News Commentary On Plateau State Local Government Election and the need for credible poll in Plateau
Written by Joey Shekwonuzhibo on October 11, 2021
This news commentary produced by the News and Current Affairs Department focuses on the Plateau state Local Government Election and the need for credible poll in Plateau
All through the week,the attention of Plateau state citizens was shifted from the incessant attacks and killings in their communities onto the preparations for the conduct of Local Government elections which eventually held on Saturday October 9,2021
Like many other important events in a democratic process,the Local Government election began with Fabian Ntung -led state Independent Electoral Commission announcing the date of the election in May ,2021
With the announcement,The people of Plateau state had looked forward to October 9 with eagerness, optimism and anxiety.
But some stakeholders had reservation that the election, if conducted, would reflect the true wishes of the people .
Their fears were not without justification given their unpleasant past experiences and allegations of electoral fraud that characterized the conduct of the last exercise in 2018 .
Interestingly,the 2018 Local Government election which had been discredited by many was conducted by Fabian Ntung as chairman of the electoral umpire .
Aware of the concern being expressed by stakeholders ,there were assurances and hopeful words by the electoral commission that it was not going to be business as usual , but the citizens knew more than anyone else how poisonous Plateau politics had become given the alleged overbearing influence of the executive arm of Governement on other arms of Governement and institutions of governance in the state .
The fears earlier expressed by the stakeholders were confirmed when the state electoral commission excluded the PDP,the main opposition party from participating in the election,a development which created tension in the state
There were reports that the PDP had gone to court to challenge its exclusion by the Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission from the LG election.
After Justice Ishaku Kunda of the Plateau State High Court upheld PLASIEC’s decision to bar the PDP from participating in the polls, the party filed an interlocutory injunction at the Appeal Court, praying the court to restrain PLASIEC from conducting the council poll pending the determination of the main suit.
On the eve of the poll, around 10.15pm, the Court of Appeal sitting in Jos rejected the ex parte motion for an order to stop the election from being held.
In his ruling, Justice Moses Ugo agreed with the appellant that it was wrong for PLASIEC not to issue nomination forms to the PDP to contest in the election. He, however, refused to grant the application stopping the election and agreed with the respondent that doing so would violate the spirit of the 1999 constitution given the peculiar situation of the matter.
The judge then adjourned the case till November 22, 2021 for hearing on the substantive suit ,paving the way for the conduct of the poll
There were reports that the election was marred by voters’ apathy and insufficient election materials,when it eventually held on Saturday
For instance , In Jos North LGA, the election was said to be characterised by voter apathy as most people stayed away from the polling units.
In most of the polling units across the 325 wards there were reports that a few voters were seen after voting had begun,although some others recorded a large turn out.
There were also allegations of monetary inducement on the voters . Thankfully,there has been no report of violence recorded during the election as feared on some quarters
Many people had attributed their refusal to vote during the election to lack of confidence in the electoral process
After the election,chairman of the state Independent electoral commission returned to announce that the candidates of the rulling All Progressives Congress had won all the chairmanship seats as well as the counsellorship seat across the 325 wars in the seventeen local Government Areas of the state.
Many stakeholders including a former Governor of the state,Jonah Jang had condemned the outcome of the election describing it as a shame and a charade
The former Governor said it was unfortunate that an election that should have evoked joy for the people as they filed out to elect their leaders was turned into a charade by the ruling All Progressives Congress.
According to him,at no time in the history of Plateau State since the return of Democracy in 1999, has Plateau State experienced the kind of impunity as was perpetrated by the APC government led by Governor Simon Lalong.
But Lalong had also come out to defened the outcome of the Local Government election saying that it would consolidate peace in the state.
His supporters and APC members had also rejected the position of the former Governor saying that he was unqualified to condemn the outcome of the election accusing him of perpetrating the same impunity during his reigns as governor including trampling on courts judgments.
But many Plateau state residents who reacted to the accusations and counter accusations trailing the conduct of the Local Government election opined that the fact that something went wrong in the past does not mean that the anomally had come to stay and should be accepted as normal.
According to them ,Election ought to hold under a conducive atmosphere to be free, fair and credible with all interested parties allowed to participate without any encumberances .
The people said Governor Lalong out to have allowed everyone to participate in the election in the spirit of democracy and therefore write his name in gold in the annals of of history of the state . As the philosopher rightly said that Power corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, Governor Lalong should resist the temptations of allowing today’s power to corrupt him because like many others before him , he will leave the office he currently occupies and Plateau people will judge him by the actions he took when he had to opportunity to do it right .
The people also insisted that PLASIEC ,as an independent body ,owe the people a duty to conduct a free and fair election that respects the wish of the electorates pointing out that a situation where the governement in power would muscle it’s agencies to do it’s bidding against the wishes of the people should be discouraged as that is the only way to deepen democratic governance in Plateau state and Nigeria at large.