The election, which was the first since 2008, was conducted in a peaceful and rancour free atmosphere. Six political parties – ACPM, APGA, MEGA, PDP, PPA and SDP – took part in the poll. The election, which was earlier slated for August 2, had to be rescheduled due to what the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) said were several pleas and cries by the participating parties.
The election was bedevilled by problems as leading opposition parties in the state – the All Progressives’ Congress (APC), People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), Labour Party (LP) and National Conscience Party (NCP) – all criticised the SIEC and opted out of it, alleging that the commission had failed to comply with provisions of the Electoral Act. The law stipulates that 90 days’ notice be given to the participating parties as against the 60 given by the electoral body. The protesting parties also raised several other alleged infractions of the relevant laws.
The contentious issues were compliance with the legal requirement of 90 days’ notice of election as contained under section 30 of the Electoral Act 2010, section 14 of the Local Government Electoral Law 2002 as amended as well as section 4c of the general guidelines for local government election. It used the updated voter register of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which is the lawful custodian of the register for the election which is in line with section 9(1) of the Electoral Act.
Others are reviewing the requirement of five to 10 years’ experience as additional qualification requirement of candidates for the election. This additional requirements extend the requirement of section 106 of the Electoral Act as well as section 28 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, as well as the payment of prescribed fees as contained in the guidelines, was against the provisions of both the electoral law and the constitution.
The APC and NCP had approached the courts to try and stop the election until these issues were addressed. However, when the case came up penultimate Monday, it wasn’t to be as the absence of the vacation judge at the state High court 8, who was said to be indisposed, stalled hearing. The court registrar told lawyers who were at the court that the matter was not meant for a vacation court and should be returned to the state Chief Judge for reassignment.
The NCP, in a motion of notice with suit no: KTH/595m/2014, wanted the court to stop the election because as a party, it was not notified on the shift of the election date from the August 2 to September 6. However, the court is yet to fix a date for hearing.
Right from the onset the state APC chairman Mustapha Inuwa said the party had resolved to boycott the elections over the contentious issues and was of the view that the electoral body would not be fair to the participating parties. While describing the poll as a charade and a mockery of democracy, Inuwa pleaded with APC supporters to understand why the party abstained from participation until the right things were done.
The PDM on its part accused the SIEC of hiking the electoral fees to prevent its members from participating in the election.
However, the state PDP chairman Gambo Bakori, told Weekly Trust that the boycott and gimmicks of the opposition parties were just mere propaganda having already known that the PDP was the only party with grassroots support which could emerge victorious.
During a stakeholders’ forum ahead of the election, Governor Ibrahim Shema berated the leading opposition parties for the boycott. He explained that their action was inconsequential as the election would hold with or without their participation. He said despite raising several complaints which were equally addressed by the SIEC, they chose not to participate.
“They raised the complaints and they were addressed still they chose not to participate, we can’t force them to participate, it’s their choice and that of any individual to or not to take part in the election. They have a right and we are not challenging that. We have no right as well to force them, we have no grudge for anyone don’t want or want to participate. They are welcome. Forget about propaganda and blackmail on pages of paper they don’t work,’’ he said.
“Our local government election is based on our local government law which governs the conduct of election, national law comes in where there is no such law. We have been conducting election in this state with this particular law and with time some amendments have to come in,” he added.
‘’The State law permits 21 days’ notice but SIEC gave 60 days and yet these parties kicked and the commission in their wisdom gave additional 95 days but still they choose not to participate. Some complained about fees as empowered by the laws and due to cries and hues they reviewed it by 50 percent downward as well,’’ the governor added.
Many people said the election was concluded even before votes were cast as SIECs are out to please their paymasters and as such chose to remain at home rather than go and cast their votes. One resident of Funtua, Mallam Mummuni Sa’id, said: “There is no point going out to vote since the election is not competitive. The opposition parties said they are not going to participate in the election for the fear of manipulation as they alleged, but the process can only be of interest to the electorates when there are two or more parties aspiring for the chairmanship and councillorship positions.”
He added that the decision of the opposition parties to boycott the election did not give them the opportunity to make rational choices at the poll.
For Mallam Musa Kaita: “Elections or no elections, we are witnesses to what happens in other states, ruling parties take the day and so it shall be here. The best way to address this and give local government elections a little sense of credibility is to allow the INEC to conduct council elections so that at least there would be a little fairness.”
Weekly Trust observed that even though the opposition parties boycotted, their logos and acronyms were on the ballot paper used for the election. Shema’s chief of staff, Salisu Majigiri, said this might not be unconnected to the fact that the boycotted parties might have had a change of mind at the tail end which prompted their capture on the ballot paper.
Although, several election observers have given the elections a pass mark, a lot has to be done they said, in terms of voter education, to enhance greater participation in future elections. They urged government to take strong measures in ensuring that movement is truly restricted as well as the SIEC to mobilise and sensitise the electorates diligently.
By and large, now that the election is over and the local government councils inaugurated, the most important factor is for the elected to justify the confidence of the electorate and provide the needed leadership that would deliver the grassroots from abject poverty. During the inauguration Governor Shema told the council chairmen that their joint accounts have a credit balance of N33 billion, which is lying idle and should be used judiciously on projects that would impact positively on the grassroots
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