Why 25 states aren

No Comments » December 17th, 2007 posted by // Categories: Electoral Reform Project



 

VANGUARD

Why 25 states aren’t holding LG polls today

Saturday, 15 December 2007

 

SECTION seven of the 1999 Constitution is very clear. It is not one of the plethora of provisions in the Constitution that are contradictory and thus worrisome. According to those who drafted the supreme law of the federation, the only legal authority recognised at the local government level must be elected at all times. The details of how the elections should be held are left to the respective states Houses of Assembly to spell  out. The details therefore defer from state to state. In some, local government leaders are supposed to enjoy four-year tenure, while others provide for three-year tenure at the level.

This Saturday, there were expectations that all states of the federation would hold elections to replace the illegal caretaker committees foisted on the grass roots government. Latest reports from the states however indicate that most of the states have shunned the call and rather prefer to shift the polls until other convenient dates.

Why December 15?

There is nothing magical about December 15. Unlike the federal and state elections which were fixed by the Independent national Electoral Commission in strict compliance with laws passed by the national assembly, the constitution and the need to meet the hand over date, May 29, there were no scientific parameters for determining the December 15 date. The only known reason is that the ruling party at the centre, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had so decreed at the end of its national executive Committee meeting in August. This, in itself, is ultra vires as the party lacks the locus and power to take such a decision.

Where local polls will not hold

Although the PDP controls the lever of governance in 27 of the 36 states, only seven have heeded the directive of the party to hold local council polls today. They are the five PDP-controlled South West states- Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun as well as Edo in the South South geo-political zone. Polls will be conducted in Enugu in the South east, too. All others have defied the party for different reasons. [NM NOTE:  THERE WERE NO LG ELECTIONS IN EKITI STATE.]

Lagos and Abia

These are two states controlled by opposition parties and opposition figures who have very strong hold on their people. Both are former governors of the states, known to be charismatic and courageous and fully in control of the political processes. In Lagos, the man in charge is former Governor Bola Tinubu. When the PDP made all moves in 2003 to dislodge the Alliance for Democracy, AD, in the South west, the only state that resisted the move was Lagos. The general who led the AD charge was the Asiwaju of Lagos. He was later to be known and addressed as the “Last man standing.”

At the April 2007 elections, Governor Tinubu who was no longer directly contesting was still the startegy and tactics man for the AC in the South west, especially Lagos. The PDP threw everything into taking over the state but met its match in Tinubu’s AC. Each time the PDP or the federal government attempted to dictate a course of action against the letters and spirit if the constitution, Tinubu resisted.

This spirit has continued in the state under the Fashola administration which is a continuation of the old order. It is therefore not surprising that the state disregarded the PDP order the local polls be held nation-wide on December 15.
The state House of Assembly, the executive and the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission, LASIEC, has argued that the processes dictated by the constitution and the Electoral act cannot be brushed aside in a rush to meet a date whimsically dictated by a party.

Today, no election would be holding in Lagos state, rather, the state assembly continues its review of the law related to the conduct of the polls.

The situation in Abia is similar. Prior to the April 14 governorship election, many people outside Abia State thought the days of then Governor Orji Uzor Kalu were over. He had been identified by PDP as an enemy who must be crushed at all costs. All the arsenal in the PDP armoury were deployed to teach the then young governor of Abia State a lesson. Thrice before the election, the lectoral commissioners of the state were changed. At least twice, the Police Commissioners were moved. As busy as he was conducting the campaign for election of Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua as President, fornmer President Olusegun Obasanjo found time thrice to visit the state to personally direct the battle to instal his aide, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu as governor of the state.

But, after the polls, contrary to the practice which has seen other parties alleging rigging, in Abia, it was the turn of the PDP leaders to wonder what happened at the polls. They are all wont to ask what went wrong with the strategies adopted for that election. Both for the federal and state elections, Orji Kalu’s hurriedly party, Progressive Peoples Alliance which was hurriedly put together triumphed. While the case over who actually won is still before the tribunal, the fact that Chief Theodore Orji, one of the aides of the former governor who at the time of electioneering and actual voting was in the custody of the Financial and Economic Crimes Commission, EFCC, was declared winner by INEC, a federal electoral body represented at the state level by a Resident Electoral Commissioner appointed by President Obasanjo is a proof of the standing of the former Abia State governor.

Today, Orji Kalu who is the chairman of Board of Trustees of the ruling party in Abia State and the new governor, Chief Theodore Orji have decided that PDP cannot decide the date for election in the state. The Abia State Electoral Commissioner, Professor Steve Emejuaiwe has announced that the election would be held in January.

Kwara, Ebonyi, Cross River, Kano

The first three states are controlled by the PDP, but the governors decided that their political fortunes would be better served if the elections were held earlier. Heavily criticised for conducting elections to the exclusion of the opposition parties and without strict adherence to the rule of law, Kwara, Ebonyi, and cross river States had held what could be considered the forerunner to today’s polls. In Kwara, the opposition parties decried the manner of the preparations for the elections. They wanted a postponement and a dissolution of the state electoral body because the members are allegedly card-carrying members of the ruling party. But, the governors, Bukola Saraki of Kwara, Elechi Martins of Ebonyi and Lyel Imoke of cross River ignored the calls for postponement and need to provide a level playing field for all.

