- As Two Heavyweights Tear Ondo PDP Apart..
- Party Snubs 399 Witnesses At Tribunal To Close Case
By Abiola Olawale
The protracted crisis rocking the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the Southwest has negatively rubbed off on the election petitions filed by the party at the Ondo Governorship Petition Tribunal as the PDP and its candidate, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) abruptly closed their case before the tribunal sitting in Akure, Wednesday.
The party is challenging the victory of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the October 2020 guber poll.
In a move seen as premature by legal experts, Counsel to the PDP and Jegede, Onyechi Ipeazu (SAN), closed the case as he told the tribunal that the petitioners were no longer interested in calling the remaining 399 witnesses listed to testify in the case.
The petitioners had initially listed 400 witness and other exhibits before the tribunal, but Jegede is the only witness that was called to testify in the matter.
Ikpeazu said his clients were no more interested in calling any other witnesses aside Jegede who was in the witness box on Tuesday.
While responding to the request from the petitioners, Counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Charles Edosomwan (SAN), pleaded to the court for more time to study the petitions submitted and to be able to open their defence.
Counsel to APC and Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, Akin Olujimi (SAN), did not oppose the pleadings of INEC. They agreed to get more time to study the petition.
Following their requests, the presiding Judge at the tribunal, Honorable Justice Umar Abubakar, adjourned the case till Tuesday, 19th January.
Meanwhile, The New Diplomat learnt the twist at the tribunal was not unconnected to the crisis rocking the PDP in the state as the party currently has two factions in the state.
Sources told The New Diplomat that the acrimony among party members in the state, following the fallouts from the Ondo poll made it dangerous for the PDP counsel to allow many of the witnesses out of the 400 initially listed in the petition to testify before the tribunal.
One of the sources said “a serious trust issues among the PDP witnesses led to the abrupt closing of the case at the tribunal, Wednesday, noting the PDP Counsel was wary of further jeopardizing the case.”
The New Diplomat checks reveal that the decision of the PDP and Jegede to withdraw 399 witnesses was as a result of the two factions in the Ondo PDP.
Further checks revealed that the crises had started before the October 10, 2020 election in the the state. The battle of supremacy between ex-governor of Ekiti, Ayodele Fayose and the incumbent Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde has affected Ondo PDP badly.
It would be recalled that during the PDP governorship primary election in Ondo, Makinde, who was the Chairman of the Ondo State Election Campaign Committee declared unflinching support for Jegede’s candidacy. Fayose on the other hand preferred the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi who was in the APC then.
Ajayi who was formerly a member of PDP had ditched the party for APC in 2016. However, Fayose reportedly brought Ajayi back to the party. This led to the factionalization of the party in the state. Some party members who are loyal to Makinde quickly used the opportunity to deflate the ego of Fayose as Jegede later won the primary election.
The crises in the party further worsened after the party suspended some of its leaders.
Five party chieftains were suspended on 28th of December, 2020. The suspended members include a former PDP chairman of the state, and current House of Assembly member, Ebenezer Alabi.
The suspension came after the two PDP senators in Ondo state declared support for Fayose at a meeting in the former governor’s residence.
With the premature closing of the case, many legal commentators have argued that Jegede and the PDP may have put Akeredolu in good stead to further establish his defence in the case and outrightly win at the election petition Tribunal.