With a few days away from the local government election in Oyo State, litigations from within the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party are already threatening the smooth process of the exercise, writes Ademola Babalola
In Oyo State, civil litigations have always been the excuse for delaying elections into local councils. The trend began in 2003 when former governor Rashidi Ladoja would not conduct council polls until five days, May 24, 2007, to the end of his tenure, because of several legal challenges to the composition of the election management body, Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission.
Ladojaâ€™s successor, Adebayo Alao-Akala also suffer the same experience. And for almost seven years since it ascended power the Governor Abiola Ajimobi-led APC government has been unable to conduct local council election ostensibly because of litigations challenging the composition of the election management body. Even when the matter was finally laid to rest in court, about three years ago, the APC still continued with the caretaker arrangement, seen by many as an aberration and abuse of power by the state government, which constitutionally oversees the affairs of the councils.
An attempt by OYSIEC to conduct election into local councils and development areas sometime last year, was thwarted by a litigation instituted by some Baales in Oyo West, Atiba and Oyo East local governments, who sought an order restraining the commission from conducting the planned election in 2017, pending the determination of the case, which eventually led to shifting the date of the election from an earlier date of February 21 to this weekend.
Curiously, history appears to have a way of repeating itself. Since the demise of the leader of the progressives and former governor Lam Adesina on November 11, 2012, there have been noticeable cracks in the political family along the groups tagged Lamists and Senaco.
Lamists are the core loyalists of Lam Adesina and the other group is comprised of those loyal to Senator Abiola Ajimobi. Just like when a controversial and colourful Ibadan politician, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, the PDP leader in the state died on June 11, 2008, the PDP has never been one again, because of the absence of a father figure, a unifying force and rallying point. This is the situation of things today in the Oyo APC!
The governor, being the leader of the party should naturally control all organs of the party but he seems to have lost grip to control the party ever since Adesinaâ€™s death. Reason is not far-fetched. Remember Ajimobi was in the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) prior to the selection of the partyâ€™s gubernatorial standard bearer in the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2010.
Senator Femi Lanlehin was reported to be the choice of Adesina and the ACN in the state but through some machinations of Ibadan elites, the late business mogul, Arisekola Alao, Ex-governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu and others, Adesina was â€˜beggedâ€™ to allow Ajimobi fly the partyâ€™s ticket having contested for the same poll in 2007 but lost to Akala.
Ajimobi, who won the 2011 race against Akala of PDP, was regarded as a better and sellable candidate than Lanlehin, who was later pacified with Oyo South senatorial ticket and won.
Thereafter, with the centre not holding between Ajimobi, Lanlehin and a few others in the then ruling ACN, Lanlehin defected to Accord and is presently in PDP to contest the governorship again in 2019 with others like Sharafadeen Abiodun Alli, Seyi Makinde and Senator Ayoade Adeseun.
Apart from the threat posed by the opposition in conducting the council election, lack of firm grip by the governor in conducting primaries to select chairmanship and councillorship candidates within his own party was another major albatross for the state helmsman. Even when the Chairman of APC in the state, Chief Akin Oke announced at a news conference in Ibadan that all was set for the primaries of the party (about two months ago), the governor who got wind of the development quickly called the party leadership to perish the thought!
The governor finally had his way as he summoned some officers of the party from across the 33 local governments and LCDAs to an enlarged APC meeting, where the standard bearers for the coming election were selected in an hotel in Ibadan, in defiance to the APC constitution that certain criteria should be followed in choosing candidates at their respective council/ward areas and not in a single location as was done.
And just a few days ago, the cold war between the Lamists and Senaco finally blew open as a group under the name APC Unity Forum met in Ibadan and issued a communique to President Muhammadu Buhari, partyâ€™s outgoing Chairman, Chief Odigie Oyegun, Tinubu and a few others on the lingering crisis in Oyo APC.
The stakeholders, who spoke during the APC Unity Forum meeting with the theme: â€œMaking 2018 APC Congress work for peace, unity and victory in 2019 electionsâ€ included a former Chairman, TESCOM in the state and Chairman of the occasion, Alhaji Abu Gbadamosi, who admitted that there was a serious crisis in the forthcoming local government election he described as a time bomb waiting to explode because the recent â€˜primary conductedâ€™ has factionalised the party.
Also, the State Deputy Chairman of the party, Alhaji Isiaka Alimi advised the national leaders of the party to wade in, while lamenting that most of the candidates picked for the election were not members of the party. He said the party has been polarised due to the stage-managed congress held in a hotel, where some unknown members were picked as candidates.
