Date Published: 05/16/10
IMO LG ELECTIONS: WAITING ON THE LEGISLATURE By John I. Mgbe
The most contemporary political discussion in Imo today is the Local Government Election which is ‘tentatively’ fixed for August 7 th. The last Local Government Election was held in Imo State about six years ago under the regime of the immediate past Governor, Chief Achike Udenwa. However, before leaving office on May 29, 2007, Chief Udenwa dissolved the elected LG officials and set up a Transition Committee which the incumbent Governor, Chief Ohakim, inherited. Since Governor Ohakim became governor on May 29, 2007, he has been working with Transition Committees until recently when he decided to appoint Sole Administrators to run the Local Government Areas (LGAs). The public outcry in demand for Local Government elections has persistently fallen on deaf ears.
Since the Chairman of Imo State Independent Electoral Commission, (ISIEC) Barrister Nwonye, announced the August 7 th date for the LG elections, I decided to take a posture of “siddonlook” for the reason that there is nothing on the ground to lend credibility that the LG elections will actually take place on the scheduled date. Political pundits had expected that the announcement of a date for the LG election would trigger off wide scale jubilation and a drinking binge in the nooks and crannies of Imo State. Contrary to this expectation, the proposed LG election ‘tentatively’ fixed for August 7 th has become the proverbial white man’s corpse (Ozu Nwa Bekee). If you carry it up, there will be shouts of NO NO NO. You, carry it down, you still hear NO! NO! NO!, even at a higher decibel. Although most of us have never had any close encounter with the cadaver (dead body) of a white man, our forebears who fought in Congo, Burma, and in the World Wars would always spruce up the tales of their gallantry chivalry in the wars with the wisecrack/aphorism of the white man’s corpse. In fact, it is only now that I have actually understood the aphorism of the NO! NO! NO! Mantra.
The black man is black through and through-his complexion, his conscience and the like. He is a sadist who derives joy in the anguish and agony of others. Little wonder, an eminent writer said: “everything good, every great, everything wonderful, Nigerians spoil them all”. It is deplorable and distressing, that the announcement of the date for the LG election which would have animated and enlivened the political space, has become a kill joy, a source of agony and trauma
But in what way has the proposed election become a source of sadness? According to the announcement from the Imo Propaganda Corporation or IBC both the closing of date of registration as well as the LG primaries would take place within the week. So I am told. Furthermore, each councillorship aspirant is expected to pay N60,000 while a chairmanship aspirant will pay N200,000 to the ISIEC. I had initially made up my mind not to comment on the LG election because it was Professor Soyinka (or was it Tai Solarin ?) who once said: “I am tired of talking to the deaf”. I am totally frustrated at the docility of the typical politician of Imo State extraction. About a year ago, I did a viewpoint in which I asked the chairman of PDP, Prince Nlemigbo, to refund the moneys which the aspirants paid during the registration exercises that failed. Alternatively, the INEC should hold the amount in safe custody for the next LG elections.
The ongoing confusion in the pending LG election is traceable to the lack of political will by the State legislators. In the 2009 stakeholders’ summit, the LG election became an issue. When asked to comment on why LG election had not been held, Governor Ohakim ordered the Speaker, Hon. Goodluck Opia, to provide an explanation to the audience. Speaker Opia assured the people of Imo State that LG elections would be held later in 2009. He said he was speaking on his authority as the Speaker of the State Assembly and he promised not to disappoint Ndi Imo. After his speech, Governor Ohakim made a brief speech in which he said he was in support of the Speaker. Governor Ohakim said that people should no longer entertain doubts since the Speaker had assured them of a LG election. He said that the Legislature was the engine room of LG elections in the State. In making this statement, Governor Ohakim exonerated himself from the allegation that he was the obstacle to the Local Government Election. After the stakeholders’ summit, I did a viewpoint in which I drew the attention of Ndi Imo that no Local Government elections would take place in 2009, in spite of the Speaker’s assurances. One of my reasons was that there was no budget for LG election in the 2009 fiscal budget.At the end of the year; I was proved right since no LG election took place. Even in the current 2010 fiscal budget, no provision was made for a LG election. It means that the government did not actually plan to hold any LG election in 2010. So, the much dramatized August 7 th Election might have been an afterthought probably fueled by the huge amount that could be raised through the sale of forms. One important development in that summit was that Gov. Ohakim made it clear that the legislature should be held accountable on issues that border on LG elections.