Till date, no one knows the number of people who lost their lives to the conduct of local polls in Kano last month. The All Nigeria Peoples Party-controlled state government was said to have done everything to ensure that elections went its way. Incidentally, the loudest complaints came from the PDP leaders who have since vopwed to challenge the outcome all over the state until they are overturned.

Postponed in Gombe, Akwa Ibom, Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa, Taraba States

The election in Gombe Satte has been postponed to March 29, 2008. Giving reasons for the postponement, the Gombe State Independent Electoral Commission chairman, Mr. Caleb Maina identified the need to amend the state electoral law to bring it in conformity with the Electoral Act 2006 passed by the National Assembly as inescapable. He also said that there was a need to hold meetings with the political parties and other stakeholders in a bid to build a consensus towards holding a credible and transparent election. Mr. Maina argued that the violence that trailed the elections conducted in states like Cross River and Kano States had made it imperative to tread cautiously.

Court order necessitated the need to postpone the polls in Akwa Ibom and Rivers State indefinitely while Jigawa State authorities have contended that holding an election in the state created out of Kano in 1991 could invite the consequences that visited the exercise in the neighbouring state.

In Rivers, a subsisting court case initiated by a member of the state House of Assembly made postponement inevitable. Hon. Chidi Lloyd of the state House of Assembly had gone to court when Mr. Celestine Omehia was still governor to put plans for the polls on hold. This is similar to the relief being sought by litigants in Akwa Ibom State who argued that 30 days provided in the state electoral lay for pre-election processes is at variance with the Electoral Act passed by the federal legislature last year.

Although the election in Sokoto has been fixed for January 26, there are fears that opposition from the Democratic peoples party, DPP, could further compel a shift. The main opposition party in Sokoto State has continued to explain that nothing short of a halt to the process would be acceptable. The party’s governorship candidate in the last election, Alhaji Muhammadu Dingyadi told newsmen in Sokoto that his party would boycott the polls if the alleged partisan acts of the state electoral body is not checked. He said the commission deliberately frustrated the bid by his party to submit nomination forms of most of his party’s candidates. He claimed that the party had candidates for all the 23 council chairmanship seats and 244 wards.

The charge has however been denied by the Secretary to the commission, Alhaji Mohammed Samaila Satawa who pointed out that DPP having taken the commission to court should just await judicial intervention.

In Kebbi State, the electoral commission has announced that polls would hold on February 23. The body’s chairman, Hajia Ada Sani Ka’oje explained that every chairmanship candidate would have to cough out N100,000 as nomination fees while the councillorship aspirants are expected to pay N30,000 each.

In Bauchi the polls has simply been shifted to 2008, no date was announced by the state electoral commission chairman, alhaji Alhassan sadiq.

North Central zone

In the North central zone, there would be no polls in any of the six states. Up till Thursday, all the parties had been made to believe that there would be elections in all the local councils that make up the state, but a terse announcement by the commission’s chairman, 48 hours to the polls indefinitely shifted the battle till a yet to be determined date.

In Plateau, the state government and electoral commission have largely ignored the PDP directive as nothing is being said about December 15 or any other date. In Kogi State where there had been moves to hold the polls, threats and loud protests by the Coalition of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP have led to a change of plan. The state chairman of CNPP, Evangelist Kato Frank warned that the election must not hold until the state election body is purged of those he described as card-carrying members of the PDP. Any election held now, the CNPP chairman contended, would, amount to a one-party agenda.

Earlier, the KOSIEC chairman, Mr. Abraham Olaniran had told newsmen that 7,944 ad hoc staff were being engaged to conduct the polls in the states 21 local government councils for the chairmanship polls and 239 wards for the councillorship elections.

No action in Imo, Anambra

These two states in the South East will not witness action today as the chief executives do not feel safe enough to allow the processes to commence. In Anambra, there is no electoral commission and the governor has explained that he is not contemplating constituting a fresh one until he has cause to believe that the coast is clear to hold “free, fair and credible polls.”

However, only the governor is in a position to know when the coast would be clear. There are no clear factors identified as constituting a conducive atmosphere for the exercise. It is known that the governor was elected on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in 2003 but did not access the office until March 17, 2006 after a gruelling 34-month legal battle. In the April election, PDP was declared winner of 25 of the 26 sets in the state assembly by INEC which had earlier in 2003 announced the PDP candidate winner of that year’s governorship election.

In Imo, The PDP similarly was announced winner of the 2007 polls except the governorship which went to the PPA candidate, Governor Ikeddy Ohakim.

In both states, the governors are battling for their political lives and real politics dictates that if they must survive, they have to wait for a more auspicious time to take the battle for control of the grassroots to the people.

This will mark the firsdt time in the history of Nigeria that local government elections would be held with most of the states staying out of action. Some political analysts have however argued that it is good for the health of the country that elections are now held at different times. With the verdicts of the superior courts ordering fresh elections in some states or simply changing the order of the electoral commission at the state level and the defiance of PDP in most of the states in respect of the local polls, Nigeria might have finally shaken off the military signature on the political landscape in terms of uniform dates for elections.

What may not be so sweet is that illegal transition committees made up of men handpicked by the governors may continue to hold the third tier of government to ransom in clear disregard of Section 7 (1) of the Constitution.

 

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