By Olufemi Ezekiel
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party in Ogun State is in the news again lately for the same wrong reason. This time around, it is about the ugly scenario that played out at the opening of the sitting of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Monday, June 5, 2023.
In line with democratic norms, the tribunal had been constituted immediately after the March 18 governorship election to allow all aggrieved candidates to ventilate their grievances for appropriate redress. In order to ensure that justice is fairly served, our constitution permits an appeal against tribunal judgment up to the Supreme Court level. All through the proceedings, however, the possession of genuine democratic credentials demands trust, patience, and perseverance, as the wheel of justice may sometimes be slow, long, and tortuous. Basically, this is what is lacking in some of our politicians who see an election into public office as a do-or-die affair.
With such a mindset, it is not surprising that many of our state actors are unappreciative of the enormity of the burden of responsibility the judiciary in carrying on its shoulder. In their hasty quest for justice, they tend to stampede the judiciary with all forms of intimidation, reckless comments, and sly innuendoes.
For us in Ogun State, that is one of the challenges we have had to grapple with in recent times as a result of the unruly behaviour of the supporters of the governorship candidate of the PDP, Hon Oladipupo Adebutu, who have adopted violence as a mean of achieving their end. Right from the time the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Governor Dapo Abiodun as the winner of the just gubernatorial election; Ogun State has sadly assumed notoriety as the hotbed of social unrest and political dissension being displayed by the teeming supporters of the PDP. And it gives serious cause for concern because of its implication on the people’s desire for good governance.
To be sure, Governor Abiodun has just been sworn in for another term of four years. Unlike before when political awareness was still very low, the politics of re-election is no longer a tea party. With the level of sophistication of the state electorate, back-to-back re-election is now more of an arduous task because you must be able to present a comprehensive scorecard of your achievements for you to earn their trust for your mandate renewal.
So, let no one think that going to court to challenge the legitimacy of the second term of Governor Abiodun is anything to worry about. Not at all! It’s no big deal, as it does not in any way constitute a headache either to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state or the governor himself whose victory is a testimony of the relentless effort of his administration, his statesmanship as well as his committed and focused leadership. Once again, he has assured of his renewed commitment to take the state to the next level of development that all of us can be proud.
Nonetheless, he is not averse to the idea of anybody challenging his re-election through legitimate means. He is a genuine democrat, he cannot bellyache anyone for exploring the option of court to seek redress. But he has every right to kick against the culture of thuggery, hooliganism, and willful disregard of the standard rule of procedure imported into the state by desperate power mongers. It will do no one any good.
As the constitution provides for the right of contest for all candidates who feel short-changed by the outcome of the just concluded general elections, the proceeding is ongoing in virtually all the states where governorship polls recently held in the country including the presidential election petition tribunal. Among all of these, none is as volatile as Ogun State. Why is our case different? It is different because of the character of those leading the opposition. It is, therefore, high time people began to question the motive behind the promotion of the despicable act of political intolerance that has been foisted on us by some self-serving individuals who are masquerading as newfound messiahs. If their desire is to genuinely serve the people, applying disruptive tendencies to the case in court is not only inimical to the atmosphere of peace in the state but also a threat to democracy. At any level of government, no development can take place in an atmosphere of violence.
This past week, the state would have been thrown into an unmitigated turmoil but for the vigilance and intelligence gathering of the security operatives who uncovered the plot by the supporters of Adebutu to unleash mayhem and overrun the election petition tribunal sitting in Abeokuta.
According to an account of the botched plan, some overzealous PDP supporters otherwise called “Lado Supporters” had surreptitiously concluded an arrangement to invade the court premises to intimidate the tribunal and disturb public peace and order. But the eagle-eyes of the security personnel assigned to man the venue of the premises of the tribunal were proactive to uncover the evil plot ahead of execution; otherwise, they would have unleashed violence on unsuspecting members of the public.
They were wise by half. In a failed bid to cover their plans and identities, they instructed their followers in a coded text message shared widely on PDP platforms to avoid putting on anything that could suggest that they were supporters of Lado so that nobody would suspect them of the evil plot.
However, the APC leadership was smarter to have intercepted it. The excerpt of the message reads: “In reference to the last paragraph, the date (05/06/2023) is confirmed. We, therefore, appeal to our PDP members/Lado Supporters Groups not to wear anything that has the PDP logo or Lado’s scripture in order to have a peaceful atmosphere inside and outside the court premises. My people, due to the information at hand, Ogun State Gubernatorial Election Petition Tribunal will commence on the 5th of June, 2023.”
Thus, with proof of evidence, the State Assistant Publicity Secretary of the APC, Ogunsanya Olusola Blessed, who confirmed the plot in a recently released, challenged the PDP to deny the plot and face the consequence. Yet, up till now, there is no official rebuttal of the allegation. By keeping mum on the charge, the PDP has overtly or covertly admitted its involvement in the shady deal. It is, indeed, highly commendable that the security operatives assigned to provide and protect the people present at the tribunal were able to nip the plot in the bud.
In a twist of the matter, however, the PDP went to town with fake news, accusing the APC supporters of attacking its members. Regrettably, they found willing tools in some junk media helping them to peddle the unfounded allegation. Such a distortion of fact underscores the lack of decency and sheer determination of a group of disgruntled elements who are hell-bent on causing confusion in the state. Rather, he and his supporters should allow the judiciary do its work to a logical conclusion if truly they believe it’s the last hope of the common man. Or, is Ladi afraid of his own shadow?
In the first place, why will the governor who is the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the State let lose his own party to go and cause commotion at the tribunal? If things go awry, who would take responsibility for the carnage that may likely result from the ensuing conflict? Whatever happens, the buck stops on his table, there is no way he could have endorsed any form of unruly behaviour that is capable of distracting him from the smooth running of the government.
As an eyewitness account narrated, contrary to the insinuation, the ugly scenario that played out was ignited by the spontaneous reaction of a huge crowd of gatecrashers, including members of the PDP, who were protesting against Segun Showunmi who wanted to force his way into the venue of the tribunal under the guise of being a stakeholder after the gate had been locked.
For the benefit of hindsight, it’s known fact that Showunmi had had a prolonged battle with Adebutu before the governorship election coming and going out of the court over the party’s ticket. So, Lado’s supporters saw the disgraceful reaction meted out to him outside the premises of Customary Court at Isabo, Abeokuta, the venue of the governorship election petition tribunal in Ogun State, as an opportunity to extract their own pound of the flesh for the spoiler’s role he played in the run-up to the election. And they rightly served him. But then, it is rather pretentious and hypocritical for anyone to point an accusing finger at the APC, for the governor who is the leader of the party is a man of peace. He would not want to do anything that would tarnish his hard-earned image with a noble background.
While Governor Abiodun has spared no effort in bringing down the rising political temperature in the state in the face of all provocations, supporters of PDP have been busy raising unnecessary dust.
Meanwhile, Adebutu is on self-imposed exile cooling his feet having been confronted with criminal charges of vote-buying, electoral manipulation, money laundering, bribery, criminal conspiracy etcetera. Lado lost his peace the day he decided to conspire with some banks to induce voters with money under the guise of Dame Oladunni Memorial Endorsement Scheme for the less privileged between February and March 2023 and thereby committing an offence contrary to section 7(1) (a) of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act 2022.
Under our law, there is no safe haven for criminals. At the appropriate time, Adebutu will face the consequences of his action or inaction. Whatever his ordeal, he should just exonerate the APC and Governor Abiodun whose commitment is to the delivery of his electoral promises.
Ezekiel wrote from Imeko, Imeko-Afon LGA, Ogun State.