When Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State, last week at the Okpara Square, Independence Layout, flagged-off the campaign for the December 10, 2011, local government council election in the state, he reassured the people that the ruling People’s Democratic Party ( PDP) will continue to deliver good governance to meet their expectations. He went further to assure the teeming crowd that the party has the interest and welfare of the people at heart, and urged the electorate to vote massively for candidates of the PDP in this week’s council election.
The governor explained that candidates of the party for the December 10 local government council election, emerged through due process and after consultations with party stake-holders and the party leadership in the state.
Governor Chime, who is not used to public outings, has since then been traversing the political landscape of the state, canvassing for votes for candidates of the party. At the last count, the governor has visited 10 of the 17 local government areas in the state.
According to chairman, Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC), Dr. Boniface Eneh, the government has budgeted about N502m for the conduct of the council election in the state. Eneh told journalists that his commission would provide a level playing ground for the contestants; dismissing insinuations that his commission had perfected plans to rig the election in favour of the ruling party.
Nevertheless, many people believe that the governor does not need to waste precious time and scarce public funds on vote-catching campaign in the 17 local government areas of the state, when the council election is purely a one party affair.
Also, the consensus here is that about N502m budgeted for the council poll amounts to a waste of public funds, again since the PDP is the only visible party in the state.
Indeed, according to Governor Chime, out of the 260 councillorship positions, only 13 are being contested for, while in the chairmanship contest, only two seats out of the 17 chairmanship seats would be contested for.
What that means is that the opposition political parties in the state are not interested in this Saturday’s local government council election.
Though Eneh told journalists that nine political parties had indicated interest to participate in the poll, ironically only the ruling PDP is shopping for votes. So, what are the remaining eight political parties doing?
Osita Okechukwu, leader of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in the state, told LEADERSHIP, that the party had gone to court to challenge ENSIEC, for demanding a fee of about N300,000 from all those aspiring to contest the council election. He said the demand was contrary to the laws guiding the conduct of the council election; arguing that the payment would amount to double taxation, since the state government had already made money available to the commission for the conduct of the election.
For now, the CPC is not canvassing for votes – four days to the council election. And going by the slow pace of adjudication in the country, it may take the court, one year to determine the CPC suit.
Nevertheless, beyond the usual complaint by opposition parties in Enugu state, of lack of funds to run their respective political parties, most members of the opposing parties take relish in oscillating between their respective official parties and the PDP.
For instance, weeks and days before the April 2011 general elections, most of the political parties operating under the umbrella of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, endorsed the candidature of Governor Chime, for a second term in office, even when the governor was facing serious challenge from some high-heeled members of the PDP who wanted his job too.
Again, when Governor Chime had a face-off with the erstwhile National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, early in year, the CNPP organised a mammoth rally at Okpara Square to shore up Chime’s dwindling political status.
It was gathered that almost all the leaders of the CNPP who participated in what one member of the association described as a “show of shame”, smiled to their banks at the end of the exercise.
This perhaps, explains why the opposition parties in the state, do not have the moral rectitude to challenge the PDP in next week’s council election. “How can you bite the finger that feeds you”, says one opposition party member, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The implication is that all candidates of the (PDP), have already tucked their certificates of return inside their pockets even before the commencement of the electoral contest. “This local government council election is going to be a hollow ritual, since the party is not contesting against any known candidates of the opposition political parties”, a PDP chieftain in the state said.