ANAYO EZUGWU reports that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are battle ready for tomorrow’s local government elections in Lagos State and the factors that will shape the contest
Residents of Lagos State will go to the polls tomorrow to elect chairmen, vice-chairmen and councilors, who will pilot the affairs of the 20 local government areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in the state in the next two years.
Though the exercise is a grassroots election, there is no doubt that it is a test of might for the leading political parties in the state – the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – ahead of the 2023 general election.
The two dominant parties have been at crossroads over internal crises ahead of the elections. APC in the state is battling allegations of imposition of candidates in some local governments, while the PDP is yet to resolve its unending leadership crisis in the state.
The Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) has announced that the elections would take place on Saturday, July 24. The commission said the election for the chairmen and councillors would take place in 20 local governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs). The chairman of the commission, Justice Ayotunde Phillips (rtd), had assured Lagosians that the commission is committed to ensuring that the state council poll holds without rancour. She stated that several steps have been taken towards conducting a free, fair, credible and inclusive election.
“We will make efforts that will ensure mass participation in the July 22, 2017 LG election. LASIEC is irrevocably committed to the entrenchment of democratic norms and ideals in the electoral process at the local government level. “We will do everything possible to ensure that the election was conducted peacefully. LASIEC has received the assurance from the police, the army, the navy, the Department of State Services and other security agencies of the maintenance of security before, during and after the election,” Justice Philips said.
For the ruling APC, since the conduct of its primary elections for the council polls, the party has faced resistance from aggrieved members across Kosofe, Amuwo-Odofin, Apapa, Ajeromi, Eredo, Ikorodu, Ifelodun, Epe, Oshodi-Isolo, Surulere, Iba, and Ojodu over alleged imposition of candidates by some party leaders.
Some of the aggrieved members have protested across the state leading the security agencies barricading the state headquarters of the party severally in the last one month. They have also vowed to work against the interest of APC if the situation is not addressed before the elections.
The members also called on the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the state chairman of the party, Tunde Balogun and members of the Governors Advisory Council (GAC) to call on party leaders to abide by the decision taken on the mode of primaries for the council polls. During one of their protests, they said the GAC agreed to make use of the indirect primary method in which party members will vote for the aspirants of their choice. Some aggrieved aspirants in the wake of the primary elections visited the state secretariat of the party to express their displeasure over the conduct of the elections.
They lamented how the election was allegedly marred with irregularities and rigged to favour some aspirants. A chairmanship aspirant of Ijede Local Council Development Area, Oluwatosin Onamade, alleged that the incumbent chairman of the LCDA, Fatiu Jimoh, who was disqualified at the eve of the primary election, replaced his name on the ballot paper.
“Fatiu Jimoh was disqualified by the party and was declared not to be eligible to participate in the primaries and which paved the way for two out of the three screened aspirants namely: Oluwatosin Onamade and Akeem Akinjobi to participate in the election. “We were amazes that on Saturday, 29 May, the name of Mrs. Tunrayo Gbadebo Alogba was purportedly listed as a candidate for the primary election.
This came as a surprise because Mrs. Alogba did not purchase the chairmanship form and she was not screened and cleared by the party’s screening committee. Her name was not reflected and or listed among the candidates for the chairmanship primary election,” he said. Another aspirant for the Surulere council chairmanship ticket, Idris Aregbe in a statement, appealed to Tinubu and members of the GAC to intervene and address members’ agitations. “Quite, unfortunately, the election was hijacked by sponsored thugs that resulted in the loss of lives as two youths were killed and several injured.
In a ploy to subvert the will of the people,members were not allowed to vote or even move closer to the polling units as these sponsored thugs were deployed across Surulere to destabilize the electoral process. This act is barbaric, undemocratic, and unacceptable and it must stop. Our people cannot be disenfranchised by having candidates imposed on them,” he said.
In the last three years, the APC in the state has been in crisis. As a result, the landscape has certainly changed as the political scene in the state heads into a critical period. The last few months have shown the state to be the most volatile on record with many aspirants and party members revolting against imposition by the system. This may indeed be the premonition of things to come as the political scene continues to grow violent.
Despite the seeming crisis in the party, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has said that the party is sure of victory in the council polls. Speaking during the presentation of flags to the 57 chairmanships and vicechairmanship candidates of the APC at the party’s secretariat, he urged all candidates and party leaders to work together to ensure resounding victory at the election.
He said: “By the power of God, you will do it and you will succeed. All of you must do the work together. We have been doing it in the state, the local government election will also succeed. We are certain that the success we are currently enjoying at the national and the state will also be translated at the local government election.”
On the part of the main opposition party, the PDP, the party is also facing a crisis over the recent ruling of the Lagos State High Court, which sacked Engr. Adedeji Doherty as the chairman of the party in the state and installed Adegbola Dominic as the new chairman. Delivering judgement in a suit filed by Dominic, the court agreed with the argument of the claimants that there was no vacancy in the party.
The court ruled that Dominic is the legitimate chairman of PDP in Lagos State. The court presided over by Justice Oyekan Abdullahi said it considered the preliminary objection filed by the 1st-6th defendants and dismissed them for lack of merit. The court held that the 1st claim-ant was duly appointed to serve out the term of his predecessor, who resigned.
Apart from the recent crisis in the party, the PDP has since 1999, failed to win the governorship seat in Lagos State even when the party was in control of the Federal Government. The party only managed to win some seats in the state House of Assembly in the 2015 elections. Soon after that, its fortune began to dwindle again even as some of its chieftains have continued to defect to the APC.
For instance, before the 2019 general election, Moshood Salvador, a former state chairman of the party and his loyalists defected to APC. Even the results of the last local council elections in the state in 2017 indicated that the PDP has a long way to go.
The results showed that APC won all the 20 local government and 37 LCDA seats in the state. Likewise, of the 369 councillorship seats, the PDP was only able to win four seats in Agege LGA (Ward C), Itire Ikate LCDA (Ward A), Ikorodu LGA (Ward D) and Oriade LCDA (Ward A). Accord Party (AP) won in Agege LGA (Ward E), Ikosi Isheri LGA (Ward D) and Somolu LGA (Ward E).
Despite these obvious statistics, Lagos State PDP chairman, Dominic, insists that the party has a chance of winning some local governments in the state. According to him, the outcome of the council polls will put the PDP in the right position to turn the table against the APC in the 2023 general election. His words: “As 2023 national elections stare the nation in the face, the PDP in Lagos State must work hard to contribute its fair quota to the pool of the winning streak that will be the portion of the party nationwide. To this end, the local government elections in Lagos State provide ample opportunity for the party to test-run its machinery towards 2023. “The machinery includes the establishment of wards and polling booth structures in all the polling units throughout the state.
It is a sure way to win many if not all the chairmanship and councillorship positions available. Furthermore, party members who are aspiring for elective positions in 2023 are directed to work to produce the councillors of their respective wards.”
No doubt, the APC and PDP in Lagos State have their respective problems, but it is likely that chieftains of both parties may shelve their differences and work for the common good of their parties as the outcome of the council elections will be a determinant of how the 2023 election