On May 10 the Socialist Party of Nigeria, SPN, Oyo State Chapter, held a press conference at the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) event centre, opposite Ibadan North-East LG secretariat, Dugbe, Ibadan to tell the whole world our story concerning the ongoing atmosphere of political confusion around the Council poll scheduled to hold on May 12, 2018 as well as our stand on whether the election should hold or not.
On Friday, February 2, 2018 the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission, OYSIEC, through its Chairman, Mr John Ajeigbe, announced the decision of the Commission to conduct election into 33 local government areas (LGAs) and 35 local council development areas (LCDAs) on Saturday May 12, 2018. Following this announcement, the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), being a party known for consistent agitations for local government elections that will always allow people at the grassroots to democratically elect their representatives at local government council level, welcomed this development, in spite of our reservation about the undemocratic way and manner the commission arrived at the date of the election.
It is our opinion in the SPN that the Commission should have created an avenue for all the existing political parties in the state to participate in a prior discussion and democratic debate over various issues related to the election, particularly the question of what should be the attitude of the Commission towards the LCDA among others. Despite the fact that the OYSIEC refused to adopt this democratic approach, we of SPN still went ahead with the decision to participate in the election, even when most of the leading capitalist parties in the state boycotted the election out of the fear that the election would be manipulated in favour of candidates of the APC.
Yes, we are aware that election into the local government council is often manipulated in favour of the ruling party's candidates in all states in the country. This is usually so because the individuals that preside over the activities of the commission are often acolytes and political appointees of the ruling party itself. Nevertheless, we went ahead with the decision to participate in the election not because of any illusion that the election would be credible or free of manipulation but as we strongly believe that the election campaign will offer us an opportunity to reach out to as many as possible working people and youths with our socialist programme of an 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 our party.
Therefore, on April 5, 2018, we formally notified OYOSIEC the decision of our party to sponsor Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye, popularly known as Abbey Trotsky, to contest for the chairmanship position in Ibadan South-west local government area. Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye was subsequently invited by the Commission for screening on the April 9, 2018 after which he was certified to be eligible to stand as a candidate in the election.
Even though Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye is yet to be given a nomination form by the OYSIEC despite the certification of his eligibility to contest for the chairmanship position in Ibadan south-west local government area, SPN members have been campaigning from street to street in the local government area for comrade Abiodun Bamigboye (Abbey Trotsky) as Chairman and Ayodeji Adigun as Vice Chairman on a socialist programme - a cardinal aspect of which is to serve as a Chairman and Vice Chairman on a workers' wage. Over five thousand (5,000) copies of flier which articulates the programme of the SPN for the local government and how same will be implemented if elected have been circulated to members of the public while over 2,000 copies of posters have also been posted around the electoral wards that constitute the LGA.
It is very important to note that this is the first electoral outing of the SPN since its registration on January 15, 2018. Remarkably, our experience so far has once again confirmed the mass disaffection with the capitalist political establishment and a search for alternative party and program by the working people. Many who received our leaflet expressed support such that about 100 working people, largely in Ibadan South-west, have indicated interest to join our party.
It is in the midst of this tremendous progress while we are still expecting OYSIEC to give nomination form to our candidate that we received the news of the court order retraining OYSIEC from conducting the election scheduled for May 12, 2018.
Our Stand on the Court Order
Since Wednesday, May 2, 2018, there have been various exchanges of claims and counter-claims between the OYSIEC and an aggrieved faction of the APC over an interim order allegedly granted by Federal High Court 2 sitting in Ibadan, Oyo State to stop the May 12 council poll. According to media reports, the interim order implies that Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission, OYSIEC is restrained from going ahead with its plan to conduct the council poll on the basis of its newly created electoral areas outside the ones created by the INEC.
Going by this interim order it is obvious that it will be wrong for the OYSIEC to go on with the May 12, 2018 council election on the basis of the electoral wards created by OYSIEC itself. This is because the Constitution does not empower the OYSIEC to create electoral areas in which the LG election is meant to be held. Section 4 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) is so clear of the powers of the SIEC which is to organise, undertake and supervise all elections to local government councils within the state.
