Controversy, apathy as Lagos, Ogun go to council polls
Less than a month to the July 24, 2021 local council elections in Lagos State, electorate are worried that the process leading to the polls may not provide them with the opportunity to elect quality representatives other than those presented by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The seemingly lacklustre position of the opposition parties to present candidates for the election has been a concern to voters who would have loved to have a number of candidates on the ballot paper. They posited that the essence of democracy is about choice.
The ruling APC is also being alleged to have perfected plans to manipulate the process to ensure that only its candidates win the election into all the wards and councils.
Former spokesman of the Lagos State chapter of the African Development Party (ADP), Adelaja Adeoya said the coming council polls in the state would not be different from the previous ones where APC ensured that only its candidates were declared winners and in a situation where other party wins such candidate would be forced to defect to the ruling party almost immediately he or she is sworn into office.
To the opposition parties in the state, there is a slim or no chance for a competitive election because the ruling party is said to be controlling and funding the process, the reason why they seem to show no interest in the election.
A source within the PDP said none of their members is willing to waste money to buy nomination form or spend on campaign because they don’t trust the process and neither were they comfortable with the infighting in their party.
Just as APC members are embittered over the primaries, some PDP members have described its primaries as a “farce”. Nothing is heard about the primaries of the other 12 parties that have expressed interest to participate in the election.
Though some members of the ruling APC are still challenging the credibility of the May 29, 2021 council primaries, claiming that they were not only robbed of electing their preferred candidates but dismissed the process of having democratic tenets expected of the party. They, therefore, called for the cancellation of the primaries.
Although, observers are of the opinion that APC may not be blamed for not allowing fair competition in Lagos council elections but criticised the perennial internal wrangling that has polarised PDP members in the state. The power struggle between the State’s chairman, Eng. Ade Doherty and former Deputy National Chairman, Chief Olabode George on who controls the party machinery has been identified as major albatross that has crippled the party for not only having impressive outings in the previous elections but playing the role of opposition to put Lagos State Government on its toes.
Multiple sources within the party said, “The face-off between Doherty and George must be resolved before the time lap for submission of candidate names to the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC), otherwise the umpire will be confused over which of the factions to recognise for the election.”
A PDP source recalled that in 2017, the chairperson of LASIEC, Justice Ayotunde Philips was confused over which of the PDP groups loyal to Senator Ali Modu-Sherif acclaimed national leadership and Senator Ahmed Markafi-led Caretaker Committee it would deal with. George’s faction, which was then loyal to Makarfi, conducted separate primaries while Mr. Segun Adewale, who also proclaimed himself as state chairman of the party, organised another primary. It was after the apex court affirmation of Makarfi as the authentic national chairman of the party that LASIEC recognised the nomination list submitted by George, but as of then, it was too late for the party to achieve success at the polls. There are fears that history may repeat itself as factions within the party vowed to present their candidates for the council election.
Information from LASIEC indicated that 14 political parties are to participate in the July 24 council polls to struggle for 57 chairmanship positions and 335 councillors across the 20 local governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDA). The parties include the ruling APC, PDP, Social Democratic Party (SDP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Accord Party (AP), Action Alliance (AA) and Action Democratic Alliance (ADP).
Others are Allied Peoples Movement (APM), National Rescue Movement (NRM), Labour Party (LP), New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), African Action Congress (AAC), BOOT, and Young Progressives Party (YPP).
It was gathered that the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) collected nomination forms but did not submit.
Controversial Primaries Of APC, PDP
ALTHOUGH the primaries for the APC had been concluded but there are grouses that the exercise was marred with irregularities that do not portray the party in good light. Some stakeholders from local governments across the state said the elections were hijacked and manipulated to favour some candidates. Some aggrieved members have appealed to the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to intervene and restore normalcy by investigating the alleged electoral fraud and process that imposed some candidates on the people.
The petition seems more critical in Ikosi-Isheri LCDA where aggrieved members are threatening that the manner the primary was hijacked could lead to some members working against the party during the election.
Contestants that purchased forms that were cleared to contest the chairmanship election in Ikosi- Isheri LCDA were, Bada Abolanle Sammy with form number 0030; Martins Anna Abiodun- 0083; Bashkirs Kareem A. – 0095; Omoba Adeyinka Oyediran- 0194; Fasasi Abideen O. – 0085; Balogun Wasiu Oluwatoyin – 0277; Oromidayo Balogun T. – 0264; Jegede Oyekunle S. -0195 and Kareem Bola Fausat – 0360.
The stakeholders of Ikosi-Isheri felt that since the primary scheduled for May earlier this year could not hold due to the fracas that was visited on the people during the exercise, the committee should be invited back and do their job.
They disclosed that after consultations, Mr. Jegede Oyekunle became the consensus candidate supported by the other six contestants.
They said that since nine contestants bought the form and six out of them endorsed Jegede as a consensus candidate, the committee should either come and conduct the primary or hand the flag to Jegede as the candidate of the party.
They accused the incumbent chairman, Princess Semiat Abolanle Bada of using her intimacy with the State Caretaker Committee chairman, to manipulate the exercise in her favour.
In a petition to the Chairman, 2021 Local Government Election Screening Committee of the party, headed by Hon. Obafemi Hamzat, the aggrieved members of Ikosi-Isheri LCDA noted that owing to various allegations of financial impropriety, the incumbent should not be allowed to return.
It was alleged that the incumbent had appeared before the State House of Assembly to clear some issues of which members of the party in the LCDA are no longer comfortable with her re-election.
But sources close to the incumbent dismissed the allegations as political. The source said the petitioners were aggrieved because their team failed to win the primary.
Also in Epe local council, APC members are concerned about the quality of the candidate the party is likely to present for the electorate following an allegation that the leadership of the party in the area have settled for someone with a controversial primary school leaving certificate.