I wish to state with all modesty that I do not see any reasons to believe that a credible LG election will hold in Imo State on August 7 th. The LG election is not what a chairman of an electoral body can wake up one morning to announce. Has anybody considered the cost implication of the LG election? How much is budgeted for this project? The LG election is a critical arm of democracy and it is guided by the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2006. There are laid down rules and regulations and current realities show that this ISIEC has not complied with these regulations. In fact, the basic requirement of a “Notice of Election” has not been complied with. Section 31 of the Election Act 2006 stipulates thus: “The Commission shall not later than 150 days before the day appointed for holding of an election under this Act publish a notice in each State of the Federation and the Federal Capital territory (a) by stating the date of the election; and (b) appointing the place at which nomination papers are to be delivered.
(2) The notice shall be published in each constituency in respect of which an election is to be held”. However, in this case, we are talking of Imo State only and not the Federation. This does not invalidate the stipulation of the Electoral Act 2006. My investigation reveals that this simple requirement has not been complied with by the ISIEC, Owerri. Aside the fact that the 150-day mandatory requirement has not been observed, the ISIEC has not officially communicated the date of election to the affected political parties. One of the chairmen of the political parties confirmed to me that they have never had any official notice of the election and have not even held any serious meeting with the ISIEC officials. There is a need for ISIEC to provide each electoral party with the official “Notice of Election”. A situation where the parties pick the notice of election from the grapevine, gossip tabloids and overzealous politicians does not comply with the stipulations of section 31 of the Electoral Act 2006. This breach alone is enough to render the election null and void. So many fake dates have been given in the past by government sources.
During his phone in programme in Radio Nigeria, Abuja in 2009, Governor Ohakim announced to a global audience that the election timetable would be released in the next few days. The promise was never kept. During his visit to Orlu Zone in 2009 the governor promised again that the election timetable would be released in the next two weeks. He made this unfulfilled promise at Urualla LG Secretariat. Elsewhere, the former Executive aide to the Governor, Professor Ezeadi, announced that Local Government Elections would be held on December 19, 2009. The date was never upheld. The promise was another farce. Nothing has happened to show that the August 7 th date is feasible. In view of the conflicting and unreliable dates from the government side, the only authentic date is a date that is communicated to the various parties in writing. Whereas the government has not actualized the series of dates it gave in the past, there is no obligation on the parties to rely on dates that have not been officially communicated to them in writing. Although a contract could be oral, in writing or by seal, present realities in Imo State demand that the ISIEC should not only dispatch official notices to each of the participating political parties, it should convoke a meeting with the political parties in order to smoothen the rough edges. Those who run ISIEC should desist from their peremptory approach of talking to the political parties in a condescending and cavalier manner as if they are talking to their domestic servants.
Aside the points adumbrated above, the ISIEC has continued to engage in a series of illegalities since they were hurriedly set up. It is very sad that a body that is headed by a legal practitioner should be so consistent, persistent and systematic in constituting itself as an outlaw. Since their inception, I am unable to remember anything ISIEC has done that conforms with due process. In fact everything about this ISIEC appears to be grounded on illegality: the manner they were selected and hurriedly inaugurated leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The pertinent questions include: why were their predecessors sacked? Were they not sitting on a statutory tenure which would have expired on February, 2011? Why was the governor in such a hurry to constitute a new ISIEC? Why did the legislature give expedited approval to the creation of a new ISIEC? Governor Ohakim is a smart politician who knows how to use the Imo legislators to get what he wants. Once again, I wish to reiterate that the problem in the political sector in Imo state is caused by our IMO Legislators. During the 2010 Imo Summit which was specifically organized for only those who were specially invited, Imolites were told that the LG election could not hold because of a disagreement between the legislature and the Executive arms of government. About a month after that frank revelation, the then ISIEC was disbanded on the grounds that they could not conduct LG elections. The only credible explanation is that the disagreement between the legislature and the Executive must have been caused by the refusal of the legislature to approve the setting up of a new ISIEC. Governor Ohakim knows how to navigate the murky terrain of political gridlock through the lobbying of the State Legislators. This lobbying is usually done ‘anyhow anyhow’ (fast fast) in a manner that affronts the rule of law and the tenets of democracy. Once he settled the legislators, he set up a new ISIEC which was approved with emergency by the legislators. The next thing we heard was that “Imo LG elections will hold on August 7 th”. What a shame on the Imo Legislature, an institution that should be the dynamo that drives democracy. Governor Ohakim has used the “rule of law” (lobbying legislators) albeit negatively, to subvert the constitution which he swore to uphold.
