State of Democracy in LGAs: It’s power show in Kogi

By BOLUWAJI OBAHOPO

Local governments in Kogi State have for long borne the brunt of the muscle  flexing between successive governors and the State House of Assembly. The power show has in course paralysed democratic franchise at the local government level. Given that background, there are no reasons to cheer ahead of the forthcoming local government elections next month.

THE tenure of the last democratically elected council chairmen in Kogi state ended in July 2011 and ever since, the councils have become a fighting ground between Governor Idris Wada and the state House of Assembly each trying to exercise authority.

Once the tenure ended, Directors of Local Government (DLG) were mandated to take over the affairs of the councils as indication was given that elections will hold in May 2012.

*Gov. Wada

*Gov. Wada

However that was not to be as the Supreme Court cut short the elongated tenure of the then governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris.

Wada who succeeded him not surprisingly jettisoned the idea of holding council elections four months into his tenure, having been sworn into office in January 2012.

Though he was believed to have initially resisted the idea of appointing caretaker committees, the governor, however, was understood to have succumbed to pressures from his predecessor, Idris and other stakeholders to appoint two Liaison officers for each of the 21 Local Government areas of the State.

The appointment of the liaison officers was, however, resisted by the State House of Assembly, but for reasons that subsequently emerged to be selfish motif. The opposition of the legislators emerged after the governor rejected some of the nominees proposed by them, notably those of one of the prominent principal officers of the house.

LG and State Assembly
Even before the expiration of the tenure of the last democratically elected councils, the councils were continuously the subject of several attacks from the House of Assembly.

Three chairmen were suspended by that legislature and it was no secret that oversight visits by the legislators were considered as visitations from hell and the peak of the animosity was the truncation of the term of the councils from three to two years.

Though, the then governor, Idris refused to give assent to the bill, but his veto was overridden by the House of Assembly.

The chairmen at that time jointly sued the Assembly and won as the court ruled that though the Assembly had the constitutional right to regulate the administration of the LGAs, but that it could not make the new law to take retroactive effect.

SIEC election
By last September the State Independent Electoral Commission (KOSIEC) rolled out another time table for council election which it fixed for December 20th, 2012.

It was, however, obvious the time table was a scheme from the executive to douse the tension that the appointment of Liaison officers generated given that no one thought the time frame to be viable.

It was as such not surprising when the SIEC chairman, Barrister Ayo Olaniran who had earlier boasted that the election would not be cancelled again, swallowed his words and postponed the election to May 5th, 2013. It was the third postponement in a space of 12 months.

Will election hold?
The fate of the May 5th council election date itself hanging in the air as three political parties, the Action Congress of Nigeria, (ACN), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and Congress for Political Change (CPC) are  challenging the neutrality of the SIEC chairman and other commissioners as they claim that a number of them are card carrying members of the ruling PDP.

The three parties have presented what they claim is the campaign poster of Olaniran as a candidate in the 2011 PDP primaries for the Kabba/Bunu House of Assembly constituency.

The parties are also wary that what they claim to be the alleged bias of the KGSIEC in the last election when Olaniran was head of the electoral body could again be replayed.

The case which was filed in December, 2012 is yet to be decided and hence apprehension about the feasibility of next month’s election.

CNPP kicks
The state chapter of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) has, however, taken a position against the court action by the three parties describing it as vexatious.

The Chairman of the CNPP Barr. Abubakar Aliu at a press conference penultimate week chided the parties saying the court action was in total disregard of desire of the people.

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