Ondo and INEC’s Magic 

The decision by the Independent National Electoral Commission to list Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim and not Eyitayo Jegede as the Peoples Democratic Party in Ondo State is generally believed to smack of mischief and that there could be more to it than meets the eye, writes Shola Oyeyipo of  ThisDay Newspaper

 
The late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s “Government Magic” song is an ever green that exposes the sometimes illusion of democratic governance and the hypocrisy of an evolving modern world with its growing penchants for metaphysics. That once government is determined to achieve anything, usually, it does not holistically analyse the consequences, but goes ahead to execute it, often leaving in its trail, a ‘basket of deplorables’ – borrowing the coinage of the US Democratic Candidate in the November 8 presidential election, Hillary Clinton.
In today’s government of President Muhammadu Buhari, the fond use of the word “technical” appears more notorious than any other time in the artery of contemporary political history. Why so? Its capacity to provide ‘technical shield’ in times of crisis!
If the APC government is not technically gaining victory over the Boko Haram sect, the economy is technically in recession. It would not be out of place, therefore, to assume that the technicality of the party and government’s reasoning require some reawakening in the political consciousness of the country. 
A few days ago, the federal government said the 2016 budget had “fully performed to date in terms of personnel.” Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, affirmed this because according to her, the government does not owe salaries at the federal level. What a pointless self-adulation! Who measures budget performance on the basis of salary payment? It is just another ‘technical’ allusion to the crass failure of the present government.
Whilst this is not the crux of this very intervention, it is pertinent to acknowledge that, technically, the crisis in the APC in Ondo State over the choice of its candidate ahead of the governorship election billed to hold in November might have subsided a bit. It does not mean that the aftermath of the outcome of the party’s primary would still not take its toll, at least, the choice of Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu as its candidate is no longer in contention – it is a settled matter as far as INEC, the umpire with its confusionist tendency, is concerned. 
Unfortunately, the ruling party in the state – the PDP – is far from crossing this all important bridge. Not because the party has not done the necessary and seen to have done so in the face of the law, but because the Nigerian factor appears to have suddenly set in, aided by the habitually inconsistent judiciary, which seems to enjoy throwing the polity into needless and palpably avoidable disorientation with its incongruous injunctions, rulings and or judgments as it pleases. 
Even more unfortunate is the fact that the crisis responsible for the Ondo PDP debacle stemmed from above. The seemingly intractable crisis plaguing its national leadership may have come at a very bad time for the Ondo wing, and it is paying dearly for it, unable to focus on a crucial election, just weeks away. 
The release of the list of candidates for the election by INEC last week sent some shock waves down the spine of both the observers and the active players on the Ondo horizon. The electoral body, acting as if an interested party with stakes, had listed Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim of the Ali Modu Sheriff faction of the PDP, as the candidate of the party recognised for the election.
Before INEC performed this magic the way it did in Edo State two days to the governorship election and in which it feigned ignorance – thanks to security conspiracy – Mr. Eyitayo Jegede of the main faction of the PDP and the candidate of Governor Olusegun Mimiko was indisputably the standard bearer of the party, having emerged from an exercise adjudged as ideal and observed by INEC itself while the latter choice was a product of another arrangement in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
As if consciously playing a script to destabilise the polity and further expose its failings, the INEC, always hiding behind funny court rulings and injunctions to feign obedience to the rule of law, recognised Ibrahim and had since thrown the state into needless crisis, following protests that greeted the decision. But first, an understanding of the journey to this obnoxious juncture is imperative.
 
