Kogi governorship elections comes up in November, later in the year, but political parties in the confluence state are seizing every opportunity in the books to protect their interests. During the March 28 Presidential and National Assembly as well as the April 11 governorship and Assembly polls, only two parties were able to make their presence felt; that is the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC.
In the Assembly elections, the PDP managed to scrap 14 seats as against APC 11 to retain an awkward majority in the House. But the other parties, Labour Party (LP), National Congress Party (NCP), Mega Progressive Peoples’ Party (MPPP), Allied Campaign Alliance (APA), Kowa Party (KP) and Alliance for Democracy (AD) (ACPN), Africa Peoples Party of Nigeria got nothing and are ambling for space in the face of the November elections.
PDP, obviously, is preparing and one of them method, it appears, is to appoint local government caretaker committee chairpersons that would oversea the affairs of the grassroots before the November elections. But the seven others are kicking, stating that the government’s move is tainted and against the interest of the people.
The Seven registered political parties in Kogi state have sued the State Government over alleged plans to constitute caretaker committees for the 21 Local Government Councils of the state. In the Originating Summons dated 10th April, 2015, signed by their counsel, Williams Aliwo Esq. for service on the Kogi State Government and the Attorney General of the state, the claimants sought two declarations and a perpetual injunction of the court.
In a supporting affidavit deposed to by Ibrahim Usman of the LP, the plaintiffs said Governor Idris Wada, last month, proposed the caretaker committees before the elections. The plaintiffs, through their lawyer, Mr William Abdullai Aliwo, said they were not consulted. But on April 8, the government summoned a meeting of some parties at LP’s office, a day after the governor allegedly met with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stakeholders.
The claimants said the government’s representative informed them that Wada had reconstituted the councils. But the government claimed there was no money to organise an election, adding that it would not be in the interest of politicians to allow civil servants to manage the councils. The state proposed all-inclusive committees with representatives from the major parties, which were asked to nominate members.
But the parties rejected the idea, saying it violated the 1999 Constitution and existing court judgments. They urged the court to declare that the defendants could not constitute or reconstitute the Local Government Councils in the state other than through a democratic system of election. The motion supported by a 27-point affidavit deposed to by Ibrahim Usman of Labour Party sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants by themselves or agents or privies from constituting or reconstituting the councils except by democratic means.
The claimants also raised six fundamental questions for the determination of the court including whether having regards to section 7(1) of the Nigerian constitution, the state government could “validly” set up committees to man the councils without any election. Among other questions, the claimants sought to know whether the attempt by Kogi government under any guise to reconstitute the councils otherwise than by election was not unconstitutional, null and void.
The parties also filed a Motion on Notice supported by a 29-paragraph affidavit, brought pursuant to Order 11 Rule 1 of the state Civil Procedure Rules 2006. They sought an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the respondents/defendants from setting up or appointing any caretaker committee or person into the local governments in the state pending the determination of the substantive suit.
It would be recalled that the Labour Party in April, held a press conference alleging that the state government had resorted to “extreme illegality” by planning to constitute caretaker committees for the councils against court judgments prohibiting such moves. “The state government’s agent responded by saying the committee may not necessarily be called ‘caretaker committee’ but that a name or phrase not in conflict with the law would be adopted,” the plaintiffs said.
But the parties insisted that no matter the name, any unelected committee managing the councils would not be in their interest. “We want to test our popularity through elections, which the state government is running away from,” the parties said. They added that there were subsisting judgments of the High Court, which declared caretaker committees illegal. The parties said the court had ordered the Directors of Local Governments (DLGs), comprising experienced civil servants, to take over the councils’ management.
The plaintiffs alleged that a meeting was held at the Government House on April 7 where the governor allegedly agreed with stakeholders to compile and announce the committees before April 10. “They resolved to damn legal consequences of their actions… If they do this, it will affect our right to produce candidates to contest the local government elections as we are prepared to contest now.
“No amount of monetary compensation can redress this political degradation that we suffer, if councils are reconstituted without election. We are ready to pay damages, if this action is found to be frivolous,” the plaintiffs said. They argued that Section 7 (1) of the 1999 Constitution provides for democratically elected councils, not by appointment.
Meanwhile, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello, the All Progressives Congress (APC) member-elect for Okene Federal Constituency who is also a serving member of the state assembly has urged his colleagues to get ready for the politics ahead. Bello noted that the assembly as an institution and the first arm of government was crucial to governance through its law making and oversight functions but had its limits, which the legislators must strictly adhere to.
He urged them to undertake their legislative assignments with due diligence saying: “Know your limits, we are not asking you to go and antagonize the executive, rather you are going to build bridges.” Bello said that rehearsals, seminars and trainings would be organised for the members-elect and a more elaborate reception organized for them when the party’s leader in the state, Prince Abubakar Audu returned from his overseas trip. “We don’t want you to come and just pick your Certificates of Return and go back home like orphans. We want you to know that we are here for you and will stand by you”, he said.
Much more frontally, Chief Clarence Olafemi, former speaker and ex-Acting governor of the state said there was need to put the legislators-elect on sound footing from the onset and urged them to learn from the party leaders. He said that they were so lucky that in the party leadership in the state were a former governor, a former Acting governor, two former speakers of the state House of Assembly, former and present legislators among many others.
Olafemi who lamented that the present assembly in the state was not worth the name cautioned the members-elect to be steadfast and avoid political constipation saying: “Don’t eat what will cause you political constipation.” As things stand now, all the parties are preparing for the November governorship by any means. Though an APC chieftain, Ochieje has vowed that the party would rest the governorship from the ruling PDP, the latter is bidding its time and also plotting its way towards the D-Day and the caretaker committee may just be one big way up.