The Independent National Electoral Commission has named businessman Jimoh Ibrahim as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for the November 26 governorship election despite a recommendation by its Legal Department who investigation by this newspaper has revealed recommended that Eyitayo Jegede be recognized as the authentic candidate of the party in a Memo signed by the Head of Legal Department which was sent to the INEC Chairman and discussed at an elaborate staff meeting yesterday. Part of the memo from the Legal Department reads thus:
1. The Legal Department recommends that Eyitayo Jegede be recognized as the candidate of the PDP because the Commission monitored the primaries that produced him inline with the Electoral Act. The Makarfi led Caretaker Committee (CTC) complied with the provisions of the Electoral Act by writing to the Commission as stipulated by law and gave the Commission enough Notice as stipulated by Law. This primaries was conducted and monitored in the state capital, Akure by the commission with all the national organs of the party present. The party fulfilled all the conditions stipulated in the Electoral Act for the conduct of the primaries. This is why the Commission must recognize Eyitayo Jegede as the authentic candidate of the PDP.
2. Jimoh Ibrahim's name was forwarded to the Commission by the factional State Exco of the PDP in Ondo State against the stipulation of the Electoral Act that says the name of a candidate must be forwarded to the Commission by the National Executive Council of the party. That this was not done inline with the Electoral Act and the act also contravenes the position of the Supreme Court in Emeka vs Okadigbo which equivocally states that it is the national executive of a political party that can forward the name of a candidate to the Commission.
3. The decision of his Lordship Justice Okon Abang comes at a time when there are many conflicting judgements on this issue and also violates the Supreme Court position in Emeka vs Okadigbo which states that for a candidate to be recognized as the candidate of a political party, he must have participated in all the processes for nomination and election into the position he seeks to occupy and that Jimoh Ibrahim did not qualify for this as he was neither validly nominated by his political party or is there any evidence before the Commission to show that he participated in any primaries. The Commission also did not monitor any primaries in which Jimoh Ibrahim emerged as a gubernatorial candidate of the PDP.
4. There has been a restraining order from an Akure High Court restraining the Commission from recognizing Jimoh Ibrahim as the candidate of the PDP and it is the most recent order in the face of many conflicting orders. The Commission must do what is ethically and professionally right by not recognizing Jimoh Ibrahim as the PDP candidate since it is clear to the Commission that only the primaries that produced Eyitayo Jegede followed the provisions of the Electoral Law.
Despite the recommendation by the Legal Department, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim's name was posted on an INEC notice board in Akure as well as on the Commission's website.
Further investigations by this newspaper revealed that Amina Zakari had attended a meeting with the INEC Chairman at the presidential villa with president Buhari and clear instructions was given to the Commission to announce the name of Jimoh Ibrahim as the candidate of the PDP.
A source who was at the meeting said the Attorney General of the Federation was also at that meeting and advised that substituting of the name of Jegede with Jimoh Ibrahim was the right thing. Amina Zakari announced at the INEC management meeting where the final decision was taken to announce Mr. Jimoh's name that the Commission had sought the advice of the Attorney General of the Federation and was advised rightly even when the members of the Legal Department raised several objections to her arguments in support of Jimoh Ibrahim.
The INEC source said before the INEC Chairman and Amina Zakari came into the meeting, it appeared their minds were already made up and nobody could do anything otherwise and you dare not oppose Amina Zakari because she is the most powerful person at INEC now. She is the one that nominated most of those appointed by the president, the source further added.
This implies that until a superior court gives a contrary judgment, Eyitayo Jegede, the candidate of the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the PDP will not be accepted as the party's candidate.
A court order from an the Ondo State High Court on Wednesday restrained INEC from recognizing Mr. Ibrahim as the candidate of the PDP pending the determination of the substantive suit before the court.
Mr. Abang had on October 14 declared Mr. Ibrahim the true candidate of the PDP. On Thursday, Mr. Abang rejected a plea by Mr. Jegede seeking to be allowed to appeal the October 14 court judgement.
INEC has said it would have no choice but to drop Mr. Ibrahim if another superior order comes in favour of Mr. Jegede.
INEC and the PDP have gone on appeal at the Court of Appeal and the matter is to be heard today.