TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE writes on the battle of wits among political parties in the forthcoming local government elections in Lagos State
Come July 22, residents of Lagos State will march out en masse to elect new officials for the local governments in the state. Since the lapse of the tenure of elected council officials in November 2014, there has been attempts by the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC to conduct elections in the 20 local government areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in Lagos State but the move did not see the light of the day until recently when the newly appointed LASIEC chairman, Hon. Justice Ayotunde Phillips fixed July 22 for the elections.
Since LASIEC announced July 22 as the date for the council poll, political parties and aspirants interested in contesting for the 57 chairmanship and 377 councillorship seats in the state have been campaigning vigorously to woo party members and electorate for supports to realise their ambitions.
The local government elections is expected to be a big battle for supremacy between the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC) and other opposition parties in the state, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Apart from the battle at the party level, the contest for the council seats will also pitch political gladiators against one another.
Apart from political gladiators outsmarting one another to produce chairmen and councilors at the local government level, the contest has also renewed the long rivalry between APC and PDP in Lagos State as members of political parties have started engaging one another in horse-trading.
Other political parties like National Conscience Party (NCP), Labour Party (LP), Accord Party, Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) are also making frantic effort to register their presence in Lagos politics through the forthcoming council poll.
While APC is strategising to maintain its edge in Lagos politics by producing all chairmen and councilors in all the councils as enunciated last week by the party’s national leader and former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu that PDP will not win a single seat in the council poll, interestingly, the opposition parties are not resting on their oars to ensure that they win some seats at grassroots level.
To many political observers, the forthcoming elections will be used by the political parties in the state to settle political scores and registered their presence in the state ahead of the 2019 general elections.
At present some of the political parties in accordance with the election timetable released by LASIEC are in the process of conducting their party’s primaries to elect flag bearers for the July 22 poll. Ahead of the council elections, political observers believe that a lot of factors will determine who fly the party tickets and which party will come victorious during the poll.
Some of the factors that will shape the election are; party’s structures, power of incumbency, state might, crisis within the political parties, among other issues. In Lagos politics today, there are about 10 political parties who are visible in the state but among the lots, only APC and PDP have viable structures in all the nooks and crannies of the state.
Therefore the two parties will definitely flex their muscles in the council poll to prove their worth in the state politics. But if the present state of the two parties is anything to put into consideration, the APC has more organised and viable structures in Lagos State than PDP and other parties.
Among all the political parties who have shown interest in the council poll, only APC has large number of aspirants. According to the Lagos APC Assistant Publicity Secretary, Hon. Biodun Salami, in a recent interview with New Telegraph, 1,820 aspirants collected nomination forms for councillorship while 542 aspirants shown interest in the chairmanship poll. This without any iota of doubt shows the present and followership of APC in Lagos politics.
The power of incumbency and state might will also be a major factor in the council poll. APC as the ruling party will be going into the poll with power of incumbency since the party is the ruling party at the local government, state and national level.
Some of the present occupiers of the council positions, who are regarded as Sole Administrators are APC card-carrying members and therefore they will do everything within their power to ensure that their party retain the seats. Governor Ambode is very interested in the election because the incoming council chairman and counsellors will serve with his government, therefore the governor will not relent in his effort to ensure that his party win all the seats as he stated during last week APC stakeholders meeting, where he implored all the party leaders and members to work for the party’s victory during the poll and ensure that opposition party did not win any seat in the state. Another thing that may count or work against the APC in the council poll is performance.
There is no doubt that Governor Ambode has performed within his two years in office, considering the major projects that the incumbent administration has done in all the nooks and crannies of the state but some people believe that the ruling party has not performed to their expectation in term of people-oriented programmes and they may use their votes to determine the faith of the ruling party.
At present, both the PDP and APC are having internal wrangling within their parties over battle for the structures of the party and this may either make or marred the performance of the two political parties in the election.
APC leaders at the state and local government levels are into different camps over the forthcoming council poll.
The imposition of candidates by the party leaders, especially the recent proclamation by Tinubu that 18 former chairman will be return as well as party leaders favouring some aspirants in the local government election has fuelled internal wrangling in the party.
Some political gladiators and aspirants who are not in tandem with the party verdict have decided to take their case to the local government and ward level to test their might by insisting on primaries to choose the party’s flag bearers.
Without APC putting its house in order, the fallout of the party’s primaries and flexing of muscles among political gladiators may affect the party’s chances in council poll.
On the part of the Lagos PDP, the opposition party is broadly divided into two factions led by Segun Adewale and Moshood Salvador respectively.
Both camps who are laying claim to leadership of the PDP in the state will likely produce different candidates for the council elections unless the party put its house into order before the election.
Adewale in a recent statement told LASIEC not to deal with Salvador, insisting that any dealing between the electoral commission and Salvador group is illegal and a total disregard of the party’s constitution.
Adewale wondered why some LASIEC official have continued dealing with Salvador in total disregard of the PDP constitution and a letter from the National Executive Committee disowning Salvador’s illegal committee, noting that “any further dealings with Salvador by LASIEC staff will be viewed as an attempt to rig the polls in favour of the APC
With the present state of things the faith of the PDP’s flag bearers will likely be decided by either the verdict of a Court of Appeal ruling, which declared Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as PDP national chairman or the outcome of the verdict of the Supreme Court base on the suit filed by the Ahmed Markafi-led National Caretaker Committee.
Irrespective of what happened before the July 22 elections, PDP will likely go into the council poll as a divided house.
Speaking to New Telegraph on there preparation for the election, APC state chairman, Otunba Henry Ajomale and his DPP counterpart.
Tajudeen Yunus, expressed confidence that there party will win the council poll.
Ajomale said: “Since 1999, we have been in government in Lagos State and the progress being made in the state surpasses whatever has been done before.
I think it is only a limited number of states that have done that. So, that is why the people of Lagos State have confidence in us. We have not made any mistake that the PDP will use as a challenge.
I don’t even see a challenge from the PDP. “We are not overlooking surprises that may come up and we are preparing for that.
We are not over confident that we are going to win absolutely unless we work for it and that is what we are doing; practicing democracy at its best, be transparent and let everybody see what you are doing.”
Yunus said that his party will pull surprises in the council election.
He said his party remains the best alternative party with good programmes for Lagosians.
He encouraged qualified and trustworthy Lagosians to rise up from their slumber and participate actively in the July 22 council poll, adding that the party will support all aspirants willing to contest chairmanship and counsellorship positions in all the 20 local government areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) of Lagos State.
As Lagos residents prepare for the July 22 council poll, the fate of the candidates will be determined by the people irrespective of the odds in favour or against the major parties and their candidates.