Lagos council poll: Uncertainty over July 22 date
• Postponement Is Illegal And Attempt To Rig — PDP
• LASIEC Is Doing APC Bidding — NCP
• Ojokoro LCDA Consensus Candidate, Okeyomi Drags LASIEC To Court
• We Are Going Ahead With Preparations, Says LASIEC
Despite the release of verified candidates list by the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC), last week, the July 22, 2017 council election date appears shaky.
The alarm raised by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) earlier in the week, attested to this. PDP had issued a stern warning against plans by either the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) or (LASIEC), to make any attempt to shift the date.
The party noted that any plan to shift the election would not only be regarded as illegal and an attempt to rig the exercise, but would also be vehemently opposed by combined forces of opposition parties and the electorate in the state.
The Guardian learnt from informed sources that two reasons have been adduced for a possible postponement. One is the array of litigation instituted by aggrieved aspirants, which would somehow incapacitate the electoral umpire, unless it is prepared to incur the wrath of the court for contempt.
For instance, there is the case of Odi-Olowo Local Council Development Area (LCDA), involving the APC. A Lagos State High Court cancelled the list of candidates submitted from the council area few days ago.
A chairmanship aspirant, who felt cheated dragged the party to court, where the court declared, as null and void, the list of chairmanship candidates submitted by the LCDA on the ground that APC did not conduct primary elections for the purpose of electing its candidates in accordance with the party’s constitution and provisions of the LASIEC Law.
The court equally nullified the aborted centralised chairmanship primary election at Teslim Balogun Stadium, saying it contravened the party’s constitution and LASIEC Law. It restrained the APC from submitting any list, pending when a proper primary election is conducted within the LCDA.
In addition, the court restrained LASIEC from using any list of chairmanship candidates submitted by the APC for the forthcoming polls in the LCDA, directing the party to conduct a proper primary election for the LCDA in accordance with its constitution and LASIEC Law.
The second reason is what observers termed the party’s fear of defeat. A chieftain of the party who confided in The Guardian disclosed that nothing less than 21 council areas were affected by alleged candidates imposition and substitution of names, which has not only divided the party, but has also led to mass defection of party members to other parties.
It was learnt that based on the need to pacify aggrieved party members and aspirants to avert landslide defeat in the poll, the leadership of the party is contemplating date change, to put their house in order.
The sudden arrival of the party leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu on Monday, July 10, 2017, as against his July 15, 2017 planned arrival from rest overseas, attested to this. Sources within the top echelon of the party in the state said Tinubu got the inkling of the crisis rocking the party through The Guardian story he read online from his base abroad, and was forced to return in order to douse tension.
On his return, the visibly angry Tinubu was said to have lashed out at party leaders for creating the crisis because of gratification and selfishness, which would have been averted if they had allowed the choice of the electorate to emerge, instead of overriding the choice of the people.
Tinubu, according to reports had overturned some of the decisions causing crisis in some of the councils. The Guardian learnt that candidates from areas like Orile-Agege, Shomolu, Mushin and others have had their mandates restored, but several others are yet to be resolved.
This, party leaders say can only be addressed by extending the election date, to give them time to win back defected members.
It was learnt that since the verified list was released last Tuesday, aspirants of the ruling party whose names have been substituted have resorted to several means of registering their grievances. While some have protested openly at the LASIEC’s Secretariat, Yaba, and at the state party secretariat, Ikeja, several petitions have cropped up in the last few days that might actually put credibility crisis on the poll, if the electoral body goes ahead with the date.
For instance, in Ojokoro area, Ijaiye Ojokoro LCDA, the popular chairmanship candidate in the council, Oladipo Okeyomi a.k.a Carry go, who raised the alarm last week that another candidate, reportedly backed by the immediate past chairman of the council, has been used to substitute his name, was given the deputy chairman’s slot when the list was published.
He told The Guardian that he emerged as the consensus candidate of the party with the backing of all the 10 party leaders in the council, and was issued certificate of expression from the party headquarters and thereafter LASIEC chairmanship form, but was surprised at the LASIEC headquarters during verification exercise, when he was addressed as the deputy chairmanship candidate.
Okeyomi, who disclosed that the names substitution affected all the consensus candidates, including his vice and councilors, told The Guardian that after writing a petition against the injustice, he filed a suit on Friday at a Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, seeking redress for his stolen mandate.
According to the suit No: TEMP/29730/17, which joined LASIEC, APC, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and three others as defendants, the claimant is seeking perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from recognising Hammed Tijani, as candidate to contest for the council poll on July 22, 2017 or any other day before or after; and an injunction to allow him (Okeyomi) as the consensus candidate to contest on the election date or any other day before or after; among other prayers.
“We heard that the governor has vowed to use his Attorney General to delay the hearing of the case. His grouse against me is because the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola is my mentor, despite the massive support my group and I gave him in the build up to the 2015 general elections.
“I supported the governor’s ambition then for two reasons, firstly, because Aregbesola instructed me to give him my full support and I did everything possible, using my money, personnel and other resources. Secondly, because we are both from Ondo State. Now, he doesn’t want me as candidate because they believe Aregbesola will be getting money from the council,” he said.
The Guardian confirmed that a handful of the aggrieved candidates, whose names were allegedly removed or substituted when the final list was made public have secretly filed several suits, to stop the conduct of the election on the said date, unless the list is changed.
The Chairman of PDP, Segun Adewale said: “It was very obvious that the APC was not so ready for the election and its leadership is allegedly doing everything possible to ensure it is postponed.”
On its part, the National Conscience Party (NCP), in a statement signed by its National Secretary, Ayodele Akele, alleged that LASIEC is doing the bidding of APC to impose hand-picked candidates.
The party claims that while the July 22 date draws closer, the suit it filed in a Lagos State High Court since May 12, 2017, to protest LASIEC’s undemocratic guidelines had not been heard, despite that an affidavit of urgency was attached to it.
When the Director, Public Affairs of the commission, Oladapo Olatunde was contacted, he told The Guardian that the commission is less concerned with protests from aggrieved aspirants, noting that the commission only reckons with the list submitted by political parties and not individuals.
“If you look at our guidelines you’ll see that there is provision for substitution of names within a stipulated period. What the parties have done on names substitution is according to the law; there is nothing the commission can do against that,” he said.
He disclosed that the commission has not taken any position on the shift of the election date. “Lets just see what’ll happen, we are still working ahead, we have concluded training of electoral officers and adhoc staff too, we are still going ahead with our plans.”