Ahead of the FCT Area Councils elections, Yomi Kareem, examines INEC’s preparation for the polls and the possibility of the electoral body breaking the jinx of inconclusive elections recorded in recent past
Barely 24 hours to the conduct of the Federal Capital Territory Area councils elections, expectations and tensions are high among the political parties, candidates and their supporters. Everywhere within the FCT activities of the contesting parties and their supporters are in top gear. As a result of the crucial nature of the election some governors were said to have relocated to the FCT to shore up support for their candidates.
Different Political Parties contending have been strategising on how to win a landslide in the forthcoming elections. While the All Progressives Congress, APC, candidates and their supporters are mapping out plans to take over the seat of power, their Peoples Democratic Candidate, PDP, counterpart on the other hand are not ready to lose their grip on the seat of power which they have been controlling since the December 5, 1998 local government election.
Sure enough, it is going to be a keenly contested election as the economic situation on ground now vis a vis the nose diving economy, the cash crunch, the perpetual fuel crisis among many other contending issues are the issues of campaign been used by the political parties, especially the PDP, which surely going to make kit a tough one for the ruling party.
As a result, the 236 candidates who are to slug it out in the chairmanship and councillorship elections have been making promises upon promises, so that their party can take control of the capital city of the most populous black nation.
The elections which was earlier slated for Saturday, 19th March 2016, alongside the Rivers state election rerun, before it was later postponed to Saturday, 9th April 2016, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, ‘the postponement was as a result of shortage of ad hoc staff needed for the exercise, and those just employed needed adequate time for training on the conduct of the election’.
The elections wish is schedule to take place in the six area councils of Abaji, Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Bwari, Gwagwalada, Kuje and Kwali has 1,020,799 registered voters, and would be manned by: 6,624 Assistant Presiding Officers (APOs I, II, III); 9,375 Presiding Officers; 62 Supervising Presiding Officers (SPOs); 62 Collation Officers (CO); and 6 Returning Officers (RO) with 428 Reserves.
According to the Secretary of the Commission, Augusta Ogakwu, ‘13 parties, including the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party, are fielding candidates for chairmanship positions in AMAC while two parties are presenting candidates in Abaji. Four parties will field candidates in Bwari, Gwagwalda and Kuje councils and three will present candidates in Kwali council’.
However, Ndidi Okafor, the INEC’s deputy director of publicity, has appealed to political parties and their candidates to shun violence in the on-going campaigns and during elections.
As part of efforts by the Commission to ensure transparency during the conduct of the elections within the territory, forty four (44) Observer Groups are to participate in the elections. The approval is sequel to the initial applications as contained in the completed Form EPMC 01 and assessed by the Commission.
According to the Commission, the approved Observer groups are to obtain, complete and return Form EPMC 002 for the Elections from the Elections and Party Monitoring Department, INEC Headquarters.
In a bid to ensure wider participations like in the two recently concluded elections, the Commission has decided to do accreditations and voting simultaneously such that adequate time is saved, rather than doing the two separately, which is known to have caused delay and time wastage in the past.
Furthermore, as part of efforts to ensure a hitch free elections within the capital city, as well as avoid another inconclusive elections as witnessed in recent past in some parts of the country, the Commission in a stakeholders meeting with the contesting parties enjoined parties and their supporters to comport themselves peacefully before, during and after the elections.
As a result of the inconclusiveness of elections witnessed in recent times in the country due to electoral violence, many observers and stakeholders has equally warn INEC, to put in place adequate security in order to avoid electoral violence like such witnessed in Rivers state recently, which led to snatching of electoral materials, kidnappings and killing of some personnel of the Commission.
However, some analyst on the other hand are of the view that despite the rising of tensions and high expectations among the candidates and their party faithful, the FCT elections cannot degenerate into such chaos that was witnessed in Rivers State as it is the seat of power, as well as the abode of Mr President.
On a more realistic and general note, should the issue of elections violence be the order of the day in the country, regardless of our nascent our democracy is?. The many factors contributing to electoral factors in the country are still left unattended to, what we only do is pay lip service to it, and the more reasons perpetrators have continue to indulge in it, yet go scot free.
The Federal capital Territory Area Councils elections will not just be another test for INEC, as to whether it can conduct free, fair and credible elections it is really another test to show the tolerance and political maturity of the politicians in the country, as our politics has been seen a winner takes all – therefore a ‘do or die affair’.
The Nigeria Police is equally not relenting in making sure the exercise is devoid of violence, according to the Inspector General of police, Mr Solomon Arase, in a joint INEC, Police press briefing recently, ‘regardless of how civil the police will handle the elections in the state, perpetrators of electoral violence will be seriously dealt with has impunity of the past will not be condoned by the police’.
Nigerians who are keeping close tab on the arrangement for the FCT election are of the view that this still contest for the 62 councillorship and six chairmanship seats, especially between the APC and the PDP, is another litmus test for INEC, and the law enforcement agents especially the police. All the elections conducted in recent past by INEC fell short of the minimum standard for credible polls despite all the pre-election assurances by INEC and security agencies.
The controversies that trailed the inconclusive elections were a cause of concern to all Nigerians, including President Muhammadu Buhari, who admitted during the last meeting of the national executive committee, NEC, of the APC that he failed in the conduct of the election. Having admitted failure in the conduct of the inconclusive elections, the Nigerian leader assured the people that the needful will be done in future elections to clean up the lapses that marred the previous exercises. The outcome of the conduct of the FCT polls tomorrow, Saturday, 9th April, will surely be a pointer if indeed the era of inconclusive elections are over in the country on the watch of the present administration.