28 July 2012

Nigeria: Ogun LGA Poll - the Controversy Rages On

As the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) won all the 20 local councils and 226 out of the 236 councillorship seats in the recent poll in Ogun State, the opposition is alleging foul play. The unfolding scenario is spawning considerable controversy, writes ABIODUN TAIWO as he further captures other associated flaws and intrigues.

The local government elections in Ogun State took place on Saturday July 21st 2012 with the ruling Party, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) winning all the chairmanship positions in all the Twenty Local governments of the state.

The party also won in 226 councillorship seats out of 236 available in the state leaving other parties to share the remaining ten.

The election which was the first to be conducted by the State OGSIEC since the creation of the state in 1976 was with its own shortcomings, intrigues politics and power play.

While some elements of the opposition were crying foul play on the part of the ruling party in the state some of the participating political parties believed that the election was the best that could have happened to any State.

Among those that rated the election to be well organized was the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, who scored Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission, OGSIEC, a pass mark for conducting a well-organized and hitch-free local government election.

Nine of the 14 political parties that fielded candidates in the election under the auspices of CNPP, in a post-election briefing, in Abeokuta after the release of the results by OGSIEC, acknowledged that the electoral umpire gave a good account of itself by ensuring that all candidates from the opposition parties and their agents at the polling booths were accorded fair treatment during the election.

At the briefing, Ogun CNPP Chairman, Otunba Owolabi Odebudo, with representatives of other political parties in CNPP that contested the election said the ACN administration in the state also deserved commendation for its non-interference in the conduct of the election, adding that Governor IbikunleAmosun deserved accolades for giving a free hand to OGSIEC to organise and conduct free and fair election.

The group appealed to winners in the election to be magnanimous in victory and the losers to accept the results in good faith as election should not be seen as a do-or-die affair. CNPP called on other states that were yet to conduct their local government poll to borrow a leaf from Ogun State and work towards conducting the local government elections in their states as stipulated in the electoral law.

But the other opposition political parties, particularly Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN, however, rejected the result of the election which they described as a rape on democracy.

Former Senior Special Assistant to former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Political Matters, Dr. Gbolade Osinowo called for the cancellation of the election, particularly in Ijebu North Local Government area of the state. Osinowo, who spoke with newsmen at the PDP meeting held in Ijebu Igbo, further stated that what has happened in the state was "a brazen assault on democracy, perpetrated by people who have made a career of shouting that they are the champion of democracy".

Obasanjo'sformer aide emphasised that the people of his area rejected the result announced by the State Electoral Commission (OGSIEC) under its Chairman, Alhaja Risikat Ogunfemi because it was manipulated.

Osinowo, a former chairman of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), further stated that copies of the result sheet signed on Form EC8 by the presiding officers to the party agents in all the 11 wards of Ijebu North local government indicated that PDP won the chairmanship seat with 9 councillors, while the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) won two councillors.

He however, described the incident as "massive and criminal rigging" which he said would be challenged at the Local Government Election Tribunal when eventually constituted.

"What's worse is the nauseating hypocrisy of ACN; these people discarded the voter register, used law enforcement agencies to snatch ballot papers. They shot at our people, they seized Form EC8 and in effect, they willfully denied our people the right to choose their own leaders".

He further alleged that rather than declaring at ward levels as stipulated by the electoral guidelines, "OGSIEC went to Abeokuta and started dishing out fictitious results".

Also, the chairman of the PDP Caretaker Committee in the state, Ireti Oliyide said the result of the election was not acceptable to his party.

In the same vein, the Bayo Dayo faction of Ogun State Peoples Democratic Party described the just concluded local government election as an "elaborate sham".The party in a statement signed by its Director of Organisation, Segun Sowunmi, alleged that the election was characterized by mass rigging, ballot stuffing and other electoral irregularities.

The party, which noted that the election lacked transparency, further stated that it was never optimistic of a free and fair election from the commission based on the serial pre-election contempt of the court orders.

