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The council election scheduled to hold on October 22nd in Lagos is now the priority of major political parties and the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission. (LASIEC). The two leading political parties-Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently took the necessary steps to ensure that they present quality candidates to contest the elections.

Party officials said that the screening committees at the local and state levels carefully went through the papers presented by the aspirants to ensure that the chairmanship and councillorship candidates to be forwarded to the state electoral body are people that cannot be faulted.

Officials of the state electoral body also gave every assurance that the council election would be free and fair. The electoral body issued the time- table for the election has. In addition, an interactive meeting between political parties in the state and the electoral body also took place three weeks ago.

A visit to the secretariat of PDP at Ikeja last week reveals that the screening of candidates for the election by a committee has almost been concluded. Chairmanship and councillorship aspirants were seen going and coming out of the office of the Administrative Secretary to submit one document or the other.

Lagos PDP chairman, Sotenjo Koshoedo told Saturday Sun that the form for chairmanship and councillorship are issued free to aspirants by the party. He explained that the party decided to give out the form free in order to encourage members to contest the council election. As of last Friday, more than 1,550 aspirants collected forms for chairmanship and councillorship positions.

At the ACN secretariat located in Acme Road, Ogba, the Assistant Legal Adviser and chairman of a three man technical committee responsible for selling forms, collating the forms and preparing lists of aspirants for the screening committee, Barrister Ademola Sadiq told Saturday Sun that 2,600 chairmanship and councillorship aspirants collected forms. They are to face the screening committees at the state and local government levels this week.

According to Sadiq, the incumbent chairmen that aspire to contest collected the expression to contest election forms for N250, 000 while party members contesting for the position are to pay N100, 000. In addition, all aspirants are to pay N5, 000 administrative fee.

However, the ACN gave special concession to women. All women contesting for chairmanship and councillorship positions collected the forms without paying a kobo. They are however expected to pay the N5, 000 administrative fee.

For the purpose of the screening exercise, five members from each of the 20 local governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDA) were selected for the purpose of screening councillorship aspirants from each of the councils. For the purpose of screening chairmanship aspirants the state Working Committee of the party swapped the five members screening committees from one local council to another.

The dilemma of Lagos PDP
Lagos PDP did not participate in the last two council elections held in Lagos. Apparently, the decision not to take part in the council elections since 1998 was a directive from the national secretariat of the party.

According to party leaders, the decision of the then Alliance for Democracy (AD) to conduct election to the newly created 37 LCDA's was considered to be illegal. The former President Olusegun Obasanjo led Federal Government decided to seize the allocation meant for Lagos councils from the federation Account. The decision to seize the fund was challenged at the Supreme Court and the judgment after listening to both sides was that it was wrong for the Federal Government to seize the council fund. At the same time, the Supreme Court declared the process that led to the creation of additional councils as inchoate.

The PDP and the now moribund AD gave different meanings to the Supreme Court judgment. The AD later named the new 37 councils as Local Council Development Areas (LCDA) for easy administration.

However, when it was time for council election, the state electoral body conducted election into the 20 councils and the newly created 37 LCDA. The PDP pronounced the action of the ruling party in the state as illegal. Consequently, it decided not to participate in the council elections.

Koshoedo, the Lagos council chairman told Saturday Sun that the party has decided to review its stand. He said the party has decided to take part in the forth- coming election because boycotting elections in the past did not pay off for the party.

'What was clearly an illegality has been turned to legality. The ruling party has conducted two different elections and nobody did anything to check the illegality. We have decided to take part this time in order to encourage our members. Part of the encouragement is to ensure that those interested in taking part in the election are to collect the form from the party at no cost. All councillorship and chairmanship aspirants would be screened by the screening committee to be set up soon by the State Working Committee with the aim of ensuring that we present the people for the job.'

On finance, the chairman said the party will present those that can finance themselves adding that the party would candidates for the election every moral and financial support needed to do well at the election.

Asked if the party has any hope of making an impressive outing considering the fact that it has never done well in previous elections in the state, Koshoedo said he is confident that PDP candidates will do well at the election. He made reverence to the recent success of the party at the by-elections held in Ikorodu and Lekki areas in recent time.

However, other party leaders said they don't share the optimism of the chairman. The source said the party is divided down the middle. According to the source considered to be high up in the Lagos PDP, there are some people regarded as 'party elders'. Most of the party elders are those that decamped to PDP from the rival AD or ACN. Most of them held important offices on decamping to the party. Unfortunately, they were said not to have done anything to empower party members. Yet, these leaders want to be reckoned with as leaders of the party.

When Bode George was incarcerated, the party elders were said to have been co-opted into the decision making body of the party. A collegiate system was put in place, which implies that for any decision to be taken, the State executive members will have to meet with the elders. Even though it is not so stated in the party constitution, such arrangement had to be in place to enable the party to function, as it should.

On the other hand, Bode George who always had his way in the party before he was jailed came out of prison and still wanted to call the shots. The party elders were said to have declared that an ex jail bird can have no say in the party affairs. The clash between followers of George and the elders became inevitable. George has majority in the executive of the party. As of today, the party elders are being sidelined in Lagos PDP. The party may be going into the election divided.

ACN and success management
The success of the party in all elections since the commencement of this dispensation has made it the party to beat. Many considered wining the party ticket to mean wining the general election. The large number of aspirants wishing to contest on the ticket of the party is an indication that the party indeed is popular in the state.

There is however the fear that the party leaders would as usual decide those to be candidate s at the council polls. In the past, primary elections were not held. The party, in its own way always sent names of party candidates to the electoral body. National chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande told publicly stated that the party does not believe in primaries because moneybags always hijack primary elections.

However, Mr. Sadiq said the screening for aspirants was done two weeks ago at the local government levels and the result has since been submitted to the state. The party leaders would act on the result of the screening exercise after the Salah holiday.

The time- table for the primary election has being worked out by the State Working Committee and will soon be made available to the general public.

On fear of imposition of candidates on the party, Mr. Sadiq said the party prefers affirmative primary election in which party members will reach a consensus on who to present for the election. He spoke of the party's believe in arbitration, settlement and consensus rather than revert to court cases.

'It is insensitive for leaders to the race open. It will be like setting fire on the state', he said.

He was happy that the PDP has decided to take part in the election noting that they had always lost out in past elections saying 'They promised to increase LG to 80. We are excited about their decision to participate.'

LASIEC set for election
The guideline released by the electoral body three weeks ago was tagged: Guideline for 2011Local Government Councils and Council Development Areas Elections.

Preamble of the guideline states that: The following guideline are to be adhered to by all Political Parties intending to field candidates for the forthcoming elections into the 20 local governments and thirty seven (37) Local Council Development Areas (LCDA) in Lagos State on Saturday 22nd October, 2011.

The first requirement is that all political parties should give the commission a 21-day notice before the conduct of their primary election, which should be witnessed by representatives of the commission.

Between August 12th and August 19th Political parties are to obtain LASIEC forms for their candidates Form LASIEC 001 are to be completed by all candidates and returned to the commission by the political parties not later than September 9th, 2011.

Candidates of political parties are expected to attach curriculum Vitae, birth certificate, party membership card, Voter's registration card, educational qualification and letter of disengagement from previous employment.

The guideline stipulates that candidates are not to pay for any of the forms from LASIEC.