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Ondo PDP crisis and shivers from the ghost of 1983

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Eyitayo Jegede

Eyitayo Jegede

• Chaos looms, warns Markarfi faction
•Fear of violence orchestrated, says Sheriff’s faction

Uncertainty reigns supreme in the embattled main opposition party in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its preparations for the Ondo State governorship election holding November 26.

The fear is palpable that the recent substitution of Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) with Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) might renact the crisis that engulfed the state over supremacy for the seat of government between the late Pa Michael Ajasin and Akin Omoboriowo in 1983.

The memories of the attendant violence that claimed several lives and property in the state are still fresh in the memory of people while some of the scars and relics of the destruction are quite visible till date.

Besides a possible breakdown of law and order PDP has to contend with winning the election which going by current happenings is bleak.

Members of the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction that produced Jegede as its candidate have alerted that catastrophe awaited the party in the election coupled with a looming chaos if INEC did not rescind its decision.

But the Ali Modu Sheriff faction disagreed insisting that it was the best thing to have happened to the state as Ibrahim, their candidate was well positioned to rescue the people. They argued that the fear of anarchy and violence was orchestrated.

The state government in particular made some frantic efforts to ensure that there was no conflagration over the matter with the governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko dashing to Abuja to consult with President Muhammedu Buhari.

Mimiko, regarded as the most hit by the substitution as Jegede was seen as his ‘anointed one,’ said that the situation was a precarious one that should be addressed quickly and decisively in the interest of justice.

According to the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, the state government was exploring all means to pacify the people over what it described “the conflicting pronouncements emanating from the courts and INEC on the gubernatorial candidates,” saying it was a storm in a teacup that would soon be over.

He urged the people to keep calm and refrain from resorting to self-help, assuring them that steps are being taken to ensure that there is no miscarriage of justice as the will of the people shall be respected.

Akinmade disclosed that the state had to spring into action because of several groups had warned against the 1983 pogrom in the state, and cautioned that life and property should not be destroyed because any untoward reaction at this moment would only heat up the body polity.

“Human blood is too precious to be sacrificed on the altar of politics and politicking, we caution against any form of violence. The peace and tranquility which the state has enjoyed in the last seven and half years should not be truncated,” he said.

Former Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Olabode George and former Minister of Transportation, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, who were both members of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), chided INEC for the sudden u-turn and decision on the choice of the party’s candidate.

In a separate conversation with The Guardian yesterday, the duo decried INEC’s last minute decision to drop Jegede for Ibrahim.

George said, “The decision is perhaps one of the most unsavory and disturbing interventions in our political space since the dawn of democracy. The decision was not only wrong; it was an inexcusable assault upon justice, fairness and morality.”

According to him, “By all measures of equity and appropriateness, Ibrahim cannot claim to be the bonafide candidate of our party in Ondo State. Even Ibrahim’s card-carrying membership in PDP is still a subject of debate. Ibrahim went to an hotel room in Oyo State and declared himself a candidate of an election that will decide who will govern Ondo State! What a travesty of rationality!

Wondering why the applecart should be upset now, the former deputy national chairman said, “Ondo State had been peaceful, calm, without any hitches. Campaign had been going on without rancor. The Justice Okon Abang ruling, which had forced the hands of INEC has now created tension and deep-seated uncertainties everywhere.

He added that though the case is before the appellate court “the body language of our president is equally important in ensuring the preservation of our democratic tenets. Justice must not only be done in this case, it must be carried out swiftly and smoothly to convince our people that truth and fairness are the most crucial ingredients of democracy.

“We cannot stand by and be indifferent when injustice is being committed. Someday some character may go to Cotonou and declare himself President of Nigeria! Is that not an absurdity? That is exactly the danger we face now if the present madness is allowed to endure.”

He however appealed to Governor Mimiko and the citizens of Ondo to keep the peace and maintain civility even in the face of the unbridled provocation “I know that this injustice will not endure. This darkness will pass. Justice, truth and common sense will eventually triumph over arbitrariness and the brazen attempt to steal the people’s mandate,” he said.

Babatope in his comment accused the ruling APC, President Buhari and INEC of collaborating with Sheriff’s faction to prepare the ground to rig the Ondo election in favour of APC governorship candidate, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu.

His words: “It is obvious that APC knew its candidate cannot win the Ondo election. The party is therefore doing everything humanly necessary to rig the election otherwise the sudden decision of INEC to drop the name of a candidate that emerged from a primary it monitored for a stranger was curious and questionable.”

But the spokesman for the Sheriff’s faction, Mr. Bernard Mikko said that Nigerians should not entertain any fear over the emergence of Ibrahim, as there would be no violence, stressing that what has happened so far was sponsored to create fear in the populace.

“The INEC recognition of Jimoh Ibrahim is in accordance with the rule of law and democratic principles. The acts of sponsored violence by arsonists following the INEC declaration of the authentic PDP gubernatorial candidate for Ondo are not only misplaced but also unfortunate. Ondo people should not allow their destiny to be taken for granted, particularly by those who have failed in their professional calling or political adventure to make any positive contribution to the same state that has built them to prominence, fame and glamour,” he stated.

As a result, Mikko assured Nigerians and Ondo good people in particular PDP and Ibrahim committed to developing and urged them to vote him in come November 26.

According to him, Ibrahim will develop and build critical infrastructures that have been denied the people for too long; assuring that the governorship candidate was equal to the task.

Similarly, the Director of Publicity and Communication, Jimoh Ibrahim Campaign Office (JICO), Mr. Sola Akinuli lauded the Abang ruling and subsequent substitution of Jegede’s name saying: “This is not only a justification of the truth but also a recognition of the will of the people as demonstrated in his overwhelming victory at the party primaries and the applause that has heralded his declaration by INEC.”

Some political analysts argued that the emergence of Ibrahim on the scene of PDP portends more woes for the party than blessing, and that if not well managed, would likely lead to the demise of the party not just in Ondo but also in the country.

For instance, Adewale Enuoshe, stated that “Ibrahim is like a leper who cannot milk a cow but capable of spilling the milk to a great waste.”

While some see the development a vendetta move against Jegede and Mimiko; targeted at the latter for the manner left the Labour Party (LP) for PDP at the close of 2014, others avowed that it was a contrived plot with the APC stop PDP.

Sources claimed that the gang up against Mimiko is beyond party politics, affirming that even many of the “PDP-Konigba” and original members of the party whom Ibrahim assumed to represent have defected to other parties; especially to join forces with Chief Olusola Oke, who is now contesting the governorship poll under Alliance for Democracy (AD).

They contended that the posturing of Ibrahim was more of somebody out on a spoiler mission than a candidate determined to succeed Mimiko as the sixth executive governor of the state.



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