Also the PPN described the election as a "monumental electoral fraud". In a statement signed by its Director of Organisation, Deji Kalejaiye, the party stated that,"it was disheartening to witness 0GSIEC and other security agencies involved in the election openly declaring support for the ruling Party" describing is as a sham and reckless display of use power by the government in power .

"We make bold to say that the results being announced by OGSIEC were not the true reflection of the votes casts by Ogun State people. The figures were simply falsified".

PPN alleged that ACN government deliberately rigged the election to prevent the opposition from knowing how state government has been meddling with the Local Government funds.

"The way and manner the ACN members were snatching ballot boxes all over the states was embarrassing and ridiculous of a Party that is championing the crusade of one man one vote".

The State Chapter of PDP after condemning the elections, the National body of the Party also spoke by saying that the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is a party in a league of incurable dictators. It also said the local government election in the state was massively rigged by the ACN, adding that its action showed that the party was not interested in advancing the cause of democracy.

The PDP in a statement by its national Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, said that the ACN has consistently proven that Nigerians cannot trust it with power. According to Metuh, "With the unfortunate outcome of last week's local government election in Ogun state, the ACN has smashed all doubts as to its carefully chosen course in the unrestrained suppression of the electoral wishes of the people."

The PDP noted that democracy was in grave danger in the ACN controlled states with the stubborn insistence of the party that what counts are the whimsical decision of the cabal in its leadership and not the vote of the people.

The PDP further said, "Prior to the election, our Ogun state chapter alerted the nation of the distortion in the voter's registers and of the massive build-up in instruments of violence by the ACN. It also noted the flagrant abuse of the electoral laws and the Ogun State Independent Electoral commission's guidelines.

"This brazen assault on democracy climaxed on the Election Day when the snatching of ballot boxes, seizure of result sheets and unrestrained violence were engaged by the machinery of the ACN controlled state government."

The PDP therefore, demanded from the ACN why the results of the election were not declared at the ward level as required by law instead of the state capital where the outcome of the election was conveniently doctored and fictitious results announced.

The chronology of happenings on the day of election may have brought about the different reactions from the participating political parties as happenings showed that there were many shortcomings with the conduct of the polls.

In all the areas visited by LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, contrary to the promise made by the OGSIEC, that, voting materials would be delivered as promptly as possible, most polling units in Ogun East and West did not get voting materials on time.

Also many names were missing from the register being used by the Electoral body and notable were the name of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and that of the Akarigbo and Paramount Ruler of Remoland Oba Michael Adeniyi Sonariwo and six members of his family.

At Odogbolu Local Government, the name of the People's Democratic Party Chairmanship candidate, Omoba Gbenga Osinowo was also missing on the voter register. Reacting to the missing names, the Ogun House of Assembly Speaker, Suraj Adekunmi who was also at Ayetoro 1 Ward 2 to cast his vote, assured that if there were any shortage of materials, OGSEIC will provide more before the election commences.

The Speaker denied the reports that the missing names were a plot by the ACN to rig election, assuring that the election will be free and fair.

He commended the people of the area for coming out to exercise their franchise. Also the minority leader of the House of Assembly, Hon. Job Akintan said the election was peaceful but also informed that several names were missing on the voter register especially in Ayetoro. Akintan who lauded the process of election allayed fears that the peaceful election may not reflect the true position of the peaceful election.

He said contrary to the promise by the electoral body, form EC8E1 which was to record the result of Councillorship election were not provided in all the 11 units of the local government adding that the officials promised to provide it before the election.

At Imasayi, the reverse was the case as the appropriate materials came in on time and more turn-out was recorded as against Ayetoro. Also the Chairman House Committee on Local government and Administration, House of Representatives Hon Rasak Adewusi commended the State government for the peaceful conduct of the election. He said his committee had been agitating for democratization at local government level.

