THE INSIDER: How Oni’s supporters plotted disqualification suit against Fayemi

Segun Oni, the runner-up in the All Progressives Congress (APC) Ekiti state governorship primary, may, indeed, still be heading to court to challenge Kayode Fayemi’s candidacy.

TheCable had on Monday night reported that a suit was filed by Oni’s lawyer at the federal high court in Abuja to challenge the legality of Fayemi, former minister of mines and steel, as the party’s flagbearer in the July 14 governorship poll.

In the “originating summons” seen by TheCable, Fayemi’s legitimacy is being challenged partly on the grounds that he was still a minister when he contested in the party’s primary.

Oni, who was deputy national chairman of APC, was in Abuja for the national convention at the weekend and stayed back for the change of baton at the national secretariat.

Insiders told TheCable that when he was confronted by Adams Oshiomhole, the national chairman, at the secretariat on Tuesday over the report, he denied having anything to do with it.

TheCable also reported his denial, but the drama did not end there.

Two national leaders of the party, Bola Tinubu and Bisi Akande, issued a statement on Tuesday challenging Oni to publicly deny having anything to do with the suit, but he has not done so 24 hours later.

Meanwhile, one of his supporters, Ben Oguntuase, has said Oni is only seeking judicial determination on the two issues at stake.

This more or less confirmed that things are still hanging in the balance.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED?

Insiders have informed TheCable that the idea of a law suit was mooted in Abuja after Oni’s nominee for the deputy national chairmanship (south),  Anthony Adeniyi, a former senator from Ikere Ekiti in south senatorial district, was rejected in favour of Niyi Adebayo, former governor of the state.

“Oni felt that having lost the APC guber ticket to Fayemi, at least he deserved some compensation — that the position of deputy national chairman should have been conceded to him,” one of the insiders in his camp told TheCable.

However, Oni was told pointblank by the south-west leaders that Adeniyi should not run against Adebayo.

Oni was also accused of associating only with the people he came with to APC after defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

“Oni and his supporters felt humiliated and that is how the idea of a court case to disqualify Fayemi started. The lawyers were briefed and they prepared the originating summons,” another party official said.

ONI NOT HIS OWN MAN?

Oni — who is seen by his supporters as “too soft” and unwilling to put up a fight — started developing cold feet over the suit, according to insiders.

Not to be undone, his supporters decided to leak the originating summons even though it had not been filed in court. When the story was published, Oni quickly retreated, but Tinubu and Akande were not convinced and demanded that the former governor should come out openly to deny.

Meanwhile, the intrigues got more interesting when elements in the Ekiti PDP got to know of the lawsuit, and they were blamed as the source of the leak. It is still unclear if PDP actually played any role in it.

TheCable’s original report was partially correct: lawyers had indeed been briefed and originating summons prepared, but the suit had not been filed in court when the story was published.

WHY A LAWSUIT?

It is believed in Fayemi’s camp that the lawsuit was never meant to be filed — but it has played into the hands of the PDP.

“From the look of things, the Oni camp wants to negotiate ahead of the election. They think that if Fayemi wins, they will be frozen out. So preparing the summons and leaking it was to draw Fayemi to the negotiation table,” an insider in Fayemi’s team told TheCable on Wednesday.

Bunmi Ojo, a close associate and personal assistant to Oni when he was governor between 2007 and 2010, lamented to TheCable in a telephone interview on Tuesday that Fayemi was making the former governor and his supporters “irrelevant”.

The lawsuit, if eventually filed, has the potential of damaging the chances of APC in a state already under the firm grip of PDP, with Ayo Fayose, the governor, battle-ready to install his deputy, Kolapo Olusola, as his successor.

The two key issues to be determined, as listed in the summons, are:

“Whether by virtue of All Progressives Congress constitution and particularly Articles 2 and 5 of All Progressive Congress 2014 Guidelines for the nomination of candidates for public office as applicable to the A.P.C Governorship primaries conducted on the 12th May, 2018, the 1st Defendant being a serving member of the Federal Executive and Federal Minister of Solid Minerals, Mines and Steel Development having not resigned his appointment as a member of Federal Executive and Minister of Solid Mineral, Mines and Steel Development, at all or at least 30 days to the said primaries election of 12th May, 2018 was qualified to contest and participate in the said All Progressive Congress Governorship primaries of 12th May, 2018 as an aspirant in that election,” the document read.

“Whether by virtue of All Progressive Congress Constitution and particularly Articles 2 and 5 of All Progressive Congress 2014 Guidelines for the nomination of candidates for public office as applicable to the A.P.C Governorship primaries conducted on the 12th May, 2018, at Damilek Event Centre, Ado-Ekiti for the purpose of determining or nominating the 2nd Defendant candidate for the 12th July Ekiti State Governorship election, the 1st Defendant having being indicted by Rtd. Hon. Justice Oyewole Judicial Panel of Enquiry was qualified to contest and participate in the said All Progressives Congress Governorship primary of 12th May, 2018 as an aspirant in that election.”

Oni did not pick calls or respond to text messages from TheCable and has maintained silence over the issue.

“He has refused to talk to Tinubu or Akande. When they called him, he said he was on the road, that he could not talk,” another insider informed TheCable.

‘JUDICIAL DETERMINATION NECESSARY’

Oguntuase, one of Oni’s aides, insisted on Wednesday that Oni is only seeking judicial determination on two issues.

“The first issue is: should an appointed officer (distinct from an elected officer) of government resign the appointment before contesting any election or should the public position held by the aspirant as was the case here be held as insurance policy in the event of failure?” he wrote in a Facebook post.

“In other words, should government use a subsisting public office to underwrite the risk of failure of an aspirant under partisan circumstances? Would there be similar gesture extended to other aspirants? In the case of elected officials, I believe they retain their positions because of the explicit provision of term tenure accompanying the elective offices. A determination of this issue by the courts will go a long way in setting some standard of responsibility and accountability for our public officers.”

The second issue Oni is going to court, Oguntuase explained, is to determine whether or not a criminal indictment by a state or federal government constitutes a moral burden to overcome while seeking a public office, elective or appointive.

“Lawyers will argue, Judges will decide and the law will eventually take its course. The benefit to the public is that the standard of ethics in our public engagement and assessment will be strengthened and our anti-corruption crusade and consistency in practice will benefit something,” he wrote.

Oguntuase, however, noted that the relief Oni is seeking is realisable only in the event of a favourable outcome of the case.

“If Fayemi loses, the suit is of no value unless APC as a Party can overturn the victory in the Tribunal and make it become APC’s victory. On this realization, Oni has no choice than to be committed to his Party’s victory on July 14,” he said.