The Crisis in Perspective
Political parties all over the world are prone to internal wrangling and this is because interests differ. But what is important is that political leaders are able to prevent actions that are capable of instigating self-destruct by ensuring that people disagree to agree.
In the former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the leadership crisis since the days of Audu Ogbeh, Vincent Ogbulafor, Bamanga Tukur, when they were forced out of office as national chairmen is still on and it appears determined to ultimately destroy the PDP.
The party has been enmeshed in crisis over her national chairmanship between Senators Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi and the inability of stakeholders within the party to put the situation under check may have begun to rub off on the party in Ondo State and parts of the country.
As battle over the national chairmanship of the PDP raged, on ‎Saturday, May 21, the party dissolved its National Executive Committee (NEC) at a national convention in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital and approved a seven-man national caretaker committee headed by former Kaduna State governor, Ahmed Makarfi with Senator Ben Obi as the secretary.
But the Port Harcourt convention was in progress, while another convention was going on in Abuja by the Sheriff group,‎ and though party elders recognised the Port Harcourt convention, the unresolved fault lines are conspicuously setting the party ‎members against themselves at the state levels, especially where there are scores to settle.
Thus, the factionalisation of the party is reflective at all levels and Ondo easily became another battlefield for the gladiators in the opposition party hence the current confusion over the governorship candidate in the Sunshine state, where the party is considered strong as a result of the leadership and successes story of the outgoing Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
While the Makarfi faction of the party led by Governor Mimiko elected a former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of the state, Mr. Jegede, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) as the PDP candidate at a primary election supervised by INEC officials in Akure, the state capital, the faction loyal to Sheriff held its governorship primary election in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital‎, where Mr. Ibrahim‎, lawyer and businessman, also emerged candidate of the party.
Factional chairman of the party, Biyi Poroye, a former state chairman of the party, Ebenezer Alabi‎ and the Director of Media and Publicity of the faction, Mr Yemi Akintomide all attributed their decision to take the Ibrahim primary to Ibadan to the issue of the division at the national level of the party and the attendant legal impediment.
There ‎was an order by an Ondo State High Court sitting in Akure restraining the Sheriff group from holding any parallel activity in the state. Alabi reportedly confirmed that the relocation to Ibadan was to prevent possible attack from the other camp, given the recent political activities in the faction and the order restraining them from holding any parallel activity in the state.
The Sheriff faction also believed that the Ondo State Chief Judge, Justice Olasehinde Kumuyi, granted the injunction on the order of Mimiko.‎ The more reason they opted to go outside the state to pursue their agenda. At the end of the day, the PDP threw up Jegede and Ibrahim and there have been lots of issues over who is the authentic standard bearer of the party among the two.
The development however assumed a disturbing twist last Thursday when INEC listed Ibrahim, candidate of the Sheriff-led faction as the party’s standard bearer for the November 26, 2016 governorship election in the state. The electoral body said it substituted Jegede for Ibrahim in obedience to an order of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
According to a letter signed by the Secretary of the Commission, Mrs. Augusta Ogakwu, Ibrahim’s‎ running mate is Alabi Ebenezer Omotayo.
The letter, titled: ‘Forwarding of Final List of Candidates for 2016 Ondo State Governorship Election’ addressed to the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Ondo State, read: “Please find forwarded the final list of candidates for the Ondo State gubernatorial election for publication in accordance with the provisions of Section 34 of the Electoral Act 2010, as Amended”
INEC maintained that Ibrahim was recognised as the PDP candidate because of the court order, though the commission had earlier recognised Jegede, as the candidate. The recognition of Ibrahim has however led to serious tension and protest in the Mimiko camp and it is obvious that the last is yet to be heard of the power play as the Court of Appeal had since reserved ruling in all PDP matters for this week.
As preparation for the election enters top gear, observers are fast learning to get acquainted to reasons the Ondo PDP has continued to condemn the parallel governorship primary that produced Ibrahim. Some of the issues stated by the state PDP Publicity Secretary, Hon. Banji Okunomo‎ included the fact that the conduct of the Ibadan primary was illegal as well as its composition. 
“Everything from head to toe about the so-called primary is illegal in the sense that you cannot manufacture the constitution of the party overnight. The 2012 constitution of the PDP as amended has established who and who are the delegates of the party and you cannot fabricate another thing.
“None of our automatic delegates in Ondo State is party to the kangaroo primary. You can see, and I was reliably informed that many of the people who participated in the kangaroo election were hand-picked thugs, hoodlums from different parks in Ibadan, not from Ondo State. No single delegate from Ondo State participated.
“According to the constitution of the PDP, the governor is a delegate, the deputy governor is a delegate, National Assembly members, Speaker, Ondo State House Assembly and all the assembly members on the platform of the PDP are delegates. But all these leaders including the State Working Committee and the state executive members of the PDP did not participate in that kangaroo primary.
“So, where did they get the delegates? Now, the three ad hoc delegates from each Ward can only emerge from the duly, legally and indisputably constituted Ward EXCO of the party. But their so-called delegates were just handpicked from nowhere. In fact, many of them were not even from Ondo State from what we could see from the picture displayed. You cannot just go to motor parks, pick people and say you have conducted primary election of the PDP.
