The Amber Light is On…1

Elections in our country, according to the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in a remark made on 30th June 2014, have become a perverse form of modern coronation. “Instead of choosing public servants, elections in Nigeria have been basically to select a new aristocracy, an elected royalty,” he said in an apt summation that the desperation for power, at practically all levels in our country, is too often not to advance public good but rather in pursuit of private interest.

That perhaps best explains the decision by President Muhammadu Buhari to withhold assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018 recently passed by the National Assembly and the muscle-flexing it is already generating. With the Senate—now largely dominated by former governors most of who are adept at gaming elections—in a milieu in which the ruling APC is just a party in name rather than in shared ideals, it is no surprise that what used to be an administrative function of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is the issue that now preoccupies the leadership of both the executive and the legislature at a period many Nigerians are facing huge challenges on practically all fronts.

Although reasons were canvassed by the president for his decision to decline assent to the Bill, most Nigerians are aware that the major contention is the order of elections. Both the presidency and the National Assembly are in a battle over which of the polls should come first and stripped of all pretension, it is not about the imperative of popular participation but rather about securing electoral advantage.

While the essence of this intervention is to interrogate why there is such a fierce contestation over the order of 2019 elections, and the implications for the survival of our democracy, it is important for readers to also understand that it is not an isolated issue. Even when democracy is ordinarily a never-ending process of inquiry which requires the validation of voters, in Nigeria, such phrases as “the will of the people” and “the people have spoken” have, over the years, become no more than false constructs. Nothing better depicts this sorry state of affairs than the so-called local government elections that may be useful as a starting point for this series, especially in the light of the yet-to-be resolved issue of underage voting in Kano.

From May 2015 to date, 23 states have conducted local government elections. Fourteen of those states are controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party of ‘Change’ at the centre; eight by the displaced Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and one by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

Let us start with the states controlled by the APC. In January this year in Osun State, the APC swept all the chairmanship positions and 389 councillorship seats. In February this year in Kano State, the ruling APC won all the 44 chairmanship positions and 484 councillorship seats. And in March this year, APC won all the 18 chairmanship positions in Edo State. In March 2016, the APC won all 22 chairmanship and 234 councillorship seats in Sokoto State. In July 2017, the APC swept the chairmanship seats in all the 21 local government areas in Kebbi State. In October 2016, the APC won the chairmanship positions in all the 20 local governments and 37 Development Authorities IN Ogun State.

In January 2016, the APC won the chairmanship seats in all the 14 local governments and 147 councillorship seats in Zamfara State. A month earlier, the same party won all the 23 chairmanship seats and the councillorship positions in the 276 wards in Benue state. In August 2016, the APC won chairmanship seats in all the 18 local governments in Adamawa State. In January 2016 in Niger State, the APC won all the 24 Chairmanship positions. In July 2017, the APC won the chairmanship positions in all the 27 Local Government Areas of Jigawa State. Same month in Lagos State, APC won all the 57 chairmanship seats. In November 2017 in my state, Kwara State, the ruling APC cleared all the 16 local governments while in February 2017, the APC also won all the chairmanship and councillorship positions in Yobe State.

What the foregoing suggests is that the APC is so popular in all these 14 states that the party secured a hundred percent victory at the local government polls. But now let us also look at what transpired in the eight states controlled by the PDP. In December 2016, the PDP won the chairmanship seats in all the 17 councils in Abia State. The party also won 346 councillorship seats out of the 349 wards in the state so it was ‘magnanimous’ enough to concede three councillorship positions to candidates of some fringe political parties!

In February 2017, PDP won all the local governments in Taraba State and in December of same year, the party also won all the 16 chairmanship and 177 councillorship positions contested in Ekiti state. In February 2017, PDP won all the chairman and councillorship seats contested in Gombe State. In April 2017, PDP won the chairmanship seats of all the 13 local governments and 171 wards in Ebonyi state. In December 2017, PDP won in all the 31 local government areas and all 325 councillorship seats in Akwa Ibom State while in January this year, PDP won the chairmanship in all the 25 councils in Delta State. In November 2017, PDP won in all the 17 local governments and the 260 councillorship seats in Enugu State.

From the foregoing, the PDP also secured a hundred percent victory in all the eight states it controls where local government elections were held. The only other party controlling a state is APGA and in the council poll conducted in November last year in Anambra, the party also did not disappoint: It swept the entire 21 Local governments!

Now to properly situate this perversion, let me cite examples from each of the two leading parties. In a controversial local government election conducted on 25th May 2015, four days to his hand-over by then Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (in a state where the PDP candidate had only two months earlier secured victory at the governorship election conducted by INEC), the APC won 22 out of the 23 chairmanship seats where elections were held as well as 297 councillorship seats in the 302 wards. Meanwhile, in Ondo State where the local government elections were held on 24th April 2016, the PDP won all the 18 chairmanship seats and 202 of the 203 councillorship seats. Instructively, when the gubernatorial election held in November of same year, candidate of the APC, (a party that could not win a single ward in the so-called local government election held seven months earlier), defeated the ruling PDP in the state!

NOTE: To be concluded next week

Abdulazeez Author

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