Riots erupted across many parts of Ondo state yesterday as protesters trooped to the streets to protest the substitution of the name of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate, Mr Eyitayo Jegede SAN by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with that of Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim for next month’s governorship election in the state. As early as 6.30am the rioters had barricaded all the roads leading to Akure, the state capital chanting war songs and paralysed both economic and social activities as commercial banks and shops were closed down. Workers and students were turned back while commercial vehicle owners deserted the streets. The protesters made burn fire on all the major roads in the state and resisted all attempts by the security agents to disperse them. In the midst of sporadic gunshots and tear-gas by the combined team of security agents the protesting youths remained undeterred. Following the outbreak of riots in the state, Governor Olusegun Mimiko hurriedly left the state for the presidential villa to brief President Muhammadu Buhari saying what INEC had done was capable of setting the state on fire. He vowed that everything possible would be done to make the commission reverse the decision, which he described as shocking.
Vanguard gathered that similar protests were recorded in Ondo town, Ore in Odigbo local government area, Ilara, Idanre, Owo, Okitipupa, Isua Akoko, Ikare Akoko, Ipele and many other towns and villages in the state. Some of the protesters also stormed the office of the INEC and were addressed by the Resident Electoral Commissioner, (REC) Olusegun Agbaje, who explained the reason behind the removal of Jegede as the PDP candidate. Agbaje said “We received a court order from the High Court in Akure on Wednesday but there was a subsisting ruling by Justice Abang on Thursday and we had to comply with the order” He however said that another court order can upturn the situation saying “the situation will continue that way until the matter is decided by the Supreme Court if the parties choose to proceed to the apex court. We do not have any candidate but we will always abide by the laws guiding the process.” Mimiko consults president As a result of the uprising, Mimiko on Friday morning quickly raced to the presidential villa to formally intimate President Buhari on the developments in the state, appealing to him to intervene in the matter at least to prevent the crisis from escalating. According to the governor, it was shocking that INEC substituted Jegede with Ibrahim’s name on the final list of various parties’ candidates, saying it was an act of gross impunity. He recalled that the election that threw up Ibrahim was conducted in Ibadan, Oyo state and was not supervised by the relevant bodies, wondering why Jegede whose election took place in Ondo with the presence of INEC and security agencies as monitors was set outside. It will be recalled also that Ibrahim was a product of Ali Modu Sheriff factional leadership of the PDP while Jegede belonged to the Ahmed Markifi’s faction. Speaking to State House Correspondents after his meeting with Buhari, Mimiko said the crisis in the state could assume a wider dimension if the situation was not reversed. 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 2009 election. Neither Jimoh Ibrahim nor Tayo jegede were parties to the suit. “So, when that judgement suddenly came and the name of Jimoh Ibrahim was sent to INEC after a primary election which was conducted in Ibadan without INEC monitoring it, without security agencies, SSS or police observing it, INEC took the right decision initially by making it clear that it is not state or zonal executive that is empowered by the Electoral Act to conduct election and also that the Abang judgement 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 judgement. 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 with all delegates that were supposed to participate. Justice Abang ordered that Jimoh Ibrahim should replace Eyitayo Jegede. Ordinarily, we should have disregarded the order because 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. “Immediately we appealed, that notice of appeal especially when we had filed in our papers, submitted our briefs and got a date, 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, and we served INEC with the other one at the close of business around 3 pm. But 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 fully well that Jimoh Ibrahim’s primaries were held in Ibadan. There was no report by any security agency that the security situation in Ondo state warranted the movement of the primaries to Ibadan or anywhere outside the state for that matter. “Under INEC guidelines, the time for substitution of candidates has even elapsed. This action potentially can cause a breach of peace. In Ondo state in the last seven and half years, we have done everything possible to put good governance on the table. We see this action as potentially dangerous. 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 nib it in the bud.” Mimiko however stated that his intervention on the protest in the state had yielded result. “The whole day from 5am, 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 peace. For the people of the state, it is just from the blues. 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. “If INEC finds it difficult to obey court order, a credible election starts with a process like this”. Asked of the President’s response to his request, the governor said “Mr president has promised to look into it and that if there is any injustice, we should be rest assured that it will be rectified.” •Protesters on the streets of Ondo rampaging over INEC’s recognition of Jimoh Ibrahim as the PDP guber candidate yesterday (inset) burnfire set by the protesters.