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The internal crisis within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has for months now brought the party to its knees has finally come to a head. Ondo State appears set to be the worst culprit of the wrangling so far. Unless the unexpected happens, Olusegun Mimiko who has, for eight years, creditably acquitted himself as the governor of Ondo State, will leave office without producing his successor. The governor is a victim of the in-fighting within the PDP. His anointed candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, who, from the look of things, would have had an easy ride to Government House through popular acclaim, is missing in action. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), suspected to be in league with enemies of the PDP, has made Mimiko’s anointed the sacrificial lamb. Jegede has to fall by the wayside to pave way for those who would not have had a fighting chance in the election.
The way it has turned out, Mimiko is going into the election fully castrated. Jimoh Ibrahim, the man whom INEC curiously listed as the candidate of the PDP, is not known to Mimiko. He also does not appear known to the Ondo electorate. That may explain his poor showing at the campaigns. With him as candidate, it is taken that PDP is not participating in the 2016 governorshp election in Ondo State. But the full implication of what is about to happen to Mimiko is that he will merely adopt a candidate in order not to be left completely in the lurch. And that is not a good signal for tomorrow. If this happens, Mimiko will hardly sit pretty as an ex-governor.
Watchers of recent political developments in Nigeria are suspicious about what is going on. There is almost a consensus of opinion among them that the INEC chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, is acting out a script. It is believed that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has an agenda of wilful consolidation. With a fragmented base in the south of the country, the party may be plotting to have a clean sweep of the south west where it made more than an average showing during the 2015 elections. The party, it could be said, brought to the open its expansionist agenda during the recently conducted Edo State governorship polls. Adams Oshiomhole and his APC were not favoured to return to Osadebe House in Benin City. That was going to be bad news for the comrade who, in his last days as governor, courted unnecessary controversy. The failure of Oshiomhole to produce his successor would also have amounted to a tear-jerking upset. Something needed to be done. INEC was handy enough to come to his rescue. Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the candidate of the PDP, believes strongly that he won the election. He has approached the courts in a bid to claim his mandate. Time will tell how this plays out. But then, the ingrained wisdom among politicians in Nigeria is that it is better to be declared a winner through the ballot than to seek redress in court. This is owing to the curious turns and twists that come with court actions. Ize-Iyamu went far enough. But there were a number of powerful forces massed up against him.
Apparently, owing to the misadventure that nearly befell APC in Edo State, INEC had to change tactics in the Ondo election. That was why it ensured that the man who would have won the election for the PDP was not listed for the exercise. As we noted earlier, Jimoh Ibrahim is a mere decoration. He will make no impact in the election. There is also nothing about him that suggests that he is in for a serious contest. He just wants to play the spoilsport. That is in line with the Ali Modu Sheriff agenda. The idea is not to heal the wounds of PDP. It is to destroy whatever is left of it after the loss of power in the 2015 presidential election.
For those who know and can see, Yakubu’s INEC is complicit in all this. But only two days ago, the man came up with a stout defence of his commission in the Ondo governorship imbroglio. He insisted that it was only the courts that could force the commission to shift the polls. This was in response to calls from a coalition of political parties for a shift in the election date. INEC is being prevailed upon to postpone the election to give the courts a little more time to make a pronouncement as to who the authentic candidate of the PDP is. If that is done, it will change a lot of things. It will see the tide of victory moving in a different direction. But INEC is not ready to brook this, which explains its fanatical disposition on the sanctity of the election date.
INEC, from all indications, may be working to actualise a prepared script. But the fact that must not be ignored is that the APC, in real terms, is as fragmented as the PDP. In the Ondo scenario, for instance, Bola Tinubu, a key player in the party, is not in the picture. The well rehearsed attempt to send him into political oblivion by some bigwigs of the APC is playing out here. They made sure that Tinubu would have no say in how the candidate of his party would emerge. And that was what happened.
Politicians, as we know, pretend a lot. They give you the impression that all is well when the reverse is the case. That is why the man who dines with you now can give you a fatal blow the next hour. Politics is made of such treacherous stuff. But Tinubu is not pretending about what has befallen him. He has openly expressed his disappointment. The betrayal is too much for him to pretend about. Consequently, he has drawn the battle line between him and his traducers. The Ondo exercise is going to be the first test case. Tinubu may not have his way. But the APC, certainly, will noot be the same again.
That brings us to candidate Rotimi Akeredolu, the man flying the flag of the APC in the forthcoming election. Akeredolu’s present relationship with Tinubu is a clear example of the tenuousness that characterises most political relationships. Four years ago , Tinubu and Akeredolu were the best of allies. But the passage of time has separated them. Today, Akeredolu draws his strength from the same quarters that are bent on making Tinubu a spent force. The coming election is, therefore, supposed to be a contest between the pro- and anti-Tinubu forces in the party. But that may not manifest so easily because of the bullish nature of our politics. Akeredolu may just have his way regardless of the opposition from high quarters. In fact, his refusal to participate in the debate for candidates of various political parties may not be unconnected with the solidity of his support base. He probably considers that more important than the verdict of the people. Otherwise, why would a frontline candidate be the one to dodge public debate? What can he be afraid of, his own shadow?
Whichever way it plays out, the Ondo election will produce big casualties. The most prominent will be Mimiko. The fact that he will not decide who succeeds him is not in his best interest. Tinubu is going to be another major casualty. Like Mimiko, he may swing votes in any direction, but it will not produce the outcome they originally wished for. The Ondo scenario is, therefore, a sign of the times. It is going to be one of the earliest manifestations of the battle ahead. All this will have a telling effect on the politics that is yet to come.
• This piece was written before the Appeal Court reinstated Jegede yesterday.