By Seriki Adinoyi in Jos
Despite widespread protests that characterised recent local government elections in Plateau State, observers have insisted that the exercise was credible and peaceful.
The violence followed alleged malpractices that trailed the exercise in which Returning Officers allegedly abandoned the Local Government Collation Centres in connivance with the agents of the All Progressives Congress (APC) left behind the result sheets and disappeared into thin air. As the people were still waiting for the votes to be collated and counted, the winners of the elections were already announced at the headquarters of the Plateau Independent Electoral Commission (PLASIEC).
In Bassa Local Government, the protesters burnt the local government PLASIEC office and the house of the Local Government Management Committee Chairperson, Mrs. Sarah Bali.
Similarly, in Mikang and Langtang-North local government, the malpractices led to the burning of the houses of the APC chieftains involved in the fraud.
Protesting electorate also barricaded the highway in Kanke and Mangu for several hours preventing the Governor Simon Lalong and his deputy from returning to Jos from their villages where they had gone to cast their votes. It took the combined effort of the state Police Commissioner and Commander of the military Special Task Force (STF) to clear the way for them to scale through the protesters. The governor had to be flown into Jos with chopper to avoid being lynched.
PLASIEC announced APC candidates as winners in 11 local governments, while the elections in Mangu and Langtang North LGAs were declared inconclusive. The governor immediately swore-in the Chairmen-elect on the same day to avoid restraining order of court.
Condemning the development, the state PDP Chairman, Chief Damishi Sango, who described the exercise as a shame added that, “from the foregoing it is clear that Governor Lalong and the APC in the state, out of desperation to hold on to power, even when it is clear that they have lost same, are hell-bent on plunging the state into yet another needless political crisis.
“I spoke to the Commissioner of Police and State Director of Security Services a short while ago intimating them on the present sad development, and made it clear to them that Governor Lalong should be held responsible for any breach of peace in the state should he and his cohorts continue on the dangerous path they have chosen to tread.”
While appealing to Lalong to allow good conscience to prevail and allow the will of the people as spoken through the ballot to prevail, Sango said “Already, four Local Government Areas were excluded from the elections owing to insecurity. We cannot afford to worsen the already fragile security situation in the state.”
But Lalong has asked citizens of the state not to do anything that may affect the peace of the state. He advised that anyone who felt aggrieved over the result of the LG elections as announced by PLASEIC should tow the democratic path by approaching the Local Government Election Appeals Tribunal (LGEAT) to ventilate their grievances.
A statement by the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Yakubu Dati, said the LGEAT were inaugurated even before the LG polls took place.
Lalong said as a democrat, he would not interfere in the work of PLASEIC being an independent institution.
“PLASEIC is headed by a credible leadership who are ready to make clarifications on the polls”, he stated.
Meanwhile, Civil Society Groups accredited by PLASIEC to observe the election have unanimously adjudged the election as peaceful and credible.
In a communiqué issued after the exercise and signed by Mr. Peter Nwokolo, the observers said “the exercise went on smoothly. There was case where the card reader malfunctioned for a few minutes but resumed shortly afterwards.
“Our team of observes reported a fair turnout of voters in most of the units visited, noting that the numbers increased progressively from the early hours as the exercise gathered momentum. The conduct of voters at the polling units remained patriotic and the downpour did not deter some electorate from exercising their franchise. There were moments of anxiety due to what some electorates described as the absence of result sheets but explanations were made and voting commence thereafter without any major incidence.
“Finally, we wish to commend the State electoral management body (PLASIEC) for their invaluable contribution and commitment to a transparent and credible process. We also wish to commend the State government for providing a level playing ground for all the parties to exercise their rights to choose leaders of their choice.
“The process therefore was generally peaceful, transparent and free. Winners must be magnanimous in victory, while losers must accept defeat with dignity.”