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 SEIC for the conduct of the election into local councils itself.
This shows that the electoral areas created by OYSIEC which were recently given to political parties, including our party, by OYSIEC are illegal and cannot be used to conduct the May 12 election especially that such electoral areas created are in conflict with the one created 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 given to our party by OYSIEC for the same LGA are 10.
However, whether the OYSIEC complies with the interim order or defies it, the fact remains that the capitalist politicians including the Oyo State Government are incapable of midwifing an electoral process that is just, equitable and democratic . Besides, the rancour among the major political gladiators in the ruling party in the state is never in the interest of the working masses who have always been short-changed by all bourgeois politicians irrespective of their parties
Political interest behind the court order and election
A glimpse of this tension was seen on Saturday, May 5, 2018 when the ruling party attempted to conduct its congress at ward level across the state. This congress which ended inconclusively reflects how leading members of the party were desperate in ensuring that their acolytes in the party emerge as party delegates at ward levels.
It is this same struggle between two different factions within the party over who has more control on the party delegates that will participate in the party primary election to elect the various party flag bearers for the 2019 general elections that formed the background for the exchange of claims and counter-claim that have trailed the issues of court order over whether or not May 12 election should hold.
This is because every political office holder who is elected on the platform of the party will be an automatic delegate for the party primary. What this implies is that if the election held today, all the elected chairmen and their Vice chairmen from the 33LGA and 35LCDA including the elected councillors from 610 electoral wards across the state will be automatic delegates for the party primary. Since all of these candidates are nominees of the Governor who is a leader of the SENACO, it will therefore mean that the governor will be having a huge delegate of 774 party members under his influence for the APC primary.
This implies that with this substantial figure of delegates, it will be difficult for any party member aspiring to contest under the banner of the party who is not in the Governor's faction to get the party ticket. It is obviously in the consideration of this huge threat to the prospect of members of the faction of the party called unity forum who may be interested to stand as candidate under the banner of the party to secure the party ticket that explains why some members of the unity forum in the Ibarapa local government areas went to court to secure an interim order to stop the OYSIEC from conducting the election. Even though this is under the pretense that the electoral areas the OYSIEC planned to use in conducting the election is different from the ones created and recognized by INEC.
It is also on the basis of similar self-serving interest that the Governor is equally insisting that the election will hold with or without the existence of any court order. Therefore, going by this background, it is obvious that the reason, the unity forum went to court to get the court order is not because they believe in any rule of law. Neither is the governor interested in conducting local government election that will reflect the wishes of the people.
As a matter of fact, the governor wouldn't mind the court to nullify the election after he might have used those who emerge through the said election to have achieved his self–serving political calculation.
However, while the entire motive behind the court order might be questionable, the fact remains that the veracity of the court order itself cannot be waved aside. It is in the consideration of this fact that, we of the SPN call on the OYSIEC to comply with the court order and refrain from going ahead with the May 12, 2018 local council election on the basis of the newly created electoral areas. Even if OYSIEC goes to court to set the order aside, we still hold that the commission is not capable of guaranteeing that the May 12 poll will not end up in an illegality given the fact that its decision to create new electoral areas is illegal and in violation of the constitution and, more importantly, because the commission has flagrantly refused to give our party's candidate a nomination form despite that he has been certified qualified to participate in the elections.
Even as we speak our party and its candidate are yet to given a copy of electoral areas recognised by INEC upon which the election is expected to be conducted. Neither has our candidate given a nomination form less than 48 hours to the election. Even if we get the nomination form, we do not have knowledge of polling units where the election is meant to hold.
It is in the light of this consideration that we of SPN publicly dissociate ourselves and the party from the May 12 poll because we believe it is going to be nothing other than a charade and its outcome a nullity. We however remain committed to promoting and defending the interest and aspiration of the working people of Oyo state nay Nigeria for a better society and decent quality of life.