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OBSERVATION: Politics Of Osun LG Elections

  By Yaya Ademola CONSCIOUS of the fact that the tenure of all political office holders in the Local Government Councils would expire by 5th February, 2021, Governor Gboyega Oyetola on Tuesday, 19th May, 2020 sent names of nominees for the Board of Osun State Independent Electoral Commission (OSIEC) to the Speaker of the State…”
Yusuf
September 2, 2022 6:10 am

 

By Yaya Ademola

CONSCIOUS of the fact that the tenure of all political office holders in the Local Government Councils would expire by 5th February, 2021, Governor Gboyega Oyetola on Tuesday, 19th May, 2020 sent names of nominees for the Board of Osun State Independent Electoral Commission (OSIEC) to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly for screening and clearance. Having secured the Assembly clearance, Mr. Governor inaugurated the Commission on the 10th of June, 2020 – over two years ago.

However, Mr. Oyetola had taken no further steps since 5th of February, 2021 to conduct council elections as demanded by the 1999 Constitution, despite the fact that the State Electoral Commission he inaugurated was in place and prepared to conduct the elections. Instead, he handpicked his loyalists as LG Caretaker Committees for six months against the spirit and letters of the Constitution. When the six months was about getting expired, Governor Oyetola wrote again to the State House of Assembly on Monday, 20th of December, 2021 for another six-month elongation for his LG caretaker committees. As usual, the House granted the wish of Mr. Governor.  And again in June, 2022, the Governor wrote the State Assembly for extension of his Local Government Caretaker Committees, which was to expire on July 12, 2022 – four days to July 16 governorship election.  A part of the Governor’s memo to the House reads, “This is to bring to your notice that the six months term of the Caretaker Management Committee in the LGAs and Local Government Development Area Councils will expire on July 12, 2022. I hereby request the State House of Assembly to confirm the appointment of the caretaker management to run the affairs of the councils for another period of six months.”

Meanwhile Osun PDP had, in suit number Hos/M39/2021, filled a matter in the State High Court, Osogbo, challenging the legality of the State Government appointing caretaker committees instead of organising LG election that would allow other political parties to partake in the political process.  Furthermore, the party prayed court to declare the caretaker committee members illegal and that those appointed should refund all salaries and entitlements they have drawn from LG purse. However, Justice Ayo Oyebiyi of Court 5, State High Court, dismissed Mr. Oyetola and APC preliminary objection and adjourned the matter for hearing of the substantive suit to 23 September, 2022.

Again, some Osun Civil Society organisations have also consistently protested Governor Oyetola’s refusal to conduct local council elections. For limited space, just one organisation will suffice – Democracy Vanguard – a pro-democracy Project of Citizenship Civic Awareness Centre had on 19th July, 2021 issued a statement, signed by its State Coordinator, Mr. Olowu Emmanuel, to caution and condemn Ismail Omipidan, Chief Press Secretary to Mr. Governor, who was misinforming the public to justify illegal action of his boss in appointing Caretaker Committees to administer local councils instead of proper election conduct, amongst several steps taken to pressure Mr. Governor to conduct councils elections.  

From the aforesaid, everybody seems to be interested in a proper election conducted for political office holders in local councils as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution as amended, including main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), pro-democracy organisations, Osun State Independent Electoral Commission (OSIEC).  If there was anybody that never wanted election, it is Governor Gboyega Oyetola!

Why the sudden change of mind by Mr. Governor to conduct local council election by 15th October, 2022, after failure to be re-elected at the July 16, 2022 governorship  election? Why sudden change of mind by main opposition PDP who had, all along, been clamouring for the council elections, now chickening out to say ‘no’ to the elections? Answers to these questions are political with legal pointers to the issues involved.

