By OJO WANDE & ADELEKE ADESANYA
The Governor of Ondo State, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu has vowed not to beg either the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, or royal fathers, to retain his seat.
His stance was made known to our correspondent on Friday just as plans, by a leading contestant in the September 3, 2016 APC governorship primaries, to sack the governor from office through the courts, gathered momentum.
Investigations by The Point revealed that some traditional rulers in Ondo State were helping to prevail on the aggrieved contestant, Dr. Olusegun Abraham, to dump his legal action.
Abraham is currently in court, demanding the removal of Akeredolu. He claimed
that the result of the APC primary election, which produced the governor, was manipulated.
In the riveting case, which Akeredolu is also trying to stop through the Supreme Court, Abraham is insisting that he won the APC primary election and that he should be declared the duly elected Governor of Ondo State.
Our correspondent gathered that the monarch of Abraham’s Ikare-Akoko community in the Akoko North-East Local Council, Oba Akadiri Momoh, who is the Chairman of the Ondo State Council of Traditional Rulers, is under pressure to prevail on his ‘son’ to come to an agreement with the governor.
A palace source, preferring anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the dispute, said royal fathers from Akeredolu’s Owo area and others from the riverine areas, where the Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, hails from, had been consulting with the Olukare, in the hope that he would succeed in persuading Abraham to “settle out of court.”
The source claimed that the Akeredolu camp engaged the emissary of royal fathers, especially as Abraham appeared to be making progress in his legal fight.
Though a senior chief in the Olukare palace told our correspondent that the revered monarch would not speak on the touchy issue, he revealed nonetheless that the monarch was in a dilemma.
“In the first place, the Oba is loyal to the state governor as would be expected, but at the same time, Abraham is a native of Ikare and is like a son to him. So, only Abraham can determine his course of action in the final analysis,” the senior chief, who would not want his name mentioned, disclosed.
In another breath, reliable sources also informed our correspondent that top APC politicians, close to Governor Akeredolu, had been reaching out to Tinubu to “truly come to terms” with the governor, by prevailing on Abraham, his acclaimed political godson, to abandon the suit.
In the last governorship election, Tinubu had backed Abraham, having fallen out with Akeredolu, who he had backed four years earlier.
I CAN NEVER BEG ANYBODY, SAYS AKEREDOLU
However, reacting to the raging speculation that he had enlisted the services of traditional rulers and other eminent persons to help him plead with Abraham and Tinubu, Akeredolu said, “There is nothing like that.”
The governor, who reacted through the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Yemi Olowolabi, said, “I can assure you that there is nothing like that. The governor holds Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in high esteem; but there is nothing like parading Tinubu’s house or the house of anybody or begging the royal fathers to help him beg anyone. Akeredolu is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. He knows how to go about the case in court.
The governor holds Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in high esteem; but there is nothing like parading anybody’s house, begging the royal fathers or Tinubu to help beg someone. Akeredolu is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. He knows how to go about the case in court.
“He won the election free and fair and someone is now rearing his head to fight for what is not. There is nothing like begging anyone; it’s just that people who are enemies are playing their games.”
In the same vein, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Segun Ajiboye, said, “It is only a fabricated information from people who are enemies of the governor.
“Governor Akeredolu doesn’t have time for those things. He is a man that has respect for everyone and the rule of law. There is nothing like the governor going about to beg people because of someone.”
ROYAL FATHERS WON’T DINE WITH THE THIEF -ABRAHAM
When contacted over moves by some royal fathers and politicians to prevail on him to drop his suit, Abraham said he was in court “in pursuance of a stolen mandate and the justice of the case is for the stolen mandate to be returned to the true owner.”
Speaking through his spokesman, Mr. Olu Akinola, Abraham declared, “None of our royal fathers would dine with the thief, if the truth is known to them; and we are in court to show the truth and re-claim the stolen mandate; therefore, no pressure from any quarter, however exerted, would matter or change the course of justice.”
Akinola also spoke on Abraham’s driving force in the legal battle: “The quest for justice and good governance, as a government based on injustice cannot deliver good governance. Justice is a fundamental requirement for good government in Ondo State and this is Dr. Abraham’s driving force.”
Besides, Abraham also denied speculations that he was being goaded by Tinubu, who is widely reputed as his political godfather, claiming he was acting based on his conviction.
THE CONTROVERSIAL PRIMARIES
At the September 3 APC controversial primaries, Akeredolu had garnered 669 of the 2,744 delegate votes in the APC shadow poll, held at the International Event Centre, Akure, the state capital, and conducted by the Electoral Committee, headed by Governor Mohammed Abubakar of Jigawa State. He defeated Abraham, who polled 635 while Olusola Oke came third, scoring 583. Senator Ajayi Boroffice came fourth with 471 votes.
Following allegations that the primary election was characterised by irregularities, the Hellen Bendega-led Appeal Committee recommended its cancellation and the conduct of a fresh exercise to elect the party’s flagbearer.
But the APC National Working Committee allegedly glossed over the Appeal Committee’s recommendations and submitted Akeredolu’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission. However, some of the leading aspirants were not satisfied with the NWC’s action, which ignited a crisis that threatened the party’s unity.
A dissatisfied Oke opted for the platform of the Alliance for Democracy to pursue his dream of ruling the state.
