Politics

Lagos APC’s new guidelines stir controversies over council polls

• Fouad wants Hamzat dropped from screening committee • PDP set rules for polls

Disquiet is brewing in Lagos State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) following the release of new guidelines for the July 24 2021 Local Government elections. The guidelines, which were made public earlier in the week, started generating concerns shortly after some stakeholders alleged that the move was ostensibly to preserve the political interests of emerging godfathers.

Further, those who frown on the guidelines are also seething with anger, saying that the new set of rules is a deliberate ploy to disenfranchise some people and exclude others from participating in the process.

There are concerns, especially among first time council aspirants on the platform of APC who feel their ambition have been weakened. These first timers allege that the new guidelines are deliberately put in place to protect incumbent chairmen and councilors angling for second term. They also disclosed that the guidelines are meant to protect the preferred candidates of the establishment.

The new guidelines, which was signed by the party’s Caretaker Committee Chairman and Secretary, Tunde Balogun and Lanre Ogunyemi, is said to be in conformity with provisions of APC’s Constitution, the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended), the 1999 Constitution, the Lagos State Local Government (Administration) Law and Guidelines of Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC).

It stipulates that any aspirant on the platform of the party shall comply with this provision and that the aspirant shall be a Nigerian citizen, registered member of the party, pays the prescribed fees and must not be a member of any other political party.

Inside the guidelines
ACCORDING to the guidelines, all aspirants must submit evidence of membership of APC, show a demonstrable evidence of active party support and provide a portfolio of loyalty to the party, as well as evidence of non-involvement in any anti-party activity.

The guidelines also stipulated that all aspirants must sign the party’s code of conduct, stressing that only aspirants cleared by the screening committee shall be eligible to stand election at the party’s primaries.

The document said: “Every aspirant shall present for scrutiny all certificates that he or she lays claims to. The screening committee shall take into consideration full information on an aspirant’s background, such as education, political experience, team spirit and reputation. There shall be a five-man screening appeal committee, which shall be responsible for hearing of all appeals arising from the screening committee’s report.”

The officials declared that a disqualified aspirant might seek review of the screening committee’s decision by appealing to the State Caretaker Committee through the state caretaker chairperson.

They stated: “There shall be a State Electoral Committee (SEC) for Chairmanship or Councillorship nomination and the LGA/LCDA Electoral Committee who must be persons of proven integrity. The state caretaker committee said all accredited party members from the ward would be entitled to vote in a direct primary system for aspirants of their choice.”

They insist that sales and submission of party forms would hold from May 4 to 11, while screening of aspirants would start from May 13 and end on May 21. All appeals shall be heard from May 22 to May 26, while the primaries for chairmanship and councillorship aspirants would hold on May 29.

Before the new guidelines was released earlier this week, the party had on April 24 appointed the Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, to head the 15-member committee to set the modalities and preparation of guidelines for the forthcoming local council elections in Lagos. Hamzat’s appointment in that capacity itself also generated reactions from members of the party who alleged that the development was designed to prepare the ground for the number two man to select his loyalists ahead of the coming 2023 governorship election.

Reacting to Hamzat’s appointment, a chieftain of the party, Mr. Fouad Oki challenged the deputy governor to recuse himself as chairman of the committee for the purpose of free, fair and transparency.

In a letter to the party, Oki claimed that the appointment of the deputy governor as head of the committee is already generating tension among concerned members, especially aspirants.

According to him, “Let me say very loud and clear that, the APC Local Council Screening and Primary Elections Committee, led by His Excellency, Dr. Kadiri Femi Hamzat is facing a lot of criticism already from so many party members. It is alleged and rightly so, that they are glorified surrogates and a hand of Esau and voice of Jacob in their selection.

“I demand on behalf of so many party patriots that the deputy governor should recuse himself from the committee forthwith. The moral implication of his continued membership of the committee will come as a testimony that truly, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will be denied the conventional right of first refusal next year.”

