By CLIFFORD NDUJIHE OLASUNKANMI AKONI & MONSUR OLOWOOPEJO
EXACTLY seven days to the October 22 elections into the 20 Local Councils and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) of Lagos, leading political parties– Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) among others have intensified moves and counter-moves to outwit one another in the battle for the grassroots.
With the PDP returning to the polls after a long absence that reduced the last two elections to a no-contest as the ruling ACN had a field day clearing most of the electoral trophies, the 2011 exercise promises to be a tough contest. The last time the PDP participated in council elections in Lagos was in 2003. It boycotted subsequent elections in protest of the creation of 37 LCDAs, which it insisted was illegal as they were yet to be ratified by the National Assembly.
Lagos PDP Chairman, Chief Setonji Koshoedo, anchored PDP’s participation on the stark reality that the 37 LCDAs were illegal in name only.
“The PDP would be taking part in the forthcoming local government election in Lagos State. We refused to take part in the last one and to our surprise the illegally created local governments have been enjoying Federal Government allocation all along. I believe we have to take part, if the LCDAs have been indirectly accepted that they exist,” he said.
On offer for the October 22 electoral combat among 28 political parties are 57 chairmanship and 376 councillorship slots. And Chairman of the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC), Justice Abdul Fatai Afolabi Adeyinka (rtd) has assured voters and the parties of a credible election. He said that about 18,000 electoral officers and adhoc staff would be deployed for the election and that he has asked the Police to deploy about 20,000 policemen to ensure adequate security.
The political parties cleared fot the polls include: APN, ARP, SDMP, KOWA, FRESH, NMPP, ACN, PDP, APGA, NCP, ADC, ACCORD, MPPP. Others are CFN, CPC, JP, PMP, AA, Labour, MDJ, ACPN, DPP, APS, ALP, ANPP, PRP, ND and NNPP.
Across the length and breadth of the state, in spite of complaints arising from alleged imposition of candidates in ACN and PDP, candidates of parties cleared for the contest are currently embroiled in poster war. Colourful posters of the contenders have been pasted in all nook and crannies of the councils while underground lobbying and counter-lobbying are in the upswing. They are expected to carry out a flurry of road and street-to-street campaigns this week as the election reach zero hour.
ACN kick-starts campaign, attacks PDP
At the state level, the ACN kick-started the Local Council campaigns on Wednesday with two rallies at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos Island and the open ground along Tiamiyu Savage Street, Opposite Bar Beach, Victoria Island.
At the campaigns, immediate past Governor of Lagos State and ACN National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu said the PDP-led Federal Government had failed to maintain federal roads across the country, especially in Lagos and urged voters not to vote for the opposition party.
He said PDP had failed to move the country forward since the dawn of the Fourth Republic in 1999, saying Lagos residents should by no means allow PDP an inch at the forth coming local council elections.
His words: “No one needed to be told. It is glaring that the state of roads in the country particularly Lagos Apapa Expressway, Lagos Ibadan Expressway and Lagos Airport Road has collapsed and the PDP government could not fix them.”
He said re-electing ACN candidates would enable the party to strengthen and deepen development in the state especially at the grassroots.
“If you vote for ACN in the council elections, this will enable us to continue and strengthen the agitation for proper allocation sharing formula. As it is currently, FG is taking over 52 percent of the allocation leaving tokens for the state and the councils, which are the closest government to the people.”
In like manner, Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) said the local polls were the most important of all and the right candidates must be elected. He charged Lagos voters to go out and vote for ACN candidates, assuring that the ACN had made concerted efforts to start immediate development of infrastructure within the 57 councils in the state.
He said plans were on to collaborate with local government areas to improve on the state of roads by constructing and reconstructing of inner city roads that will serves as link roads and thereby reduce traffic along the major highways. “All our inner city roads are part of our comprehensive plans we are working on. We are working together with the local government areas for rapid road development.”
Fashola, therefore urged Lagos electorate to come out en mass and vote massively for ACN, saying, “the time has come again for you to vote for us as you did in the last elections. During this time few years ago we came out to solicit for your vote and you voted for us. This is the most important election, election that is closer to you and me, the election that will determine how everything will work. But you have to work for the returns of our chairmen, vice chairmen and councilors.”
