Political parties in Oyo State are sharply divided over the proposed local council elections fixed for May 15, this year by the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC).
While some parties see it as an opportunity to display their presence and strength at the grassroots, others described it as another “political fraud and illegality” by the state government because of a pending court matter to be determined by the Supreme Court on May 7, 2021.
Local government administration in Oyo State has been bedeviled by crises of legitimacy over the government’s decision to dissolve the democratically elected council chairmen and councilors before the expiration of their tenure and replacing them with caretaker chairmen.
Few hours after Governor Seyi Makinde was sworn into office in May 2019, he announced the sacking of chairmen of the 33 Local Government Administrations (LGAs) and 35 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) also known as members of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), elected in May 2018 for a three-year during the government of the late Governor Abiola Ajimobi that saw members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) winning all the seats to the local councils.
That election was also fraught with controversies, as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) boycotted the election, thus paving ways for APC candidates to win the council seats with little resistance from less popular opposition parties.
The elections in Oyo State since 1999 have always been a direct contest between the PDP and APC. And if APC finally boycotts the May 15 elections as threatened, it will not be the first time an opposition would do so in the state.
But the sacked ALGON members resisted what they described as “illegality” and jettisoned the government order. They resumed in their offices, which caused tension and crisis at the secretariat of the local councils where party hoodlums affiliated to both parties engaged in free for all. The rancorous situation forced the National Union of Local Government of Employees (NULGE) to order their members to stay at home for some weeks to protect the lives of their members.
The ALGON chairman, Prince Ayodeji Abass-Aleshinloye during that face-off promised Makinde that despite their party differences, his members were ready to work with the State Government to improve the welfare of the people at that level of governance but with the aid of security agents, the state government succeeded in wielding its big stick and Abass-Aleshinloye and his team were routed from the secretariat to pave way for the caretaker chairmen appointed by the government, leaving both parties to slug it out in the court.
The legal tango, which began in the lower court, before Makinde was sworn saw the court granting a perpetual injunction against Oyo State Government from sacking electoral council officials but was lifted by an Appeal Court and the matter later got to the Supreme Court.
While waiting for the verdict of the Supreme Court come May 7, OYSIEC had on February 15 2021 announced that another council election will hold, eight days after the apex court might have delivered its judgment.
The electoral body Chairman, Isiaka Abiodun Olagunju (SAN) had in a statement announcing the date for the council polls, urged stakeholders to give their total support and cooperation to the commission to ensure a free, fair, credible and transparent local government election in the state.
He said: “In compliance with Section 30 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), Section 5 (a) and Paragraph 1 (1) Schedule 2 of the State Independent Electoral Commission Law CAP 154, Laws of Oyo State of Nigeria 2000, the general public is hereby informed that Elections will be conducted in thirty-three (33) Local Government Councils in Oyo State
“In the circumstance, prospective candidates are expected to obtain nomination forms in respect of the elections into their Local Government Councils at the Commission’s headquarters situate at Quarters 484, Total Garden –Gate Road, Agodi GRA, Ibadan, Oyo State on, or
But the APC in its reaction said it was unfair to fix council election when the apex court was expected to deliver judgment on the same matter, which was instituted by “occupants of the offices.”
Speaking with The Guardian, APC state’s spokesperson in Oyo State, Dr. Abdulazeez Olatunde said: “We are all for democracy and the rule of law. We want the advancement of democracy. The electoral body gave the timetable to hold elections in
Speaking in the same vein, Abbas-Aleshinloye described the planned election as “a scam and fraud.” To him, Governor Makinde’s penchant for “lawlessness and executive rascality is unequalled.”
Abass-Aleshinloye said fixing the poll when judgment is being expected was illegal, presumptuous, wasteful and unnecessary.
The ALGON chairman who said he and his members are looking forward to a favourable judgment, asked what would become of huge resources if ALGON wins the judgment?
He said: “While all parties to the suit are expected to await the judgment for final closure since the Supreme Court is the apex court, it is surprising to see OYSIEC, a party to the suit and well represented at Supreme Court, prompted by Governor Makinde, going ahead to publish a timetable for the local government election, which it intends to conduct
“I want to assure you that we will do everything that is legal to stop this impunity and disrespect for the rule of law. This is a very simple case. I have never seen a government that has no respect for the rule of law like this. The government and OYSIEC were well represented in the matter before the Supreme Court. It is only commonsensical for them to hold on till when that judgment is served. More so, it is like disrespecting the judiciary.”
Asked if ALGON were to lose the case what would they do?, he said: “I’m assuring you that by God’s grace and with what we have seen, nobody has ever said it that we were not duly elected and look at the precedents of such case at the Supreme Court, for us, we are very sure of victory. The moment we get judgment we move to office straight. They are even illegal occupants. The only thing we need is for court to make pronouncement. If we don’t move to office, what will you call us? For us, it is legality over illegality.”
He was emphatic that the APC will not participate in the council elections. According to him, “Nobody is participating in any illegality. If we do, that means we are going against the rule of law. We can never participate in the election. APC will never be part of illegality.”
While calling on OYSIEC to cancel the whole process, he urged all political parties not to be part of the process.
He said: “We advise political parties and candidates not to invest in OYSIEC electoral market process, which will lead to nowhere if ALGON wins at the Supreme Court
“On this point, we call on OYSIEC to stop the process of its scammed election; it is illegal, presumptuous, wasteful and unnecessary.”
And in preparation for the election, the state government did not extend the tenure of council caretaker chairmen, which expired early in the month.
For the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it has not only expressed readiness to participate in the council election, it has also made public names of its 33 candidates for the poll.
A statement by the Secretary of the party, Alhaji Wasiu Adeleke urged all contestants to start preparing for documentations, which will commence soon.
But a chieftain of PDP in Oyo State, Alhaji Adebisi Olopoeyan criticised the process the party used to nominate candidates for the election, describing it as “undemocratic.” He said, “The process leading to emergence of the standard-bearers was fake. They were selected at the Government House. For any valid election to take place, there must be primaries. But there was nothing like that.”
Even when APC has declared its intention of boycotting the election, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Oyo State chapter has called on the state electoral umpire, OYSIEC to consider a downward review of the cost of purchase of forms for contestants into councillorship and chairmanship position.
This is as the party also expressed its willingness and readiness to participate in the scheduled May 15 election into the 33 council areas of the state.
The decisions form part of the resolutions reached at a meeting of the party leaders and elders held at Yemetu, Ibadan the state’s party secretariat.