The Lagos State chapters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are at each other’s throat again ahead of the local government elections in the state. ANAYO EZUGWU reports
Though the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) is yet to announce the date for the local government elections in the state, the two dominant political parties in the state are already at loggerheads over the election.
Firing the first salvo was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which accused its opponent, the ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC) of planning to shelve the local council elections in the state.
The PDP alleged that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the state and his party are planning to foist unelected candidates on the councils when the tenure of the incumbents expires later this year.
Taofik Gani said the people of the state would resist the plan to entrench the undemocratic process by insisting on the conduct of local government elections in the state.
“We call out the state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu to resist the plan to entrench undemocratic rule in the Local government areas of the state. The move to entrench undemocratic councils will not only fester anarchy at local government level but will be the albatross of the governor if any attempt to seek reelection in 2023 is made,” he said.
The latest blame game started following the uncertainty over the local council administration when the tenure of the current councils expired in the next few months. The PDP alleged that the APC is jittery of any local government elections because the majority of the councils have performed very disappointingly and cannot win any fair polls to retain control.
But with the abysmal performance of the PDP in recent bye-elections in Lagos State, it is not clear to many political watchers in Lagos State how the party would turn around its fortune in the state. Since 1999, PDP has failed at every general election to win the governorship seat in Lagos State even when the party was in control of the federal government.
Lagos is one of the states where PDP has failed to control since the return to democratic rule in 1999. For instance, former President Olusegun Obasanjo failed to win the state for the party in the 2003 and 2007 general elections despite widespread allegations of electoral fraud. But in 2011, through the popularity of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the party managed to win the presidential election in the state.
But as usual, like his predecessor, Jonathan lost the governorship election to the Action Congress Nigeria, ACN. Likewise, in 2015, the former president also failed to win Lagos for the PDP both in the presidential and governorship elections. However, the party managed to win some seats at the State House of Assembly.
But the party’s fortune has continued to dwindle further as a result of unending internal leadership tussle leading to the defection of some of its chieftains to APC. For instance, before the 2019 general elections, Moshood Salvador, former state chairman and his loyalists in the state defected to APC.
Even the results of the last local council elections in the state in 2017 indicated that the party has a long way to go with its unending internal crisis.
The results showed that APC won all the 20 local government and 37 development council areas seats in the state. Likewise, of the 369 councillorship seats, the PDP was only managed to win four seats in Agege LGA (Ward C), Itire Ikate LCDA (Ward A), Ikorodu LGA (Ward D) and Oriade LCDA (Ward A).
The Accord Party (AP) also won in Agege LGA (Ward E), Ikosi Isheri LGA (Ward D) and Somolu LGA (Ward E).
Despite these obvious statistics, Gani insisted that the party has a chance of winning some local governments in the state.
He said the party would deploy all legal means to ensure that Lagosians have their self chosen representatives at the councils and that if the APC machination prevents democratically elected representatives in the state as at when due, Lagosians must say no.
“The voice of the major opposition party in the state is coming on the heels of statements credited to some chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state that local government elections will not hold and that Caretaker committees shall be set up at the levels. Section 7 of the 1999 Nigeria constitution as amended guarantees democratically elected local government councils.
We are informed that the APC plans not to conduct local elections this year. “The tenure of the councils expires in about three months. Inter- estingly this information got to us from the APC aspirants themselves. They are interested in contesting and like all other parties wish, the election must be conducted.
The APC is jittery of any local government elections as the majority of the councils have performed very disappointingly and cannot win any fair polls to retain control.
We call on the state Governor and Lagos State House of Assembly to resist any attempt not to conduct local government elections to prevent a state of lawlessness at that government level.”
But the APC has denied the accusation by the PDP saying that there is no plan to foist undemocratic structures on the local governments. The party noted that it is ready for council poll whenever the umpire blows the whistle.
The publicity secretary of the party in the state, Seye Oladejo said the allegation that Governor Sanwo-Olu was planning to entrench undemocratic structures was unfounded. Oladejo said there will be an election and PDP will be defeated like in the previous polls.
“The needless ranting about the local government elections that are not even due and for which we await an official pronouncement shows the idleness and needless rabble-rousing of its confused leadership.
“The baseless allegation or suspicion to entrench undemocratic governance at the local government level in the state is not in tandem with the fact that Lagos State has always had democratically elected leaders at the grassroots since the inception of this dispensation.
“It’s also noteworthy that activities and preparations towards the local government elections as admitted by the opposition spokesman are only prevalent in the ruling party in the state. We can only sympathize with the fact that the opposition PDP will struggle to field candidates for the elections.
“As a party that believes in the rule of law upholds the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the tenets of democracy, we wish to assure Lagosians that local government elections will hold in our state at the appropriate time.
There’s absolutely no need to cry wolves where there’s none,” he said. As the accusation and counteraccusation ranges, the LASIEC has promised that the local council poll will take place in the state.
The commission said it will soon launch a user-friendly website in readiness for the forthcoming local council election in the state.
Speaking at a three-day pre-election retreat ahead of the local council elections in Lagos on Monday, March 29, the Chairman of LASIEC, Justice Ayotunde Phillips said the website would further boost communication between the commission and her various publics.
She said the forthcoming Lagos council poll would take into consideration a new approach to the health and safety of voters and election personnel in line with the reality of the pandemic.
“Taking centre stage also, is the online incident reporting, through our website to ensure prompt resolution of the crisis and other critical challenges. Also, our work on voter education and enlightenment has intensified.
Inclusivity mechanisms for women; youths, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups within the population are also receiving proper attention,” she said Phillips explained that awareness and sensitization programmes would be rolled out to appeal to the teeming youths’ involvement and participation.
“The electorates would be encouraged, informed and provided with basic information about participating in elections so as to freely express their political choices through the electoral process.
This will, in turn, provide the much-needed credibility and legitimacy of the process.”
As Lagosians await the announcement of the electioneering process by LASIEC many political commentators are fervently waiting to see how PDP would challenge APC in the state.