In any country in the world where the legislature is feeble, effete and wobbly, Chief Executives have taken the advantage to achieve their set goals. Even the strong democracies we always hear about that exist in United States and Europe are the function of a rugged legislature. The only institution that can checkmate the impunity of any governor or president in a presidential democracy is the legislature. Governor Ohakim has taken maximum advantage of the lack of focus and mission by the members of the House of Assembly. Even in U.S., George Bush (jnr) went to war in Iraq, in spite of opposition from the electorate. In Britain, Tony Blair allied with George Bush (Jnr) to destroy Saddam Hussein, even though Britons were against the war. The two world leaders achieved their objectives because the Parliament in London and the Congress in Washington decided to turn a blind eye to what their leaders were doing. When Richard Nixon committed impeachable offences in 1974, he hurriedly resigned before the Congress voted to impeach him. He knew full well that he would not confront the Congress. That impeachment offence was the notorious Watergate scandal. Governor Ohakim has always got the approval of the House to legitimize whatever he did. So, those who are aggrieved about the cock and bull story of the so-called LG election of August 7 th should take their grievances to their legislators. What the Imo legislators have done is a classic case of betrayal of trust and misplaced confidence. It can be painful but this is the flip side of democracy – you get what you bargained for. It was Karl Marx who posited that “every morbid society gets its own morbid grave diggers”.
My concern is that the huge amount which will be used to execute that so-called LG election is money gone down the drains. Most contracts are void, voidable or unenforceable. This much-hyped August 7 th election is voidable at the instance of any of the participating parties. There are decided cases to validate the fact that this election cannot stand the test of judicial scrutiny. The most provocative aspect of the election is the weird demand of ISIEC on aspirants to pay huge amounts direct to it. It has never happened elsewhere before. ISIEC has nothing to do with political aspirants. What if a party decides to give free ticket to her aspirants, as is usually the case with women politicians. In the spirit of the Beijing Accord and Affirmative Action, women politicians are usually allowed free participation by most political parties. Why should ISIEC stop this gesture? ISIEC is supposed to deal with candidates and not aspirants? But what happened to the over N70,000 which these aspirants paid in the past (especially in the case of the PDP) where the PDP is heavily indebted to the aspirants on account of their previous payments for elections that were never held. Why is it that everything done in Imo State must have the face of fraud, real or imaginary? They include the N40bn bond which Imo Legislators hurriedly approved, the New Government House which was not in any fiscal budget, the Secretariat of Ndi Eze with the much rumoured mega billion fraud, the Oguta Wonderland Lake Hotel, the Oak Refinery, Egbema,the so-called IMO Clean and Green Airline which did not feature in any fiscal budget, the N8bn Nworie River dredging and now the so-called 10000 job offer for which the unemployed are being forced to pay a tax of N2000 per person. The list is just a few of several instances. This 10000 job scam has subjected Imo State to public scorn, opprobrium, and obloquy. Is this N2000 scratch card per applicant the new way we can boost the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of Imo State? In the face of this dictatorship of the rule of law, our legislators pretend that they are not on planet Earth.
In each of these projects, there has always been a hue and cry about fraud and shady deals. Why can’t any project be pulled through in a manner that will attract public applause and acclaim? In fact, I am not in the mood to talk much on the so-called election of August 7 th because only the Imo House of Assembly can extricate us from the quandary and quagmire which the so-called Local Government Election of 7 th August represents. We hope His Majesty the Hon. Speaker, Goodluck Opia, will make a timely pronouncement in order to pull Imo State back from the precipice of cataclysm and catastrophe.
The founding fathers of democracy knew that politicians have a predilection for supplanting the ideals of democracy; hence Baron Montesquieu, Rousseau, Voltaire and other scholars promulgated the doctrine of separation of powers. There is no separation of powers in Imo State. Those we voted to represent our interests have since become the veritable Frankenstein Monster. It is a sad development but this moment shall pass.
John I. Mgbe
ADDENDUM: The management of SLAP Initiative will in the next couple of days expose comprehensively how the Imo House of Assembly (IMHA) as represented by the Honourable Members have been assisting the executive arm of Imo State Government as represented by Mr. Ikedi Ohakim to loot the resources of the state, destroy the Fabrics of Democracy in the State, to under-develop the state and finally turn the state into a haven of criminal activities.
Specifically, the speaker of Imo House of Assembly, his principal officers and committee chairmen will be exposed so that Nigerians and the world at large will know the kind of thieves we have and who have been representing the impoverished citizens of Imo State.
In conclusion, over 93% of the honourable members representing the people of Imo State at the House of Assembly will not be re-elected. They will not even be allowed to contest any election come 2011.
The time to deal with Speaker Goodluck Opia and his “ALAKIRIJA” colleagues has come.
Ikenna Samuelson Iwuoha
Facilitator SLAP Initiatives
Plot 98 Ikenegbu Layout Extension
Owerri Imo State Nigeria.