November 24, 2016
ONDO STATE GUBERNATORIAL POLL: MATTERS ARISING
Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) recalls the recent political and judicial controversy as to who is the authentic gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Ondo State November, 2016 gubernatorial poll. We watched with regret the evolution of the factional crises of PDP leading to the submission of the name of candidate Eyitayo Jegede to INEC and his subsequent replacement by candidate Jimoh Ibrahim. We also recall the judgement of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court on the subject matter. We further recall the attempt to subvert the rule of law by the Jimoh Ibrahim group which prevented the first panel of the Court of Appeal that sought to resolve the logjam from sitting through spurious and unfunded allegations.
We regret the attempt to frustrate the sitting of the second panel of the Court of Appeal to resolve the logjam through filing frivolous appeals to the Supreme Court by the same Jimoh Ibrahim group. This was done in a bid to arrest the judgment of the Court of Appeal. However, the decision of the Supreme Court in dismissing the frivolous appeals and the Court of Appeal in re-affirming the candidature of Eyitayo Jegede has restored the hope of Nigerians in the impartiality of the judiciary and its ability to deliver justice according to law.
A couple of issues have arisen from the forgoing proceedings and trajectory of facts:
- The conduct of Jimoh Ibrahim, his state factional chairman and their counsel Beluolisa Nwofor (SAN) has been described by the Supreme Court as a disgrace to the legal profession intended to cause confusion and rubbish the judiciary. For Beluolisa Nwofor (SAN) and Jimoh Ibrahim, the attempt to subvert judicial proceedings is a conduct unbecoming of legal practitioners and they should therefore be made to face the disciplinary sanctions of the Nigeria Bar.
- Again, Jimoh Ibrahim is quoted in the popular media to have made further comments that seek to malign the judgement of the Court of Appeal and the integrity of the panel when he stated that: “Let me advise the good people of Ondo State and my supporters nationwide not to abuse anyone or fight over this one day ruling which was paid for from the state’s treasury”. If the ruling was paid for by the state’s treasury, then the ruling by his statement is compromised and was procured by fraud and inducement. Jimoh Ibrahim should be held accountable to these words and if he is unable to prove his allegations, he should face contempt of court proceedings and the disciplinary sanctions of the Bar.
- Biyi Poroye and his group whose wild allegations led the first panel of Court of Appeal to recuse itself from the appeal should be made to face full contempt of court proceedings and should be accordingly sanctioned. Judicial officers cannot continue to be unduly maligned without any supporting evidence and those engaged in this kind of conduct ought to suffer sanctions unless they can bring evidence in proof of their allegations.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) recognizes the right of residents of Ondo State to freely elect a governor of their choice after evaluating the agenda and programmes of contending candidates. For the people to be able to make such evaluation, the candidates must be given adequate time to present their case to the people through physical and multi media campaigns. The candidates should also have a level playing field.
In the circumstances, the authentic PDP candidate has not enjoyed adequate time for the campaigns and the playing field is not level. It therefore makes imminent sense to call on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the election for not less than two weeks to enable the candidates to present their case to the electorate and to guarantee a level playing field that that does not unduly favour any of the candidates. It is not a call that violates any law or beyond the powers of INEC. Nigerians can recall that Edo gubernatorial election was postposed on rather flimsy grounds. If INEC insists on going ahead with the election, it will open the Commission to a charge of partiality and lack of objectivity.
Eze Onyekpere Esq
 Underlining supplied for emphasis. See Thisday newspaper of November 24 2016 at page 10.