BY PETER OKUTU
To the ordinary eye there is a flourishing democratic culture at the local government level in Ebonyi State. But the more you look the less you see those tangible essentials that define a true democracy.
LOCAL government administration in Ebonyi State has almost always been through democratically elected administrators.
However, the local government elections in the state have always been shadowed with controversy as opposition parties have consistently found fault in the conduct of the elections.
The State Independent Electoral Commission, EBSIEC, had always conducted local government elections using the Open Ballot System of voting which some opposition parties had always kicked against.
Even worse, opposition parties, have also consistently accused the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP administration of regularly amending the state Electoral Act days to the election in order to suit clandestine tendencies.
Now months ahead of the next election, Vanguard gathered that the state House of Assembly recently commenced moves to again amend the law governing the conduct of local government elections.
Ebonyi state has 13 constitutionally recognized LGAs not minding the unfruitful efforts by the former Governor of the State, Dr. Sam Egwu to increase its number to 34.
Local government administration in the state is modeled in such a way that each local government area has a particular number of development centres under its control which serve as points of development within the LGAs.
When local government allocation from the Federal government arrives the state, chairmen of all LGAs meet with coordinators of the Development Centers for the redistribution of funds depending on the projects each development centre had mapped out for execution within a given period.
Accordingly, the Development Centres by implication report to their mother LGA. It is an interesting mode of administration which has over the years reduced friction among local council areas as it concerns disbursement of funds to all the council’s area across the state.
The distribution or allocations of funds are also dependent on the size of each development Centres across the state.
Problem with joint accounts
The Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy Matters and Rural Development, Chief Celestine Nwali notes that the system does not make room for the present governor, Chief Martin Elechi to interfere.
“I must be sincere with you; the Governor has nothing to do with local governments in terms of interference. No, he is not interfering at all. This you will verify by asking the local government chairmen.
You know there is this Joint Account and that is what is causing problem in some states but in Ebonyi it is different.”
On the conduct of local government elections in the state, Chief Nwali added: “We have held local government election twice and in each of these elections, equal level playing grounds were provided for all the political parties.
The problem we have with the opposition political parties is that they are not on ground; they appear not to be existing and it is not the fault of the ruling party, the PDP.
It is the fault of the opposition that they are not able to oppose. They only present candidates during elections but are not able to put up a strong campaign to convince the masses to vote for them.”
“As I’m talking to you now, I’ve not seen any opposition party campaigning. Meanwhile, Local government election is coming up and anybody that wants to participate seriously in the field should at least start talking to the people and presenting manifestoes. PDP has already started campaigning.”
“It is worthy to state that in the last election, the inter-party dialogue department, office of the Governor made funds available to help opposition. And so if the ruling government gives money to the opposition during election, I don’t know what else should be done for them.
We cannot take our votes and give to them. The truth is that as far as Ebonyi state is concerned, PDP is 100% on ground and there is nothing anybody can do about it”.
Conversely, the State Chairman of All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Mr. Alphonsus Nwali noted that “previously nothing like election had taken place in Ebonyi; what we have is more of selection; if anybody is not preparing for the 2013 LG election, it is PDP.
They are waiting to write names and send it to the state Independent Electoral Commission, EBSEIC, for documentation and approval.
We in the opposition parties are preparing for the election even though people are saying that there is likelihood that the election would be marred with irregularities, imposition of candidates and voters’ apathy”.