By Daud Olatunji
THAT the All Progressives Congress, APC, won the recently concluded election into the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 newly created Local Council Development Areas, LCDAs in Ogun State did not come to close observers of the state’s politics as a surprise.
Reason: The ruling party had won previous council polls conducted in the state since 1999 and there were indications that the trend would not change in 2016.
So, even though the state government assured that it would not be business as usual and 17 political parties contested the election that gulped about one billion Naira, the ruling APC swept all the seats on offer.
The 17 political parties contested the poll, prominent parties which showed they were still on ground were just four: the APC, People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN and the Labour Party.
The three previous local government elections that were held in the state had been won by the ruling party in the state.
During the administration of Otunba Gbenga Daniel, the then ruling PDP won the 2004 and 2008 council election by a landslide. In 2012, the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN also won all the 20 councils seats and almost all the 256 wards councillorship seats except a few places where PDP won.
However, the ACN Administration gave an impression that the next election was not going to be business as usual. The belief was deepened when Governor Ibikunle Amosun constituted the Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission, OGESIEC and appointed credible people as its leaders.
With a five-year term, the OGESIEC is headed by a retired permanent Secretary in the state, Risikat Ogunfemi while a popular lawyer and a social commentator in the state, Barr. Mutiu Agboke acted as the commission’s spokesman.
The move prompted some of the political parties to show interest in the election, which, ordinarily they would have boycotted for being a waste of time and resources.
Like previous elections, the 2016 exercise has also been disputed with allegations of irregularities by the opposition parties, who claimed that the election was heavily rigged in some parts of the state where they are popular.
Declaring the results, the commission’s Chairman, Mrs Risikat Ogunfemi, said the ruling APC won all the chairmanship positions in all the 20 local governments and 37 LCDAs.
Ogunfemi said the APC also won 346 councillorship seats out of the 349 wards in the state, while the UPN won two councillorship seats and the PDP won one.
The OGSIEC chairman, who stated that the commission had discharged its duties without fear or favour, adjudged the poll as free, fair and credible.
She, however, conceded that there was room for improvement because “election is a process and we can always learn from any shortcomings and improve on subsequent ones. The 2012 local government poll was not as effective as this and so we are sure that the next one will be better than this one.”
She advised candidates, who have any complaint concerning the poll, to direct it to the election tribunal, which she said would soon be constituted.
PDP, UPN, others kick
Expressing its shock, the PDP in the South West zone, condemned the outcome of the election, alleging that it was fraught with irregularities and violence, which were allegedly masterminded by the APC.
In a press conference, South-West Zonal Secretary of the PDP, Revd. Bunmi Jenyo, called for the cancellation of the council election
Jenyo, who was flanked by the state Chairman of the party, Sikirulai Ogundele, and other officials, alleged: “During voting process, ballot boxes and ballot papers were criminally hijacked by miscreants armed to the teeth, who were identified members of the APC in some local government areas, particularly in Abeokuta. There were sporadic shootings in some local councils. While some PDP members, who resisted the hoodlums sustained varying degree of injuries, two people had gunshot wounds.”
The UPN also condemned the conduct of the poll describing it as barbaric, claiming that APC’s political thugs hijacked ballot boxes in some parts of the state.
UPN state Chairman, Olufunmilayo Ogini, argued that results released in some parts of the state were not true representations of the voters’ choices.
She said contrary to the promise of OGSIEC that the election would be free and fair, “ the reverse was the case because the OGSIEC failed to perform its basic duties. So, OGSIEC is part of the enemy used by the APC against our party, UPN.
“The result announced by OGSIEC chairman was written because there is no recorded fact for all the results announced. There are some parts in the state where election did not hold but results were later announced by OGSIEC. “Where did OGSIEC get the result it announced for those affected areas? For instance, it was announced that APC has 12,580 votes in Ogun waterside local government which is a big lie because there were no election materials in all the 112 polling units and nobody voted in Ogun Waterside.”
Chairman of the Ogun State chapter, of the Labour Party, Abayomi Arabambi, also called for the cancellation of the election.
16 parties want INEC to conduct council polls
Meanwhile, a coalition of 16 political parties including the PDP, UPN, Alliance for Democracy and the Labour Party, have called for a change in electoral laws to allow council polls to be overseen by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and not “partisan” state authorities.
In a statement by Otunba Rotimi Paseda on behalf of the coalition, they said: “We want the National Assembly to amend the electoral laws so that local government elections will henceforth be organised by INEC,” they said, alleging that state governments rig local polls for their parties.
“It is obvious that the state electoral body could not conduct a credible poll. We therefore call on the National Assembly to review the section of the constitution that empowers the state governments to conduct local government elections with a view to avoiding a rape of our democracy.”
Alleging that the Ogun council poll was marred by intimidation, rigging and violence, Paseda said electoral fraud was so glaring that the opposition party agents refused to sign the result sheets and called for the results to be annulled.
Poll was free and fair – IPAC, APC
However, the state chapter of the Inter-Party Advisory Council, umbrella body of state chairmen of different political parties, faulted the UPN and PDP’s claims, arguing that the election was “free, fair and transparent.
No fewer than 11 state chairmen of different political parties in the state jointly signed a statement which was read by the IPAC Chairman, Moshood Adesina.
The IPAC said: “The outcome of the election, as announced by OGSIEC, is a true and fair representation of the performance of the different political parties that participated in the process.’’
In like manner, the APC commended the electorate in the state for the peaceful and transparent manner the local council election was held.
The party, in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Sola Lawal, also thanked voters for their massive support for the party at the polls describing the gesture as the required tonic for more commitment to transforming the state.
“All stakeholders in the process including OGSEIC, security agencies, observers, volunteers and the media similarly deserve kudos for the responsible way they discharged their responsibilities,” the party said, adding that the outcome of the poll was an endorsement of the various developmental policies of the Governor Ibikunle Amosun administration
The statement read in part: “It is pertinent to point out that with the visible demonstration of support for the Amosun administration during the poll, the stage is now set for better and more inclusive governance in the state. The APC administration’s unprecedented decentralization of governance at the grassroots exemplified by the effective take-off of the newly – created local council development areas is a testimony to the zeal for growth of the Amosun government.”