Akwa Ibom council elections: Matters arising
One of the sore points of governance in the current democratic dispensation has been the manner of state control over local governments to the extent that ruling parties always brazenly determine how council administrations are run without even protecting the franchise of the local voter.
The confidence that council poll conducted by ruling parties at the state level could be held under a free and fair atmosphere has so much been eroded because of the outrageous results in favour of government parties that there are suspicions even when a level playing ground was provided for all contestants.
After the Akwa Ibom State local council election held penultimate Saturday, there have been claims and counter claims from both the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the main opposition platform, the All Progressive Congress (APC) with the two pointing accusing fingers at one another.
To many political watchers within and outside the state, such post-election controversies are normal after the conduct of council polls because nobody would expect the ruling party, no matter how unpopular, to lose an election its government organised.
According to the final results announced by the Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKSIEC), the PDP won all the chairmanship seats contested for in the 31 local government areas of the state and all the 329 councillorship positions.
While the PDP attributed its sweeping success at the poll to longtime planning from the primaries, to campaigns and the elections proper, the APC alleged that elections did not hold in many parts of the state and that results were merely concocted to give victory to the ruling party. The opposition therefore called on its members to utterly reject the outcome of the exercise.
In a statement where it alleged widespread violence and ballot snatching, the APC informed “security agencies, government of Akwa Ibom State, the Federal Government of Nigeria and the general public that we reject in entirety any concocted result from AKSIEC as the final result of the purported local government election.”
Many however described APC’s rejection of the results as “normal” in Nigerian politics where the losing party always accuses the winner of rigging its way to victory.
According to some analysts, the APC is crying foul only because it failed to or pretended not to see the handwriting on the wall, which should have told them that the state is a stronghold of the PDP where the opposition cannot make any headway apart from the fact that the election was being conducted by a PDP government.
They pointed to states like Jigawa, Benue, Lagos and Kwara that have conducted council elections under APC governments and how the party had swept the poll in those states as the PDP did in Abia, Enugu and other states where it hold sway and conducted elections.
For a fact, it is generally known that Akwa Ibom is a strong PDP state where it is often said that the party is like a religion to the people as all the 26 members in the House of Assembly, two out of three Senators and nine out of ten members in the House of Representatives are PDP members.
Again, it is worthy to note as most political observers that spoke with The Guardian noted, that the PDP prepared for the election more than the APC hence the victory at the polls; the outcry of ‘no election’ by the opposition notwithstanding.
For instance, they reasoned that, immediately the PDP flagged of their campaigns they went into action by campaigning throughout all the local councils, which was followed by the chairmanship candidates and the councilors in their respective areas. Of course the whole machinery of state was made available for the PDP to use while it already had a head start with council administration through selected politicians who were hitherto managing the local governments.
But for the APC such magnitude of preparations and sensitization was absent as they even flagged off their campaigns only a few weeks to the elections and did not have enough time to do aggressive campaigns as did the ruling party.
The APC may have relied on the general belief that the people of the state were tired of the PDP and that they wanted to switch camp to the ruling party in Abuja.To the chieftains of APC like the Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Obong Nsima Ekere, Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on National Assembly matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, Senator Aloysius Etok, Atuekong Don Etiebet, Group Capt. Sam Enwang (rtd), as well as the state chairman, Dr. Amadu Ati and the secretary, Dr. Effiong Etuk, elections did not hold in many parts of the state.
They alleged that apart from the deployment of violence and thuggery to scare potential voters away from polling units, many of the results were only allocated to the candidates of the ruling party as there was no semblance of election in most parts of the state.
However, findings by The Guardian showed that such claims were not entirely correct as most persons spoken to disclosed that even though materials did not get to some areas on time, but elections took place in majority of the units across all the three senatorial districts of the state.
Lending credence to the election being free and fair, the Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria in a press release made available to The Guardian titled, ‘IPAC Endorses Local Government Elections In Akwa Ibom State,’ said the body monitored the election and that the exercise was generally peaceful, free and fair and that it met all the credible standards. The state chairman and publicity secretary of the group, Martins Inyang and Mfon Peter signed the statement.
The group urged all politicians and other stakeholders in the state to accept the outcome of the exercise as being reflective of the electoral wishes of the state electorate.
The elections have come and gone and as usual, political observers, in analyzing the exercise, are connecting the outcome with what could happen in the 2019 general elections with the conclusion that the state would be difficult for the opposition to take over.
Others however are of the opinion that the PDP got a clean sweep of victory because it was the state electoral body that conducted the elections and that in 2019 the story may be different.While the PDP continue to savour its victory and the APC lick the wounds of defeat, the yet-unseen calculations towards 2019 from the two camps may change the course of the state’s politics.
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