THE Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan on November 11, 2019, delivered an ambiguous judgment that has got both the complainant and the defendant claiming victory regarding the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Oyo State. Seyi Makinde won the election handily by 515,621 votes to Adebayo Adelabu’s 357,982 votes. The margin of victory was by 157,639 votes. What made the victory even more decisive is that Makinde of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) got more votes in 28 Local Government Areas of the state, while Adelabu of the All Progressive Congress (APC) won in only five LGAs. It was not by any means a close contest. Makinde won comprehensively despite that APC was the ruling party at both the federal and state levels at the time of the election. With such a margin of victory, the loser in a saner society would have congratulated the winner and moved on to prepare for another day. But that is the way of Nigerian politicians with their win-at-all-cost mentality. The loser chose to exercise his right of appeal which was thrown out by the election petitions tribunal. Still, he proceeded to the Court of Appeal for redress.
Normally, a court judgment was supposed to bring closure to a case or clearly state the way forward for the parties in a case. This Court of Appeal’s ruling was different and the ensuing confusion now threatens the peace of the state. Makinde’s lead counsel, Eyitayo Jegede contends that Makinde remains the governor of the state since there had been no counter directive by the appellate court on his victory. The APC governorship candidate, Bayo Adelabu, on the other hand, claims that the court judgment vindicates his claim that the election was inconclusive and that there is still an opportunity for him to get the victor booted out of office.By delivering a fuzzy judgment which neither upturned the ruling of the election petitions tribunal that had earlier upheld Makinde’s victory, nor ordered a fresh election, the stage as many commentators have opined, appears set for the kind of political subterfuge that has made Nigeria, in spite of its huge potentials, a perpetually underdeveloped country.
Knowing that nothing is ever straight forward in Nigeria, there is spreading speculation that a miracle judgment could come out of the Supreme Court to throw Oyo State into further confusion. What makes this matter sensitive is that it appears to fall in line with the larger narrative of a hidden political agenda that has long been bandied around for a while as the 2023 election circle approaches. The zero-sum politics of 2023 already has a potential collateral damage in the person of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo whose humiliation as part of the process of forcing him out has commenced. It has long been whispered that the ruling government and some of its aspiring presidential hopefuls consider Oyo State to be a critically important political battleground that cannot be allowed to remain in the hands of the opposition. Conventional wisdom is that you cannot claim to control the southwest if Oyo State is not in your grasp. Incidentally, it is the only southwest state not controlled by the ruling APC. At the time I first heard this, I had thought that it was all about getting the state back in 2023. Now there are whispers in the political circles that the plan was meant to be activated immediately.
Truth be told, Makinde won the governorship election hands down, riding on his pedigree as a proven compassionate individual and the public dislike of his predecessor’s abrasive style of governance. What APC should have done is to go back to the drawing board to offer a more viable alternative to PDP in 2023. What Oyo State needs right now is peace to provide a conducive environment for development. Makinde’s four-year term has started extremely well. The challenge for him is to finish strong. Makinde in just a few months in the saddle has proved not to be just another run of the mill governor. A selfless and compassionate man, Makinde symbolizes a paradigm shift in governance that has caught the fancy of Nigerians from the furthest reaches of the north to the nooks and cranny of the south. It is not for nothing that he is already being seen as a future presidential material. It may well be that the Court of Appeal ruling has ended any question about Makinde’s mandate and all the raging debate about the issue is much ado about nothing. But any ojoro takeover of the state through a judicial backdoor could easily turn ugly. The electorate is unlikely to fold its arms as desperate politicians try to hijack their manifest freewill in electing Seyi Makinde as their governor on March 9, 2019.
The way I see it, Makinde will become a political legend if he continues to exhibit the selfless service he has so far rendered. For a man who has not until now held a political office, he is a fresh breath of air in a state that has not been particularly blessed with selfless leadership and the last thing the downtrodden people of Oyo State want is another leader who will engage in self aggrandisement or kleptocracy. If he finishes the way he started, he would have created for himself a pedestal for bigger involvement in Nigerian politics.
- Dr. Raufu teaches at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, United States.