A security source and two officials at the Nigerian Presidency in Abuja have told SaharaReporters that Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State was behind violent protests in the state capital, Akure, during which various acts of arson were committed by hoodlums. The sources said the violent acts were a deliberate plot by Mr. Mimiko to force President Muhammadu Buhari into prevailing on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept, Eyitayo Jegede, the governor’s handpicked candidate, as the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in a governorship election scheduled for November 26, 2016.
The Presidency sources disclosed that they were investigating the role played by the state director of the Department of State Services (DSS) in Ondo State in the crisis. They said they were concerned that the state director had failed to arrest any members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers deployed by Governor Mimiko to start the crisis.
SaharaReporters learnt that the governor had been in Abuja since early last week hoping to mobilize judges through some of his lawyers with the hope of getting the Court of Appeal to reverse the judgment of a Federal High Court judge, Justice Okon Abang, who had ruled that Jimoh Ibrahim, the candidate of the Ali Modu-Sheriff faction of the PDP, was the party’s legitimate candidate.
SaharaReporters learnt that owing to the recent clampdown on judges suspected of corruption; several judges were wary of getting involved in another electoral matter that could lead to their disgrace and possible arrest. These judges, therefore, decided to steer clear of the governor and his hirelings who were promising huge sums of money to judges who would do their bidding.
On Wednesday, Justice Abang threw out an application for a stay of execution of his judgment. Governor Mimiko could not get the Court of Appeal even to schedule a hearing of his application for a stay of Justice Abang’s ruling. It was not until Thursday that he succeeded partially in getting the court to schedule a hearing for Friday and Saturday, something that is unusual but legitimate.
However, realizing that he was unlikely to succeed in getting the Court of Appeal to stop the impending INEC decision, Governor Mimiko ordered the Chief Judge of the Ondo State High Court to issue orders preventing INEC from removing the name of his stooge, Mr. Jegede from the list of candidates. In quick succession, the State High Court issued two orders, even though the Chief Judge knew state courts had no jurisdiction on federal agencies such as INEC.
SaharaReporters learnt that Governor Mimiko capitalized on the presence and concentration of top INEC leaders in the state to serve the orders on INEC. However, when INEC officials met to discuss the judicial orders, they decided to go with the Federal judge’s ruling. A panic-stricken Governor Mimiko quickly resorted to a number of measures, including a request to see President Buhari urgently. His appointment was granted.
Our sources said that, overnight and in collaboration with the two women serving as the Commissioner of Police and the Director of the DSS in the state, the governor mobilized thugs to strategic locations in the state capital in Akure, in most cases using Hilux pickup vans to drop of would-be rioters at strategic places in Akure and also in Ondo township to start burning tires. The early bonfires set around the state capital and some areas in Ondo were part of the ammunition the governor thought he needed to blackmail President Buhari into ordering INEC adopt the governor's candidate. One source said the governor reminded President Buhari that the crisis that led to his military coup in 1983 started from Ondo State, to which the President laughed and politely reminded the governor that he was the one who took care of the mess.
After meeting with the president, Governor Mimiko addressed the media at the State House and said the action of INEC was capable of setting his state on fire. But normalcy returned to the streets of Akure and other parts of Ondo State even before the governor could finish his meeting with Mr. Buhari.
Our sources said Federal authorities had called on the police commissioner and DSS director that their failure to act when the rioting started was regarded as collusion with the governor. The police and the DSS immediately went out to implore the protesters to end their violent acts. It was only at Idanre, where an aide to the governor hails from, that there was some disturbance early on Saturday in addition to rented protesters bearing banners at the palace of the Deji of Akure threatening brimstone and fire if Gov. Mimiko's handpicked candidate, Jegede, was not declared the rightful candidate of the PDP, but it was a small crowd.
Governor Mimiko, who had not paid state workers for six months, had just received some billions from the federal government days before and sources said he was shuffling the state funds in order to first pay lawyers and bribe judges.
Meanwhile, at the Court of Appeal, the governor, and his lawyers have not succeeded in moving past the legal technicalities of getting permission to be part of the lawsuit that barred his candidate in the first place. They also have to persuade the appellate judges to allow them to file their defenses because the appeal was out of time, having passed 90 days since the judgement was given in the case.
The Court of Appeal received a lot of applications filed today and scheduled more hearing for next week. It now looks unlikely that any ruling would come before next week, assuming the court allows the governor's team to jump the serious deficit in their pleadings.
A further complication for the Mimiko group is the fact that the PDP is fractious, with some of their lawyers fighting openly in court over representation.
In one their latest filings, Mr. Mimiko's lawyers have expunged their request for “stay of execution” from their pleading. No date has been set for judgment on any of the reliefs being sought at by the Court of Appeal.
Security agencies have been detailed to monitor the governor in case he tries to cause more havoc in the state by sponsoring groups to cause further rioting.
Mr. Mimiko may have a tough time pushing his agenda as his record of not paying salaries and embezzling state funds for months has made him highly unpopular. In fact, Governor Ayo Fayose of the neighboring state of Ekiti, who is a fellow PDP member, is said to be supporting the Alliance for Democracy governorship candidate, Olusola Oke.