By the end of July, after the defeat of APC in July 16 governorship election, there were rumours flying around that Governor Oyetola and Osun APC were planning to conduct council elections.  However, the OSIEC Chairman, Otunba Segun Oladitan, on 2nd August, 2022, denied the rumour in a statement issued by the commission and signed by him. A part of his statement reads, “At the appropriate time, the commission would come out with the election guidelines to put a stop to unnecessary rumours being peddled around.” On 11th August, OSIEC again issued a statement signed by same Chairman titled, “OSIEC Holds Parley Meeting With Political Parties Ahead of LG Poll.” The meeting eventually held on 12th August at the Conference hall of the Commission along Old Ikirun Road. Subsequently, the Commission notified all political parties to get ready for council election slated for 15th October, 2022. The question to ask is whether or not the proposed date is in tandem with the 2022 Electoral Act? For avoidance of doubt, its Section 28(1) states, “The Commission shall, not later than 360 days before the day appointed for holding of an election under this Act, publish a notice…….(a) stating the date of the election.” Sec 29 (1) states, “Every political party shall, not later than 180 days before the date appointed for a general election under this Act, submit to the Commission, in the prescribed Forms, the list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections, who must have emerged from valid primaries conducted by political party.” With this, could OSIEC conduct council elections by its proposed October 15?

By law, State Independent Electoral Commission is the only institution that could conduct the council elections. However, unlike National INEC that is known to creating level playground for incumbents and opposition parties, courtesy of President Muhammadu Buhari democratic credentials and refusal to use ‘federal might’ to subjugate opposition, it is a different ballgame for State Election Commission. Historically, in all local government elections conducted by States Electoral Commissions, incumbent Governors and their parties have always swept all the positions. The exception was Abuja council elections in February 12, 2022 where PDP won Municipal Area Council chairmanship post with 19,302 votes against APC 13,240 votes and also swept Kuje Area Council chairmanship. However, this was made possible because INEC conducted the elections. If it were to be conducted by FCT Electoral Commission appointed and funded by the FCT Minister, the results would have been the other way round in favour of the incumbent Minister and his/her party. It is like, “He who pays the piper dictates the tune.” Hence, it is understandable why the Osun opposition PDP who is warming up to take over Bola Ige House in Abere on November 27, having won July 12 governorship election, is not folding its hands to allow the slated council elections for 15 October, 2022 hold, which explains why the party has rushed to the court to halt the process.

Some analysts have argued that by the virtue of Section 162(6) of the 1999 Constitution, where each State shall maintain “State Joint Government Account” into which shall be paid allocation to Local Government of the State from the Federation Account and from the government of the State, Governor Oyetola felt much more comfortable with his chosen caretaker committees as they could not challenge him of illegal deductions of LG funds like those he inherited from Rauf Aregbesola whose tenure expired by 5th February, 2021 and had always grumbled and conspired against him anytime he wanted to deduct from LG funds; hence, his reluctance to conduct LG election till when he lost power in July 16.

Some are also of the opinion that immediately after the defeat of Mr. Oyetola of APC by Senator Adeleke of the PDP in July 16 governorship election, Oyetola, in conjunction with his party, has dragged Senator Adeleke, PDP and INEC to Election Petition Tribunal so as to play with time to do some political operations. They opine that since 27 November by which date Oyetola would hand over to Governor-elect is about three months away and the general elections for President, National and State Assembly elections are slated for February/March 2023, APC would need some structures on ground, especially at the grassroots to be able to be formidable in the forthcoming elections. Hence, APC‘s desperation to conduct LG election legally or illegally as incoming administration would sack all Oyetola caretakers immediately it assumes power, which will not be in the interest of the party vis-à-vis forthcoming general elections.

As I write, Governor Oyetola is meeting with other political parties except PDP for talks, possible alliances and concessions on some LGs interests with respect to the forthcoming proposed LG elections.  PDP is not ready for such alliances with APC as it believes it is more popular. Conclusively, this is politics with different formations and permutations. It is neither here nor there. It is advisable for all the political parties to start preparation while awaiting court verdict on whether or not OSIEC could conduct the election on the slated October 15, expressly based on issues of its legality. While one doesn’t pray for war, it is safer one prepares for it.

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