Controversy dogs Oyo LG poll, as APC threatens boycott
Oyo declares today public holiday
The decision by Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC) to go ahead with the Local Government Council election, this weekend, has opened another round of controversies about council administration in the state.
And, with the ensuing controversy, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may turn out as the only major political party contesting the chairmanship and councillorship positions in the 33 councils of the state.
Some political parties are already calling for the postponement of the election based on the protracted legal tussle just decided by the Supreme Court on the propriety or otherwise of Governor Seyi Makinde’s decision to sack the elected council executives shortly after his inauguration in May 29, 2019. But, OYSIEC and the ruling PDP disagreed, insisting that the council poll must hold on May 22, 2021 as earlier announced.
The All Progressives Congress (APC), which claims that its members were illegally sacked by the governor, argues that it is presumptuous to fix a date for the council election when the issue of tenure of the exco, also known as members of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), was yet to be decided at the Supreme Court.
APC believes that it is politically wrong to fix election just 14 days after the judgment, alleging also that the electoral body is not providing a level playing ground for all the political parties that had shown interest to participate in the election.
Sources within APC informed The Guardian that the party planned to drag the electoral body to court to postpone the election, but for the industrial action embarked upon by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), which prevented it from filing the action.
But, in a bid to convince the electoral body to postpone the election, APC had, in a letter dated May 10, 2021 written to the OYSIEC Chairman, Aare Isiaka Olagunju (SAN) and the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, noted that the matter instituted by Oyo ALGON lasted for two years from the High Court of Justice to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, arguing that within the two-year legal tussle, it would not have been legally right for the APC and indeed Oyo ALGON to have jettisoned the pending court matter and shifted base to the commission’s side, when the illegally-sacked council chairmen had specifically prayed the Court to restrain OYSIEC from conducting the poll.
In the letter signed by its counsel, Mr. Olamiji Marins, APC also observed that it would have amounted to approbating and reprobating simultaneously, maintaining that in the spirit of the laws of the land, it was only legal for Oyo APC and indeed Oyo ALGON to desist from rendering nugatory the possible orders of the court.
To avoid constitutional crises and avoid legal tussles, the APC in the state, however, said that it is better in the spirit of democracy and wider participation, which the commission had earlier promised when it visited the party office at Oke-Ado on January 7, 2021, to postpone the election and allow the party update its affairs in readiness for the election.
The letter said: “It does not allude to commonsense that our client should have conducted primary elections in readiness for your commission’s election, when its matter against your commission was before the Supreme Court of Nigeria. That would have amounted to a contemptuous and ridiculous act.”
Oyo APC recalled how in 2018, the body of duly elected council chairmen and councillors, popularly referred to as ALGON, took Oyo State Government and OYSIEC to the Oyo State High Court. Judgment was entered in favour of ALGON by Justice A. A. Aderemi restraining the electoral body from conducting elections into the Local Governments in Oyo State. But, the state government and OYSIEC approached the court of Appeal, where they got a favourable judgment.
Yet, dissatisfied with the Appeal Court judgment, APC went to the apex court of the land and, through its counsel, argued: “Recall also that the Supreme Court of Nigeria reserved judgment in the case between ALGON and your Commission and others on February 10, 2021 for the judgment to be read on 7th May, 2021.
“It was when the matter was still before the highest court of the land that your commission started preparing in earnest for election into the chairmanship and councillorship positions in the 33 local councils of the state.
“When your commission visited our client, you implored them to participate in the LG poll, but our client informed you that as a law-abiding party, it would rather wait till the matter at the Supreme Court in suit number SC556/2020 is properly determined.”
APC added: “However, it is instructive to note that after your appointment in September 2019, your commission did not take any concrete step to start the electioneering process immediately and this is largely due to your commission’s and indeed the Oyo State Government’s appeal against the High Court judgment in suit number I/347/2019 restraining your commission from conducting election.
“The matter was heard by the Court of Appeal, Ibadan, in suit number CA/IB/300/2019. Your Commission did not do anything, because part of the reliefs granted in favour of ALGON in the judgment was an order of injunction restraining your commission from conducting election into the office of the Chairman and Councillors of all or any of the 33 Local Government Councils and 35 Local Council Development Areas in Oyo State.
“As soon as judgment was delivered in your commission’s favour by the Court of Appeal on 15th July, 2020 and the judgment of the High Court set aside, your commission suddenly found its voice and from September 2020, started visiting political parties for parleys and talks despite the fact that ALGON had appealed the judgment and approached the Supreme Court to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal. True, the Supreme Court set aside the judgment and declared the Appellants as the lawfully elected Local Government Chairmen.
