That is the trillion Naira question on the lips of many people in Nasarawa State. This is because over the years, Local Government elections in Nigeria have become anything but transparent, free, fair and credible. Results of Local Government elections in Nigeria have become predictable. State Electoral Commissions have become appendages of the ruling political parties in their respective States. Despite outcries by observers, it has been largely pouring water on the back of the calabash. Nothing has changed. Virtually all elections conducted by the various State Electoral bodies in the States in recent times have merely confirmed the fears of the people.
The first impression is that the ruling political parties have the best candidates for the Chairmanship and Councillorship seats in their various States.
Our immediate reaction to this impression is that this is certainly far from the truth. The obvious fact is that the State Independent Electoral Commissions of the various States have allowed themselves to be used to strangulate other political parties. The playground for the election is anything but level. The various SIECs have simply become appendages of the ruling political parties.
A few Fact Check will explain our position:
In the January 2021 Local Government elections conducted in Kano State, the All Progressives Congress (APC) won all the 44 chairmanship and 484 councillorship seats
In 2020, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, recorded a clean sweep of council elections held across the 23 Local Government Areas, LGAs, of Benue state.
The party also cleared all the 276 available councillorship positions at the poll.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State lost only two councillorship seats in the local government elections in the state held this year.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won in Ward G, Yaba LCDA, while the Young Progressive Party (YPP) in Ward D of Orile-Agege LCDA.
The APC won 375 out of the 377 councillorship seats spread across the 20 LGs and 37 LCDAs.
The ruling party also won over 98% of the chairmanship seats in all the 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in the state.
The All Progressives Congress won all 20 chairmanship seats in the local government elections conducted in Ogun State which held recently.
In Oyo State. the PDP won in 32 out of the 33 local government areas
The Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC) declared the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of chairmanship seats in 32 out of the 33 councils in the local government elections held in Oyo State.
Also, the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC) declared that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won in all the chairmanship positions and the councillorship seats in the 23 local government areas of the State.
In 2020, the PDP won all 184 slots in Ebonyi LG Polls. The Ebonyi State Independent Electoral Commission (EBSIEC), announced candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), winner of all the chairmanship and councillorship seats in the council polls conducted across the 13 Local Government Areas (LGA) of the State.
Jossy Eze, Chairman of EBSIEC, made the disclosure in Abakaliki while announcing the results of the elections held across the 171 electoral wards and 13 councils of the state.
In the last Local Government elections conducted in Adamawa State, the Adamawa State Independent Electoral Commission (ADSIEC) announced results of council elections, indicating that candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won the election in all the 21 local government areas of the State.
The Taraba State Independent Electoral Commission (TSIEC) declared that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had won all the 16 local government councils in the last Local Government Elections in the State.
Declaring the results in Jalingo, Dr Philip Duwe, Chairman of the commission, disclosed that the ruling PDP had won the councillorship seats in 168 council wards in the state.
In the same vein, the Kogi State Independent Electoral Commission, KOSIEC, declared the All Progressive Congress (APC) winner in all the 21 local government council elections conducted. The state electoral body also declared the APC winner of all the 239 wards.
The All Progressives Congress won 22 out of the 25 local government areas in the council elections conducted in Niger State.
The Chairman of the Niger State Independent Electoral Commission, Aminu Baba, said nine political parties presented 85 chairmanship and councillorship candidates for the elections.
Declaring the results submitted by the returning officers, Baba said the APC won 24 local government areas while the PDP won one local government.
In the last Local Government elections in Ektit State, the Ekiti State Independent Electoral Commission (EKSIEC) declared the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as winners.
The chairman of the Commission, Justice Jide Aladejana who made this known while announcing the results of the council polls, said that four political parties fielded candidates for the council election including the APC and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
When Akwa Ibom held its Local Government elections, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, won the local elections in all the 31 local government areas in Akwa Ibom State.
According to a statement issued by the Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission, AKISIEC, the party also won all the 329 councillorship seats in the state.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won the 2020 local government election in the 18 councils and 196 electoral wards of Cross River.
In Bauchi State, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won all the chairmanship and councillorship seats in council polls in the state.
Also, APC wins all 11 chairmanship, 114 councillorship seats in Gombe. The Gombe State Independent Electoral Commission (GOSIEC) declared the All Progressives Congress (APC) winner of all the 11 local government council seats in the just concluded election.
Here in Nasarawa State, it is worthy of note that, when Abdullahi Adamu was Governor, because he was then in PDP, PDP cleared all seats in the Local Government elections. The same thing would have happened if Aliyu Akwe Doma held Local Government elections during his tenure. The first Local Government elections conducted by Umaru Tanko Almakura, the ruling party won all but two Local Government Councils, while in the second election conducted in 2018, all the Chairmanship and Councillorship seats went to APC.
The one thread running through all these elections cited above is that the ruling party in the State always has a clean sweep of the polls.
