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Sham LG elections: The blame is on House of Reps

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Those calling for the head of Rochas Okorocha, Imo State governor, over the outcome of the August 25, 2018 local government election in the state should channel their anger to the House of Representatives, which last year voted 229/59 against a bill to alter the constitution to abrogate State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) and give the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) further powers to conduct local council polls.

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) empowers the states to constitute State Independent Electoral Commissions for the conduct of local government elections.

But seeing how SIECs have become mere tools in the hands of the ruling party in every state, the Senate reasoned that only INEC could conduct free, fair and credible local government elections anywhere in the country. In July 2017, it moved to strip state governments of the power to control polls at the grassroots and to guarantee democratically constituted local government councils through elections to be conducted by INEC.

When the matter, which became the 33rd item on the Fourth Constitution Alteration Bill passed by the Senate, came up for voting, the Senate voted in support of the proposal, among other ones intended to ensure autonomy for the LGAs, with Senate President Bukola Saraki upholding that the responsibility of conducting local government elections be taken away from the state to and given to INEC.

But the proposal was killed on the floor of the House of Representatives as it could not secure the required two-thirds, or 240 votes.

And so, Nigerians have continued to endure a comatose local government system, where the governors have either preferred the use of appointed caretaker committees or have resorted to holding kangaroo elections, mostly towards the end of their tenures, in which only the party in power wins all the available seats, with the opposition always kicking.

That was how PDP swept all the seats in the 31 local government areas and 329 councillorship wards in the December 2, 2017 local government election in Udom Emmanuel’s Akwa Ibom State, results of which were rejected by the APC, citing the state electoral commission’s lack of independence.

That was how PDP won the chairmanship positions in all the 17 local government areas and all the councillorship seats in the 258 electoral wards in the November 4, 2017 local council elections in Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s Enugu State.

That was how APC cleared all the 20 local government areas, 37 local council development areas and all the councillorship seats in the July 22, 2017 local council elections in Akinwunmi Ambode’s Lagos State.

APC swept all the seats in the June 3, 2017 local government elections in Samuel Ortom’s Benue State, an election in which BSIEC declined to release details of votes scored by the candidates, just as PDP cleared all 17 chairmanship positions in the December 21, 2016 local government elections held in Okezie Ikpeazu’s Abia State.

APC won all the 14 chairmanship positions in the January 2, 2016 local council elections held in Zamfara State, just as the party also cleared all the 22 chairmanship seats and 234 councillorship seats in the March 12, 2016 local government elections in Sokoto State.

That was how PDP won all the 16 chairmanship seats and 177 councillorship seats in the December 19, 2015 local government elections in Ayo Fayose’s Ekiti State, which was boycotted by the APC in the state.

On May 23, 2015, a few days before he was due to hand over power to the current Governor Nyesom Wike in Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi, current minister of transportation, hurriedly conducted local government elections in the state in which APC won all the chairmanship seats in the 22 local government areas where elections held and 297 out of 302 councillorship seats. PDP boycotted the election, citing court injunction which ordered that status quo be maintained.

In the January 11, 2014 local government elections in Anambra State, the ruling APGA cleared all 20 chairmanship seats in the local government areas where elections were held as well as 304 councillorship seats out of the 327 wards in the state. PDP managed to garner 12 councillorship seats, while the Progressives People’s Alliance (PPA) and UPP secured one councillorship seat each.

Kwara State held local government elections on October 26, 2013 in which PDP, the party at the helm of affairs in the state then, swept all the 15 chairmanship and 181 councillorship seats in the state.

On October 5, 2013, PDP won all the chairmanship and councillorship seats in the 13 local government areas of Ebonyi State. Even though the election was boycotted by all the other political parties, the Ebonyi State Independent Electoral Commission said the poll was “free, fair, devoid of violence and other forms of irregularities”.

As far back as August 7, 2010, in the dying days of the Ikedi Ohakim administration in Imo State, the governor conducted local government elections in which his party, PDP, won all the chairmanship and councillorship seats, even though ISIEC had claimed that a total of 20 political parties participated in the election.

So, it is clear that this has been the trend. The only exception to this general trend would be the Federal Capital Territory, where APC won 43 councillorship seats, PDP won 14, and APGA won five councillorship seats in the April 9, 2016 council elections in the area. APC also won the chairmanship seats in AMAC, Kuje, Kwali, Bwari and Abaji council areas, while APGA won in Gwagwalada.

The other would be the May 12, 2018 local government election in Nasir El-Rufai’s Kaduna State, where APC won 14 chairmanship seats out of 23, and PDP won four, while elections in five local government areas were rescheduled for June 16.

It was this system that Okorocha has exploited. His party, APC, won all the 27 chairmanship seats and 636 out of the 645 councillorship seats in the state in the August 25 election that the State Independent Electoral Commission (ISIEC) claimed was contested by 13 political parties. ISIEC announced that the Accord Party, Rebuild Nigeria Party, Kowa Party and People’s Redemption Party won one councillorship seat each, while elections were cancelled in four wards in Oguta, Isu, Ezinihitte Mbaise and Aboh Mbaise over electoral violence. Opposition PDP, APGA and UPP boycotted the election, while the Social Democratic Party (SDP) rejected the outcome, alleging that the election was marred by irregularities.

CHUKS OLUIGBO

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