The tussle over the rightful candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for theNovember 20 governorship election in Ondo State assumed a new dimension at the weekend, when the candidate of the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction of the party, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, alleged that an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) demanded a bribe of $1 million from him.
Ibrahim, who recently got a court order declaring him the PDP candidate, said that an INEC official had asked him for $1 million in order to list his name as a candidate ahead of the poll.
But, in its response, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the INEC chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, described the allegation as uncharitable and ungodly.
The INEC chairman's spokesman explained that the two members of staff of INEC who witnessed the encounter between Ibrahim and the said INEC official confirmed that the politician had tried to impress it upon her to collect the court judgment.
Ibrahim and Hon. Eyitayo Jegede had emerged as separate candidates of the two factions of the PDP in Ondo State. But a Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday, presided over by Justice Okon Abang, ordered INEC to recognise Ibrahim as the candidate of the PDP.
Addressing a press conference yesterday in Abuja, Ibrahim alleged that the acting Legal Adviser of INEC, Mrs. O.O. Babalola, demanded the $1 million bribe from him to effect the judgment of the court which certified him as the candidate of the PDP.
Ibrahim, who said he had reported the incident to the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, also made available a petition he had written to President Muhammadu Buhari on the allegation.
Ibrahim's petition dated October 21, 2016 and addressed to the president stated in part: "This petition is written to inform Your Excellency of the demand by one Mrs. O.O. Babalola of INEC for the payment of one million US dollars before she would obey a court judgment marked exhibit A attached."
Ibrahim insisted that he remains the authentic candidate of the party in the upcoming election, adding that INEC was not an Appeal Court and therefore could not determine who the PDP candidate in the election should be.
He expressed concern that INEC, which had said it would obey the court judgment immediately it was served, suddenly started to change its earlier stance.
"After the service, the music changed. INEC should not allow one governor to destroy its reputation. We are not saying that INEC will not obey the court judgment. One of the officials demanded for one million dollar bribe from me to process the court judgment," he alleged.
Apart from the bribery allegation, the PDP chieftain also curiously demanded the removal of the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Ondo State, accusing him of being a card-carrying member of the PDP.
Jimoh said he could not be trusted to conduct a free and fair election in the state.
However, INEC has reacted to Ibrahim's allegation, describing it as "utterly false and ungodly".
Oyekanmi, who spoke to journalists yesterday, said that it was not true that Mrs. Babalola demanded $1 million from Ibrahim.
"It is not true that Mrs. Babalola demanded $1 million from Jimoh Ibrahim. Two other officials of INEC witnessed the encounter between Mrs. Babalola and Jimoh Ibrahim.
"Jimoh Ibrahim brought a copy of his judgment and wanted to impose it on INEC to accept it. But we told him that we already have it.
"It is uncharitable and ungodly for a businessman of his stature to make this kind of allegation," he said.