Gboyega Adefarati, son of a former Governor of Ondo State, Adebayo Adefarati, is a happy man at the moment, having gone through a lot to successfully reclaim his mandate. He has been given his Certificate of Return by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, two months after winning the 2023 National Assembly Election to represent Akoko South East/South West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
Recall that we had reported that Adefarati won the House of Representatives seat on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC. He polled 25,872 votes to beat his closest rival, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who scored 18,403 votes.
Adefarati’s joy was cut short after INEC excluded his name from the published list of the House of Representatives members-elect from Ondo State. The electoral body, while stating the reason behind the delisting, cited a February 17 court order which nullified the party’s primary that produced him as the candidate for the constituency. Segun Ategbole and John Adanike, aspirants in the primary election of the party, in 2022, had approached the court, alleging infractions in the voting exercise. They also sought to be declared winners in their separate suits.
Also, Ogunleye Teloye, Zenith Labour Party (ZLP)’s candidate for the seat, in 2022, approached the court with an originating summons. Ogunleye asked the court to disqualify the APC from participating in the election over the party’s failure to conduct a primary election 180 days before the parliamentary poll. However, T.B. Adegoke, the presiding judge, held that the APC had no candidate for the National Assembly election, pointing out that the party did not hold a valid primary election.
Adegoke, who cited the 180-day window as provided in the electoral act 2022, restrained the APC from conducting any fresh primary poll. The judge also restrained INEC from accepting the names of Ategbole and Adanike, or any name from APC, just as she prohibited Adefarati from parading himself as the candidate of APC for the February 25 election.
Following the development, Adefarati approached the Appeal Court to challenge the decision. The Appeal Court overruled the lower court in a unanimous judgement stressing that it lacked jurisdiction adding that the originating summon was not properly signed. His victory has now been recognised and he was presented with a Certificate of Return during the week by INEC National Commissioner, Prof. Kunle Ajayi, at the commission’s National Headquarters, Abuja.
This was not Adefarati’s first rodeo in politics. He had contested for the same seat twice, first on the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in 2011 and on the platform of APC in 2015. But he lost on both occasions. He was appointed by President Musa Yar’dua as a Board Member of the National Institute of Hotel and Tourism between 2009 – 2011. He was also the coordinator for Akeredolu Campaign Organisation for Akoko South-East/West Federal Constituency in the 2012 Governorship Election and Director-General, Ondo North Senatorial District, Akeredolu Campaign Platform, 2016 and later, commissioner for Agriculture.