On Tuesday, the Chairman, Osun Independent Electoral Commission (OSIEC), Otunba Segun Oladitan was taken on by Seun Okinbaloye of the Channels Television on “Politics Today”, one of the popular programmes of the station. Excerpts.
Question: There is an injunction stopping you from having the election, why are you still going ahead with the election?
Oladitan: Truly, there is an injunction purportedly stopping us from conducting the election, but starting from the elementary issue, the case was instituted in the Federal High Court in Abuja and they obtained leave to serve us outside the jurisdiction of the court, but they claimed to have served us at the Osun State Liason office in Abuja. If they got leave to serve us outside the jurisdiction and they did within the jurisdiction, it is contradictory and faulty.
Question: (Cut in) Have you seen the injunction at all, may be transmitted to you by the state government?
Oladitan: I have not seen it. You should understand that OSIEC is a creation of the constitution. It is independent from the state government according to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, we should not be served in Abuja or saying you are serving us through the state government and say that is an appropriate service
Question: How did you know you were served in Abuja?
Oladitan: This is because the Attorney General informed me that there was a purported injunction against us and I said I shall not subject myself to the jurisdiction of that court, because ordinarily, issues concerning local government elections are for the State High Court, not the Federal High Court in Abuja. The court lacks jurisdiction as regards the geographical location and jurisdiction as regards the law concerning it.
Question: If you are not comfortable with a court injunction, should you not go to court to challenge it instead of saying that you will not subject yourself to it?
Oladitan: Yes, we did. We had representative who had filled papers in the court to say that we are protesting the injunction and once you go to court to say you are protesting, it becomes a fundamental issue. But let me tell you this, the injunction was obtained exparte and if an injunction was obtained exparte, it can only last for 14 days. After 14 days, the Supreme Court had said that the injunction becomes void. It means that there is no any court injunction subsisting as at now, because this injunction was obtained on December 4 2017. They further shot themselves in the legs, because when they obtained the injunction, they now sought an adjournment to come on the 24th of January, few days to the election. If you now calculate it, you will agree with me that the 14 days has lapsed and as we speak there is no any subsisting injunction.
Question: You are supposed to be an independent umpire, but it seems you have tilted towards the ruling party, should you be looking at the grievances of those who have taken you to court?
Oladitan: I am wearing three garments as I am sitting. One, I am a citizen of Osun; I am the chairman of OSIEC and thirdly, which is very fundamental is that by vocation, I am a legal practitioner of more than 37 years and I should not because of position forget my calling. I’m not in support of any government. Don’t forget, the last local government election was held in Osun 11 years ago because, it has been one litigation or the other stopping OSIEC from having the election. So, it is not an issue of tilting towards a political party, but I am the OSIEC chairman and I have a duty which solely is to defend the workings of the commission.
Question: The PDP which is a major political party said they are boycotting the election, are you not concerned about that?
Oladitan: As an umpire, I should only be concerned about the election I am going to conduct; the moment you are getting concerned, then you are getting biased and I shouldn’t be.
Question: But the issue of the new Local Government created by the Osun Government, is it constitutional?
Oladitan: Don’t belabor yourself. In law, we talk about precedence. When the Lagos established more local governments, some people challenged them by going to court and the then President stopped the allocation to the state, but the Supreme Court said the decision was wrong because the creation is in accordance with Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution. If the state government has done everything they should do, it is now for the National Assembly to do the rest. So what Osun had done is legal and very constitutional.
Question: But how come it has not been included as part of the local government in the constitution?
Oladitan: Even as we speak, those of Lagos State are not in the constitution yet, but the constitution says, once the state government has done its part, it is for the other party, which is the National Assembly to do the rest and the National Assembly cannot be forced.
Question: The constitution says local government must be created through a referendum, that was not done in Osun state, am I right?
Oladitan: Who told you that? OSIEC conducted a referendum in 2015 whereby every local government participated. Of the 30 local government, only one local government voted no that they didn’t want it. Everything that should be done for such exercise was rightly done.
Question: The issues of parliamentary system might not just be the issue of words …?
Oladitan: Let me go to the constitution. Section 7 (1) says, “The system of local government by the democratically elected local government council is under this constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the government of every state shall, subject to Section 8 of this constitution ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils”. You don’t need a PHD holder in English to interpret this.
Question: You are saying that the state government has the prerogative to change the system of government in a local council?
Oladitan: No! No! No!, not to change; but to evolve the system.
Question: Does it make any sense where we have a Presidential System and a constituent unit now saying it does not want to operate the system?
Oladitan: It makes a lot of sense. What you have to do first is to change Section 7 of the constitution, because that is what empowers the states to do so.
Question: How much is this election going to cost the OSIEC?
Oladitan: It will be nearing about N600 million.