Oki said the insinuation among party members was that Hamzat, beyond his present assignment was appointed to superintend the nomination of those who will guard and ensure his nomination as the party’s flag bearer in the governorship primary next year. He said the development is part of the strategy of the almighty Governor Advisory Council (GAC) and arm-twisting tactic to participatory democracy.

In another reaction to the new guidelines, one of groupings in the party, Lagos4Lagos Movement and its Convener, Mr. Abdulazeez Adediran flayed the situation where aspirants for the council chairman would pay N2 million to buy form for expression of interest while those contesting for councillorship would pay N500, 000. 000.

In a press conference addressed yesterday, Principal Coordinator for the movement, Mr. Olabode Makinde said though it was the duty of the party to provide guidelines for its members seeking to contest the election and while that may be true, it is disturbing that the current position of the party, especially regarding fees for the nomination forms as well as screening procedure appear to be a deliberate move to disenfranchise majority of the interested candidates in favour of the incumbents and the ‘anointed’.

According to him, “Firstly, and according to the new guidelines, the nomination form for the position of chairman now stands at N2 000, 000 a sharp increment from N550, 000 as at 2017, plus N50, 000 admin fee for a male while females get 50 per cent off exclusive of the admin fee. A male councillorship hopeful must pay N500, 000 while females get 50 per cent off for the nomination forms alongside the N50, 000 admin fee.”

The movement said with the minimum wage standing at N30, 000 a month, coupled with the harsh economy that was worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic “this move is clearly insensitive and definitely not in the interest of the ordinary citizen with inalienable rights to seek and contest elective positions.”

It added that over the years, local government elections under the control of the ruling party have been ingloriously branded as an exclusive preserve of the state where popular candidates win elections and are blatantly denied to favour the state’s handpicked preferences. According to Lagios4Lagos, “The new guidelines appear to strongly support this thinking as most popular candidates will be inevitably shut out especially as the fees and screening exercise have somewhat become a tool to stifle the possible advancement of a great number of candidates to the next stage.”

But in a reaction, Spokesman of Lagos APC, Mr. Seye Oladejo said it is imperative of Lagos4Lagos Movement to channel its complaints to the appropriate organ of the party if its members truly belong to APC.

According to Oladejo, “Contrary to their opinion, the guidelines and modalities as released by the committee has opened up the political landscape for every interested member of the party to aspire without any fear of discrimination or intimidation. The choice of the open secret ballot as the mode of primary is to guarantee a level playing ground and engender internal democracy. The massive turn out of aspirants to purchase nomination forms has made nonsense of their apprehension.

“However, we’re not surprised by the capacity for mischief of an inconsequential group that have chosen to play opposition within the ruling party. The Local Government elections provide an opportunity for them to entrench themselves in the politics of the state and get off their high horses.”

MEANWHILE, Lagos chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has released list of members, who would serve in various committees towards the council election.

In a release yesterday, the state’s Chairman of PDP, Engr. Adedeji Doherty and members of the state executive committee named the Election Committee; Screening Committee and Committee on LASIEC to midwife the party’s preparations for the polls.

According to Doherty, the Election Committee is to be headed by Arch Hon Setonji Koshedo, a former chairman of the party. Other members of the committee are Alhaji Waliu Hassan, vice chairman; Hon Rita Orji, secretary; Mr. Soji Orioye, Assistant secretary; Hon Wahab Owokoniran, Mutiu Shadimu, Babalola, Mrs. Aina Soares, Tolani Animashaun and Dipo Ogunshakin as members.

The screening committee is headed by Barrister Folake Philips, who presently serves as the State Auditor, while Alhaji Shamsudeen Arobieke is the vice chairman Pastor (Mrs) Visit Odunsi, Mr. Sunday Olaifa, Alhaja Babs Olorunkemi and others are members

The Committee on LASIEC has Doherty as chairman and Prince Muiz Dosunmu as secretary.PDP disclosed that Expression of Interest and Nomination forms for all male aspirants for posts of chairmen is N150, 000, 00, vice chairmen N100, 000.00, while those vying for councilors would pay N50, 000. 00, stressing that considerable concession were given to female aspirants.

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