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Disquiet over unending sole administrators for Lagos councils

At a time the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, is under pressure to conduct local government election, his decision to appoint sole administrators to head…

At a time the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, is under pressure to conduct local government election, his decision to appoint sole administrators to head the 20 local government areas and 37 local council development areas (LCDAs) is causing ripples in the state.
 Though the appointment of 57 sole administrators who were recently sworn in by Ambode was seen in government circles as a step towards the conduct of the long-awaited local government elections in the state, opposition parties and political observers in the state believe otherwise.
They are challenging the legality of the governor’s action at a time the state is long overdue for local government election. They have, therefore, continued to tongue-lash the government for not setting in motion a machinery for the conduct of the election, even when the court has directed the state to do so.
The controversy over the delay in the conduct of the local government election in the state has been on since Governor Ambode assumed office on May 29, 2015.
Ambode inherited councils headed by Executive Secretaries (ES), who were appointed by his predecessor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, at the twilight of the past administration.
Observers noted that the new governor, rather than setting a machinery in motion for the conduct of the election, went ahead to extend the tenure of the ESs, not minding the cries from the opposition.
But those agitating for the conduct of council polls scored a major point on Friday October 23, 2015, when a Lagos State High Court in Igbosere, in a suit filed by the National Conscience Party (NCP), challenging the appointment of caretaker committees for the councils, ordered the state to conduct council polls within 90 days,
However, the state government swiftly appealed the judgment.
Also, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and counsel to NCP, Ebun Adegboruwa, faulted the decision of the state government to appeal the verdict, saying the move was a subtle means to further delay the conduct of the election.
It is already 10 months since the court’s judgment, but, uncertainty still persists as to when the election would be conducted.
This is even as chairmanship and councillorship aspirants across party lines have since been on the stump in their bid to clinch the tickets of their various political parties.
Predictably, the battle is between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and PDP, with the latter accusing the government of employing delay tactics in the conduct of the polls for fear of defeat.
On Sunday, the PDP gave the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) a 21-day ultimatum to publish notice and guidelines for the polls.
The party in Lagos said that failure to publish notice and guidelines for the polls would prompt its members to tell Lagosians to stop dealing with the councils because doing so would amount to lawlessness and brigandage.
In a statement issued by its publicity secretary, Taofiq Gani, the PDP said: “It is a well known fact that the APC is not fashionable for any political victory at this present time. This is the main reason they delayed council polls for close to three years. This is no longer acceptable. The APC can at least allow the polls and go ahead to characteristically rig the results.”
Similarly, some of the aspirants, especially in the ruling party, who spoke to our correspondent, also lamented delay in the conduct of the election, saying the situation was hurting them, as they continue to spend money to win delegates to their sides, ahead of the election.
Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that no fewer than 10 aspirants are planning to contest the election in each of the local government areas. Some local governments, according to our checks, have as many as 20 aspirants.
However, the state governor recently constituted the board of the state LASIEC, headed by a former Lagos Chief Judge, Justice Ayotunde Phillips, which further rekindled the expectation of aspirants that the much awaited election is near.
But, the recent appointment of sole administrators for the councils has further dampened expectations that the election would soon be conducted.
The governor, who swore in the 57 sole administrators, however assured that the decision was a step towards the conduct of election.
He said, “Your appointment today as sole administrators should therefore be seen as a call to service of our people. You are relay runners on a journey of reform that will ultimately culminate in the election of people that will carry on the baton of good governance for our people,” he said.
However, the PDP rejected the appointment of the sole administrators, saying the governor was not committed to the conduct of free, fair and credible council polls.
Its spokesman, Taofiq Gani, said the sole administrators were appointed “to continue to occupy the councils in proxy for the APC for another period not less than three months, instead of allowing LASIEC to announce date for immediate council polls.”
“The PDP holds that the governor and the APC are jittery and unpopular in the state, ‘thus the dis-honourable decision to control the councils by executive secretaries and sole administrators nomenclature which are alien and offensive to the provisions of our constitution which under section 7 guarantees only democratically elected local government council administrations.”
However, the APC has dismissed the PDP’s position that it is jittery of conducting council polls. According to the party’s spokesman, Joe Igbokwe, the PDP was too small to confront the ruling party.
“Do you believe that Lagos APC is afraid of Lagos PDP because of LGA elections? Can’t you see that the party  (PDP) has been decimated?” he said.
A political scientist, Dr. Kayode Esuola, also condemned the decision of the government to appoint sole administrators, describing it as “an aberration to democracy and governance.” According to him, the decision was antithetical to the principles of federalism.
“If you want to follow the principles of federalism, you would agree with me that the most important tier of government is the third tier, which is the local government. If you want to argue it from the perspective of democracy, it would be defined as the government of the people by the people and for the people.
“And you know that the real people we are talking about are the people in the local governments. So, this is why I keep telling people that the change that we are talking about in Nigeria is nothing but what Fela called Akunna Kuna. We are not changing; we are only perambulating because for the government that has achieved change, I don’t see any reason at all why any state government would appoint sole administrators.
“The term sounds military; it reminds me of military mentality. The idea of politics has not changed at all. And this is where I blame our people who call themselves civil society. They are not proactive, they don’t set agenda,” he said.

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