki Ward II executive in suspending Chief Segun Oni was taken lightly, for according to Chief Segun Oni himself, the suspension was organised by some rascals who perhaps were seeking recognition and he wondered why he would be bothered by such action since the party has organs and that is not just a nobody in the party.
Nevertheless, now that the position of Ekiti State government on the matter has been made known by Mr. Segun Dipe, it is clear that there exists some serious war of attrition between Chief Segun Oni and Fayemi as exemplified by the suspension and if the lingering feud is not nipped in the bud, it may become a conflagration which could engulf the APC, damage the success recorded by the party and thus retard the state’s development and growth of APC in the state.
The government press release stated that what the Ifaki Ward II executive did was perfectly in order, quoting Article 21 A & 21B of the party’s constitution to justify the action of the ward executive. The government also felt that Chief Segun Oni, a former governor, former Deputy National Chairman of APC and the Asiwaju of Ifaki Ekiti could no longer be trusted.
“As conflicts escalated, trust between…political leaders crumble as surely as night follows day.”
The government boasted that it was not just only a government in power, but also a government in politics as well.
Dipe reacted to the allegation of nepotism and clannish disposition of Fayemi, saying it was an action that made him a better leader than Senator Babafemi Ojudu who failed to do the same for his own followers.
Our research, however, showed that there was a consensus list containing 50 names from Ekiti which was signed by Chief Jide Awe, the then State Chairman of the party, after all the governors and notable leaders had agreed on the common list. It, therefore, means that no one should expect Senator Ojudu to jettison the common list and draw a new one that would favour his supporters alone.
Supreme Court judgement vs eligibility suit of Segun Oni
As far as the Segun Oni group is concerned, the Supreme Court deliberately denied Segun Oni’s victory so as to retain Governor Fayemi as governor. According to the group, there’s nothing to celebrate in a judgment that was never based on merit. They said the Supreme Court merely wanted to allow the status quo to remain in Ekiti and so, the justices abdicated their responsibility to lay down the law as it’s ought to be, but rather went on an embarrassing voyage, searching for technicality to strike out the case by resulting into retrospective application of a law that came into effect on June 7, 2018 which is 25 days after the course of event (of 12 May 2018) that took place. They said since the judgment was never on merit, it ought not to have made anybody become swollen-headed and over joyous to the extent of suspending Segun Oni who they regard as the pillar of the party.
Still on why the Segun Oni group disagrees with the judgment of the Supreme Court, they said that after written addresses were adopted by all parties on the April 2, 2019, and the matter was adjourned for judgment on the April 18, 2019, at the Supreme Court, on April 3, 2019, two weeks to the judgment day, several publications had flooded the social and print media that the Supreme Court had already delivered judgment in favour of Fayemi.
On April 5, Chief Tony Adeniyi, the counsel to Chief Segun Oni, confessed to what was happening and what might happen on the judgment day as a result of these publications, decided to confront Fayemi via a letter to his counsel, Chief Rafiu Balogun, urging him to warn those who were already broadcasting judgment to stop the mischief and to also stop sending wrong signals to the public.
They said that the fear entertained by the camp of Segun Oni then was quite founded and genuine in the sense that in the previous judgments of the High and Appeal courts, extracts from the judgments were published on social media before the judgments were delivered and whatever was published happened to be the outcome of the judgments.
That these factual observations were clearly expressed in the Chief Tony Adeniyi’s letter to which Chief Balogun gave a reply on April 8, denying knowledge of such publications until his attention was drawn to them by Adeniyi’s letter.
Article 2 of APC guidelines states that a public officer planning to contest election should resign his appointment 30 days before the primary election. The intendment of that law is to achieve a level-playing field for all contestants so that no one would use the instrument of government to gain undue advantage over other contestants.
The Segun Oni group said that the use of ministerial power, even though not challenged, was very glaring during the primary election as it led to the disruption and cancellation of the first primary election on May 5, 2018, and also the madness of vote buying and the evacuation of delegates from Ekiti to Ondo state by the minister to prevent access to them by other contestants was obvious during the rescheduled primary election of May12, 2018.
The group believes that the Supreme Court did not address the pertinent questions before it which are:
(1) Whether a minister of government in Nigeria is a public officer who is mandated by the APC party guidelines to resign his appointment 30 days before the gubernatorial primary election of the party
2) Whether a person indicted by a judicial panel of enquiry which report had been accepted by government… without challenging such indictment in court before the primary election can participate in the election in defiance of the party guidelines.
They insist that the Supreme Court, instead of answering these questions by deciding the matter on merit so as to strengthen the country’s fledgling democracy resulted, in its wisdom, to strike out the case on technical grounds by relying on the fourth alteration to Section 295 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which has its commencement date on June 7, 2018, and which provides that pre-election matter should be filed in court within 14 days after primary election.
The governorship primary election in Ekiti State took place on May 12, 2018, which is the date for the cause of event and 14 days after that date falls on May 26 and the law applied by Supreme Court became effective on June 7, 2019.
The group regards the Supreme Court judgment as a bad omen for the judiciary and the democratic politics in Nigeria as nobody needed to be a lawyer for him/her to understand that it’s against natural justice to apply a law to an event which occurred when that law was not in existence.
In this matter, the Federal High Court had earlier decided that a minister is not a public officer.
The Appeal Court, on the other hand, disagreed with the trial court and affirmed that a minister is a public officer but not earning wages and salary and so, he needed not resign from his job 30 days before the primary election as stipulated by the APC’s guidelines.
The Supreme Court on its own part decided to keep quiet on all of this and struck out the Appeal.
This piece which will be concluded in a second part, is the views of the Ekiti Political Research Group (EPRG).