Gladiators, parties gear-up for Ogun council polls
• Opposition Express Fears About Umpire’s Readiness, Independence
The tempo of campaign and publicity by aspiring chairmen, councilors and political parties ahead of the July 24 Local Council election in Ogun State has heightened. This follows the state governor’s final nod and the Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission’s (OGSIEC) preparations ahead of the scheduled polls.
There had been doubting and anxiety trailing the delay in the conduct of the poll since the current administration took office two years ago, what with Governor Dapo Abiodun continually renewing the tenure of the transition committees, who have been managing the affairs of the councils, in aberration of Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The development drew criticisms from within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), opposition parties and political analysts. At a time, the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) in the state threatened to drag the state government to court after the 21-day ultimatum given to set up the electoral body lapsed, based on the fear that the Governor was not ready to conduct the poll.
With the stage now set for the much-awaited poll, which is seven weeks away, stakeholders insist that the onus lies on the electoral umpire to ensure a level playing ground for all the political parties.
Findings by The Guardian reveal that the Chairman of OGSIEC, Babatunde Osibodu and his members are leaving no stone unturned towards achieving a free and fair election. Osibodu has promised that the Commission will not compromise its integrity, noting that the members are people of impeccable character, whose integrity will reflect in the conduct of the council poll. He assured that the outcome would be a true reflection of the wishes of the people.
“I want to assure the good people of Ogun State that our firm resolves to organise a council poll that will totally be devoid of any form of manipulation or interference cannot be overemphasised. Our motivation for taking this task is service to Ogun State and to contribute our quota in deepening the democratic values in Ogun and Nigeria.
“The Commission is made of people of integrity, who had for decades proven their mettle across different strata of human endeavour. We are also following the law and due process and this we will hold very dearly in the course of the forthcoming Local Council election in Ogun State,” he said.
Osibodu disclosed that the number of political parties participating in the election would be determined after the various primaries. He urged them to be guided by the rules, as OGSIEC will monitor all-party primaries, emphasising that only parties can obtain a form for qualified candidates and not individuals.
The OGSIEC boss hinted that the commission was not leaving anything to chance in its preparation, as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and other logistics are in place to aid the election. He revealed that the state has 4,038 polling units across the 20 councils that must be catered for in terms of recruiting and training of personnel to be engaged during the election.
Osibodu, while allaying fears on security concerns during the election, said the commission would synergise with various agencies in the state to stem violence, noting that, “when violence is tamed during elections, other things become easy, just as it will also boost the confidence of the electorates.”
But the main opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said the electoral umpire seems to be unprepared for the election. The Publicity Secretary of the party, Sunkanmi Oyejide, said most of the issues raised at the two stakeholders meeting organised by OGSIEC were not properly addressed.
“They only promised to get back to respective stakeholders. By now, the list of polling units where the election will take place ought to have been published and distributed to stakeholders. OGSIEC seems to be playing hard balls.”
He appealed to the Governor to allow OGSIEC to be independent. “They should allow the process to be free and fair. They should not try to subvert the will of the masses. Councillorship election results should be collated and winners declared at the ward collation centres, while the Chairmanship election result should be collated and declared at the local council collation centres. That is what the guideline says.
“It should be an ‘election’ and not ‘selection.’ OGSIEC should not allow itself to be a tool for rigging in the hands of the APC-led administration.”
Oyejide said since the Abuja accord of March 18, 2021, where the Senator Bukola Saraki-led reconciliation and strategy committee settled the warring factions in the party, the party ‘is now formidable.’
“We are in the process of implementing the agreement at the state level. We are contesting the forthcoming local council election as a united PDP. Our dark days are over in Ogun PDP. APC can’t defeat a united PDP. The people of Ogun State are now yearning for the return of PDP to power State. The APC administration has failed the masses,” he said.
The State Chairman of NNPP, Comrade Ogini Olaposi Sunday, said his party is ready to take over the state, using the council poll as a template for what is going to happen in 2023.
He said: “Our people were defrauded by the ruling APC and the electorate are not fools. There is nothing for APC to sell again in Ogun State, therefore the NNPP is ready to make the state new again and we are starting from somewhere, which is the grassroots.
“We are strategising on how to deliver the state from the hands of the oppressors. Even within their party, you’ll discover that they are finding it difficult to hold primaries; they cannot do anything right. They are killing democracy; we are bringing democracy and truthfulness to the state.”
“The OGSIEC boss promised a credible election, but we cannot go to sleep like that because he is an appointee of Abiodun. We want to make rigging impossible for them, so we are putting machinery in motion to ensure that Abiodun doesn’t succeed in rigging the poll. Any attempt to rig the election is an invitation to anarchy; he should steer clear of the election because OGSIEC belongs to everybody, not only APC.”
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