Can we swear in honesty that the ruling party always presents the best materials? How does one explain a situation where, for instance, a State that was governed by a particular party and therefore won all the Chairmanship seats, the moment the State is won by another party, suddenly it is the new party that sweeps the Loal Government polls?
In Nasarawa State, when PDP was the ruling party, PDP won all the elections. But now that APC is the ruling party, suddenly PDP cannot present credible candidates? Some people may say that the PDP has lost its credibility, hence the people may not trust its candidates, but we dare ask: who are the people in APC? Are they not the same people who ‘ruined’ the PDP that they are casting aspersion at?
It is against this backdrop that the people of Nasarawa State in some quarters have entertained fears and doubts that the elections billed for October 6, 2021 to produce the next set of Chairmen and Councillors for the 13 Local Government Areas of Nasarawa State will be anything but free, fair and acceptable.
As far as the people in this school of thought are concerned, the results for the elections have already been known. For these people, the elections have been won and lost even before the October 6, 2021 election date.
Some of the opposition political parties in the State have their doubts on the sincerity of NASIEC to conduct elections freely and fairly. For instance, the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) has disclosed that the party would not participate in the forthcoming Local Government elections in Nasarawa state. The State Public Relations Officer (PRO) Chief Ezekiel Ayuba Kuje made this known at the end of the State Executives and Local Government Chairmen of APGA in Lafia.
This is despite the assurance repeatedly given by the Chairman, Nasarawa State Independent Electoral Commission (NASIEC), Barr Ayuba Wandai Usman that the Commission will conduct free and fair elections, adding that the Commission will provide a level-playing ground for all the political parties in the State. We are aware that the Chairman has visited the various Traditional Rulers giving them his word and that of the Commission that the elections shall not only be free and fair, but transparent and credible. We dare say, that for the elections to not only be free and fair, but transparent and credible, the people, the electorate must be allowed to choose candidates of their choice.
What has been noticed is that, since the ruling party in Nasarawa State conducted its primaries and announced its candidates for the Chairmanship and Councillorship elections, the candidates have been carrying themselves as having won the secondary election already. They have been receiving delegations congratulating them as if they have won the secondary elections. They comport themselves in a manner to suggest they are only waiting for the swearing in ceremony. Of course, most of the people conclude that the results of the elections will not be anything different from the lists of the flag-bearers of APC for the Chairmanship and Councillorship seats.
Lest we be misunderstood, we are not by any stretch of imagination and argument saying that the candidates to be fielded by the ruling party are bad in themselves simply because they belong to the ruling party. Never! Far from it! They may be credible materials to occupy the seats they are gunning for. In fact, in the last dispensation, there were some Chairmen and Councillors (who are members of the ruling APC) who performed creditably and those Local Governments could not have chosen better people.
We however hasten to add that the flag-bearers of the same seats of other political parties are not bad simply because of the party platforms on which they stand for the elections. If assessed using credible indices, some of the flag-bearers of the opposition parties may actually be better than some of those fielded by the ruling party.
The conduct of the SIECs across the country has made many people to be apathetic and therefore impassive in going out to cast their votes because they believe their votes would actually not be counted, hence, they ask, what is the need wasting one’s precious time in standing on long queues and bearing whatever the weather would be. The SIECs have turned themselves from being umpires to empires. They ordinarily should be impartial umpires.
It is on this basis that we call on the NASIEC to discharge their duties with absolute fear of God and be fair and transparent as they repeatedly vowed to. They should restore the confidence and trust of the people in the electoral system, especially for the Local Government elections.
We are aware that, as Nasarawa State Independent Electoral Commission (NASIEC), prepare for the conduct of local government election into the 13 LGAs of the State; Governor Abdullahi Sule has charged the electoral umpire on credible poll to avoid litigation.
The governor gave this charge in Lafia while he unveiled NASIEC Regulations 2021 in preparedness for the conduct of local government election in the State.
He also assured all the participating political parties of not interfering in the process of local government election in the State; adding that he would give a level playground for all political parties who are ready to participate in the election.
We equally enjoin the leadership of the ruling political party to steer clear of the activities of NASIEC and allow for free and fair elections.
It is possible that the electorate could decide to return all the candidates of a particular party elected. But our ground is that let the people truly be the deciders of those to occupy the seats. If the people truly elect their leaders, they will have the power to reject them either at the next election or even in the course of their tenure by recalling them. But where the people do not elect them, they are at the whims and caprices of their godfathers.
We are not by any means casting a shadow of doubt on NASIEC but rather encouraging them to live above board and be actually bound by the oath of office they swore to when they were inaugurated.
We also call on all the electorate in the State to come out and cast their votes for the candidates of their choice, the party platform notwithstanding. They should go out and perform their civic responsibility. They should not be discouraged by the past but rather be prayerfully hopeful that the present NASIEC will be honest and God-fearing and so their votes would count because they will be counted.