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Ondo guber: Chief Judge declines Assembly’s request

•Screening committee disqualifies aspirant

The move to impeach the embattled Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Hon. Agboola Ajayi, has suffered a setback as the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Olarenwaju Akeredolu, yesterday rejected the request by the state House of Assembly to set up a probe panel against the embattled deputy governor. According to the Chief Judge, who replied to the letter of the Speaker, Bamidele Oleyelogun, to set up the panel, the Assembly did not meet the constitutional requirements needed to impeach the deputy governor. Oleyelogun had on Thursday written to the Chief Judge to set up a seven-man panel to investigate Ajayi over allegations of gross misconduct.

A total of 14 members of the assembly had signed an impeachment notice against the deputy governor, listing seven allegations against him. Nine other members of the Assembly had also written to the Speaker and the Chief Judge to distance themselves from the impeachment plot. The Chief Judge emphasised that the Assembly did not follow the required procedure. Justice Akeredolu also said she had received a letter from Ajayi’s lawyers stating that the process of impeachment was subjudice.

Justice Akeredolu’s letter with reference number CROD/1123/V.3/54 was entitled ‘Re: Request to set up seven-man panel pursuant to section 188(5) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)’ The letter read in part: “In view foregoing, the honourable members of the House of the Assembly have not completed the constitutional process that will lead your good self to invite my humble self to set up a panel of seven to investigate allegations of gross misconduct as stipulated in the constitution. “Furthermore, I wish to bring a letter which I received earlier today from Kayode Olatoke SAN, which tells me clearly that the matter of impeachment of Hon. Alfred Agboola Ajayi, the Deputy Governor as subjudice”, she wrote.

Committee disqualifies aspirant

This is coming as the state screening committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) submitted its report, stating that one of the aspirants was disqualified. The Secretary of the Caretaker/ Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee, Senator John Udoudehee received the report on behalf of the chairman, Mai Mala Buni, commended the committee for what he described as diligent exercise, while assuring that the report would be transferred to the appeals committee for necessary action.

While submitting the report at the APC National Headquarters in Abuja, Chairman of the committee, Alhaji Tijani Tumsa, said the aspirants were scored based on their presentations, education qualifications, among others but one of the twelve aspirants failed to meet up with the requirements set by the party. “We commenced the screening exercise two days ago. There were 12 aspirants in all and I am glad to report that they all showed up for the exercise and we were able to conduct the screening within the two days stipulated.

“The committee decided that the aspirants be scored based on their presentations, educational qualifications, their commitment to the party, knowledge of the constitution, community service, manifestoes of the APC, their team spirit and working experience. “Of the 12 aspirants for the election, the committee has deemed it possible to qualify eleven of the aspirants to contest for the primary. We understand of course that the 12th aspirant has the option of appealing the decision of the committee.

APC in dilemma

However, a few weeks to the APC governorship primary, the leadership of the party is yet to firmly decide on the mode. The primary had been fixed for July 20 by the dissolved APC National Working Committee, with a letter written to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) informing the commission of the choice of indirect primary in the state. However, about 10 out of the 12 aspirants of the governorship ticket are kicking against the indirect mode, while demanding a direct primary election. According to them, only the direct primary of APC can produce a fair and credible candidate that can win the October 10 governorship election in the state. They have also argued that by the resolution of the APC National Executive Committee meeting of 2018, the choice of primaries in the state resides with the stakeholders in the state.

Their position is alluded to by the Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee led by the governor of Yobe State, Alhaji Mai Mala Buni. A reliable source at the National Secretariat of the party in Abuja told Saturday Telegraph that the Caretaker Committee was in dilemma over what to do, as many stakeholders are demanding a direct primary. According to the source, the caretaker chairman, Mai Mala Buni was heard saying that the choice was to be determined by stakeholders as he was at the NEC meeting when the resolution was reached. Buni was the APC National Secretary when APC NEC resolved that party stakeholders in any particular state would decide on their choice of primaries. Also a factional APC Chairman in the state, Hon. Henry Olutuja has threatened a legal action should the national leadership adopt any other primary outside the direct mode.

He said: “We urge that premised on the situation at hand in Ondo State as highlighted above, that the option of Direct Primary be considered and must be adopted in the interest of equity, fairness and justice so that the outcome of the pending suit No. FHC/AK/ CS/10/2019 would not affect the validity of the Governorship Primary to be conducted on the 20th July, 2020. “We are not unmindful of the present pandemic, however a successfully governorship primary was held in Edo State in recent time with strict adherence to laid down procedures by NCDC and INEC, flowing from the above a hitch free direct primary can be held in Ondo State without regard to any numerical misrepresentation from any quarters. However, the party source has said the caretaker committee was planning to meet with the stakeholders to decide on the mode of primary to be adopted. PDP members fume over delegate’s list.

Some members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State yesterday protested against Ajayi over the alleged plan to manipulate the delegate’s list ahead of the party’s July 22, 2020 primaries. The aggrieved members who thronged a popular hotel in Akure, the Ondo State capital argued that Ajayi was attempting to bribe the adhoc delegate committee in order to replace the names of the prospective delegates across the 203 wards of the state. This is just as the Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ese-Odo Local Government Area of the state, Mr Samuel Olorunwa Ajayi yesterday resigned his membership of the party. His resignation letter was tendered at the party’s Secretariat after which he was revealed to be joining the deputy governor in the PDP. Ajayi is a close ally of the Deputy Governor who recently dumped APC for PDP.

The protesters who are supporters of some of the aspirants also alleged the state caretaker chairman, Engr Clement Faboyede and his committee members of colluding with Ajayi to manipulate the delegate list in order to provide leverage for the deputy governor in the forthcoming gubernatorial primaries of the party. Reacting to the development, the PDP Publicity Secretary, Mr Zadok Akintoye, who confirmed the protest, said he could not authenticate the allegations against Agboola. Akintoye said: “I didn’t see the deputy governor at the event but I saw three other aspirants and I know the party will react at an appropriate time.

Ajayi’s defence

In a swift reaction, the Deputy Governor described the allegations as an attempt to blackmail the members of the committee who are in the state for the compilation of the Adhoc delegates’ list for the July 20, 2020 party primary While reacting to the allegations, the Chief Press Secretary to the deputy governor, Mr Babatope Okeowo, said his principal “has become the nightmare of his political adversaries within PDP and their allies in the All Progressives Congress, (APC) in the state because of his political capital and rising acceptance popularity. “For purposes of clarity and unsuspecting members of the public who may be hoodwinked in this celebration of falsehood, the Deputy Governor never visited the venue of the Congress. Not even when all the aspirants were invited on 9th July 2020. “We, therefore, urge the general public and committed members of the PDP to disregard in its entirety these panicking measures employed by Akeredolu and his allies in the PDP to pull down the Deputy Governor at all cost.”

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