Opposition political parties in Delta State are still in shock over the sudden constitution of transition committees for local government areas by the People Democratic Party (PDP)-led government of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. They were taken aback following recent steps taken by the government to conduct council elections. PAUL OSUYI reports:
When the government forwarded names of nominees into the board of the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC) to the State House of Assembly for screening and confirmation, the action delighted opposition parties who saw it as a foremost step towards conducting the long-awaited council polls.
Preparations had begun in earnest by some of the opposition parties including the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Democratic Peoples’ Party (DPP) in their bid to win elections in some of the councils.
But their hopes of witnessing an election in the near future came crashing like a pack of cards as the state government in the twilight of November 11 announced names of chairmen of transition committees for the councils without the consent of the opposition. The chairmen were hurriedly sworn-in the following day in Asaba, the state capital.
Since the inauguration of the caretaker committees, criticisms have continued to trail the government’s action from the opposition quarters who felt cheated out of the whole arrangement. The opposition parties are agitated that the composition of the membership of the transition committees was not all-inclusive as earlier promised by the governor.
As at the time democratically elected council executives were dissolved by Uduaghan in 2010, he promised to conduct another election into the councils but due to political exigencies posed by the governorship re-election in January 2011 as well as the April 2011 general elections, the plans were shelved, paving the way for Directors of Personnel Management (DPMs) to take charge of the councils.
Meanwhile, insider sources confirmed that it was the plan by the governor to have members of the respective opposition parties into the transition committees in his bid to have an all-inclusive government at the grassroots level. However, Daily Sun learnt that each time the list was compiled, forces within the ruling party would scuttle it before final approval by the governor.
The list was said to have been scuttled three times on different occasions by powerful forces within the ruling party on the grounds that accommodating members of the opposition in the transition committees would be tantamount to “empowering the enemy politically and economically.”
So, when the final list emerged, it was obvious that the list had been sieved to weed-out any traces of opposition on it. But this has unsettled the opposition camps which are viewing it as a grand design by the ruling party to allegedly rig the council polls when finally conducted.
“This is nothing short of disappointment from the governor who had promised that all opposition parties would be carried along in the administration of the councils. But with this list, what the PDP has done was to shuot-out the opposition and make sure that it is only their members that would super-intend the conduct of council elections. For me this is another ploy by them (PDP) to rig that election when finally conducted,” a member of the opposition who does not want to be mentioned told Daily Sun.
The state chairman of the Association of Registered Political Parties, who doubles as the chairman of the Movement for the Restoration and Defence of Democracy (MRDD), Johnson Ajebokhun, said that the governor goofed in his avowed promise of an all-inclusive government, saying that “by law, the caretaker committee is illegal but be that as it may, if the governor feels in his wisdom to set up one, it should have been an all-inclusive one by considering members of the opposition divide.”
Ajebokhun is not alone in this view as the state chairman of the Labour Party (LP), Emeka Nkwoala equally expressed disappointment over the action just as he queried the rationale behind the appointment.
“Why should the governor go ahead in constituting caretaker committees? We in the opposition have been clamouring for local government election. The governor has succeeded in appointing PDP members as chairmen of the various councils. Is PDP the only party in the state? It is totally unacceptable to us,” he fumed.
All over the country”, he continued, “there is a call for democratic governance at the grassroots level. We urge the governor to feel the pulse of the state and conduct the election. This scenario takes us to the constitution amendment as regards LG autonomy and election. We shall continually engage the governor constructively on this until he hearkens to our voice.”
Also, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) while expressing dismay, insisted that the inauguration of caretaker committees has shattered the party’s plans for council election and vowed to challenge the governor’s in court.
“We had prepared hard for the elections and we were hoping to win at least 20 out of the 25 council areas across the state. The party has put strategies in place to win most of the councils,” chairman of ACN in the state, Adolor Okotie-Eboh told journalists in Asaba at the end of the party’s State Executive Council meeting.
“It is not going to be easy for us to win all the councils that is out of place unless we want to behave like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that is always rigging the elections in the state by writing the results of the whole local government areas. We are assuring them that its not going to be business as usual, there is no way they can win all the local government areas in the state, we will win them and there is no doubt about that,” he vowed.
Saying that his party would challenge the constitution of transition committees in court, Okotie-Eboh claimed that there was an existing ruling on the subject matter in respect of Edo State but stressed the need for the court to further interpret the law.
Okoti-Eboh posited that part of the reason the party has to head to court was to make sure DSIEC and other stakeholders were credible and do a thorough job, just as he stated that ACN was watching with keen interest the way things were going.
But chief political adviser to Governor Uduaghan, Ighoyota Amori has urged the agitating opposition parties to stop heating the polity by their comments over the constitution of transition committees, insisting that it was not “illegal as it is a creation of the state House of Assembly properly backed by law.”
Amori particularly enjoined the ACN to continue with its preparation for election as “LG elections would soon be held,” adding that they should not be “wasting time in litigation as all ACN governments in old Western region have been running their councils with caretaker committees. The pot should not call the kettle black.”