Akure, the Ondo State capital, was in turmoil yesterday after youths stormed the streets ,protesting Thursday night’s decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to drop Mr Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in next month’s governorship election.
The development prompted the state governor, Olusegun Mimiko, to rush to President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja yesterday to seek his intervention in the matter.
The commission had substituted Jegede’s name with that of businessman Jimoh Ibrahim, citing a court order.
But the youths, backed by dozens of okada (commercial motorcycle) riders, were not amused by the development.
As early as 5 am yesterday, the protest had got underway as youths set up barricades on major roads with planks, disused vehicle parts and heavy stones. Complementing these were bonfires from which the sky was filled with thick smoke. Hundreds of motorists and commuters who set out early for their daily bread were stranded.
Most affected by the blockade were intra-city roads like Oba-Adesida/Oyemekun and Arakale, as well as the Akure-Owo Expressway, Akure-Ilesha Road and Akure-Ikere-Ekiti Road. Intercity travellers were caught unawares and were stranded for many hours in the ensuing traffic gridlock.
Jegede hails from Akure.
The protest later spread to Ondo, hometown of Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
The police and the Department of State Security (DSS) tried to intervene to stop the situation from degenerating into bloodshed.
Some women supporters of Jegede went to his campaign office at Fiwasaye Road, asking INEC to reverse its decision to drop him.
Mimiko Storms Abuja
Governor Mimiko on his part dashed to Abuja to seek President Muhammadu Buhari’s urgent intervention in the matter. He arrived the seat of power at about 11 am and went straight in for his appointment with the President.
Speaking to correspondents at the end of the meeting, Mimiko said he was shocked by INEC’s decision to drop Jegede’s name for Ibrahim’s.
He said:: “I am shocked. In logic, in law, in politics, there is no basis for it whatsoever. The Jimoh Ibrahim factor in all of this is predicated on a court order given by Justice Abang. Incidentally that court order is about zonal and state executives of PDP. That order is about the 2009 election.
Neither Jimoh Ibrahim nor Tayo Jegede was a party to the suit. So, when that judgment suddenly came, because when the name of Ibrahim was sent to INEC after a primary election which was conducted in Ibadan without INEC monitoring it, without security agencies, SSS or police, when the name got to INEC and this (Justice) Abang judgment was attached, INEC took the right decision initially by making it clear that to start with, it is not state or zonal executive that is empowered by the Electoral Act to conduct election.”
“Number two, the Abang judgment on the basis of which they were putting pressure on INEC to accept Jimoh Ibrahim as a candidate, was referring to 2009 election.
“There is nothing about 2016 election in that judgment. So, on the basis of this, INEC refused and discountenanced the name of Jimoh Ibrahim as a candidate.
“Then they went ahead and filed Form 48, and from the blues, the same Justice Abang mandated INEC to replace the name of Eyitayo Jegede who emerged through a primary process that was supervised by INEC, security agencies, on live television with all delegates that were supposed to participate, then Abang ordered that Jimoh Ibrahim should replace Eyigayo Jegede.”
Continuing, he said: “Ordinarily, we should have disregarded the order because, like I said, Jegede was not a party to the suit, neither was Jimoh Ibrahim. But we were also advised that it was very important for us to appeal so that if anybody is up to a mischief, we would have taken the plank off the person. “When we filed in our papers, submitted our briefs and got date, that should serve as a stay of execution. We don’t want to take chances because somebody in INEC told us that they obey the last order in the commission.”
“Some went to court and obtained two different orders mandating INEC not to substitute Eyitayo Jegede. We served one on INEC around 10 am yesterday (Thursday), and we served INEC with the other one at the close of business around 3 pm. Only around 7 or 8 pm, we got to know that INEC, for no justifiable reason, had substituted the name of Jegede and replaced it with that of Ibrahim.
“The question to ask is: on whose order has INEC done that? Apart from the fact that we have two restraining orders on INEC, INEC knows full well that Jimoh Ibrahim’s primary was in Ibadan. There was no report by any security agencies that the security situation in Ondo state warranted the movement of the primaries to Ibadan or anywhere outside the state for that matter.”
Besides, he said, the time for substitution of candidates had lapsed by INEC’s guidelines, adding that the removal of Jegede’s name from the list of candidates for the November election constitutes a threat to the peace in the state.
“We see this action as potentially dangerous,” he said. It can cause conflagration in the state, and that is why as the chief security officer of the state, I have come to alert Mr. President of the potential danger of this injustice, so that we can nip it in the bud.”
Asked what response he got from the President, Mimiko said: “Mr. President promised to look into it and that if there is any injustice, we should rest assured that it will be rectified.”
Speaking on the protest, the governor said: “The whole day from 5 am, I have been on phone with stakeholders to ensure they keep the peace in the state. The extent of the protest you have seen has been reduced by our intervention to ensure that there is no breach of the peace.
“I have assured them that this injustice will not stay. We will continue to explore all avenues to make INEC see reasons why this impunity must not stand.”
Asked whether he still had confidence in INEC conducting a credible election, he said: “If INEC finds it difficult to obey court order, a credible election starts with a process like this.”
The PDP in the state disowned Ibrahim as a member and dismissed the INEC action as a complete aberration.