…Opposition parties may boycott process
From Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
As elections hold in all the 18 Local Government Areas in Ondo State tomorrow, controversies have continued to trail the exercise which is being organized by the Ondo state Independent Electoral Commission (ODIEC).
Already, the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has warned its members against participating in the election, just as the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) in the state has also expressed its determination not to participate in the election.
With the current development in the state, indications have emerged that only the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) may participate in the election, considering the resolve of other opposition parties to boycott the election.
The Local Government administration in Ondo had for over three years been under the control of the Caretaker Management committee put in place by the state Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko until recently when the caretaker committees were dissolved in all the 18 Local Government Areas.
The dissolution of the caretaker management committees in the Local Government Areas prompted the setting up of the board of the state Independent Electoral Commission (ODIEC under the leadership of Professor Olugbenga Ige.
Upon assumption of office, the Prof. Ige-led ODIEC fixed Saturday, April 23, 2016 for the Local Government election in the state, having consulted with some political parties in the state. But the resolution of the electoral commission did not go down well with the opposition parties, especially the APC, a situation which made the party to approach the Akure division of the Federal High Court to stop the election.
However, the case is still pending before the court, and the APC has premised its decision to shun the election on the pending suit it initiated before the court, declaring that conducting the election would amount to prejudice.
But the Electoral Committee appears to be determined with its decision to conduct the election, as its Chairman, Prof. Ige declared that there was no going back in the conduct of the Local Government election, saying that the commission had consulted widely before the date of the election was chosen.
Prof. Ige stressed that the commission was ready to follow the provisions of the constitution and electoral acts to the letter in the conduct of the Councillorship and Chairmanship elections scheduled to hold on Saturday notwithstanding the case pending in the court.
While calling on all the registered Political parties in the state to co-operate with the commission, Ige appealed for the cooperation of all stakeholders, especially the opposition parties to ensure that the election holds without crisis in any part of the state, stressing that the success of the election would be for the good of all and sundry in the state.
But the APC in the state has insisted not to participate in the election, alleging that there are plots by the state government and the ruling party in the state to rig the election in favour of the PDP, being the ruling party in the state.
The Director of Publicity and Strategy of the party in the state, Mr Steve Otakloro said: “We will like to state unequivocally that we are not only not going to participle in the election, but have also challenged same in the court of law as there is no authentic voters’ register available for the conduct of the election. The voters register they want to use has not been reviewed since the last general election as required by the law.”
He added: “Our decision not to participate in the election has been thoroughly discussed at the State Executive Committee and the expanded Executive meetings of our great party and the conclusion reached was that we will not participate in the local government election because the Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko and the PDP-government cannot do anything right. Many times, the Governor has deceived the people and this election cannot be different.”
“Dr. Mimiko is highly deficient in fairness that he cannot be trusted to midwife any free and fair electoral process. To participate in the election is to help massage Mimiko’s ego, support illegality and to allow ourselves to be distracted from our singular mission of wresting power from the PDP in a few months time.”
“It is also pertinent to state that there is a subsisting case on the matter at the Supreme Court by the aggrieved elected chairmen under the late Dr Olusegun Agagu-led administration, who Mimiko terminated their tenure abruptly at the assumption of office in 2009. The governor had therefore been refrained from conducting the Local Government election for the past seven years for this reason. Why then the sudden rush to conduct the same election in less than 10 months to the end of his tenure? Conducting a new election before judgment is delivered could amount to illegality, while the entire process might just be an exercise in futility in case the Supreme Court rules in favour of the plaintiff.”
“We also view critically with concern that the Ondo State Independent Electoral Commission (ODIEC) is composed of PDP card-carrying members.
We cannot participate in an election where the Chairman of ODIEC, Prof. Olugbenga Ige and his team are registered members of the PDP. Worse still, those who would preside over our complaints after the election are known sympathizers of the ruling PDP government.”
“It is very glaring that our party has the support of the teeming masses of Ondo State to win all the 18 Local Government Areas in the state but we cannot afford to participate in an illegality, we also view this as a waste of public resources to conduct an election at this time when workers in Ondo State are moaning and groaning for being owed five months salaries and government is committing huge resources of unknown amount that was not even budgeted for in this year’s budget into the illegal election.”
“We therefore call on all our sympathizers to remain peaceful and stay at home during this election hour. They should use the opportunity to reflect on the affair of our state and pray for the deliverance of the state from its present day tormentors. No matter the outcome of our application for injunction in the court, we would continue to use all legal means to challenge this outgoing government of Dr. Mimiko and his party in the appellate court,” he submitted.
In a similar development, the state chapter of the CNPP also cautioned the state government against the conduct of tomorrow’s Local Government election, describing the proposed election as “irrelevant and invalid to the good people of Ondo State.”
The CNPP also called on Governor Mimiko to cancel the election, saying tha conducting the election would amount to illegality as there was a pending case on the matter in the court.
The state chairman of the CNPP, Chief Ayo Isijola said the CNPP which is made up of opposition political parties in the state has warned its members not to participate in the election, as whatever is the result of the election, would be challenged in court.
The CNPP boss faulted the appointment of Prof. Ige as the ODIEC Chairman, saying Ige as at when he was appointed by the Governor was a lecturer at the Faculty of Science, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko.
“It is therefore an established fact that Dr. Olugbenga Ige has not actually resigned his appointment from the services of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko and could not have been qualified to stand as ODIEC Chairman let alone conduct an election into the Local Government Councils in the State,” he added.
However, the state chapter of the PDP said it was not bothered by the decision of the APC and other opposition parties to boycott the election.
The state Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Ayo Fadaka said “the PDP has toured all the nooks and cranny of the 18 Local Government Areas of the state to campaign for our candidates and we are sure of victory at the end of the election by the grace of God.”
He said the APC has the choice to either participate in the election or act otherwise, stressing that the PDP would participate in both the councillorship and chairmanship elections in all the 18 Local Government Areas of the state.
Fadaka said the party has no link directly or indirectly with ODIEC and denied allegation that the members of the commission are card- carrying members of the PDP, adding that “no member of the commission is a member of our party, but we are not afraid of election.”
He described members of the APC in the state as cowards who are afraid of facing an election against the PDP which, he described as a giant political party in the state, saying that the APC was only afraid of imminent failure in the election.
Commenting on the development, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr Kayode Akinmade urged all eligible voters in the state to troop out and participate in the election.
Akinmade said the people should disregard rumour making the rounds that the election has been cancelled, adding that security agencies and ODIEC have given assurances of their preparedness to ensure a hitch-free exercise.
Emphasizing on the importance of the election to the people, the commissioner said the Local Government is the closest to the people, hence, the need for them to ensure that their representatives at the level are people they know will serve them well.
He advised the people to be law abiding at all times and ensure that
they maintain peace so that the election can be concluded devoid of violence, adding that “our dear state has the record of the most peaceful state in the country, and it is in the collective interest of all that we should ensure that the status is maintained. And one of the ways to ensure that is to ensure that the Saturday election is peaceful.”
With the development, it is crystal clear that tomorrow’s election shall hold, but it may be a one party affair as only the PDP may participate in the election, with the main opposition party in the state, the APC boycotting the poll alongside other opposition political parties.