THE LAGOS COUNCIL ELECTIONS
Apathy, disenchantment, low voter turnout, protests and allegations of rigging and other electoral malpractices characterized the October 22 Local Government elections held in Lagos State.
While voter apathy was most visible in some parts of the state particularly Ojo, Ogba, Agege, Abule Egba, Ikorodu and Lagos Island areas, protests were recorded in various parts of the state, especially in Ikoyi, Badagry, Surulere, Ejigbo and Iyana-Ipaja. In some other areas of the state, some residents shunned the exercise owing to poor representation by past office holders and alleged imposition of candidates by some political parties.
In Epe, two officials of the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) were held by the police for allegedly stuffing ballot boxes with thumb-printed ballot papers. Reports of rigging and other electoral malpractices abound. Like other local government elections held in the country since the advent of the current democratic dispensation, the party in power in the state, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), won all the chairmanship positions and majority of the council seats in the 20 Local Government Areas(LGAs) and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in Lagos State. The ACN's closest rival in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won 18 council seats while the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) won two council seats only.
The outcome of the election shows that we have not learnt much from our past mistakes. The general apathy over the poll shows that all is not well with the way the local governments are run in the country. The people's cynicism on the affairs of the councils was clearly demonstrated by their poor turnout at the election.
Perhaps, the voters wanted to use the council poll to demonstrate that all is not well in terms of development of the rural areas. The apathy might also be indicative of the fact that the people think that the outcome of the poll is pre-determined. Their failure to come out should be interpreted as a vote of no confidence on those who have held positions at the councils. It is the people's open revolt against the system that has apparently shortchanged them.
What happened in Lagos council poll was not quite different from what happened in other states where similar elections have been conducted. Part of the problem is that the opposition has lost confidence in the system. Some of them boycott the poll outright. It is really unfortunate that things are like this in the country.
It is unfortunate and absurd that any government in power usually sweeps the council poll each time it is conducted. And where the party in power does not conduct council poll, it appoints caretaker committees that are made up of party loyalists. With such templates, the local government system is surely doomed to fail and perhaps waiting for extinction. Whatever the situation, the election in Lagos State has been won and lost. While calling for magnanimity on the part of the winners, we urge all aggrieved losers to seek legal redress instead of resorting to self-help, which is counter productive.
LASIEC and law enforcement agencies should investigate all allegations of rigging and other electoral infractions at the polls and apprehend all those involved. Those apprehended should be diligently prosecuted and if found guilty punished according to the laws of the land.
Now that the election is over, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola should get his men back to work. He should step up the tempo now that some people are feeling that he has slowed down considerably. One of the reasons why councils do not work is that they have been emasculated by state governments. But now that the ACN has won all local council seats in the state, it has no reason to fail.