This has led to agitations among members of the party, who were aggrieved about the quality of representation such would give to the people.
There are several other instances arising from the primaries, which also raise the issue of quality representation on the platform of the APC.
While presenting its preliminary report last week, the Lagos State APC Electoral Appeal Committee headed by Lawal Pedro (SAN), which sat for three weeks, said it entertained 125 petitions resulting from the outcome of the primaries.
It reported that the petitions focused mainly on instances of outright failure to hold primaries for various reasons, a spate of violence and inconclusive procedures.
The committee recommended a consensus process, as provided for by the party’s constitution, with emphasis on the participation of all concerned stakeholders.
It also admonished the party to be guided by the LASIEC timelines for the submission of names of candidates for the forthcoming local government elections.
But while many were waiting to know when the PDP would conduct its primaries, Doherty on June 7, in a statement announced that the PDP has conducted its primaries for the elections in which he admonished the winners to do their best, saying, the coming council polls is winnable for the opposition due to the general discontentment with the ruling party.
To whittle down Doherty’s influence, a group loyal to Chief George in a recent statement endorsed the former deputy national chairman of the party as the authentic and recognized leader of Lagos PDP. As at the time of filing this report it is not certain, which of the Lagos PDP’s factions LASIEC will relate with.
A chieftain of the SDP in Lagos State, Chief Supo Sonibare told The Guardian he could not say if SDP will participate in the council poll because the party is still in court with INEC over the issue of its de-registration.
He alleged that the APC is used to sponsoring fringe political parties to participate in the exercise to give the process a semblance of credibility and acceptability.
The National Chairman of ADC, Chief Ralph Nwosu said any party participating in the election apart from PDP and APC is not just wasting its time but “such a party must have been sponsored by the ruling party to give a face to the farce.”
According to him, “We all know that APC will write the result so there is no need. Our governors and parties, especially APC and PDP have shown enough apathy to democratic governance at the local level. That is the reason when they talk of devolution of powers some of us are sceptical because the governors have abused the powers they currently have.”
Former Spokesman of Lagos ADP, Adelaja Adeoye said it was unfortunate the Lagos council polls are being organized and funded by the ruling party.
He said the election could not be won by those who have voted but those who have money, adding, “that is the reason APC primaries are always very controversial because in most cases it is the candidate of the party that wins the election.”
In anticipation of the possibility of litigation, Lagos Assembly had rushed to amend LASIEC laws, which now empowers the governor to extend the tenure of the state’s commission.
The Assembly reviewed and amended a portion of the law creating LASIEC) by creating a subsection for Section 2 of the law. The newly added subsection 5 gives the governor power to extend the tenure of the commission based on exigencies.
The leader of the House Hon. Sanai Agunbiade, the amendment was permitted by existing law, his colleague and chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Public Petitions and LASIEC, Hon. Victor Akande, explained that the amendment is to resolve the lacuna that could occur between the period the tenure of the commission elapses and when new members are appointed by the Governor.
“The bill is just for a singular amendment or a fraction of the law and the major issue is that it is seeking from us to give the governor leverage in case of scarcity of time,” he said.
Apathy In Ogun
OPPOSITION parties in Ogun State have also been saying not to be too enthusiastic about the upcoming local council polls scheduled for July 24.
Although the major opposition PDP said it would do its best to sensitise the electorate to vote appropriately, the party said it has no hope of winning any of the council chairmanship or councillorship positions in any of the 236 wards.
Executives of other fringe parties alleged that the ruling APC is collaborating with dissident members of their party, whom it encouraged to participate in the process to give the exercise a facelift.
But from the record made available by Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGISEC), 12 political parties will contest for the chairmanship in the 20 local councils in the state.
The chairman of the State’s Independent Electoral Commission, Babatunde Osibodu, told The Guardian that all elected candidates from the various primaries in the parties have been approved and have been asked to come for their Nomination Forms.
But where there is apathy by opposition parties, a faction of the ruling APC, led by former governor Ibikunle Amosun also boycotted the APC’s primaries, alleging that Governor Dapo Abiodun had manipulated the system to favour his preferred candidates.
Like the opposition, loyalists of Amosun, who is the current lawmaker representing Ogun Central, said it would amount to a waste of time and money to participate in the process that anyone could predict the outcome.
They alleged that even within the ruling party, the government suppressed all internal opposition by creating an environment that has tailored its loyalists to win the primaries.
But a loyalist of the governor dismissed the allegation that the primaries were manipulated. According to the source, “The primaries were peaceful generally. For the APC, only a few went through primaries, the majority were elected consensus.”
Unfortunately, also, two political parties, Allied Peoples Movement (APM) and African Democratic Congress (ADC) are no longer viable since their governorship candidates in the 2019 gubernatorial polls have fused into APC.
Abiodun Akinlade of APM and Gboyega Isiaka of ADC defected along with their followers to APC.
The Guardian also gathered that Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, who currently represents Lagos West is deeply involved in the upcoming council polls in Ogun State apparently ahead of his 2023 senatorial election in Ogun West.
It was alleged that the Lagos lawmaker did everything to ensure that his loyalists and those of Governor Abiodun emerged as chairmanship and councillorships candidates ahead of the election.
In a telephone conversation, former PDP chairman in Ogun, Adebayo Dayo said it would amount to a waste of time for the opposition to spending money in this type of election.
According to him, “Council elections can only make sense until INEC is made to conduct it, otherwise, the governors would continue to manipulate the process against the opposition.”
Dayo added that Governor Dapo Abiodun is not doing anything strange. “When our party was in power under Gbenga Daniel, we also dictated the tune and won all the chairmanship election. It was not about the willingness of the opposition to participate.”