OYO COUNCIL POLL: A Show of Shame and Staged-Managed Electoral Fraud
OYO COUNCIL POLL: A Show of Shame and Staged-Managed Electoral Fraud
- Lesson for SPN and Tasks Ahead
By Abbey Trotsky
On the 12th May, 2018, the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission, OYSIEC conducted elections into 33 local government areas, LGA, and 35 local council development areas, LCDA, in the state. According to the result of this election declared by OYSIEC the All Progressive Congress, APC, that rules the state, won all the chairmanship positions in the 33 LGA, 35 LCDA and councillorship positions in all the 610 wards in which the election was conducted across the state.
This election was a show of shame in the sense that, the turnout of the electorates was reportedly very poor in most polling units. In most polling unit where registered electorates were over 700, the turnout was so poor that hardly could 40 people be accredited to vote. This is an unprecedented electoral apathy and it was so bad that the APC agents were compelled according to a live radio report of the election on Splash FM, 105.5, to be moving from house to house canvassing electorates to come out to vote even while the election was on-going. This act is against the election guidelines which stipulates among other things that there must not be any form of campaign on the day of the election. At the same time, the poor turnout shows that the level of mass disaffection among the working people against the capitalist political establishment particularly the APC-led government in the state is very high.
LEADING CAPITALIST PARTIES AND POLITICAL REASON FOR THE BOYCOTT
Taking a look at the outcome of the council poll and various circumstances that surrounded its conduct, it is quite obvious that the election was not participatory. Neither can it be said to be legal nor credible! For instance, all the leading capitalist political parties like Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), ACCORD, Social Democratic Party (SDP); Labour Party (LP) in the state did not participate in the council poll. This was under the pretence that the election and the preceding activities were manipulated by the OYSIEC in favour of the candidates of the ruling party in the state.
As the result of the said council election clearly revealed, it is true that, elections into the local government councils across the country are often manipulated in favour of the candidates of the ruling party. This is usually so because the individuals that preside over the activities of the State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIEC) that conduct the election are often acolytes and political appointees of the ruling party in the respective states. However it is worthy to note that in Oyo all of these arguments were only adopted by all of these leading opposition capitalist political parties to cover-up for the internal political rancour increasingly growing within their respective ranks.
As a matter of fact, all the leading capitalist political parties including the ruling APC in the state suffer one form of internal political crisis or the other while parties like ACCORD and SDP could best be said to have collapsed following the movement of their godfathers to PDP. Going by this background, it is obvious that even if these political parties did not boycott the election, it is not given that they could have attracted electoral support and sympathy of the working people better than that of APC. This is because; they have no alternative political programme that is different from that of APC. In fact all of these parties (PDP, SDP, ACCORD, LP) are all pro-capitalist political parties that subscribe to the same ruinous neo-liberal/anti-people policies like privatization, deregulation and commercialization of social services like those of APC.
SPN AND OPPORTUNITY OPENED UP BY THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN
Unlike most of the leading capitalist political parties that boycotted the election out of the fear that the election would be manipulated, the Socialist Party of Nigeria, SPN took a decision to participate in the so-called council poll in Ibadan South West LGA which is just one out of the 33 LGA constitutionally recognized in the state.
The SPN decision to participate in the council poll was not born-out of the illusion that the election would be credible or free from manipulation, rather the decision was based on a strong conviction that the election campaign would offer members of the party an opportunity to reach out to as many as possible working people and youths with the party’s socialist programme which represents the alternative way of running the society. This is with a view to win as many as possible persons who agree with this programme to the banner of the party.
At first, the SPN decision to participate in the council poll was highly welcomed by the electoral body, OYSIEC, when it was notified of the party’s intention. This is because with the non-involvement of other leading capitalist parties like PDP, SDP, ACCORD and LP in the state, the OYSIEC saw the involvement and participation of other political parties with little or no threatening political influence to the APC’s political agenda as a way to give an impression that the council poll is participatory.
It was from this kind of premeditated political calculation that many political parties that claimed to participate in the said election were consciously mobilised by OYSIEC under some pseudo-political platform like Conference of Political Parties of Nigeria, CPPN, and Inter-parties Advisory committee, IPAC, to be part of the election.
But the attitude of OYSIEC towards SPN changed dramatically immediately the commission begin to notice that its plan to manipulate the election in favour of the candidates of the ruling APC in the state could be threatened by the active involvement and participation of SPN in all aspects of pre-election activities. Asides from the fact that SPN was the only political party that often challenged the OYSIEC various undemocratic conduct, it also remained the only political party that embarked on street to street campaign particularly in Ibadan South West local government area where two members of the party, Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye (Abbey Trotsky) and Adigun Ayodeji, initially stood as candidates for the chairmanship and vice-chairmanship position respectively.
