In furtherance of our responsibility of giving continual support to the fundamental needs of the country and, the positive purpose of the elected government if it will not in any way dent/obstruct the rights of the masses, the publisher, editorial Board members and the entire management and staff of Ika Weekly Newspaper, the most authoritative information source in Ika land, writes to congratulate the newly elected and re-elected local council Chairmen that emerged victorious in the local council election held in the 25 local councils of the state on Saturday March 6th, 2021.
Specifically, the News organization congratulates two illustrious sons of Ika nation (our very own); Evangelist Sunny Tatabuzogwu and Barrister Eborka, chairmen, Ika South, and the Ika North East Local Government Areas respectively, for their resounding victory at the poll.
Indeed, the election has come and gone. But, reflecting on the electoral episode of Saturday March 6th, 2021, the newspaper accepts as true that Deltans, like in every electoral context subjected your political ambitions to serious scrutiny- of which the outcome has made you both lucky and unlucky.
You are lucky because you emerged victorious in your bids, and the newspaper again congratulates you. But unlucky because like success that brings new problems, the result has thrust yet another responsibility on you an extremely important destiny; to complete a process of socioeconomic rejuvenation of the councils, which the state has spent far too long a time to do.
Within this period of celebration, Ika Weekly Newspaper would like to emphasize that for you to excel in your new positions, there are some guiding principles you must hold very close to your hearts.
First, you must avoid the temptation of presenting yourselves as all-knowing, more generous, more nationalistic, selfless, more honest or kind, more intelligent, good looking or well-briefed than other stakeholders.
Also, to bring into play, the words of Governor Okowa, as used during the inauguration, you must be close to the grassroots, you must work closely with the traditional institutions, grassroots organizations, youth groups, vigilante groups and official security channels to ensure peace and security in your communities. ‘I expect you to hit the ground running. It goes without saying that you are the vehicles through which the government reaches the grassroots, where the majority of our people live’.
To help you achieve these objectives, the Newspaper hereby promises unalloyed/sustained support and partnership. But in keeping to this promise, we also keep in mind that as a media organization, we are to watch over crimes, injustices, malpractices, and every other act that is deemed unfair and unlawful.
With the above highlighted, it is again imperative to add that, while it is not within the newspaper’s responsibility to give a ruling about the fairness or otherwise of the process that threw you up, it is on the other hands, within its domain to inform you that Local Governments and elections are two essential features of modern democracies.
They help to establish, nurture and sustain democracy and democratic political culture. Elections provide the electorate with the power to freely participate in choosing their leaders and in providing the much-needed support and legitimacy to the state.
Yet, local councils electoral approach/process in Nigeria has become curiously questionable and derogates the sanctity of elections as an institutional mechanism for conferring political power on citizens in a democratic dispensation.
There are other fears which we must bring to your notice as you settle down to do the job of public leadership.
In the accounts by Massoud Omar, Department of Local Government and Development Studies, Institute of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, credible elections into local government councils have been non-existent since independence in 1960 till date. This is because the local councils are often subjected to controls by the upper levels of government in the state.
This reality in our views constitutes a potent danger that may require the strength of a bulldozer to overcome
Also, the Constitution of the Second Republic (1979-1983) gave state governors the power to dissolve local councils and appoint Caretaker Committees to run the affairs of local councils. The 1999 Constitution currently being operated empowers state governors to appoint chairpersons of State Independent Electoral Commissions, the electoral umpires mandated to conduct local government elections in the 36 states of the federation.
As the situation stands, there are some ambiguity as to whether the state governors can dissolve local councils before elections are conducted at the expiration of their tenure, but often, state governors capitalize on this ambiguity to dissolve local councils at the end of their tenure, and appoint Caretaker Committees. Often, these Committees are staffed with cronies and party sympathizers.
We all witnessed a similar experience in the state few months ago.
In view of this unpalatable experience, well foresighted Nigerians have in the past argued that to free local councils from the clutches of the State Governors and ensure credible elections into local councils, the power to appoint chairpersons and commissioners of the State electoral bodies should be removed from the state governors, On their part also, the global community, especially development-based groups and elections observers, do not think that what Nigeria is doing is the best way to organize elections be it at Federal, States or Local Government levels as Governments actions often fail to meet the four basic conditions necessary to create an enabling environment for holding of free and fair elections.
These conditions they noted include; an honest, competent and non-partisan body to administer the election, the knowledge and willingness of the political community to accept basic rules and regulations governing the contest for power, a developed system of political parties and teams of candidates presented to the electorates as alternative choices. And an independent judiciary to interpret electoral laws and settle election disputes.
Such worries partly explain the inertia, and damning reports that trails every election in the country monitored by international observers.
In the same vein, in most states where local government elections seem to have been held, there appear no remarkable difference between such a result and that of a one-party affair.
According to a commentator, it amounts to “selection” and “appointment” of local representatives because state governors use the incumbency factor to rig elections in favour of their preferred candidates. Situations where local councils are controlled by opposition parties are rare, and where this happens, the local councils are dissolved and caretaker committees, often made up of sympathizers of the ruling party are appointed in their place.
Even though, it cannot be characterized as an impossibility that a party at some points wins all the local council positions in a state, Ika Weekly Newspaper is particularly worried about the frequency and disturbed by the accompanying believe that the main reason for this trend of affairs is that whoever controls the local councils is sure to gain control of the state government during gubernatorial elections.
Take as another illustration, the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC), in December 2020) declared the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) 17 chairmanship candidates, the ruling party in the state, as winners in all the 17 local government council elections. The same feat was achieved in Lagos state where the All Progressive Congress (APC) holds sway, Delta state in 2018 and chances.
Today, with the landslide victory in the twenty-five local areas of the state, by the ruling party in the state, Delta has again joined in singing a repeat of that hymn and stanza.
While many have expressed the views that the outcome could not have been otherwise as the state is a People’s Democratic Party(PDP) stronghold, the newspaper holds the opinion that such argument, in absolute terms, may hold no water when faced with embarrassing fact.(that is an issue for another edition)
On a final analysis, it will in the newspaper’s opinion, be rewarding if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) takes over the conduct of local council polls in Nigeria as no nation can develop democratically under the present arrangement.