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Sunday, August 28, 2016

ONDO 2016: PDP, APC’S INTERNAL CRISES INTENSIFY AHEAD OF ONDO GUBER ELECTION

The two major political parties in Nigeria - the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) - are both locked in internal controversy as they strive to choose candidates for the Ondo State governorship election slated for November 26.
Governor Olusegun Mimiko of the PDP is rounding off his tenure and he is hoping that his replacement would come from his party.

On the other hand, the national leader of the APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and some chieftains of the party are equally striving to see that their candidate wins so as to consolidate on the gains of the party in the South-West ahead of the 2019 general elections.

However, wittingly or unwittingly, both parties have tons of crises to contend with, a development that may further fragment them as the election approaches. There are fears that if they did not put their houses in order, there would be anti-party posturing at the end of the day.

Observers believe that, like in other states in the South-West, the electorate in Ondo are politically conscious and always willing to abide by the wishes of their leaders.

Evidently, no political party can claim to be the "overall best" at any point in time as the "pulse" of the people is determined by trend of events.

For instance, during his first tenure, the outgoing Governor Mimiko, the then candidate of the Labour Party (LP), dislodged Olusegun Agagu of the PDP at the Appeal Court on February 23, 2009 after a serious legal tussle, meaning that the then ruling party at the centre (PDP) was not an end in itself.

Mimiko equally won a second term on October 20, 2012, but officially decamped to the PDP on October 2, 2014, alongside thousands of his supporters.

Despite his defection, the Labour Party has reportedly remained "alive" in Ondo, and pundits are of the opinion that if care is not taken, some elements from the PDP and the APC may revolt and pitch their tent there.

Trouble in the PDP
On Monday, August 22, the immediate past Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State, Eyitayo Jegede, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), emerged as the winner of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the PDP by polling 760 votes to defeat the deputy governorship candidate of the party in the 2012 election, Saka Lawal.

Jegede's triumph was announced by the chairman of the Makarfi-led Primary Election Committee, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State.

The processes that led to the primaries were reportedly duly monitored by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), local and international observers, the press and security apparatuses in the state.

But shortly after the primaries, the other factional national chairman of the PDP, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, described the emergence of Jegede as a waste of time because in the party's constitution, there was nothing like "caretaker committee"- the platform on which Senator Makarfi is standing.

He said various court judgements have nullified almost everything done by Makarfi.

Sheriff, therefore, went ahead on Thursday, August 25, and inaugurated a committee to screen aspirants who bought the expression of interest and nomination forms to contest the Ondo State governorship election from his office. This means that there may be two parallel candidates of the PDP.
The committee, led by Yunusa Mohammed, shortly after its inauguration, began screening of the aspirants who were present at the event held at his office at Maitama,Abuja.

Among them were Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim, Prince Bamiduro Dada, Niran Sule, Sola Ebiseni and Barrister Abiye Ademoye.

Sheriff said his duty was to do everything "democratically possible" to ensure a level playing field for the primary election, adding that the decision on who emerges as his candidate for the election rests with the delegates.

The impasse was complicated by Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim of the Sheriff camp, who had, earlier in the week, filed a suit against the Senator Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee.

The suit, which was filed before a Federal High Court in Abuja, is challenging the conduct of the primary for the party's governorship candidate for the November 26 election.

Ibrahim joined Senators Ben Obi; Odion Ugbesia and Abdul Ningi; Karibu Usman; Dayo Adeyeye; Aisha Aliyu and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as defendants.

But hearing in the matter was, however, stalled on Wednesday, August 24, after counsel to Jimoh Ibrahim, Oyodele Oyelana, informed the court that he could not effect service of the court papers on the defendants. He, therefore, applied for adjournment.

The defence counsel, Ifedayo Adedipe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), asked the judge to adjourn the case till after the vacation because the non-service of the papers has shown lack of urgency in the matter.

Justice Okon Abang, in his ruling, said that the order of another Federal High Court in Abuja for the matter to be heard during vacation was still subsisting.

But another twist was added to the matter when the PDP chairman in Igbotako II ward 4 in Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State, Usman Lawal, disowned Jimoh Ibrahim as a member of the PDP.
Lawal, who is from the same ward with Jimoh Ibrahim, brought a preliminary objection through his counsel, Olusola Oke, claiming that Ibrahim is not a member of the PDP.
"Jimoh Ibrahim is a member of Accord Party, it is the platform on which he had told the Igbotako community that he would contest the 2016 governorship election," he said.

The suit has been adjourned to September 1 for hearing.

Undoubtedly, it is only the court that would sort out who should fly the flag of the PDP. Even as Sheriff has more court judgements and orders to prove his legitimacy and that of his candidate, Makarfi has the backing of all the PDP governors, including Mimiko, the BoT and caucus of the party.
Crisis in the APC
There are no fewer than 24 aspirants who have indicated interest in picking the gubernatorial ticket of the APC for the Ondo election.

However, while almost all of them were struggling to curry the favour of Tinubu, which, to a great extent, would almost mean emerging as governor if the PDP remains in disarray, crisis in the APC took a frightening dimension when Tinubu reportedly endorsed Olusegun Abraham.

Although senior members of the APC in the state have vowed to support Tinubu's candidate, some elements of the party in the state, on August 16, claimed they had impeached the state chairman, Isaac Kekemeke, for his alleged involvement in the endorsement Abraham.

The group forcefully took over the state secretariat along Oyemekun Road, shutting the gates against Mr. Kekemeke and his allies.
They also announced the appointment of Saka Ogunleye as their new chairman.

They alleged that Mr. Kekemeke had compromised his position by allowing the "imposition" of a candidate in spite of the agreement that all the 24 aspirants should prove their popularity at the primary election.

The rumoured endorsement by Mr. Tinubu was disclosed by a governorship aspirant, Tunji Abayomi, in a letter he wrote to Tinubu, in which he challenged the national leader's "interference in the democratic process in the state."

In the letter titled, "The tonic of democracy is the right of the people to choose their leaders," Abayomi warned Tinubu "to steer clear of the process of selecting a candidate for the party and allow the people of the state to choose their leaders."

In his reply, Tinubu described Abayomi's comment as "unfair and an impetuous display, unbecoming of a man who seeks the highest leadership position in Ondo State."
On his part, the embattled state chairman, Chief Isaac Kekemeke, denied choosing any aspirant to represent the party.

"I have said repeatedly that I do not prefer any of the aspirants, but I have also no power to deny anyone the constitutional right to prefer any aspirant," Kekemeke said during a recent visit to the APC secretariat in Abuja.

"All I know is that I don't have a preference, I have a vote. In the interest of perception, I did announce to the State Working Committee over two months ago, that I was not going to vote," he added.
But it seems some officials of the APC in Ondo are still not convinced with what the embattled chairman said.

The deputy chairman of the party in the state, Ade Adetimilehin, said that in a meeting, they had warned Kekemeke not to use the party machinery to endorse any aspirant.
"Nobody asked us to go back to the status quo. The national body said they would look into the vote of no confidence passed on Mr Kekemeke," he said.

With this sharply divided house, pundits believe that anti-party activities may not be ruled out among the 24 APC aspirants even if somebody else is picked as the candidate of the party aside the one endorsed by Tinubu.

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