The campaign being the first electoral outing of the SPN since its registration offered a huge opportunity for members of the party to acquire an impressive level of political experience. During the SPN campaign, over five thousand (5000) copies of leaflets which summarized the programme of SPN and how same would be implemented if elected were circulated to members of the public, while over 2000 copies of posters were also pasted around the electoral wards that constitute the LGA. Instructively, Abiodun Bamigboye and Adigun Ayodeji promised to serve on a workers’ wage if elected. Many who received the SPN leaflet expressed support for the socialist programme of the party even when some are doubtful whether it could be implemented. Despite this, over 100 working people largely in Ibadan South-west indicated interest to join SPN. This is an expression the huge scale of mass disaffection with the capitalist political establishment and a search for alternative among the Nigeria working people.
It is in the consideration of the huge threat the SPN active involvement in the council poll posed to the APC’s plan to manipulate the outcome of the election particularly in Ibadan South West that explains why a SPN candidate was denied nomination form by OYSIEC after being subjected to the rigour of a screening exercise during which his eligibility to stand as candidate in the election was certified. However, despite the fact that the SPN candidate was denied nomination forms and the public withdrawal of the party and its candidates from the elections, the OYSIEC still went ahead to include both the name and logo of the SPN in the election ballot paper. This show that the denial was deliberate to prevent the SPN from being officially part of the election while it was decided to include the party’s name and logo in the ballot paper with a view to use the name of the party to give credibility to the election. This kind of political fraud perpetrated by OYSIEC against the SPN has further undermined the credibility of the election itself.
THE COUNCIL POLL WILL END UP BEING A NULLITY
Beyond the question of credibility is also the question of the legality of the election itself. First is to note that the election was conducted on the basis of the electoral areas created by OYSIEC itself. These electoral areas are in conflict with the electoral areas and boundaries recognised by INEC. In Ibadan South-west LGA for instance, the INEC recognised electoral areas in the LGA are divided into 12 electoral wards while the number of electoral wards used by OYSIEC to conduct the said election in the same LGA are 10.
The decision of the OYSIEC to conduct the council election on the basis of the electoral areas created by itself as well as election into LCDA which were not recognised by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) is not constitutional. According to the section 148, of the 1999 Constitution, only the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is empowered with the responsibility of updating the voters register including the creation, delineation and adjustment of the electoral areas which must be made available to SIEC for the conduct of the election into local councils. The role of SIEC, recognised by Section 4 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria (as amended) is to organise, undertake and supervise all elections to local government councils within the state in accordance with electoral areas recognised by INEC.
It is in the light of this background that members of SPN in Oyo State has described the council poll as a nullity while also demanding new and democratic Local Government elections that must be conducted in accordance with the requirements of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and with fair opportunities for all parties and candidates including the SPN and its candidate.
LESSONS OF THE COUNCIL POLL
The first lesson is to note that both the outcome and circumstances surrounding the conduct of the election has shown that no section of the capitalist ruling elite is capable of resolving any of the political and economic challenges being faced by the country.
For instance, in 2007, the PDP-led government in the state conducted a similar form of council poll during which the outcome was also manipulated in favour of all the candidates of PDP who participated in the council election. Pathetically, ten years after, the APC government which was formed on the basis of change mantra has not only failed to correct the past political mistake but has gone ahead to conduct a council poll whose outcome and preceding activities are worse than the one conducted by the PDP government over ten years ago. This has further given credence to the fact that only a government of workers and poor formed on the basis of a socialist programme is capable of resolving all of the political and economic problems under which the working people groan in the country today.
The second lesson is that except the state and national electoral bodies are fully democratised, it will always be difficult for any of these two bodies to conduct election either at council or national level that will be free of age-long tradition of electoral manipulation in favour of ruling political parties. Democratisation will mean that members of the electoral body will have to comprise of the elected representatives of trade unions, youth and professional organisations, trade and artisan associations including community associations like residents association etc.
Unlike many false impression often peddled by defenders of the capitalist system that socialist idea and programmes are no longer popular, the practical experience of members of SPN during the twelve days of street-to-street campaign showed that socialist programmes can be accepted by the broad masses because it corresponds with the needs and aspiration of the working people.
For instance, the SPN programme of placing all political office holders on a worker’s wage was applauded by wider layers of the working people in the LGA, even though some expressed doubt over whether or not such a programme is practicable in a deeply corrupt country like Nigeria. But this doubt can be easily cleared wherever the SPN gets an opportunity to win position and demonstrate in practise that its members are genuine elements different from the self-serving capitalist politicians who often fail to fulfil their electoral promises.
However, it must also be noted that, it is not also guaranteed that the acceptance of the SPN programme would have translated into an electoral victory for the SPN in the elections even if it has not been denied nomination form. This is because the long history of political deceit which the working people had suffered at the different occasions will not encourage them to automatically gravitate towards any political party even when such a political party like SPN is genuine. This is not to mean that the working people are not interested in a genuine change but the point however, is that only the political consistency of a party like SPN will overtime succeed in winning huge layers of change-seeking people to its banner at the long run. We will achieve this by showing in practice what the SPN stands for and by involvement in day to day struggles to win improvements as part of the process to build a movement to fundamentally change society.