â€œThis has polarised the party, even myself as Deputy Chairman, I donâ€™t have a single councilor. I am using my local government, Akinyele as a case study, the people who did not vote for the party, who worked for another party in 2015, who decamped and voted for another party in 2015 were the ones picked as candidates. Is that person fit to contest? Donâ€™t you see that failure has started for APC? That is why we must avoid mistakesâ€.
Other speakers at the meeting which included the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, who was represented; the deputy governor of the state, Hon. Moses Adeyemo, who was also represented; former Commissioner for Commerce and Cooperatives and a governorship aspirant, Dr. Kola Balogun; former Chief of Staff in the state, Professor Adeolu Akande; House of Representatives member, Hon. Adedapo Lam Adesina; former Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Busari Adebisi and former Chairman, Ibadan North West Local Government, Dr. Wasiu Olatunbosun, warned that failure to ensure transparent congresses in the state would not be in the interest of the party.
Others include Senator Adesoji Akanbi, who was represented; former Minority leader, Hon. Rafiu Adekunle, Ex-Chairman Parliamentary caucus, Hon. Fatai Salam, former Chairmen and other chieftains of the party lamented that they were left with no option than to cry out so as to save the party.
The stakeholders, in a communiquÃ© issued at the end of the meeting, urged aggrieved members not to leave the party. They however urged INEC and security agencies not to be used or bought but allow votes of the members of the party to count in the forthcoming congresses of the party.
The APC stakeholders in the communique signed by Alhaji Abu Gbadamosi (Chairman) and Dr. Wasiu Olatunbosun (Secretary) said â€œThe forthcoming congresses must be transparent, devoid of any imposition and in accordance with the constitution of the party. Therefore all party members must be allowed to choose their preferred executive members at all viz ward, local, state and national delegates to the national convention of the party.â€ Amidst this, however, was a court order, five days ago, where a Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan stopped the conduct of council poll in the wards created by the OYSIEC.
In a suit number FHC/IB/ES/47/2018 filed by five Eruwa town elders against the OYSIEC, Oyo State Governor and the Attorney-General of the state, the applicants were seeking an order on interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants, their servants, agents or privies from using, relying on or employing the use of any electoral areas or wards and polling stations for the purpose of any elections in Oyo State, including local government elections, other than the electoral areas or wards and polling stations created by INEC pending the determination of the substantive action.
They were also challenging the creation of the electoral areas or wards by OYSIEC, particularly in Ibarapa East council area of the state, describing it as illegal, null and void.
While granting the prayers, Justice J.O Abdulmalik adjourned hearing on the substantive case till May 28, 2018.
Counsel for the plaintiffs, Solomon Adeseun said he was glad that the court granted their prayers.
â€œWhat we are calling for is for the OYSIEC to limit the poll to the wards created by INEC. OYSIEC lacks the power to create wards. The election can hold but INECâ€™s creation must be respected,â€ he said.
Another judge, Justice Nathaniel Ayo-Emmanuel of the Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan on Thursday adjourned the case involving the PDP, Oyo State chapter and the INEC, OYSIEC, Oyo state governor and Oyo State House of Assembly over its plan to conduct local government election in the state on May 12 till May 15th, following the absence in court of the lead counsel of the defendants, Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Oyo State, Oluseun Abimbola.
The PDP in its suit number FHC/Ib/CS/42/2018 is challenging the listed on the allegations that certain things about the proposed conduct of the election are wrong.
The Director of Civil Litigation and advisory Services, Mr S.O. Adeoye, led other counsel to defend the second, third and fourth defendants while Dr. Nureni Adeniran led counsel team of PDP. When the case was mentioned, Mr S.O. Adeoye informed the court that the Attorney General, who loves to lead the case was deeply involved in the burial rites of the Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, Rt Honourable Michael Adeyemo, who died on May 27th.
Adeoye informed the court that he had discussed with his Plaintiffâ€™s counsel, Dr. Adeniran earlier, who stated that they had discussed as Adeoye said to seek an adjournment in respect of the reason. Justice Ayo-Emannuel then adjourned the case till May 15 for hearing. The electoral umpire, OYSIEC in its response to the restraining order by Justice Abdulmalik said â€œelections are therefore not restrained from proceeding as scheduled in all the local governments and LCDAs. Meanwhile it should be noted that the extant provisions of section 9(1) of the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission law, cap 154, Laws of Oyo State 2000 which states that â€œno interim, interlocutory or any other order, decision or judgment by any court or tribunal before or after the commencement of this law in respect of any intra-party, or inter party dispute, or any other proceedings or matter pertaining to an election under this law, shall affect the timing of an election under this lawâ€. This extant law remains valid and binding on us all.â€
Whatever is the outcome of this weekendâ€™s election, it will no doubt shape to a large extent, whether the ruling party would still remain formidable to thwart the rampaging PDP, which is fast closing its internal wrangling.