One of the highlights of the event was the defection of the state chapter of All Nigeria People Party (ANPP) to ACN. They were led by the state chairman, Chief Abiodun Oyebolu, who was handed the ACN flag by the ACN Chairman, Chief Henry Ajomale.
Oyebolu said over 95 percent of the ANPP members defected to ACN, adding that ACN “is a working party and you have a working governor. We are pleased to associate ourselves with ACN, the winning party.”
At another rally at Abesan High School, in Alimosho area of the state, on Thursday, Tinubu and Fashola urged electorate to continue to sweep away retrogressive parties such as PDP from Lagos at the council polls.
Fashola assured Alimosho residents that work on the Ayobo_Ipaja Road would commence before the end of the year as the contract had been awarded.
PDP counters: Lagos needs a baton change
However, Lagos PDP Chairman, Koshedo, in a telephone chat countered that Lagos was in desirous need of change, which he said the ACN could not guarantee after 12 years in power.
Instead of trudging on the path of development, he said the ACN had killed Lagos. “Lagos is dead because they have spent all the money to sustain themselves in power. And so, they cannot sustain development in Lagos. That is glaring from the tussle among them.”
Urging the electorate to vote for PDP flagbearers at the council polls, he said, “the way out is for Lagosians to effect a change of baton and bring in people who will do the will of the people and not be constrained by godfathers.”
Parties, stakeholders trade words with LASIEC
At a third stakeholders’ meeting aimed at conducting free and fair polls on October 22, representatives of political parties and stakeholders expressed fears over the preparedness of LASIEC to mid-wife credible polls.
At the meeting held at the Ikeja Local Government Secretariat, Ikeja stakeholders criticised the procedure being adopted by the commission. They alleged that LASIEC had failed to make known the names of candidates of some political parties, such as PDP, All Peoples Grand Alliance (APGA) and, Labour Party.
It took several minutes for LASIEC commissioner, Mr. Ibidokun Pedro, who represented the commission’s chairman, to calm frayed nerves.
Pedro explained that the commission before now had intimated stakeholders with the guidelines for the elections, saying LASIEC could not be biased as alleged.
He said: “A lot of efforts have been put into sensitization and mobilization of eligible voters to come out and participate in the elections. We held several media briefings as a way of creating public awareness. We engaged the services of Radio and TV jungles to increase public awareness before the elections. We have displayed the voters register in each of the Ward Collation Centres,. At these collation centres, there is provision to lodge complaint by members of the public to check for any omission or error in the voters’ register and we have directed the voters to correct the anomalies at INEC.”
NAC asks court to stop poll
Meanwhile, depending on what the courts rule, the elections might be postponed. The National Action Council (NAC), one of the parties recently de-listed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is court praying for a halt of the polls because the LASIEC excluded it.
In an originating summons via Suit No FHC/L/CS/1188/11 filed at a Lagos Federal High Court by the National Chairman of the Party, Dr. Olapade Agoro, and dated September 30, 2011, the party asked the court to stop the polls unless LASIEC includes it.
Noting that the party had pending suits: CA/621/11 Agoro VS INEC at the Court of Appeal Lagos and FHC/L/G/1076/11 AgoroVs INEC at Federal High Court Lagos, concerning the de-listing of NAC, Agoro said LASIEC excluded NAC without fair hearing and regard to these suits. In the light of the pending Suit No: CA/L/621/11 AGORO VS INEC at Court of Appeal Lagos; and pursuant to Sections 39, 40, 42 and 46 of Amended 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria signed into law January 10 2011, Agoro urged the court to determine among others if LASIEC had the power to deny NAC participation in the council polls.
It also prayed the court to declare the action of LASIEC denying NAC participation based on INEC de-registration as illegal and restrain LASIEC from “conducting or going ahead to conduct Lagos State Local Government elections until matters in Suit No: CA/621/11 Agoro VS INEC at the Court of Appeal Lagos and Suit No: FHC/L/G/1076/11 Agoro VS INEC at Federal High Court Lagos, were determined.
The decision of the court is being awaited. But the campaigns continue and the verdict of the electorate is expected on Saturday.