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Lagos LG polls: APC, PDP return to trenches

Leading political parties in Lagos State, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have returned to the trenches as Lagos State Independence Electoral Commission (LASIEC) flags off process for grassroots elections, reports ‘.

  With the decision of the Lagos State Government to hold its local government councils poll next July, the political climate of the state is once again charged as politicians and political parties get ready to contest the various councillorship and chairmanship positions across the state. Consequently the two leading political parties in Lagos State, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have returned to the trenches.

 The election is scheduled to hold on July 24 for offices of Chairmen, Vice Chairmen and Councillors in the 20 local government councils and 37 local council development areas of the state. The whistle for the commencement of the next council election in the state was blown penultimate week when retired Justice Ayotunde Phillips, Chairman of Lagos State Independence Electoral Commission (LASIEC), in a statement, said election into the offices of Chairman, Vice Chairman and Councilors in all the 20 local councils and 37 LCDAs in the state would hold in July. 

The four year term of the current elected council officials in the state will end soon. “The Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC), the body charged with the statutory responsibility of electoral management and administration, is committed to conducting a free, fair, credible and inclusive election. The Statutory Notice shall be published very soon,” the LASIEC Chairman said.

 LASIEC’s announcement came on the heels of agitation in some quarters for the state government to set the motion for council elections in motion.

 For months, the opposition PDP and some other opposition parties have been expressing fear over the readiness of the APC administration to conduct council polls. Last January, the spokesperson of the PDP in Lagos, Taofik Gani, accused the APC of plotting to illegally extend the tenure of the current council officials. He warned that the opposition in the state will resist such moves. According to him, “the people of Lagos State are yearning for real democracy at the grassroots level. And this can only be achieved through credible council polls.”  

“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 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 foster 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. 

Recently too, Comrade James Adeshina, Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in the state, also added his voice to the call for LG polls while warning against any attempt to postpone or shelf the exercise whenever it is due. Adeshina expressed concern that the government didn’t make provision for the election in its 2021 budget. “IPAC members would not support appointment of sole administrators or caretaker committees when the tenure of the incumbents expired,” he warned.

 But the ruling party never wasted time in denying the accusations by the opposition. The APC insisted that there is no plan to foist undemocratic structures on the local governments, saying it is ready for council polls whenever the umpire blows the whistle. Seye Oladejo, spokesperson of the party in the state, kept assuring the populace that there will be an election. He never failed to add that the 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.

 Getting ready

 Following LASIEC’s announcement, the APC in Lagos State promptly inaugurated a committee consisting of 15 members to set modalities and guidelines for its participation in the next local government elections. The committee, which is led by the Deputy Governor of the state, Obafemi Hamzat, has the State Secretary of the party as the scribe. Party Publicity Scribe, Oladejo, confirmed the development in a statement during the week.  

During its inauguration, the state’s party Chairman, Tunde Balogun, enjoined the committee members to swing into action with the statutory election notices published by the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission. He reiterated that the announcement of the elections scheduled for 24th July has ignited political activities in the party with various aspirants canvassing for support. He expressed the confidence of the party in the ability of the committee to do a thorough job that will further boost the democratic credentials of the party. 

Speaking during the ceremony, Hamzat assured that the party will present the best candidates that will complement the efforts of the state government in providing the dividends of democracy for the people. Other members of the committee are the former Deputy Governor of the state, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule, Mr. Ademola Sadiq- the state legal adviser, Hon. Adewale Oshun, Hon. Daramola Abayomi, Alh. Ganiyu Sadiq, Mr. Ademola Olisa, Mr. Fatai Lasisi, Mr. Adebiyi Kehinde, Mr. Olabode Olaniyan, Mr. S. A. Sekoni, Mr. Tunde Lawal and Mr. Gani Bello,” the party statement read.

Speaking on the readiness of the APC for the scheduled election, the State Secretary of the party, Hon. Lanre Ogunyemi, declared that the party is well prepared for the local government elections. The former State House of Assembly member said everybody had been eagerly looking forward to the election date. He added that the release of the guidelines by LASIEC, which is still being expected, would set the ball rolling.

 Hon. Ogunyemi was confident that APC would clear all the available seats in the 20LGs and 37LCDAs in the state following the exemplary performance of the APC administration in the state. On the eligibility of aspirants, the party secretary said the guidelines of LASIEC, as well as those of the party would provide guidance on how and who will be qualified to contest for the post of Chairman or Councilor on the platform of the ruling party.

 The opposition PDP is not left behind in the preparations ahead of the forthcoming local government polls.  Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the PDP, Engr. Deji Doherty, said the party is not only ready to participate in the exercise but also to win chairmanship and councillorship positions this time around. He said his party is now better positioned to challenge the APC in the various constituencies and councils across the state. He called on the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to ensure that the election was free, fair and credible in all ramifications. 

The PDP chairman further called on the Justice Phillips (rtd)-led Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) to come out with the necessary timetable for the elections in good time. He said it was imperative for the commission to restore the credibility of the electoral process by ensuring that the wish of the people was respected during the coming elections, noting that the people had lost confidence in it due to huge allegations of erroneous vote allocations to All Progressives Congress (APC) candidates in the past.  

In his reaction, the Lagos State Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Taofik Gani, said the party was prepared to wrestle power from the ruling APC at the grassroots in a free, fair and credible election. “It is welcomed, we are prepared and Lagos residents have been expecting as the people want change. This will also calm the attempt to provoke the opposition when it was rumoured that the governor was going to bring up caretaker committees to run the affairs of ocal governments when the tenure of the incumbents expires in July.

 “However, we charge LASIEC to be very sincere that the date is sacrosanct. The incumbents should not spend a day in office beyond their tenure. So, we are happy to hear that the election will hold,” he said. The PDP spokesman said that the civil society organisations, opposition parties and all interested Nigerians would come out to support LASIEC. “LASIEC must be prepared to give to Lagos residents free, fair and credible elections; they must go away from partisanship.”

 Mounting tension 

Beyond the preparations for the planned elections by the leading political parties, indications are emerging that the ruling APC and the opposition PDP may soon engage themselves in fierce confrontations ahead of the election in July. Days after LASIEC’s announcement, the APC and the PDP are now trading words over alleged plans by the government and LASIEC to postpone the elections and appoint caretaker committees to man the councils. 

Making the allegations, the PDP, in a statement signed by Gani  Taofik, said information at its disposal suggests that arrangements have been concluded to appoint caretaker committee chairmen. He added that with the tenure of the current elected council officials expiring in about three months from now, LASIEC must show more seriousness about conducting the council polls as at when due. He urged Governor Sanwo-Olu to resist any attempt to postpone local government elections in the state.

 “We call on the state governor and LAHA to resist any attempt not to conduct local government elections in order to prevent the state of lawlessness at that government level,” PDP further warned. “Section 7 of the 1999 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. Interestingly this information got to us from the APC aspirants themselves. They are interested in contesting and like all other parties’ wishes, an election must be conducted,” the party said.

 But APC, promptly reacting to the allegations through its spokesperson, Seye Oladejo, cautioned the PDP against crying wolf where there is none. The ruling party insisted that all the allegations are baseless. “Let me congratulate the Lagos State PDP for characteristically finding its voice again as a result of the impending local government elections in the state. For the umpteenth time, let me state categorically that the comatose Lagos State PDP only comes alive during the election season only to withdraw to its cocoon after the traditional perennial defeat”. 

“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 sympathise 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 be held in our state at the appropriate time. There’s absolutely no need to cry wolf where there’s none,” he said.

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