By Dayo Johnson, Akure
EYITAYO Jegede, SAN, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Ondo State, remained a force to reckon with in yesterday’s poll, not minding where the pendulum will ultimately swing in the election.
He can be described as a cat with nine lives. For two months, he was shuttling between courts to regain his “stolen” mandate by factional candidate Jimoh Ibrahim who he referred to as “an impostor” while the candidates of other political parties gained speed in their campaigns across the state.
Ibrahim saw an opportunity to hit Mimiko and he explored it to the fullest by making sure that Jegede, instead of criss-crossing the state to seek for votes, was busy moving from one court to the other.
He apparently succeeded in distracting both the candidate and the governor from campaigning ahead of the election.
While many still believe that Ibrahim was remotely controlled by some agents in the ruling APC to frustrate Jegede out of the race so as to give their candidate Rotimi Akeredolu speed, others have concluded that the factional PDP candidate was only out to disgrace the governor out of office by not having his way on his successor.
The courts journey of Jegede was seen by many as a well coordinated plan by those who are jittery of his popularity and acceptability.
His victory in both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court at the nick of time, last Wednesday, was seen as divine.
The Supreme Court, on Thursday, further validated the candidacy of Jegede as the PDP flag bearer, following the striking out of all the pending interlocutory appeals filed by the Ali Modu Sheriff faction of the party which produced Ibrahim.
While Jegede’s victory announced him to the world, Ibrahim had his head bowed even with the judges harsh words for him and his team of lawyers.
Despite the court decision sacking him and replacing him with Jegede, Ibrahim was undaunted as he kept fighting.
The Court of Appeal verdict which sacked Ibrahim came with some tongue lashing by the judges; yet he kept fighting insisting he remained the party’s candidate for the election.
Even when the Supreme Court dismissed a fresh appeal filed by his factional state Chairman, Biyi Poroye, seeking to disallow Jegede from flying the party’s flag, Ibrahim still pooh poohed the court verdict.
One of the dismissed appeals at the Supreme Court was challenging the leave by the three-man Appeal Court panel granted to Jegede to appeal against the Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court ruling which ordered the substitution of his name with that of Ibrahim for the poll.
Another appeal dismissed by the Supreme Court had sought the disbandment of the three-man appellate panel.
The Supreme Court, presided over by the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, while dismissing the appeals, described it as abuse of court process.
The ruling by the apex court finally dashed the hope of Ibrahim in participating in yesterday’s election.
A statement by the sacked factional candidate’’ Director of Publicity and Communication, Sola Akinuli , immediately following the verdict was baffling.
He asked his supporters in Ondo to vote for his party in the election, debunking the rumour that he had abandoned his mandate.
Akinuli said: “Ibrahim is still the official candidate of the PDP as the court of appeal did not give any consequential judgement as to replacing his name with that of Jegede.
Ibrahim asked the people to discountenance any rumour that he was collaborating with the candidate of another political party.
“I am solidly in PDP and I urge all my supporters to vote PDP.
“My name as candidate was a product of a court pronouncement and not INEC, therefore only another pronouncement by a higher court can remove me
“I therefore urge my teeming supporters and indeed all citizens of the state to vote PDP”.
He reiterated his earlier reservations about some officials of the INEC, saying that some of their officers had compromised.
In another statement, the sacked governorship candidate said: “We shall get justice at the Supreme Court and if PDP wins the election we shall have our four years mandate to rule Ondo State.
He insisted: “Mimiko will not succeed himself with Jegede; this is too sure”, adding, “We continue with our work and remain in our great party, PDP”.
How he wanted to achieve this after his sack by the courts remained unknown.
But Jegede in a statement personally signed by him after his victory in the court dedicated it to God and the good people of the state.
The PDP candidate said: “Beloved people of Ondo State and believer in out noble cause, there is no doubt that the past few weeks have been very challenging and trying times for us as we contended with anti democratic and evil forces who tried to subvert the will of God and the mandate of the people freely given to us.
“It was a tortuous journey that tested our faith in God and our conviction in the refreshingly different days ahead of us as we were taunted and harassed by hired propagandists while we tenaciously forged ahead.
“We submitted our grievances to the court despite the contraband and manipulation of those who are opposed to democracy we insisted we would explore all legal means in our avowed belief in the rule of law and the judiciary.
“Today our mouth is filled with laughter and heart with praise. Our resilience has paid off and our conviction to this doggedness of purpose has made our case another judicial precedence in the country.
“We are grateful to the judiciary for remaining the baton of democratic process and refusing to be blackmailed, brow beaten and intimidated by those who do not mean well for our state and nation.
“Now we are set to roll out the drums, not of war but of God’s faithfulness and sound it loud to our adversaries that the will of God and the desire of the people shall prevail. Our faith and conviction in this project has continued to grow stronger by the day instead of waning.
“For us, there is no looking back. We remain resolute and focused in our desire to bring development,progress and prosperity to our people. This is our. article of faith.
“We dedicate this victory to God and the generality of our people. We urge our people to maximally utilize the few remaining days before the polls to consolidate on our door to door campaign across the state”.
Reacting to the victory, the PDP in a statement, said “The state uses this opportunity to thank God for this victory that we attained in the Court of Appeal over the substitution of Mr Eyitayo Jegede’s name as the party’s candidate, at the orders of Justice Abang, a development that the honourable justices described as fraudulent and a charade”.
The party’s Director of Publicity in Ondo State, Ayo Fadaka, said in Akure: “We use this opportunity to appreciate the President of the Court of Appeal and the judges who sat on the matter for being professional and dedicated to their callings.
“We also thank the Supreme Court justices who also sat on this case and did justice in the most dispassionate manner.
“We indeed confirm that the judiciary asserted itself and firmly did justice. We ask those our members that were led astray by the band of fifth columnists to return to the party and ask the media to abandon the agent provocateurs whose only goal was to destroy our great party”.
Also, a former Special Adviser to erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan on Amnesty Programme, Kingsley Kuku, congratulated Jegede on his victory at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court”.
Kuku, in a text message to Sunday Vanguard, urged all PDP faithful, irrespective of differences, to unite forces as fast as possible, even at personal costs of ambition and comfort, to give victory to the party”..
Jegede’s optimism even when the cloud was at its darkest hour, ‘I will contest the governorship election and I will win’, was not taken seriously until the court granted him his prayer to contest. But will he also win? That will be known after yesterday’s election.
If the PDP candidate wins the election despite all these battles, then he will be God-sent as the 7th civilian governor of the Sunshine State since it’s creation 40 years ago and, if not, he will remain for a very long time the man to reckon with. Luckily, for him age is still on his side; if he fails to get it now, he can still get it later.