When the Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission, OGSIEC, picked July 21, for the conduct of local government election in the state early this year, it never envisaged that it would be bugged down with so many crises.
But with less than 20 days to the poll, the chairman of the commission and other senior staff members are facing the toughest challenges at the commission.
First, the two leading political parties in the state, the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have both presented two separate lists of candidates to the commission.
In the ACN, a list was submitted by a faction led by the state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun while another group is led by the former governor of the state and leader of the party at the state level, Chief Olusegun Osoba.
In the PDP, the same scenario played out as a faction believed to be loyal to former President Olusegun Obasanjo is contesting the list sent to the commission by another faction led by the state chairman of the party, Chief Bayo Dayo
In a bid to gain the upper hand in the internal crises facing the two parties, there has been series of court cases and injunctions by those wishing to be recognise as the authentic group within the two parties. The latest was an injunction restraining the commission from going ahead with the conduct of the poll on July 21.
But one of the OGSIEC commissioners, Barrister Mutiu Agboke, during a press conference vowed that in spite of various court rulings and crisis trailing the local government elections scheduled to hold on July 21 this year, the commission would still conduct the elections.
According to Agboke, the Appeal Court pronouncement of June 25 is “obita dicta” while also saying that the electoral body would recognise a faction that is loyal to former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He said the electoral umpire would go ahead with the poll not minding the legal implication of its actions.
Citing appropriate section of the constitution as well as the 2012 Ogun state Electoral Guidelines, the OGSIEC commissioner maintained that it consulted widely with about 14 political parties that are participating in the said election as stipulated by the law before fixing the date for the poll.
OGSIEC maintained that it would only accord recognition to “political party and not a faction of it” regarding the July 21 local government councils elections in the state.
He said further that the commission would also not allow any “political party or a faction of it to use the “judiciary to abort” the arrangement already put in place for a successful conduct of councils polls in Ogun State.
But while reacting to the position already taken by OGSIEC, the PDP, in the state warned the commission to desist from inviting anarchy to the state following its refusal to obey court rulings.
The factional Ogun PDP particularly accused OGSIEC of wallowing “in unfettered illegality and blatant disregard to the rule of law” following its refusal to recognise the list of candidates forwarded to it for the purpose of the forthcoming local government election in the state and its pronouncement that it would go ahead with the July 21 local government elections.
Addressing newsmen at the party’s secretariat, the Engineer Bayo Dayo led faction of the party who accused the commission of serially disregarding the court judgements also alleged that the actions of OGSIEC has portrayed it as being “partisan, dependent and on the wrong side of the law”.
Describing the incident as “a deliberate gang-up” against it, the Dayo factional PDP in Ogun also accused the state governor, Ibikunle Amosun of orchestrating a plan through OGSIEC to disqualify the PDP or thoroughly weaken it in the build up to the forthcoming local government election in the state.
The Dayo-led faction of the party declared that “Ogun PDP will fight this barefaced illegality, rascality and brigandage with all within our powers and the law”.
“OGSIEC is inadvertently calling for anarchy because when a people cannot get justice under the law, they resort to self-help and anarchy. “We further reiterate our call to OGSIEC to stop its macabre dance of illegality and urgently call itself to order and return to the path of integrity”.
As it was in the PDP, so it is within the ruling ACN in Ogun State. The party has two strong factions within the party.
The emergence of factions within the party which had been on since the marriage of “inconvenience” when Senator Ibikunle Amosun and his supporters from the then All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) fused into the ACN in the build up to 2011 general election in the state, became more noticeable when the party was shopping for who and who to represent it at the local government level.
The SIACO group as Amosun group is being called emerged as candidates for the councillorship and chairmanship for the local government seats in the state as against the wish of other groups that are loyal to former Governor Olusegun Osoba.
Sources close to the group told LEADERSHIP that the party hierarchy took the decision due to the fact that many of their supporters were denied all available elective position after last year general elections as only Senator Ibikunle Amosun was chosen to fly the party ticket as governor while other group allotted all other elective positions to themselves.
Based on the alleged imposition of candidates, the Osoba group had threatened to dump the party. The threat came barely 24 hours after OGSIEC released the result of its screening of chairmanship and councillorship candidates of 10 political parties after clearing 91 chairmanship candidates and 717 contestants vying for councillorship positions across the 236 wards of the state.
Some aggrieved aspirants in the party across the 20 local government areas of the state had threatened to defect to other political parties ahead of the next local government election, if the alleged imposition of the chairmanship and councillorship candidates was not revisited before the end of the replacement and substitution of candidates as stipulated by the state electoral body.
The affected aspirants, which cut across the 20 local governments in the state, were embittered by allegation that Governor Amosun unilaterally imposed the candidates screened by OGSIEC against party process and procedure.
The governor is however pleading with the aggrieved aspirants to sheath their swords and work for the success of the party at the poll adding that party elders in the state were transparent in picking the chairmanship and councillorship candidates that would fly the flag of the party. A peace meeting was also held July 1, to pacify the aggrieved members so that the party can present a united front at the poll.
With less than three weeks to the conduct of the poll coupled with various court injunctions from the aggrieved politicians in the state, it is yet to be seen whether OGSIEC would be able to conduct free and fair election come July 21, or whether the outcome of such election would be acceptable to all.