As the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) publishes the names of the candidates for the Ondo State governorship election today, the factions within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are locked in a war of words over who the electoral umpire would list as the party’s candidate.
The Senator Ali Modu Sheriff-led PDP faction yesterday declared that Jimoh Ibrahim remained the lawful candidate of the party, warning that any attempt to substitute his name with another person’s would land the person responsible for the substitution in prison for contempt of court.
However, the Senator Ahmed Makarfi leadership has also insisted that Eyitayo Jegede is the candidate of the party, noting that they have a superior judgment over the authentic leadership of the party.
Jimoh Ibrahim and former commissioner of justice in Ondo State, Eyitayo Jegede, are locked in a tussle over the candidacy of the PDP.
While Ibrahim emerged from the camp of Sheriff, Jegede is a product of the Makarfi-led national caretaker committee.
Ibrahim is relying on the ruling of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, of Friday, October 14, which declared that he should be recognised as the PDP candidate for the governorship election.
Consequently, the national secretary in Sheriff’s faction, Prof Wale Oladipo, called on INEC to obey the court judgement in favour of Jimoh’s candidature and immediately give him due recognition so as to do away with all the distractions generated so far.
He spoke at a press conference yesterday in Abuja to clarify misconceptions over the candidacy of the party.
Oladipo, who was flanked by Ibrahim and some other members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), warned that the failure to recognise their candidate will amount to the contempt of court and land the INEC officials concerned in prison.
The national secretary, however, added that while the reconciliation process within the party is still on, his faction of the PDP will continue to insist on the candidature of Ibrahim.
He said: “INEC is an umpire and a creation of the law and must obey court judgements. The law has pronounced Jimoh the candidate of the PDP in the forthcoming Ondo State governorship election and INEC has no choice but to abide by the order.
“In the forthcoming election, we are urging INEC to be completely neutral. We will do anything within the ambit of the law, not only to defend our party, but our candidate, Jimoh Ibrahim,” he said.
According to him, if there is any reason INEC should not obey the order of court as it relates to Ibrahim in the Ondo State governorship contest slated for November 28, it should explain so to the judge, adding that it is easy for INEC to do so as it was a defendant in the suit.
“INEC ought to do the needful. If it fails, the court would invoke form 48 and 49 to punish the relevant officer and he would have himself to blame,” he warned.
On whether the crisis in the party would jeopardise its chances in the electoral contest, the national secretary stated that both the Senator Makarfi and Senator Sheriff factions were committed to the ongoing reconciliation. He nonetheless insisted that the party will not sacrifice the rule of law on the altar of reconciliation.
“It is better for any PDP candidate to emerge as winner in the Ondo State governorship election than to lose it to any other party. But we are not going to sacrifice the rule of law on the altar of reconciliation,” he asserted.
Prof Oladipo said that the crisis in the PDP had assumed a national security issue and stated that the PDP has to survive for democracy to endure in the country.
When contacted over the claims by the Sheriff camp, the deputy director of INEC, Nick Dazang, simply replied “no comment”. Also, a text message sent to the national publicity secretary of the Makarfi camp, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, was not replied at press time.
But an official in the party’s secretariat, who pleaded anonymity, said that the party was not in any way perturbed by the claims from Sheriff’s camp.
The party official recalled that their position on the matter was made clear in an earlier statement, adding that they were confident that INEC would interrogate the legal issues and declare Jegede the candidate.
According to Adeyeye’s earlier statement, which the party official made reference to, “The ruling of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on October 14, 2016 does not in any way affect the matter of the PDP candidacy in the forthcoming Ondo State governorship election.
“The issue of Ondo governorship election was not the matter before Justice Abang in the suit. The matter before his Lordship was in relation to the 2019 general election.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Hon. Eyitayo Jegede remains the flag bearer of the PDP in the Saturday, November 26, 2016, Ondo State governorship election.
“We, therefore, call on all our members, teeming supporters and the electorate in Ondo State not to allow this ruling to distract them, but should continue with the guber campaigns to ensure the victory of our flag bearer, Hon. Eyitayo Jegede, in the election,”
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