Edo APC follows trend, wins council poll in landslide

Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State

Recording the usual landslide victory over opposition political parties that have become the trend in local government election management in Nigeria, the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) in Edo scored 100 percent win in last weekend’s council poll in the state.

Last Saturday’s local council poll in Edo State, which was won, as usual with ruling parties across the country, in a landslide manner by the All Progressives Congress (APC), has once again drawn attention to the management of election at the third tier of government in Nigeria.

As it has been the case since the commencement of the current democratic dispensation, where ruling parties always win council elections with wide margins even when a viable and credible opposition is in place, the APC won all the 18 chairmanship and 192 councillorship seats in the exercise.

Regarded by many as a strange phenomenon that cannot occur without official manipulation to either thwart the process or hound opposition out of the race, the unusual victories of ruling parties have been identified as a ploy by politicians not only to stifle democracy at the grassroots but also to ensure total control of the funds that should belong to council administrations.

Proponents of local council autonomy, who are mainly council workers, have argued that hijacking of council administration, either through appointments of unelected officials or by landslide victories of ruling parties, have suppressed development at the third tier of government and defeated the expectations of the constitution on the role of local governments as the closest level of government to the people.

The stiff opposition to the autonomy by many state governors and Houses of Assembly, who have rejected the clause in the on-going constitutional amendment process, are believed to be driven mainly by the selfish factors of partisan political control and unfettered access to council fund that statutorily come from the federation accounts thereby pushing the important aspect of grassroots development to the background.

That the various state electoral commissions have become ready instruments in the hands of ruling parties is a fact that is also militating against the establishment of state police as those opposed to the idea claim that the local force would be used to suppress opposition.

Although Edo is not the only state where the ruling party has the unusual capacity of totally sweeping council poll, it is the latest in this trend that has become characteristic of Nigeria politics.

Announcing the results of the election, Chairman of Edo State Independent Electoral Commission (EDSIEC), Prof. Stanley Orobator, declared the APC as the overall winner of the exercise with a hundred percent victory.

According to Orobator, who distributed certificates of returns to the winners within 24 hours after the election, the exercise was free fair and peaceful with an impressive turnout.

He stressed that the outcome of the election reflected the political wish of the electorate at the grassroots who were given the opportunity of picking their choice of council administrators from about eight political parties that took part in the exercise.

However, the state’s major opposition platform, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) boycotted the election on the ground that the exercise was planned to award victory to the ruling party and that the law that the EDSIEC relied on to conduct the poll cannot stand the test of legal scrutiny.

Spokesman of PDP in Edo State, Chris Nehikhare, had announced that the party was going to stay away from the election, which he said would eventually be nullified, by a court of competent jurisdiction.

According to him, “We want to reiterate that PDP is not participating in the sham elections. We did not submit any candidate for any of the positions in any of the wards and local government areas in the state.

“From the onset, we outlined our grievances regarding the composition of EDSIEC, the unconstitutional amendment to the number of days notice required to be given to political parties before elections are held and questioned the competence of the EDSIEC as the antecedent of its chairman stuck out like a sore thumb.”

The party therefore approached an Edo High Court sitting in Benin City to declare that Section 21 (1) of the Edo State Local Government Electoral Law, as amended, otherwise called Edo State Local Government and the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission EDSIEC, Establishment, (Re- Enacted) (Amendment Law), 2017, is invalid, null and void.

The PDP also urged the court to restrain EDSIEC from conducting election into the 18 local government areas of the state on the basis of Section 21 (1) of the State Local Government Electoral Law and the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission Establishment (RE- Enactment) law 2017 and also prayed the court to set aside any election conducted on the basis of the said section.

But while the PDP was busy filing objections to the election, the APC, which by virtue of incumbency is a stronger platform, was busy preparing for the poll to make a statement of victory.

At a mega rally held few hours before the election, the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who is an indigene of the state, led other leaders to canvass for votes from the people of the state.

Coming few days after the tenure of the Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC was extended by one year, the mega rally was also a statement to exhibit that the party is strong in the home state of the National Chairman.

Present at the rally where scores of defectors were welcomed into the party from opposition platforms notably the PDP, were the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, his predecessor in office, Adams Oshiomhole and Minister of Youths and Sports, Solomon Dalung as well as many party leaders drawn from across the country.

On the list of defectors was former National Chairman of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Felix Akhabue who was formerly a foot soldier of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih. Akhabue was quoted to have said that he was leaving the PDP for APC to attract development to Esan land and to show appreciation for the developmental strides of the Obaseki administration.

Although a lot of hiccups were observed during the conduct of the election like late arrival of voting materials in many polling units and general apathy in many of the councils, the election was concluded without serious incidents of violence.

In nearby Delta when a similar exercise was held last year, there were cases of violence across the state and as predicted, the ruling PDP carried the day with a landslide victory.

Sources within the APC in Edo told The Guardian that the PDP, knowing fully well that he cannot face the ruling party in any election and hope to win, was only resorting to a legal challenge “to distract the process and attract attention.”

He said with the strength of the APC, it would be a miracle for the PDP to have any headway in the election “because the party had been so decimated that even its leaders were working for the success of the APC.”

While congratulating the winners, Obaseki said the state government would collaborate with the new council executives in strengthening democracy at the local level describing the election as a true reflection of the aspirations of the people at the grassroots. In the same vein, Oshiomhole, expressed sympathy for the PDP for the party’s boycott of the exercise saying “the PDP accepted defeat without a blow.”

The former governor said the implication of PDP’s boycott was that “They will not ask for votes from Edo people come 2019 since council election is now too small for them.

“I laughed when I read the PDP saying that they are going to court to contest the constitutionality of EDSIEC and other issues that have to do with the council elections. That is just an excuse to tell their members that they are still alive but they are dead.

“You can see people are celebrating democracy at the grassroots. Our people are more interested in local elections because that is the man they can see every day and that is why you saw that people were keen to vote.”

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