Delayed candidates list spark apprehension

Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode

• Stakeholders Blame Ambode, Legislators For Substituting Names
• It’ll Be Out After Validation Exercise-LASIEC

Despite the promise of conducting a free, fair and credible local council election, the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) appears to be falling short of expectation towards the July 22 poll.

One area causing so much concern for political parties, All Progressives Congress (APC) inclusive and their candidates as well; is the failure of the electoral body to publish names of qualified candidates, barely two weeks to the election.The delay is contrary to LASIEC’s stand on transparency, especially when collection of forms ended as far back as Friday, May 26, 2017, according to the guidelines issued by the commission.

One of the reasons for the delay, The Guardian learnt is not unconnected with allegation and counter-allegation of substitution of names, which has become the order of the day, especially in the ruling APC. The candidates that spoke with The Guardian claimed the electoral body is stylishly withholding the list to avoid protests and legal actions that might arise from candidates who feel cheated, and to avoid anything that might hamper the electoral process.

For now, majority of them don’t actually know their fate. They have been spending on posters and campaigns, in order not to lose out if their names are eventually published. For instance, the unresolved grievances in the rank and file of APC across the 57 council areas, as a result of what they termed imposition of candidates, is a major challenge the electoral body has to overcome.

Since the May 27 party primaries held at Teslim Balogun Stadium that ended in violence, APC has been enmeshed in serious crisis, including allegations of substituting candidates’ names at will. Almost on daily basis, petitions and protest letters are written against the leadership of the party in the state, kicking against imposition of candidates.

Despite strong opposition to what was reported as party leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s decision to impose 18 former council chairmen on the party, the leadership of the party is said to be unperturbed by array of protests, threats and mass exodus of members to other parties. The Guardian learnt that of late, leaders in the state and some lawmakers in both the state and National Assembly are allegedly imposing their stooges in the council areas.

In Ojoroko area, Ijaiye Ojokoro Local Council Development Area (LCDA), for instance, of the four aspirants contesting in one of the wards, the party leaders allegedly gave out the ticket to an unpopular aspirant through the back door, which led to a serious uproar. It was when the issue was getting out of hand, suggesting the party might lose the ward, that they rescinded the decision.

As at Wednesday, the name of a chairmanship candidate in the council, Oladipo Okeyomi a.k.a Carry go, believed to be popular, was allegedly substituted with Hammed Tijani (HID), considered as government’s choice. Immediately the news went public, party faithful invaded the party secretariat in Ojokoro, they beat up party leaders, destroyed the structure and occupied the office. But for the quick intervention of the police, the issue would have got beyond control.

The Guardian confirmed from a reliable source that 2019 is is palying a part in the council election.Even in Epe, the situation is the same. It has reached a level where the 36 leaders of the party in the town are said have threatened to resist imposition of candidates.

A member of the House of Assembly is accused of handpicking the chairman, vice-chairman and six councilors to contest into Ikosi-Ejinrin LCDA, without the consent of party leaders in the constituency. The aggrieved party leaders claimed the legislator is using the governor’s name to cause acrimony in the area.

“The legislator has been dropping the name of the governor by saying that the governor is in support of all that he is doing. Our governor is a democrat, who will not tolerate autocracy,” the spokesperson for the group, Mr. Segun Akintola said.Already, there are two factions of APC in the council area, those who are loyal to the legislator and the governor on one hand, and those tagged ‘Abuja Boys’, on the other hand.

Away from Epe, there was a serious protest in Amuwo-Odofin penultimate weekend, still on the issue of candidates’ imposition. This goes for other areas too, as majority of them appears to be suffering in silence in silence.

For now, aside those who had defected to other parties like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Accord Party (AP), Labour Party (LP), to actualise their political ambitions, those who prefer to stay with the APC have carved out several factions, which might likely jeopardise the chances of the party in some areas, unless there is urgent solution.

As ordered by the Ahmed Makarfi-led PDP, the Labour-PDP alliance has 342 councillorship candidates and 52 chairmanship candidates listed to contest the election.The factional chairman of the party in the state, Mr. Moshood Salvador said, “It is an alliance. We never decamped to any Party. We never declared for another Party and we never dumped our dear PDP. We are the PDP strength in Lagos State,” but from all indications, the move would no doubt reduce the chances of PDP in the state, as the party is already polarised.

Aside LP that is profiting from PDP’s crisis, Accord Party is said to be profiting from the crisis in APC. The Guardian had in on good authority that aggrieved aspirants who felt cheated in the scheme of things have found solace in the party.

Meanwhile, in all, seven parties, APC, PDP, LP, Accord, National Conscience Party (NCP), Alliance for Democracy (AD), and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) have their posters flooding nooks and crannies of the state.

All eyes are presently on LASIEC to publish candidates list, and disentangle itself from allegations of bias.LP and NCP had taken LASIEC to court on different issues. The suit filed by Labour Party is on the formation of the LASIEC members, according to legal experts, the suit can challenge the credibility or the outcome of the election.

Only recently the National Legal Adviser of APC, Dr. Muiz Adeyemi Banire, in an interview with The Guardian, condemned nomination fee charged by the electoral body, which he described as an attempt to disenfranchise some people. “The fee must never be punitive, once it is punitive; as far as I am concerned it is an attempt again to disenfranchise some people. At best what should be charged should be something nominal, in form of administrative fee.”

He also condemned the non-usage of the card readers noting that LASIEC has no excuse; since APC is the greatest beneficiary of the card reader.When the LASIEC’s Director, Public Affairs, Oladapo, Olatunde was contacted on phone, he told The Guardian that the list would be released after the ongoing validation exercise.He noted that Labour Party, PDP and APC have done their validation, noting that everything they are doing are in accordance with the guidelines released by the commission.

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