His words "In Nigeria today, only fifteen out of the thirty six states have elected political office holders, others have been operating on caretaker committee level and which had been detrimental to the fiscal developments at these areas"

Adewusi said "I know the amounts that goes into these local governments; what have they done with these monies, but if truly we have elected chairmen and councilors that are answerable to the people, there will be aggravated developments".

While giving knocking the lapses in the conduct of the local government poll, Adewusi said "it is very disheartening for the way the elections is been conducted at this local governments, but if the Federal Government could handle these elections there would be less crisis at the elections".

Reviewing the happenings on the election day it was revealed that in Ikenne, Obafemi Owode, Abeokuta North and South, Remo North and Sagamu, Ijebu East, Odeda, Ijebu North East, Ijebu North, Ado-Odo/Otta, Ifo, Ijebu Ode, Ewekoro and Yewa North, the turn-out was low as residents in many of these areas stayed indoors while many others went about their normal business.

Residents in many parts of the state complained of inadequate supply and late arrival of voting materials. In Igbesa town, Ado -Odo/Otta Local Government, electoral materials were not distributed until 12 noon, thirty minutes before the casting of votes commenced.

In Ogun Waterside, a prospective voter, Mr. Dehinde Ifarajimi alleged that there were no elections in his Makun-Omi/Irokun Ward 9.The council polls also rekindled the ugly episode of ballot box snatching. Ballot boxes designated for the election in some wards in Osiele were snatched at gun point by people believed to be supporters of one of the major parties who took them away to the local government headquarters.

Similar ugly incidents also occurred in Isire, Ode-Omi, Abigi, Ibiade among several others which include Ajebandele Ward, Ijebu East Local Government, where a teacher was reported to have snatched four booklets of ballot papers and thumb printed them.

Twenty four hours to the election, a councillorship candidate of PDP in Igbesa slumped and died mysteriously. Also, a councillorship candidate of the ACN escaped death by the whiskers when his car exploded shortly after he parked it in front of his opponent's residence in Ewekoro.

One electoral officer was said to have been hit with a charm by yet to be identified person and was still in coma as at the time of filing the report. According to one of the OGSIEC commissioners who pleaded anonymity, some electoral officers were chased with guns and had to hide in the bush after the collation of the results in Yewa axis.

One Divisional Police Officer, DPO, attached to polling station was said to have sustained injury in an accident that occurred in the course of rescuing some electoral officers who were in distress.

One PDP chieftain in Ijebu-North (name withheld) allegedly held some electoral officers hostage shortly after the declaration of the result in the local government but were rescued by soldiers.

The security personnel attached to a financier of the party over powered policemen who later called for assistance from the army. In Ode Remo, sporadic gunshots were said to have been fired by unknown persons to scare away voters from the polling units.

At Simawa High School, Sagamu, the ACN chairmanship candidate, Mrs Funmi Efuwape was said to have narrowly escaped attack by some unidentified opposition supporters following disagreements over alleged irregularities at the polling unit.

OGSIEC, had earlier released results into 19 out of the 20 local government areas not until last Thursday when it gave certificate of return to the Chairman of Imeko Afon Local government, Engineer Ayilara Tajudeen as the court on Wednesday vacated the earlier order it gave restraining the Commission pending the determination of a court order in respect of the election in the area.

It will be recalled that a state High Court, sitting in Ilaro on Thursday, granted an order of interim injunction restraining OGSIEC from issuing Certificate of Return or otherwise recognising any other person as elected chairman of Imeko-Afon Local Government.

The court, presided over by Justice A.O. Asenuga, ruled on a motion ex-parte filed by the PPN counsel, Dr. Yemi Oke, over the exclusion of 33 candidates of the party in the polls.

But the OGSIEC had told whoever that cares to listen that the commission was ready to entrench democracy in the state as the body has performed to creditably well to the best of its knowledge and within the ambit of the law.

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