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Olujimi Vs Adeyeye: Two friends set apart by election tribunal

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Biodun Olujimi

Senator Biodun Olujimi’s capacity to sustain her political career is remarkable. She has been active since 1999 when she was an ally of the senior Saraki, the late Chief Olusola Saraki. Olujimi was the national Publicity Secretary of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) until 2003 when she joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and became a special adviser to then-Governor Ayodele Fayose.

In a twist of fate, that same year, she became a member of the House of Representatives, when she replaced late Abiodun Talabi, who represented Ekiti South 2 Federal constituency. She spent just five months at the National Assembly when Fayose nominated her as deputy governor to replace Bisi Omoyeni, who returned to Wema Bank as the Managing Director /Chief Executive officer. She almost became the acting governor of the state after the impeachment of Fayose in 2006, but she was outsmarted by the political elites in the state.

When Segun Oni took over in 2007, Olujimi became commissioner for Works. At the national scene, she has always been part of the presidential campaign councils of PDP. It was Olujimi who persuaded President Goodluck Jonathan and the leadership of the party at the national level to consider Fayose’s return to Ekiti in 2014 as governor. Fayose quickly resolved his differences with Olujimi, who teamed up with him to achieve victory at the poll. In return, Olujimi got the ticket to return to the National Assembly, but this time, the Senate. Her political activism in the Senate earned her the office of deputy Minority Whip. She became the Minority Leader when Senator Godswill Akpabio left the PDP for the All Progressives Congress (APC).

In 2018, she threw her hat in the ring for the governorship contest. This was where her path crossed with Prince Adedayo Adeyeye’s. The two politicians have been in the same party since 2007 during the tenure of Chief Olusegun Oni when Olujimi was commissioner for works, Adeyeye was the chairman State Universal basic Education Board. Adeyeye was a minister of State for Works and later spokesman of the PDP. But the two have never faced each other in any political contest.
 
They needed to work together when Fayose anointed his deputy, Professor Kolapo Olusola as the sole and preferred candidate of the PDP for the 2018 governorship election. Olujimi, Adeyeye, Ambassador Dare Bejide, former deputy governor, Alhaji Sikiru Lawal, among others, became aggrieved with Fayose. They held several press conferences together to fight what they felt was injustice meted to them by Fayose.

While other aggrieved aspirants left the party, Olujimi and Adeyeye remained behind to battle Fayose. However, close watchers knew that Olujimi kept the heat on in order to secure her return to the Senate. They reckoned that she was merely in the governorship race to bargain for the senate seat. If Fayose were able to resolve that crisis over governorship ticket, Olujimi would still have Adeyeye to deal with in the senatorial race. Fayose could not, so the two formed alliance on the eve of the primary election, and Olujimi conceded to Adeyeye. Reports had it that she rallied her delegates for him and gave him an undisclosed sum of money to battle Fayose’s anointed candidate. Fayose’s Candidate, Olusola won the primary. Even though the primary was adjudged free and fair, Adeyeye could not stomach his loss and remain in the party. He kept people guessing for weeks what his next political move would be. In between, Olujimi had reconciled with Fayose on the condition that she would be given the ticket to the Senate. She got what she wanted, a smart politician.

Adeyeye on the other hand, decamped to the APC to team up with the candidate of the party, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and got a ticket to the Senate unopposed.
 
That set the stage for the clash of two political allies now divided by personal interests. During the electioneering campaigns, the two ran what could be described as decent campaigns, largely devoid of the usual acrimonies, name-calling and political thuggery. The two had mutual respect for each other. However, it was clear that Adeyeye had more advantage than Olujimi on the day of the election. While Adeyeye relied on the power of incumbency both at the state and at the federal, Olujimi banked on her track record at the Senate, her deep pocket and popularity. Her case was made worse by the fact that Fayose openly campaigned against her candidature. The former governor took paid adverts in local radio to vigorously launch a campaign on why Olujimi should not be voted. Although, Fayose did not also ask people to vote for Adeyeye, his body language suggested that he would not mind if Adeyeye got the ticket.

Olujimi’s offense was that she made the pronouncement that Fayose was no longer the leader of the PDP in Ekiti, having left office as governor. She said that as the Minority Leader in the Senate, she was the leader of the party. This bickering affected the Atiku/Obi campaign in the state, as Olujimi and Fayose maintained parallel campaign councils. Adeyeye was declared the winner at the end of the day, but Olujimi felt that the election was less than transparent. She decided to approach the election Tribunal in Ado Ekiti.
 
The Election Petition Tribunal, which sat in Ado-Ekiti, nullified the victory of Adeyeye as Senator representing Ekiti South and declared Olujimi as the winner.

The three-man panel in a unanimous judgment read by its chairman, Justice Danladi Adeck said, Olujimi polled a total of 54,894 as against Adeyeye, who polled 52,243 after a recount conducted by the panel. The Tribunal also said in Ikere, Gbonyin and Emure local governments, the petitioner was able to prove cases of over-voting and votes in those units were expunged from the ballots.

On the voting pattern, the Tribunal said: “it is not tenable to say that marked ballots were not properly deposited in the boxes because when this did not happen, then it will lead to over voting and will affect counting at every level of collation. To avoid this pitfall, those elections must be expunged in order not to vitiate the electoral process. Therefore, after those votes were deducted, PDP was left with 54, 894 while the respondent polled 52, 243.
 
“The petitioner having polled the highest number of lawful votes should be declared the winner of the election. We hereby declare the petitioner the winner and she is hereby returned elected. We hereby direct the INEC to withdraw the certificate of return from the respondent and issue the same to the petitioner,” he said.

Olujimi had made the demand that she be declared the winner of the disputed poll in a 35-page Final Written Address filed through her counsel, and argued by Prof. Wahab Egbewole SAN before the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, in Ado Ekiti.

But counsel to Adeyeye, Chief Rafiu Balogun said: “We are not satisfied with the Tribunal’s ruling against our client because there are lots of loopholes in the judgment. What the Tribunal relied upon was the report of collation agent of the PDP who did not say he did a recount and there was no order at all for the recount to be done at the INEC Office. We had argued against it and it had been settled at the appeal in the case involving Kayode Fayemi and Olusola Eleka recently; that you can only do recount at the polling units. What we are saying is that INEC deliberately voided our votes. The tribunal is making a case for the petitioner.”
  
Meanwhile, the PDP has congratulated Senator Olujimi over her victory.
 
The party in a statement, which was made available to journalists in Ado Ekiti by its State Publicity Secretary, Mr. Jackson Adebayo maintained that the judgment has reaffirmed that all elections held in Ekiti State in the recent times were full of unguided manipulation and deliberate abandonment of ethics of democracy.
 
He added that elections in Nigeria have been rigged to the level where only courageous judges at the tribunal could right the wrong as was done by the Tribunal that has just declared the PDP candidate, Olujimi as the authentic winner for Ekiti South Senatorial District.
  
Surely the last has not been heard about the two politicians as their contest has shifted to the Appeal Court. Time alone will tell who the final winner will be.


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