Lagos council polls, APC in usual delayed tactics
Lawmaker says exercise would hold soon
There have been questions over the delayed Lagos State council elections, and prominent among them is whether the state’s chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is afraid of losing control of some of the local governments to the rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
This assumption is based on the outcome of the 2015 State and National Assemblies elections in which PDP defeated the ruling party in six State Assembly and eight House of Representatives seats across the state.
Other pertinent question to the Lagos electorate is whether Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is acting in a script “not to conduct council elections pending when the coast would be clear for his party to win all the council seats in the state.”
The state government had promised to conduct the election but is yet to announce a particular date; interested parties and aspirants have commenced preparations both on the platform of the ruling party, the PDP and other political parties in the state.
Despite this, critical stakeholders are still expressing doubt over the sincerity of the APC administration to conduct free, fair and credible council polls “if at all they are willing.”
Their apprehension is hinged on the fact that the ruling party has since 2011, demonstrated lack of commitment and enthusiasm to conduct the council polls.
The Deputy Chairman of PDP, Chief Ola Apena, believes APC was tactfully avoiding the election because the party is afraid of losing some council. “There is no way the ruling party will win in all the local government any longer whenever it conducted council elections. The outcome of the 2015 elections has exposed it and I want to be convinced that is part of the reasons the APC is shying away from the exercise.”
However the government has been on the defence trying to explain reasons the exercise was shelved promising to ensure that the election takes place before the end of the year.
In 2014, when the tenure of the council chairmen elected in 2011 expired, the immediate past Chairman, Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC), retired Justice, Fatai Adeyinka, during a hearing held in the Lagos Assembly chambers disclosed that there were some ‘constraints’ that forced the postponement of the exercise then.
Some of the constraints, he claimed included the creation of additional wards in the state, which government did not approve and the need to update the 2011 voters register. Interestingly, some of the challenges identified by Adeyinka back in 2014 were yet to be addressed.
Following the failure of former governor, Babatunde Fashola to conduct the election in 2014, the PDP raised alarm. It alleged deliberate attempt to frustrate council polls for ulterior motives, fear of loosing control of some councils to rival parties as well as the apprehension that the APC was fast loosing popularity at the grassroots level among others.
Speaking on the issue, the PDP Spokesman, Taofik Gani said, “There had been a deliberate delay by the APC to conduct council polls since October 2014 with intent and manifestation of mismanagement and stealing the council funds.”
Gani faulted the manner in which the State Assembly was handling the matter, saying that the perpetual use of executive secretaries and now sole administrators to oversee the councils was alien and unintended by the constitution.
He words: “The operation is contrary to sections 1(2) 1(3) and 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution. According to section 1(2), ‘the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.”
He said Lagos councils as presently constituted remained undemocratic, illegal and an act of treasonable felony, saying: “Relevant enforcement agencies should step into the issue.”
Also faulting the arrangement, National Coalition for Good Governance (NACOGG) called for immediate removal of the administrators as it urged Governor Ambode to conduct the elections.
The convener of NACOGG, Mr. Toyin Raheem said that there should not be any vacuum in local councils, threatening that the group would resort to protest and picketing of LASIEC to drive home their point.
He warned that the planned protest would only end when the governor, through the LASIEC announces the date of the election and withdraw the sole administrators. Among the actions the organization planned include a peaceful protests to the governors office, State House of Assembly, the APC Secretariat and National Human Rights Commission Lagos office.
An aspirant on the platform of the APC for Ikeja Local Government, Femi Adewale while declaring his intention to contest said council election was important because it was the closest government to the people.
Adewale also encouraged youth in the state to stand up to the challenge of ensuring that the right people were elected to administer the councils “for the benefit of the people.”
According to him, “The government that is supposed to care for the youth and empower them, have neglected them due to the way our community is run.”
He said his vision was to see a positive change in Ikeja, pledging that there would be no room for corruption in his government.
Meanwhile, Chairman Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Information, Strategy and Security, Mr. Tunde Buraimoh dismissed insinuation that the government is avoiding the election.
He said election is a process and that the rudiments must be strictly adhered to otherwise the target set in conducting it might turned out to be very disastrous “if not carefully handled.”
The APC lawmaker said a lot of allegations have been made against the Assembly and the state government in respect of the delayed council polls, stressing: “But I can assure you that contrary to the insinuations, the APC led government is never afraid to go to the polls.”
According to him, “It is not correct to say that the Assembly is not committed to ensuring that local governments elections are conducted in the state. In the first instance, when the government appointed sole administrators to run the affairs of the councils and the LCDA’s, the Assembly made it clear that the administrators would not spend more than three months, which will expire by next months. I can assure that we will stand by that decision because it is not going to be business as usual.
“The Assembly has made it clear that local government elections must hold and it will either hold before the year runs out or early next year.”
On why it didn’t hold as earlier promised, Buraimoh said it is important for the people of the state to realise the fact that “conducting election is an expensive venture, which requires many resources including human and money. If the state prioritise its policies there are several other important things that are of immediate importance, even to the masses than venturing into a venture that has no direct connection to the immediate needs of the people for now. Even at that the issue of the local government elections is on the front burner in the state.”
He added: “Another issue we are also considering is the voters register. As it were, it would be absolutely unfair to rely on the existing voters register to conduct another council elections in Lagos. If we do that the implication is we would be cutting off people who have reached voting age this year because the existing voters register did not capture them.
“As I speak I am working in collaboration with LASIEC to ensure that the current voter register is reviewed to correct the anomalies.”
While he pleaded with Lagosians to exercise patience with the government over the council elections, Buraimoh said, “The rival PDP, which also has some of its representatives in the Assembly should know better because their lawmakers are there to see what is happening.”
His assured that “we are going to conduct the election as soon as we are true with the necessary logistics. The law are in place and LASIEC has been composed.”
Spokesman of the APC, Mr. Joe Igbokwe said the thinking that the ruling party was avoiding the councils’ election was not only laughable but also dismissible.
He said the government needed to put certain things in place to ensure free, fair and credible elections.
To show its commitment, the newly appointed Chairman of LASIEC, Justice Ayotunde Adeyoola Philips recently undertook a tour of the state to enable members of the commission familiarize themselves with the terrain in the various parts of the State in preparation for the conduct of the next election.