By Olamilekan Akindoju
FOR the past few months, my dear state, Ondo has been in the news. This is understandable given the fact that the governorship election is around the corner. Governor Olusegun Mimiko is rounding up his second term and it is time for another occupant at the Government House, Alagbaka.
The race for who takes over from Mimiko and personal grudge dressed as common interest have all combined to threaten the peace of our state known for its political combustible nature.
Events of the last weeks point in one direction. That there is a grand conspiracy behind the Ondo palaver and the conspiracy is spearheaded by a Southwest governor and two former Southwest governors currently serving in the Presidency. They are working with another minister from the North. Also, one thing is clear and that is the fact that their treacherous moves will not augur well for the state. These former governors and ministers reportedly facing serious allegations are the arrowheads of this move. As ungrateful elements, their motive is to work against Yoruba interest in Ondo by making sure that the entire Southwest is taken away from the real progressives led by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and to deliver it to the Hausa/Fulani expansionist agenda being promoted in Abuja.
The two ex-governors and the serving governor of a state of a former president recruited the minister into giving the Presidency jaundiced legal opinion, which, in their warped view, will erroneously cut Asiwaju Tinubu to size. But, I believe it will soon be clear to them that they have gotten their calculations wrong.
The Presidency is also better advised to tread carefully and read between the lines in its handling of the Ondo debacle. Any shoddy handling of the matter will not augur well for the people and the state. The country will also feel the impact.
The trouble all started with the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries, which saw Mr Rotimi Akeredolu being declared winner to the consternation of some other aspirants who genuinely believed till this day that the delegates’ list was padded to achieve a pre-determined outcome. One of them, Mr Segun Abraham, who came second, is still in court trying to get justice. Abraham, through an ex -parte motion, is urging the court to declare the process that produced Akeredolu as governorship candidate of APC illegal. This, he said, was on the grounds that it did not conform to the constitution of the party and guidelines set by the party for the primaries.
Abraham’s lawyer, Dr Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), said the defence team is employing delay tactics in the matter because apparently its case has no substance. He urged the court to dispense with the matter before the election so that Abraham would not be permanently shut out of the race.
But the most disturbing development in the state centres on who should truly be the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Two party primaries were held for this purpose. One in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. The other in Akure, the Ondo State capital. The Ibadan primaries produced. Mr Jimoh Ibrahim. This primary was not monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as provided for by the law. Senator Ali Modu Sheriff chairs the national leadership of the faction of the party which held the primaries in Ibadan. The primaries, as we found out, were not without rancor.
In Akure, the Ahmed Makarfi faction of the PDP, which Mimiko also belongs, held the primaries in which Mr Eyitayo Jegede, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), defeated Mr Saka Lawal, who was the running mate of the party in the previous governorship election. This election was monitored by INEC as provided by the law and till date, no delegate or aspirant has come out to complain about the process.
Ordinarily, it should be an easy matter. But for reasons INEC has not fully explained, it has turned the law on its head by replacing Jegede’s name with Ibrahim as the party’s candidate for the November 26 poll. This was a few days after Ibrahim accused the commission of receiving a $1m bribe. The commission defended itself against the allegation and no one saw it coming that it was going to dance to Ibrahaim’s tune. I am baffled that the commission has gone this way and I am beginning to wonder if this is the hand of Jacob and the voice of Esau. Or how else does one explain this madness? What further shows to me that something is fishy is the fact that the Edo PDP had the same issue as Ondo PDP. But INEC never announced the other claimant to the ticket as the authentic candidate. It stuck by Mr. Ize-Iyamu whose name was submitted by the Makarfi faction. So, why is Ondo’s case different? It could only be that we are not being told the whole truth. I have been told that this may not be unconnected with the erroneous belief that Tinubu has entered into an alliance with Mimiko for Jegede to be governor since his preferred candidate, Abraham could not make it.
There have been allegations here and there that the governing APC at the centre is intent on winning the race. I have also heard that ministers in the current government are the foot soldiers of this scheme to destabilize the southwest and they are all out to see it through, not minding whose ox is gored. I believe there is a link between this quest to get the state in its kitty and the confusion being experienced in the PDP because of the erroneous belief that Tinubu is working underground for this party. But those clipping the wings of democracy in their blind fight against Tinubu need be reminded that Ondo is not like any other state in the country. There is something different about it. If the election holds and it does not reflect the wish of the people, they will certainly take to the streets and will not care what happens afterwards.
The Federal Government, INEC and the judiciary should not allow the unrest experienced in the state, especially in Akure, the state capital, in 1983, to repeat itself. Democracy was raped at the time and the people violently reacted. The current President Mohammadu Buhari was the beneficiary of the aftermath of the political skirmishes. This is why one is calling that amendments must be done on time to avert a repeat of history. Many people are certainly not happy about the substitution of Jegede with Ibrahim as the PDP governorship candidate for the November 26, poll. It is a rape of democracy.
Akindoju writes from Akure.
Ibrahim’s candidature is a way of laying a booby trap foundation where anybody can travel abroad, conduct primaries and go straight to the court to get judgment without following the rules of such party. The government and the judiciary must not disrupt the peace we in Ondo have been enjoying in the last seven and a half years. Please, we don’t want our peace to be truncated. A society without justice can never have peace. Justice and peace go hand in hand. Once injustice is banished, there will be no crisis in the land. And peace will take its due position.
I am glad that the Court of Appeal is hearing the matter. Given the fact that many people have lost confidence in the judiciary, this is a time for the justices of this court to prove that the judiciary can still be seen as the last hope of the common man. The matter is simply enough and should not be knotty for their Lordships to decipher. This is no time to deploy archaic legal technicalities to make a simple matter confusing.
The APC promised us change; it promised us fairness; it promised us the rule of law; it promised us justice. This is the time to demonstrate that. We have no problem with the party winning the election. What we abhor is winning through any form of underhand dealing. Knocking off a major contender is certainly not in line with all the promises the APC made to us.
Democracy is all about the people and the people should be allowed to have the final say and not electorally empty southwest beneficiaries of the system now junketing the political space as shameless conspirators. That is the only way we can grow in Ondo state and in Nigeria in general.
Akindoju writes from Akure.