“Other reason you will know that it is illegal is that why did they go to Ibadan? They have been restrained by the court of law here in Ondo State from conducting it. Another court on Monday morning also restrained them from conducting it outside Ondo State. This is an affair of Ondo state,” he said.
Bothered about the development and the overall implication on the state, Mimiko, last Friday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in what is happening in his state before it snowballs into a major crisis. He held a closed-door meeting with the president Buhari, and said his visit to the president was to avert possible break down of law and order in the state.
The governor said: “This sort of 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 of INEC 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 the president of the potential danger of this injustice so that we can nip it in the bud,” he said.
Characteristic of his Ekiti State counterpart, Governor Ayodele Fayose, he considered the INEC decision to recognise Ibrahim as a form of “advance rigging” by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government.
“The APC has decided to rig the Ondo State election even before it is conducted and this is sad commentary for our democratic process that was near perfection before the advent of this APC government. The decision taken by the Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC), recognising someone, who did not emerge through any known electoral process as the candidate of the PDP, is APC-led federal government rigging the election in advance.
“The question to ask INEC is: having accepted the candidate presented by the Makarfi-led PDP National Caretaker Committee for the Edo State election, relying on the judgment of the Federal High Court, Port-Harcourt, despite the Abuja Federal High Court order at that time, what has changed? Obviously, it is either INEC is playing double standard or has descended into the arena.
“With the development in Ondo gubernatorial election and the decision of INEC, it is clear that INEC is a department in APC-led federal government. By this development also, I am vindicated that other political parties and stakeholders are now contesting election against INEC, which has adopted new strategy to procure undue victory for the APC and it appears that the agenda to turn Nigeria to a one-party state is daily being ruthlessly pursued by these elements, not minding if democracy and our country are destroyed.
“With the desperation of the APC cabal and its INEC collaborators, Nigeria and Nigerians face hopelessness,” Fayose stated.
‎At this moment in the Sunshine state, temperature is high on both sides. Those who speak for and against the INEC decision are waiting earnestly for a final word from the court on the delicate political situation.
What Does Ibrahim Want?
There are mixed feelings over Ibrahim’s perceived misadventure in Ondo. The development is believed to have exposed his true colour and also put to question, his intention about the state and its people. A number of issues, observers believed, might have exposed Ibrahim as one deliberately seeking to cause disaffection in the state, the more reason his claim to the PDP gubernatorial ticket elicits curiosity.
Sometime in June this year, Ibrahim allegedly granted an interview to an Akure based news magazine, where he was quoted as saying he had left the PDP for Accord Party. Not only that, he allegedly went further to give reasons for his action. The information was earlier received by members of the PDP with jubilation, but were taken aback when he resurfaced to exploit the disagreement at the National level of the PDP to lay claim to a ticket that was no longer in contention.
But two weeks after the publication, he raced to appropriate to himself, a Federal High Court verdict in favour of the Ali Modu Sheriff faction of the PDP in the South-west accompanied by Poroye, an ally of his that had sued the leadership of the PDP over claims as to which faction should field candidates for the 2019 elections.
Soon, Jimoh who had spat on the PDP ran back without eve re-registering and claimed he was a governorship contestant on the platform of the party – an Accord Party member contesting on the platform of PDP.
Poroye, who is now suddenly Ibrahim’s man, got yet a judgment from the court in which his prayers for the recognition of his faction to field candidates for the 2019 elections sailed through. Ibrahim, typically, latched in on the opportunity to declare himself the governorship candidate of the PDP in Ondo State. But coming with this is a plethora of mistakes.
Ibrahim had wanted to take advantage of a ruling by Justice E. O. Abang of a Federal High Court, Abuja to the effect that the feuding faction of the PDP supporting Ali Modu Sherif in South-west had the nod of the court to nominate candidates for 2019 general election.
Unaware of this part of the ruling with emphasis on 2019 elections,  Ibrahim aligned  with  the Sherif faction in the state and   went ahead to organise a primary election for himself outside the state without the presence of the agencies required by law, even when one of those who “contested” the primary with him raised the alarm over what he described as a 21st century sham.
  
It is therefore surprising that in spite of the allegations of bribery and alleged  meeting with  the Ondo REC in the United Kingdom, INEC still went ahead to list Ibrahim.
Although commentary on the development is expected to be measured given that the matter is now in court and indeed, the Appeal Court is expected to deliver judgment on all the PDP cases sometime this week. However, INEC cannot continue to stoke needless fire on the polity on the grounds of obeying court orders. It is bad enough that its resolve to obey court orders is now selective because it does so when it suits it.
It is commonplace that the present leadership of INEC is daily turning out the biggest disappointment of this administration. Not only is the question of capacity an unanswered puzzle, administration too is utterly poor and yet, this is the vehicle Nigeria thinks would take her to destination 2019. From Edo to Ondo, INEC’s unentertaining magic is worrisome and spells doom if not cultured. A commission that cannot defend its own standards let alone see the fault in others is better off in the dustbin of history.
Thus, as the nation awaits the Appeal Court ruling on the Ondo debacle, whatever it comes up with would still not holistically address the challenge of capacity which is evidently the problem with INEC. The commission as presently constituted is not only dependent – it is timid, dishonest, unpatriotic and lacks the capacity to enforce standards, regardless of whose ox is gored.

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