JOHN SILAS reports on the forthcoming local government election in Lagos State and the assurance given the Lagos State Independent Commission (LASIEC) that it would conduct a free, fair and credible poll.
After waiting patiently for about two years for the conduct of local government poll in Lagos State, the coast seems to be clear for the conduct of the election as the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) has assured Lagosians that the election would hold in June and that preparations are at top level.
LASIEC chairman, Hon. Justice Ayotunde Phil­lips, who met with politi­cal stakeholders recently, assured that the election would be free, fair and credible. She added that she would do everything to protect her integrity and reputation.
Before the assurance was given, there have been speculations about when the poll will hold. While the pessimists were of the view that the election may not hold given what is obtain­able in other states, where governors have refused to conduct elections into the councils. Their fear was confirmed when Governor Akinwunmi Ambode ap­pointed sole administrators to run affairs of the coun­cils.
Even, those jostling for elective positions (chair­manship and councillor­ship) became despondent and disillusioned. Many of them were invariably turned to drain pipe by leaders of the various par­ties, who have been feeding fat on the aspirants since the parties directed them to relate with the leaders because they have the pre­rogative to determine, who gets any of the slots up for grabs at the councils.
Not only members of the ruling party in the state – All Progressives Congress (APC) – are looking for­ward to the election, those in the opposition parties are also disillusioned over the delay in conducting the poll as it has paralysed activities in their respec­tive parties. It is only when an election is approaching that the opposition parties witness activities at their secretariats.
But, the election coming up in June did not come as a surprise to the stake­holders. It is what they had long waited for, the major opposition party in the state – Peoples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) – seems to be eager for the election to hold, to prove its mettle and perhaps consolidate on the success it recorded in the 2015 state Assembly election, in which it won eight out of the 40 legisla­tive seats.
It is unheard of in the history of the state for an opposition party to pro­duce that number of mem­bers in the state Assembly. However, the PDP’s hope of building on its achievement in the last election appears to have been dashed as six out of the eight lawmakers dumped the party for the APC a month ago.
Their action jolted the leaders of the party, who cried blue murder, but the deed has been done. The AUTHORITY gathered one of the reasons the La­gos council poll was de­layed was the discussion the APC was having with the lawmakers in the oppo­sition party because it was eager to weaken the PDP camp before the poll.
While the defection of the PDP lawmakers is now his­tory, the question many are asking ahead of the election is: What are the chances of the opposition parties in an election to be conducted by an electoral body consti­tuted by the party in power. Empirical study have over time proved that the state electoral bodies are not in­dependent in the true sense of it, and that explains why in all the states of the fed­eration, the party in power always have landslide vic­tory in council polls, even when its candidates are not popular in their respective constituencies.
Senator Adegbenga Kaka, who represented Ogun East in the 7th Sen­ate, who condemned the manipulation of council polls to favour the rul­ing parties, told The AU­THORITY that the situa­tion is appalling and poses a threat to advancement of democracy. He further ex­plained that in advanced democracies, parties are domesticated and some po­litical parties focus on elec­tion relating to their wards and they do so because of their strength.
Lamenting that the situ­ation in Nigeria does not encourage such, he insisted that the outcomes of major local government elections conducted so far since the country returned to civil rule in 1999 do not reflect the wish of the electorate.
He argued that even within the various ruling parties in the states, there is no way dissenting view on choice of candidates could be ruled out.
But, the LASIEC chair­man, who holds a diver­gent view, said the success of an election depends on the way the political parties and their members conduct themselves as their actions or inactions have impact on the outcome of the poll.
She therefore urged poli­ticians to put their minds at rest and allow the com­mission to execute plans to facilitate a free, fair and credible council election in the state.
Justice Philips further noted that many of the lapses for which Election Management bodies are often held responsible for are as a result of the actions and inactions of the popu­lace. She emphasised the need for stronger collabo­ration and cooperation be­tween major stakeholders and the commission for the entrenchment of democ­racy and sound democratic practices at the grassroots level of the state.