THE SUIT IN COURT
But Abraham headed for the Abuja Federal High Court to challenge the election of Akeredolu as the APC governorship candidate. Abraham, through an ex parte motion, prayed the court to declare the process that produced Akeredolu as governorship candidate of the APC illegal.
The suit also sought an interim order to prevent INEC from presenting Akeredolu as the party’s flagbearer pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice already filed in the suit. Abraham, who joined the APC National Chairman, John Oyegun, and INEC as defendants, based his case on the grounds that the election did not conform to the constitution of the party and guidelines set for the
Before the governorship election, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba ordered Akeredolu to show cause (reason) why an interim order restraining INEC from recognising him as the candidate of APC should not be granted.
But Akin Olujimi, leading a team of 28 lawyers in defence of Akeredolu, argued that counsel to Abraham had not served him with the orders of the court requiring the defendants to come and show cause. Olujimi told the court that because service was not effected, the hearing could not go on. But the court dismissed the preliminary objections, ruling that the application for interim injunction sought by Abraham had merit.
Not satisfied with the ruling of the court, Akeredolu approached the Appeal Court, asking it to set aside the ruling of the lower court. But the court dismissed the appeal and a stay of proceedings application filed by the governor, saying it lacked merit.
The court also ordered the governor to put up a defence as one of the respondents to the suit marked FHC/ABJ / CS/788/2016 at the Federal High Court in Abuja. It held that the service of originating summons filed by Abraham on the APC National Secretariat in connection with the contentious primary, instead of Akeredolu, was proper.
Abraham, who hailed the ruling, described it as a quit notice to Akeredolu and an indication that democracy was maturing in the country.
Akeredolu, however, headed for the Supreme Court to challenge the decision of the Court of Appeal that validated the service of originating summons on the APC National Secretariat instead of the governor.
The ruling of the Appeal Court elicited wide jubilation in Abraham’s camp, prompting Akeredolu to issue a statement that the decision did not call for any celebration. The statement, signed by his Chief Press Secretary, said the ruling of the Appeal Court was unnecessarily blown out of proportion as a result of ignorance.
According to Akeredolu, what the appeal court ruled on was whether the service of the Originating Process on the APC secretariat in Abuja, instead of him, was right or not. The governor wondered “how a simple ruling is being twisted and misrepresented to the people.”
An Akure-based lawyer, Morakinyo Ogele, who spoke with The Point on the issue, questioned the morality of Abraham’s suit. His opinion is that since Abraham congratulated Akeredolu on his victory at the primary and pledged his support for him in the gubernatorial election, he should not have approached the court to challenge the governor’s candidature.
He said, “Abraham cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time. After the conduct of the primary election, he was the first to congratulate Akeredolu and give credit to the conduct of the shadow poll. He went further to promise that he would ensure APC won the gubernatorial election.
“We were surprised that thereafter, he went to court to challenge the outcome of the primary election. Let me, however, say that he has the right to challenge the outcome of the primary election. But I don’t think he should have congratulated Akeredolu when he knew that the primary was fraudulent.”
The lawyer argued that the originating process should have been served on Akeredolu instead of the APC National Secretariat, saying, “The service was not proper. It was short of court rules. Every court rule says that the defendant has right to personal service unless the claimant applies for leave of court to serve Akeredolu through the national secretariat of APC. That’s the law.
“Since they have not done this, Akeredolu should be served personally. Personal service is very vital in any court proceedings. There is a forest of authorities emanating from our apex court that any defendant not served personally cannot be called to face that
But Ogele offered another view that the thinking of the court might be that once they had served the party secretariat, it should be believed that Akeredolu had also been served because it was the APC that sponsored him. He, however, believes that the matter may outlive the tenure of Akeredolu since the hearing of the substantive case has not even commenced.
“The matter may last till the second coming of Jesus Christ,” Ogele predicted.
But countering Ogele, Abraham’s spokesman, Akinola, who is a legal practitioner, retorted, “No lawyer would say this, professionally speaking. However, since we now have “political” lawyers, who feed on politics, they are clownish and make jest not based on fact but fiction. So no one should be worried about those comical jests. When justice rolls down like a mighty rock in Ondo State, those lawyers will be the first to show up at Dr. Abraham’s doorstep. We know
Yet, another legal practitioner, Mr. Yemi Adetoyinbo, observed that time might prove at the end of the day as a major impediment, standing between Abraham and justice. According to him, it will take a long time to finally conclude the case.
Adetoyinbo, however, said Abraham had a good case since the APC Appeal Committee had nullified the shadow election that threw up Akeredolu as the candidate of the party.
PDP, LIKELY BENEFICIARY OF SUIT?
It is, however, the view of some observers that if Abraham eventually succeeds in proving his case from the lower court through the Appeal Court to the Supreme Court, he may not be the beneficiary of the legal victory. The view is predicated on a recent Supreme Court judgement, which sacked a member of the Kano State House of Assembly, Hayatu Dorawar-Sallau.
The apex court ordered Dorawar-Sallau, who represented Kura/Garunmallam in the Assembly on the platform of the APC, to vacate his seat for the PDP candidate, Abdullahi Mohammed, who came second in the election. An APC aspirant, Danladi Karfi, had dragged Dorawar-Sallau before the Federal High Court, challenging his emergence as the party’s candidate. If that happens in this instance, observers say Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, the PDP governorship candidate, may inherit Jegede’s struggle, as he came second in the governorship