Governor Dapo Abiodun, who was unlawfully declared winner of the March 18 Ogun governorship election, has pleaded with his opponent, Ladi Adebutu, to concede defeat and withdraw his suit from the tribunal.
Mr Abiodun dispatched the Akarigbo of Remo, Babatunde Ajayi, and other traditional chiefs from the state to London to meet with Kesington Adebutu, Ladi’s father, in the hope of brokering a peace accord that will end the legal battle, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.
The Gazette learnt the Akarigbo was joined on the trip by Asiwaju Solomon Onafowokan, chairman of Coleman Cable; Otunba Tunji Lawal-Solarin, chairman of Remo Growth and Development Foundation; Adewale Osiberu, Elepe of Epe; and Timothy Adesanya, Ewusi of Makun.
The traditional rulers particularly indicated that they were dispatched on the trip by Mr Abiodun, who lamented to them that he had lost attention and was unable to seize control of the state due to the ongoing legal dispute over his reelection.
“We have had a discussion with our governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, and we were able to gather from him that the relationship between him and our Balogun is not as cordial as it used to be,” the traditional chiefs stated in a written statement during their visit to London. “All of this has made responding to the exigencies of this unrest a compelling necessity.”
The chiefs warned of a “palpable threat of bloodletting and heightened tension” in the state if the conflict between Mr Abiodun and Adebutus was not handled.
Mr Adebutu ran on the Peoples Democratic Party platform against Mr Abiodun, the incumbent, who ran on the All Progressives Congress party line.
The University of Ibadan’s returning officer, Kayode Adebowale, broke the law by declaring Mr Abiodun the winner despite a narrow margin that fell short of the invalidated votes in the election.
A supplemental election shall be held if the margin of victory between the first and second candidates in an election is less than the number of eligible voters in the areas where ballots were disturbed or annulled, according to the electoral guidelines. The policy was implemented in Kebbi and Adamawa, where INEC held supplementary ballots to decide the final winner.
In Ogun, Mr Adebowale, a scientist, said Mr Abiodun received 276,298 votes against Mr Adebutu’s 262,383 votes. According to the reported figures, Mr Abiodun won with only 13,915 votes, far short of the 49,066 eligible voters (PVCs) in the impacted precincts.
In Adamawa, incumbent Ahmadu Fintiri was leading with more than 31,000 votes when the returning officer, Muhammed Mele of the University of Maiduguri, declared the election inconclusive because over 37,000 eligible voters were in regions where voting was disrupted. Later that month, Mr Fintiri won the supplemental election.
Mr Adebowale’s unorthodox behavior sparked widespread indignation, with opponents claiming he was bribed by Mr Abiodun, who has a documented history of violence and thuggery in the United States and Nigeria.
Mr Adebutu, a former lawmaker who depended on his father’s finances to mount a ferocious battle against Mr Abiodun, promptly filed a 307-page petition at the governorship election petitions tribunal in Abeokuta, asking an unambiguous declaration of victory in his favor. He claimed that serialised ballot papers intended for other local governments were used in Ado Ota and Ifo LGAs and urged that the results in those situations be annulled.
Furthermore, Mr Adebutu demanded new elections in places where voting was disrupted by violence, stating that the total number of PVCs gathered in the impacted polling units was greater than the difference in votes between him and the governor.
Apparently shaken by the petition, Mr Abiodun acted quickly to appease Mr Adebutu before the matter went to federal justices. According to two sources and documents provided with The Gazette, he approached Mr Ajayi, the most renowned traditional ruler in Remoland, to rally other chiefs in the region to his cause. Messrs Adebutu and Abiodun are both from Iperu, one of Remoland’s important districts.
“We are here to plead for reconciliation,” Mr Ajayi told the senior Adebutu during his group’s visit to London on April 19. “Your support is critical, and it is regarded as the necessary bolster for this our reconciliatory mission, which we will extend to all concerned, most notably to your son, Hon Ladi Adebutu.”
According to those familiar with the situation, the older Adebutu, the 87-year-old lottery magnate and owner of ‘Baba Ijebu,’ has been undergoing treatment in London as his health deteriorates.
The senior Adebutu, on the other hand, stated that he would not choose sides because the governor is like his own child, despite the fact that he is not his biological son like Ladi. Instead, he read aloud to his visitors a letter his son had written to him about the situation.
The junior Adebutu’s intention to retrieve his allegedly stolen mandate at the tribunal was reinforced in the letter’s substance.
The PDP gubernatorial candidate stated that his ambition had suffered too many setbacks at the hands of Mr Abiodun, who allegedly went as far as preventing his campaigns and a football match sponsored by the Adebutu family from using the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta, a state-owned facility.
“The campaign began, and every attempt to level the playing field was thwarted by the governor.” “The Stadium was not allowed to be used, even for the finals of the Football Competition sponsored by the family Foundation Kesington Adebukunola Adebutu Foundation KAFF,” the PDP governorship candidate claimed.
He claimed that the election that gave Mr Abiodun victory had been tainted by “thuggery, snatching of ballot boxes, shooting, and harassment of opposing members,” and that he had “incontestable proofs” that he would present at the tribunal.
Mr. Adebutu emphasized that no God-fearing person would commence negotiations to preserve the results of such a fraudulent election, stating, “To go into any negotiation to sustain the subversion is ungodly, and we wouldn’t expect any God-fearing people to be a part of such ignominy.”
In 1986, Mr. Abiodun was arrested in the United States for credit card fraud and forgery. Dapo Abiodun was charged with a crime by the Miami Police Department.
Mr Abiodun also fraudulently claimed to have visited colleges and submitted forged academic credentials in Ogun. He was never prosecuted for the offense before becoming governor, and as a serving governor, he is immune from criminal prosecution.
Mr Abiodun’s longstanding associate, Abidemi Rufai, was detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States in May 2021 for his role in a $650 million (N312 billion) employment fraud.
Mr Rufai later revealed to American officials that Mr Abiodun paid him $50,000 for each illegal transaction in Ogun. Mr. Abiodun categorically disputed the charges.
“He was not a member of Ogun State’s economic management team and had no input into state government activities,” Mr Abiodun said in a statement. “His appointment was based on his activities in his ward. He didn’t sit in the State Executive Council meetings and couldn’t have had inputs in policies of the state government.”
Mr Abiodun’s choice to engage traditional chiefs to appease Mr Adebutu while the election issue was still in court looked to fit a trend of extra-legal measures used by Nigerian politicians. According to a source, Mr Adebutu rejected the proposal since it would not be in the best public interest to postpone a contentious election simply because a slew of chiefs weighed in.
When contacted for comment, Remo’s Akarigbo simply inquired as to why The Gazette was interested in the topic. He did not respond to subsequent queries for an explanation for leading the missionaries to London.
Solomon Onafowokan, Asiwaju of Remo and a member of the entourage sent to London, did not respond to calls for comment.
It was unclear how much money was spent on the trip from state coffers. The Gazette reached out to Mr Abidion and his media aides separately for comment, but they declined.
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