Osun council election and challenge to status quo
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) recorded a hundred percent success in last Saturday’s council elections in Osun, winning all the 389 councillorship seats across the 30 Local Government and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDA) of the state.
According to the chairman of the Osun State Independent Electoral Commission (OSIEC), Segun Oladitan, 318 of the contestants were returned unopposed in an election that was obviously a one-party affair.This is not strange because such victories have been the trends across Nigeria since the commencement of the current democratic experiment in 1999 as all ruling parties, without exception, have been recording landslide wins in the contest for political control of the third tier of government.
Of course, the victories are not without clear manipulation of the system followed by cries of foul play from the opposition who, given a reversal of positions, would do the same thing they complain about.What is however strange in the Osun instance is that the election was organised and conducted in line with the parliamentary system of government wherein only councillorship positions were contested for while the elected councilors would, from among themselves, pick the chairman of the local council.
A clear departure from the presidential system of government that is recommended by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, the new experiment in Osun, seeks a return to the early years of the country’s independence when the nation operated a parliamentary system.Under the new system in Osun, the third tier of government would operate at variance with the governance model of the 1999 Constitution and, in the words of its proponents, draw national attention to the need for the country to go back to the constitutions of the First Republic in line with agitations for restructuring of the Nigerian federation.
Expectedly, the new system is drawing flaks from the opposition parties who did not participate in the election because of what they considered as attempts by the state government to seek legitimacy for a process that was allegedly designed to prevent opponents from participation and rail-road the political class into something that landmark was strange to the laws of the land.
There are also legal challenges over the constitutionality or otherwise of a federating unit unilaterally deciding to depart from the grundnorm and charting a popular course that has not gotten the needed national support.While withdrawing from the contest, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which challenged the manner the poll was to be held in court, said the election as proposed by the OSIEC, was not known to the law in Nigeria.
State Chairman of the party, Soji Adagunodo said, “The PDP would not participate in an election not recognized by the constitution. We have a national constitution and we are running a presidential system of government in Nigeria.“Now, they want to enact a parliamentary system of government at the local government level and this particular matter is a subject of litigation in the Federal High Court in Abuja. We will not take part in an election that the court might notify afterwards, so we are not going to commit our resources to an illegal election and local government system.”
Three chieftains of the party, Kolawole Osunkemitan, Douglas Adeyinka Oyinlola and Aderemi Adeniran Adelowo, had on December 4 last year, secured an Abuja Federal High Court’s interim order that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Accountant-General of the Federation and the Ministry of Finance should withhold statutory allocations to the state’s councils from the federation accounts and suspend the election from holding.
But the state government which said its actions concerning the conduct of the election and the administration of the councils were covered by the State of Osun Local Government Areas (creation and administration) Law, 2015 and the State of Osun Local Government Areas amendment (No 1) Law, 2017, passed by the State of Osun House of Assembly and signed by the governor, contested the order and got a reprieve when the court held on January 24, 2018, that the order has lapsed by effusion of time.
The court further held that they were caught by the provision of Order 26, Rule 12 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules which provides that an order granted upon an ex parte application will lapse where a person affected by the orders filed an application to discharge and/or vary the orders and the application is not heard within 14 days of filing and adjourned the case till March 12, 2018.
Despite the technicalities that created a space for the election to hold, another legal front was opened by a human right activist, Barrister Kanmi Ajibola, at an Osun State High Court sitting in Ilesa where he urged the court to declare as unconstitutional the law that the state government relied on to administer the councils.
According to the lawyer in a suit where he joined Governor Rauf Aregbesola, the House of Assembly, OSIEC and 8 political parties, the court should declare the law that proposed a parliamentary system for the state’s local councils null and void.Besides, he stated that the makers of the law, “State of Osun House of Assembly” and the person who signed it, “Governor of the State of Osun” and the law itself “State of Osun Local Government Areas (creation and administration) Law, 2015,” upon which the processes of the election are based, are strangers to the 1999 Constitution and are non-existing.
Ajibola who claimed in a 56-paragraph affidavit that he was billed to contest the chairmanship under the platform of PDP and was already adopted as a sole candidate in Oriade local council, also sought a declaration that “the 1999 Constitution having been modeled on the presidential system of government, it is unlawful and unconstitutional for the 1st and 2nd defendants, by legislation, to introduce a parliamentary system of government into the election and administration of the Local Government in Osun State.”
While the outcome of the legal fireworks in Abuja and Ilesa is being awaited, the APC, basking in the victory that gave it total control of the councils, described the election as a triumph for the people and one big step forward for the popular desire of Nigerians to revert to parliamentary democracy.
In a statement by the Directorate of Publicity, Research and Strategy and signed by its Director, Kunle Oyatomi, the party congratulated the people “for the emphatic statement they got across to the haters of progress in Osun that the people know what they want and they will not allow themselves to be deceived by the shenanigans of the opposition.”
According to the party, “beyond the electoral victory, is the political step forward into the less expensive parliamentary democracy, which will now start in Osun’s local government setting for the first time in 52 years since our parliamentary democracy was destroyed by the military in 1966.“When the import of this election will be addressed in the history books in the future, the State of Osun will be celebrated as a catalyst for the return of parliamentary democracy if not in Nigeria, certainly in Yorubaland.
“Those who objected to the development met their waterloo in the court and owing to their obsession for retaining the presidential system, they shot themselves in the foot, anticipating victory at the court by not registering to participate in the election. They miscalculated so badly that it turned out a double tragedy for them. And as God would have it against the PDP and its co-travelers, their double tragedy translated into double massive victory for the APC and the people of Osun.”
Although the path that Osun has chosen for its council is in line with the public agitation for Nigeria to go back to the pre-military era governance system, it remains to be seen if the approach taken by the state government can stand the test of legal scrutiny.
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