Baring any last minute change, the much expected Local Government election in Lagos State would hold in the next few months. Although the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) is yet to officially announce the schedule for the election, it is expected that it will not be later than August this year. For more than one year now, the administration of 57 Local Government and Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) have been under Executive Secretaries, who are appointees of state government. But it seems the agency has woken up from its long slumber as there are now signs that the long expected election will surely take place this year. Last week, LASIEC organised a sensitisation programmes during which the officials of the commission educated stakeholders on the coming election.
During its first meeting, which was with the Security Stakeholders in FESTAC Town, and attracted security agencies operating in the state, Justice Afolabi Adeyinka, the LASIEC Chairman identified violence and insecurity as part of the major factors responsible for voter apathy during elections since the return of democracy in the country. He stressed that a sustainable democratic system could not thrive in the midst of violence and insecurity, while lamenting that the level of violence and intolerance that characterise the contemporary Nigerian environment was quite alarming and inimical to the growth and development of a viable political culture at the national, state and local government levels. Justice Adeyinka commended security agencies for their support and collaboration with the commission during the last local council election in October, 2011, even as he solicited for more effective collaboration and support between them and the commission in the coming election.
According to him, LASIEC expects the various security agencies in the state to work in synergy to enable it achieve a violent-free and credible electoral process in the conduct of the coming election into the 57 Local Governments and Local Council Development Areas of the state. He also urged security personnel taking part in the election to “operate with utmost sense of professionalism and be ready to serve the people well by ensuring that law abiding people are free from threats, intimidation and molestation in their bid to perform their civic duties in the electoral process either as voters or aspirants into elective offices.”Fatai Owoseni, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, who was represented at the forum by Mr. Chris Owolabi, the Area Commander, Area E, Festac Town, stressed the need for the personnel of the various security agencies to share information with their colleagues in sister security agencies and work together as a team to ensure security of lives and properties.
He further called on LASIEC to carry out a proper delineation of wards in the state before the next election into the councils so as avoid creating avoidable confusion during the elections.
After the first stakeholders meeting, the agency also addressed other groups few days later. This time it was the Grassroots Representatives Stakeholders’ Forum which comprises of market women, artisans and tradesmen. Justice Adeyinka, while welcoming this group stated that leaders at the third tier of government in the country should openly display and demonstrate a genuine interest in serving the people from whom they derive their authority. He added that leaders at the grassroots level “must regularly engage with the people and exhibit a genuine desire and passion to improve their wellbeing through responsible and responsive service”. He maintained that the growing level of political apathy, particularly at the grassroots level, could be reversed when people in leadership positions begin to give adequate attention to issues that hinge on growth and development. Adeyinka explained that LAISEC was ready to give women more opportunities in the political space so that they could effectively contribute their quota to the development of their communities. He further charged the grassroots leaders to mobilise the people for effective participation in the electoral process, either as voters or aspirants into political offices.
To demonstrate government’s commitment to the conduct of the coming council election, the meeting with market women attracted the presence of Hon. Musliu Folami, the state’s Commissioner for Local Governments and Community Affairs. In his speech, Folami blamed the citizens for being part of the failure of council chairmen and councilors in performing their responsibilities.
During this meeting which was held at the Combo Hall of the Lagos Television Authority (LTV), Folami, who was represented by Mr. Babatunde Sanut, the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, said the monetisation of political process by people, constitutes a financial burden on political office seekers.
He stressed that once such a politician is elected, he would want to recoup the resources he spent to facilitate his election. He therefore, called on the electorates to desist from making unnecessary financial demands on politicians seeking political offices at the Local Government level if they desire real development at the grassroots. Speaking further, he expressed regrets that nepotism had also militated against effective performance of elected political officers. This, he said, was because people who lacked requisite capacity and competence were elected into political offices because of this evil of nepotism.
He urged the people to give put more interest into the activities of their local governments, monitor the projects and programmes of the councils and ensure that the officials discharge their duties. He also urged them to discharge their civic duties to the local governments as good citizens if they desired genuine improvement and development in their various areas. It is expected that the agency would continue to hold more of such sensitisation programmes at several locations and different local governments before announcing the schedule for the election and the poll proper. Independent investigations revealed that since LAISEC started this sentisation programme, activities in the political parties’ offices have picked up as party officials who normally did not come to their office frequently had changed. They now go to their various party offices to hold consultations with the workers there even as they have also resumed regular meetings, some of which run into the nights.
Feelers by Independent indicate that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have intensified efforts to ensure that they come tops when the election holds. The PDP, which had been accusing APC of working to hold on to power in the state, is however involved in the cumbersome process of putting its house in order as a result of protracted crisis. It is expected that the party would have put necessary machinery in place well enough to hold successful congresses to pick its leaders as well as candidates from the several people who had been showing interest in the election. In APC, the underground campaign had been going on, even as posters of aspirants into both the chairmanship and councillorship position could be seen. Consultative meetings have also been holding among the various stakeholders.
When contacted, the APC State Assistant Publicity Secretary, Abiodun Salami, exuded a lot of confidence when he told Independent that he was sure his party would retain its hold on the state as, according to him, APC is a grassroots party. He stated: “As a party, we are prepared. We have been mobilising our people as it is our responsibility to do and as directed by the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC). LASIEC is the regulatory agency for the council election in Lagos State. We are waiting for their direction. Until they are clear as to when the election will hold, we are preparing, just like the Boys’ Scouts, to win the election genuinely in Lagos as we have always been doing.”
On the APC’s strategy for success, he stated: “We want to keep that to our chest as a party. You do not expect us to publicise our preparations and our strategies. We do not want our opponents to take advantage of us. However, we are mobilising our members and our coordinators.”
He was also not perturbed about the level of success recorded by the PDP during the last general elections in the state, as he attributed such victories to the handiwork of those he termed “enemies within”. But he stressed that the issue had been resolved and that APC would be going to the LG poll as a one united family.