Political rivalry swells as Oyo council poll draws near

Rashidi Ladoja

Local council election slated for May 12, this year, by the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OSIEC), has triggered both intra and inter party schemings.

Since Governor Abiola Ajimobi came to power in 2011, this will be the first council poll to be conducted in the state.

The last time residents of the state had the luxury of electing their counsellors and council chairmen was in 2007, when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was the ruling party, and Otunba Christopher Alao-Akala was governor.

The tenure of that set of elected council officers ended in 2010. Since then, the third tier of government in the state has been governed by administrators handpicked by the governor, with the approval of the state House of Assembly.

Previous efforts by Ajimobi to conduct council election were put on hold by legal encumbrances, which have just been resolved.

For politicians in the state, the May 12 council election is not just about electing councilors and chairmen alone, but also to show the strength of political parties in the state, and to even decide which of the cleavages within the parties that call the shot.

Besides, political analysts see the election as the beginning of another round of political battle between Ajimobi, and former Governor Rasheed Ladoja, who has returned to the PDP with other opposition parties in the state to wrest power from the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The state chapter of the PDP is getting stronger by the day since last year when Accord Party, Social Democratic Party (SDP) and some elements in the All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP) agreed to join the PDP to chase the APC out of the Government House.

Though the initial crisis that broke out in the process of electing acceptable officials after the alliance was a big problem that the party, through the efforts of its National Secretariat was able to resolve, the council election will further show how far the PDP has been able to manage its internal differences to remain politically relevant in the state.

Also, decampees like the former governorship candidate of SDP, Seyi Makinde, an engineer, and Senator Femi Lanlehin, would want to prove their political relevance in the PDP.

That the APC is firmly rooted in Oyo State is not in doubt, but apart from the achievements of Ajimobi, which his supporters said are good enough to win election for the party, the control of all lawmakers representing the state in the National Assembly, and the state legislators are considered good enough to check any political moves by the PDP to upstage the APC.

Besides, the recent decampment of Alao-Akala, and former Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin and thousands of their supporters further strengthens the APC’s chances in Ibadan and Ogbomosho specifically.

But the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Akeem Olatunji, told The Guardian that the PDP is ready for the election and that the party has gained enough ground to defeat the APC.

He said even though there were ominous signs on the horizon that cast serious doubts on the integrity of the OYISEC, and its readiness to conduct a free and fair election, the party is ready to meet the electoral agency and the ruling party on field.

He said, “You know PDP in Oyo State is now bigger and stronger, we shall participate in the council election and that election will prove to Nigerians that we are ready for 2019. APC is dead in Oyo State and everybody knows this. We shall present good candidates that will win the council election, and begin the process of sending Ajimobi out of the Government House.

“We are worried about the attitude of the OYISEC that is behaving as an appendage of the ruing party. Up till now, they have not made public the delineation of constituencies. We don’t know how many councillors to elect up till now. We equally requested for voter list and this has also not been provided. We are working on all the members of the OYISEC and we shall soon disclose what some of them are doing to undermine the democratic process,” Olatunji said.

He added: “This should not surprise Nigerians because APC does not believe in due process, you can see their members demonstrating against plans to impose candidates on them. If they can do that to themselves, what do you expect them to do in an election? We are not worried about what they are doing, but they will meet us at the field.”

Also thousands of PDP youths at a meeting in Ibadan, on Thursday, asked the electoral body to remove all underage voters from the voter register, as they will resist toddlers voting during the poll.

There is no gain stating the fact that various groups and cleavages in the APC are already out to beat one another to the tickets at stake. Even when the party leadership has not decided on the modalities to elect, or select candidates for the election, some members of the party last Monday staged a peaceful demonstration to kick against alleged plans by the governor to impose candidates on them.

The protesters, who stormed the Oke-Ado, Ibadan Secretariat of the party, vowed to resist the governor on his alleged plan to foist candidates on them, warning that without free and fair primary that accommodates all groups in the state, the party may lose the council polls.

The protesters also alleged that the governor has perfected plans to substitute the delegates’ list with his people so that only those, who are loyal to him could emerge as candidates.

Some of the placards they bore read: “Stop imposition of candidates Ajimobi,” “APC does not belong to SENACO alone,” “No credible primaries, no election,” among others. They blocked the popular Molete-Oke Ado- Dugbe Road for several hours, a development that caused traffic gridlock in the area.

It was after the protesters made their grouse known at the party secretariat that the joint state security outfit, codenamed “Operation Burst” arrived to bring the situation under control. The security operatives also sent newsmen packing from the part secretariat.

The state secretary of the party, Mr. Mojeed Olaoya, while reacting to the development alleged that journalists were being sponsored to monitor the protest by aggrieved members of the party.

Olaoya said: “When the governor was here to address party members on the upcoming local government election, none of you was here, but you are here now that some members of the party that have benefitted immensely from the party, including Fatai Ibikunke and Wasiu Olatunbosun, are sponsoring some people against the party and the governor.”

When contacted both Ibikunke and Olatunbosun said they were not ready to join issues with Olaoya.

But the party in its official reaction, warned members, particularly aspirants in the forthcoming election and their supporters, to desist from any conduct capable of bringing the party into disrepute, or causing its leadership to lose focus.

Its Public Relations Officer, Olawale Sadare, described the alleged planned imposition of candidates as a figment of the imagination of the protesters and their sponsors urging members of the public to regard it as cheap blackmail and antics employed to cause unnecessary tension in the land.

He said, “We are indeed embarrassed at the level, which decorum was thrown to the air by this set of people, some of whom we could identify as APC members in the state. Peaceful and purposeful protests are some of the essentials of democracy, but when cheap blackmail is involved, it becomes condemnable.

“The allegation of planned imposition of candidates is not only a hoax, it is also something that should not be featured in the present scenario. The state executive committee of the APC led by Chief Akin Oke, has earned itself a reputation for upholding the sanctity of internal democracy as enshrined in our party’s constitution, while the state governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, has also demonstrated personal commitment to the ideals of the party.

“In the build to 2015 general election, Oyo APC ranked among the best state party chapters, where candidates emerged through transparent, free, fair and credible primaries. Neither the governor nor any other person influenced the choices made by delegates and we have not deviated from this path of rational conduct.

“Meanwhile, the seeming delay in the release of guidelines by the party was caused by the new development explained to all stakeholders by OYSIEC at a meeting last Wednesday, when indications emerged that the recent delineation of wards exercise done in the state would be implemented at the May 12 poll.

“The implication is that additional wards have been created but they have not been made public. It then became imperative to wait on OYSIEC, which had promised to release the map and necessary documents this week to guide all participating political parties. But as at now (Monday), nothing has been heard from the electoral body,” he said.

Also denying plans to impose candidates on the APC members, Ajimobi said that members of the party would determine what method to use in picking candidates, and who they want as their candidates.

Ajimobi, while addressing party faithful in Iseyin, during the week said, “The local government election is coming. I will not impose anyone on you, but I want to beg you, each local government I want you to go and cooperate.

“You see all those who are saying we are going to primary, tell them that in a boxing match, two people are always involved, but only one person that wins at the end of the day. Of course, there is indirect primary and there is direct primary. We can use any of the two methods, but it will be what you decide. I want you to talk to yourselves; I really want you to sit down and talk to yourselves”.

Though, the Chairman of the OYISEC, Jide Ajagbe has promised to provide a level playing field for all registered political parties to participate in the election in the 33 local councils and 35 local council development areas (LCDAs), he, however, pleaded with all stakeholders to allow for a peaceful and conducive environment devoid of violence and acrimony.

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