BY SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN-CITY
Local government elections in Edo State held penultimate Saturday and it was a clean sweep for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in all the 18 LGAs of the state. The enthusiasm observed during the polls did not come as a surprise considering that the last time elections held at that level was in 2013 under the then governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and, since 2016 when the tenure of the Chairmen and Councillors ended, the councils had been run by Heads of Services.
However, the elections, which were the first to be conducted by Governor Godwin Obaseki, turned out to be an easy ride for his party, the APC, following the decision by the major opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to boycott the polls. The PDP, in a statement by the state Publicity Secretary, Chris Nehikhare, had said ahead of the elections, “PDP is not participating in the sham elections. We did not submit any candidate for any of the positions in any of the wards and local government areas in the state. As a matter of fact, we filed a case in court challenging EDSIEC, EDHA and EDSG on their powers, amongst other breaches, to amend the rules for the conduct of the elections.
The case was adjourned to April 11, 2018 at the last hearing. “From the onset, we outlined our grievances regarding the composition of EDSIEC, the unconstitutional amendment to the number of days’ notice required to be given to political parties before elections are held and question the competence of the EDSIEC as the antecedent of its Chairman stuck out like a sore thumb. At this point, we expected EDSIEC and/or EDSG to address these issues raised as they were germane, but instead, they preferred to pay lawyers up to N500m to keep the case in court. Our case is strong and justifiable. As a consequence and not wanting to give credibility to a flawed and skewed process, whereby all the winners have been predetermined, election results already written in government house and handed over to the Prof. Orobator led EDSIEC for announcement. We hereby advice all our members, sympathizers as well as the good and hardworking people of Edo State to observe March 3rd, 2018 as a day of rest”.
However, ten other political parties, including Labour Party, NCP, ADP, Social Democratic Party and People for Democratic Change, participated in the polls. This would be the first time the PDP would be boycotting an election in Edo. The party led the state for ten years before Oshiomhole came to power and solidified his APC in Edo. Sunday Vanguard gathered that PDP members from Edo Central, an area seen to be the stronghold of the opposition party in the state, argued that they should be allowed to participate in the elections at least to keep the hope of their members intact ahead of the 2019 general elections. But the leadership of the party, under the chairmanship of Chief Dan Orbih, felt it was going to be a wasteful venture since the polls were going to be supervised by Edo State Independent National Electoral Commission (EDSIEC). Oshiomhole, who is the Leader of the APC in the state, expressed shock over the decision of the PDP to boycott the elections, saying he sympathised with the party. His words: “The implication of the PDP´s decision is that they will not ask for votes from Edo people come 2019 since local government elections are now too small for them. I laughed when I read the PDP saying that they are going to court to contest the constitution of the EDSIEC and other issues that have to do with the local government elections. That is just an excuse to tell their members that they are still alive but they are dead. You can see people celebrating democracy at the grassroots. Our people are more interested in local elections because LGA Chairmen and councillors are those they see every day, and that is why you see that people are keen to vote. With these elections, we have just completed the liquidation of the PDP. There is no further proof of that liquidation other than that they have on their own admitted defeat. They don’t regard the people who vote for them at the grassroots. They have my sympathy because this is the same party that used to arrogantly rig people out and ask you to go to court. We have demystified them and entrenched one man one vote which is an area they don’t have competence. They are not used to voting, they are used to writing results”.
A former member of the House of Representatives, Mr Patrick Obahiagbon (Igodomigodo), attributed the victory of the APC in the elections to the hard work of Obaseki, saying the PDP stayed away because they had nothing to campaign with. “We have a governor that is called ‘Wake and See’ and, across the state, you see development each time you wake up in the morning. He has consolidated on the progress made by Oshiomhole and Edo is progressing. So the result of the elections is not a surprise to us and I can tell you that this victory will be replicated in 2019 because the governor is focused and he is a performer”, he said.
First female Chairman
Meanwhile the elections saw the emergence of the first female LGA Chairperson in the state, in the person of the daughter of the late Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, Eghe Ogbemudia, who takes charge at Egor Local Government Area. The elected Chairmen were sworn in last Monday by Obaseki. Speaking at the occasion, the governor charged the new heads of the councils to be accountable, responsive and responsible in administering the affairs of their councils. He said, “My administration has kept aside N2 billion saved from the Paris Club refunds in the councils’ treasury for the new executives to commence activities. You are not coming to meet an empty treasury. I have saved your Paris refunds in excess of N2billion. So, you will be coming into office with some reserves and savings, but you have to focus on enduring projects.”
Act of benevolence
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, who witnessed the swearing-in ceremony, commended Obaseki for saving money for the Chairmen to kick-start their activities. He described the act as benevolent and urged the council bosses to utilize the fund for the benefit of the masses. Also speaking at a thanks giving service held at St Paul’s Catholic Church, Benin-City, Obaseki said the new helmsmen will deepen his brand of strategic leadership at the 18 LGAs of the state. The governor said the APC will introduce the same quality of service he is pioneering at the state level in the LGAs through the new Chairmen and councillors. “That is why our party, the APC, decided to field candidates we know are very credible, and are people with experience to take charge of the affairs of our local government areas. So, we are quite excited and assure the people of Edo State that the new heads at the local governments will render service to the people that will surpass what they have seen before”, he said.
“We will want to deepen the ‘Wake and See’ concept of programme execution. We want to make sure that the same spirit gets to the local government areas”.
The Parish Priest, Reverend Father Edwin Omorogbe, commended the state government for organising the elections to enable the people to choose those to lead them at the local government areas. Catholic Archbishop Augustine Akubueze of Benin Archdiocese praised the state government for organising the local government elections, saying the turnout showed that the people were concerned about electing those they see on daily basis. “So, the charge is now for these new heads not to disappoint,” he added.
The only female Chairperson, Eghe Ogbemudia, said she wouldn’t disappoint her people.
Some of the new LGA Chairmen who attended the service are Ogbemudia Eghe; John Akhigbe of Etsako Central LGA; Destiny Enabulele of Ovia South West LGA; Jenkins Osunde of Oredo LGA and Eric Osayande of Ikpoba Okha LGA.