“The question now is: would it not defeat the essence of the appeal at the Supreme Court, should ALGON have joined your commission in its pre-election arrangements against the doctrine of lis pendens? As a senior lawyer, you are aware of the provision of the law that once a matter has been appealed, all parties are expected to stay put and not take any step that will overreach the court and parties to the suit.
“Your commission did not. ALGON won at the High Court, your Commission won at the Court of Appeal and the matter went to Supreme Court. Unfortunately, your commission felt it could make do with the Court of Appeal judgment and go ahead to start preparation to conduct the election when in essence the three cases followed a single streak. Your commission was meant to have waited, in deference to the rule of law, before taking any step to conduct any election whatsoever. It did not.”
The APC counsel further informed OYSIEC that his client had no reason to preempt the Supreme Court, but decided to exercise caution in waiting till the judgment was delivered in the case.
“It is actually a void act and outright unlawful for any party to a suit to approbate and reprobate at the same time. This has been made notorious by judicial pronouncements of our Law Lords. Of reference is the Supreme Court’s decided case of NASKO v. BELLO (2020) LPELR-52530 (SC) process of law under any guise.
“Now that the Supreme Court has laid the ALGON matter to rest, we humbly implore your Commission to postpone the election till 7th August, 2021 so that our client can prepare itself to participate in it.”
Notwithstanding the representation, the OYSIEC chairman said there was no plan or justification for the Commission to shift the election from May 22, 2021 to a later date.
Olagunju, who disclosed this, explained that since the commission’s inauguration on September 3, 2019, it had embarked on visitations and consultations with political parties, religious centers and other relevant stakeholders across the state.
OYSIEC chairman pointed out that the essence of his many visits to all political parties’ offices was to reassure every participant of OYSIEC’s impartiality and commitment to free, fair, transparent, and credible local government poll.
He maintained that it would be unfair to extend the May 22 date already scheduled for the election just because a political party, Alao-Akala and other APC leaders in the state want the date extended for them to participate.
Olagunju narrated: “I was at APC secretariat to visit Baba Akin Oke and other state executives to assure them of our sincerity. We begged and appealed to them to participate in the election because we knew the likely outcome of the court judgment.”
He said there was no way the commission could extend the date owing to many preparations done in the last few months, hence he declared that poll will go on as planned.
Also, still basking in the euphoria of the Supreme Court Judgement that ordered the state government to pay the sacked council exco, former Oyo State Chairman of ALGON, Ayodeji Abass-Aleshinloye, said fixing the poll when judgment is still expected was illegal, presumptuous, wasteful and unnecessary.
His words: “While all parties to the suit are expected to await the Supreme Court judgment, it is surprising to see OYSIEC, a party to the suit, and well represented at the apex court, prompted by Governor Seyi Makinde, go ahead to publish a timetable for the LG poll, which it intends to conduct on May 15, 2021, eight days after the expected judgment on May 7.
“We need to expose this government. This is a very simple case. I have never seen a government that has no respect for the rule of law. This is a case in court. The government and OYSIEC were well represented. It is only commonsense for them to hold on till judgment is served.
“For us, it is legality over illegality. Even governors were sacked and they left. How much more illegal caretaker chairmen? It is in their own interest.
“Nobody is participating in any illegality. We can never participate in the election. APC will never be part of illegality.”
However, PDP has berated former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala for seeking the postponement of the council poll, describing his call as ludicrous and attempt to destabilize the government.
The state PDP Publicity Secretary, Engr Akeem Olatunji, described the state chapter of APC as a bunch of shameless politicians, who would always display their rookie knowledge of politics.
“It is even more laughable that a man like former Governor Alao-Akala, is telling the state not to proceed with democratic elections that will usher in council chairmen in the state.
“We are not surprised at such ludicrous reasoning, because as we recall, the APC, an epitome of illegality and corruption, used caretaker LG chairmen for seven out of its eight years, while only setting up the sacked ALGON chairmen as a booby trap to destabilise the Makinde administration.
“They should not think that the people have forgotten so soon the draconian governance that epitomised modern day slavery, which APC represented in Oyo State from May 2011 to May 2019.
“The PDP in Oyo State has come to usher in true democracy and we have been doing that for the past two years. The days of impunity and illegality as imposed by the riotous and inept APC are over. The APC and their outgone ALGON who see their failure as a pass mark should prepare to go back to court for its own political miscalculation.
“The LG poll billed for 22nd of May will hold and all participating political parties will present their best materials before the people to be elected. And funny enough, we will not be allowed to be drawn back to the dark days of APC administration, where the people at the grassroots were denied local government administration.”
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