Lagos, Ogun polls and reality of existing structural problems

As Lagos and Ogun states–two neighbours, one being the financial nerve centre and the other the industrial powerhouse of the country–go to the polls to elect members of their respective local government authorities, there are certain things one can’t help but notice.

The run up to the LGA elections in both leading parties–the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been chaotic. Nowhere was this chaos more pronounced than in the PDP where its campaign posters in Lagos were virtually nonexistent. While there are state laws backing the Lagos State Advertisement and Signage Agency to remove posters defacing the walls in the state, the ruling party has flouted that rule with reckless abandon. Lagos PDP through its publicity secretary Taofeek Ganiyu had already stated that the party has no confidence in the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) headed by Retired Justice Ayotunde Phillips. The act that established the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) removes the powers of the conduct of local government elections from INEC and vests it on the state’s commission. It is also important to note that the Head of LASIEC has never come out to condemn the violation of the rules of advertisement, which goes a long way in damaging whatever credibility the commission has in a state under the iron grip of a former governor of the state.

In Ogun state, the picture is hardly any different especially on the side of the opposition where the state’s PDP has decided to boycott the polls due to factional differences that involves the Ogun state Independent Electoral Commission. The state’s Party chairman, Sikirulai Ogundele said a few days ago that the decision of the party to boycott the polls had to do with INEC’s decision to deal with a faction of the party that had links with the late Buruji Kashamu.

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In all of these, a couple of things are clear: the opposition in these states are not ready for the task of leading the state. The statement from the Lagos PDP is indicative of how much of a lacklustre and direction the party has had to deal with especially as regards its major aim of taking power in the state. In Kosofe for instance, one can hardly take a step of 30 metres without seeing the poster of an aspirant of either the LGA polls or that of the local council development areas. The story is starkly different for the PDP where both online and offline campaigns have ranged from very low to non-existent. One could argue that Kosofe is an APC stronghold but that argument falls flat on the surface when one considers that the poor showing for the PDP is the same in nearly all LGAs in the state, exemplified by statements made by the party’s state publicity Secretary.

In the hindsight, while local government autonomy continues to remain an elusive utopia, thus leaving elected local government chairpersons under the arbitrary whims and caprices of state governors, and amidst spectacle of the politics of the electoral reform law Nigerians were treated to last week, one key thing Nigerians would have to grapple with is the reality of movement restrictions because of elections. The heavy militarization that follows each poll–while necessary for the protection of lives and properties–calls into question the ability of the Nigerian state to conduct its affairs peacefully. It also brings to the fore the pertinent questions that have bedevilled the electoral reform debate and the absence of electronic transmission of results, as well as the probable use of sms voting aimed to reduce the incidence of turnouts that gives mischief makers grounds to foment trouble.

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In all, Nigeria’s democracy has come a long way since 1999. But what the LGA polls in two of the country’s most important economic centres have shown is that the problems that have coloured the Democratic process remains, and although the violence usually associated with elections may be missing, there is no concerted commitment from the stakeholders to address the issues.

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