As Political parties in the state brace up for the forthcoming local government elections, HEAD POLITICS, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM writes on preparation so far?
After the conclusion of the general elections in March last year across the country, one of the major issues that is expected to dominate the political space this year in Kwara state is the issue of the forthcoming local government elections slated for November 4, 2017.
While the umpire’s whistle has signaled the commencement of hostilities and preparation for the exercise, it has however been different strokes for different folks among the major political parties in the state.
According to political analysts, unlike in the past when the issue of merger of some of the political parties dominated discourse with postulations about the political and legal implication of the exercise in the state, the coast now seems clearer for the Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission (KWASIEC).
Expectedly, chairman of the commission, Alhaji Uthman Ajidagba, unlike the lull that characterised the commission’s activities until lately has appeared very busy with issue that has to do with the conduct of the exercise.
On Friday, KWASIEC said it will not use the card reader machines for the forthcoming council elections.
According to Ajidagba during his maiden meeting with representatives of registered political parties at the commission’s office in Ilorin on Friday, the state Government is not financially capable of getting card reader machines for the conduct of the poll.
Ajidagba added that the commission avoided the use of card readers machines for the election to prevent occurrence of malfunctioning of any of the machines during the conduct of the election. He said the electoral body is poised to conduct acceptable, credible, reliable and fair election without using the card reader machines.
Similarly, Ajidagba also commissioned several sensitisation visits to security agencies in the state, including the Kwara Police Command, Department of the State Security Service (DSS), The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC), Kwara Road Traffic Management Authority (KWARTMA), the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and the Immigration Service in the state.
According to many political pundits in the state, it appears now that the commission is ready, the opposition parties especially, need to do more to convince the electorate of its readiness to take part in the exercise.
With the present political logjam that the PDP is going through, it remains to be seen, how well it will rise from the gloomy situation to challenge the ruling party in the coming council poll.
Despite the assurances from the former chairman of Moro Local Government, Mr. Theophilus Sunday while responding on behalf of other political parties at the KWASIEC stakeholders meetings that they are ready for a successful poll, the reality on ground is far from that narrative. For now, only the ruling All Progressives Congress seem to be ready for the poll except serious effort is noticed from other parties in the week ahead leading to the poll.
In the meantime, there have been questions of whether the ruling party in the state is capable of replicating the 100 per cent feat it recorded in the last general elections and how far the opposition have learnt, especially the PDP from the disastrous defeat it suffered during the last exercise. Also, will the election serve as a test run of future elections in the state since the emergence of the ruling party at the central level?
All these are reportedly coming in the midst of the hues and cries by some of the political parties to have the structure of the state independent electoral commissions across the country reformed to reflect the present realities. The cry was however recently backed by the leadership of the national assembly, which proposed that the exercise be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
For the PDP for instance, the party said it has picked up the pieces from the event of the last general elections and is determined to use the coming council elections to put things right in its resolve to continue to provide credible opposition politicking in the state.
According to the chairman of the party, Iyiola Oyedepo, the Kwara State chapter of the PDP will continue to provide quality opposition and intervention on issue of governance in the state, adding that it has put in place the necessary machinery to re-launch itself with the forthcoming local government elections.
Speaking further on the issue, the party’s Assistant Publicity Secretary, Femi Yusuf told National Pilot recently that the party’s recent conclusion of its tour across the 16 local governments in the state is a pointer to its soaring popularity among the populace after the sudden realisation that the change they voted was not there after all.
“We have so far carried out a tour of the entire local government areas across the state to see how we are doing and solidify the party structure in preparation for the coming local government elections in the state.
“So the issue is about meeting the party structures in the local councils and having first hand grasp of the situation on ground. Where there are problems, we try to resolve them and where there are none, we try to consolidate on it.
“The aim is to return the party to the people and that is why we have activated the clause that only financial members will be recognised and also at the payment of N50 subscription fee.
“The party will not allow or condone the situation where people will come in at the last minute and reap where they didn’t sow. The party belongs to the people and that is what we are working towards”, he added. But how far that assurance will go in the leadership crisis that has seen the two factions in the state sacked by the national leadership remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has said contrary to insinuation that the party is taking its new status for granted, much work is being handled across various structures of the party to consolidate its hold and position in the politics of the state. Chairman of the party, Hon Ishola Balogun-Fulani, said once the party is good to go even if the council elections are scheduled tomorrow.
However, the Labour Party (LP) in the state while assuring of its readiness for the election raised another dimension to the whole argument. According to secretary of the party in the state, Comrade AbdulKareem Onagun, the party has prepared itself for the election as far back as last year, adding that what is important is for the state umpire to play by the rules.
“We have already set up a 15-man committee since last year and the executive are fully on ground. It’s just a matter of waiting for directive from KWASIEC. We expect them to play the game according to the rules. In the interim, we prefer the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to handle the exercise across the state itself to minimise the influences from various state governments. He who pays the piper dictates the tunes. The members are usually appointed by state governments” Onagun submitted recently. But now that KWASIEC is ready, is the LP and other opposition parties up to the task?
For KWASIEC however, latest developments attest to the fact that the commission is already putting its house in order for the commencement of the November 4 date. But how far the local commission will go regarding the credibility issue under the new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is another ball game altogether, especially now that it has said it will not be using the card readers.
Against the backdrop of the present local government crisis and messy situation of the salaries arrears of local government workers in the state, the forthcoming council elections might be premeditated on the long argued issue of local government autonomy for the tier of government as parties test the political water to know and reassessed their strengths and weaknesses after the last general election.
According pundits, it may also witness the realignment of forces among some political parties in the quest for success during the exercise. But what is still important though is that the poll is held in a peaceful environment devoid of political brigandry and assassination just as the commissioner for police, Ado Lawan had reiterated.