Local Government Elections: Waste of Time and Money?- Bisi Ogunwale
On Saturday, February 10, 2018, the Kano State Independent Electoral Commission (KANSIEC) conducted elections to fill vacant seats for executive and legislative arm of government in all the 44 Local Councils across the state and it was reported that the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been declared winner in ALL the Local Government Authorities (LGA)contested.
Apart from the disturbing pictures and videos of large number of underage voters that took part in the just concluded Municipal elections in Kano, there is also the disturbing fact that the Chairman of the State’s Independent Electoral Commission, Professor Garba Sheka made the announcement that the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), has won all the 44 local government elections held on Saturday in Kano North West Nigeria without reading out the figures scored by each of the candidates in the election.
It is no more news that in ALL the states where Municipal elections have been conducted in recent times the ruling party in that particular state has ended up winning if not ALL, 99% of the seats up for election. Let’s put some numbers behind this so you can understand the implication of the madness going in different states across the country.
In October 2017, Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission conducted Municipal elections in 20 LGAs and 37 Local Council Development Authority (LCDAs) and the aim was to elect 57 chairpersons and councillors into 349 Wards in the state. In all, a total of 17 political parties participated in the election. Wait for it. APC — the ruling party — won 346 wards while United Party of Nigeria (UPN) won two (2) seats and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) got one (1) ward. Whereas, in an election conducted by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), PDP recorded about 35% of the total votes cast during the gubernatorial elections in 2015. It’s important to add that there is a seating Senator representing Ogun East at the National Assembly (NASS).
In Osun State, the story is not too different except that the turnout was abysmal and a lot of the positions were contested unopposed because some of the other political parties aside the ruling APC decided to stay away from the contests. Why? They were wise. They saw no need in wasting their money and resources. Wait for it. APC won 389 out of 389 wards in the state during the election. How APC cleared all positions in January LGA election just about six months after INEC organized Osun West Senatorial District election which PDP won in 9 of 10 local governments polling a total of 97, 280 votes as against APC’s 66, 115 votes still baffles me.
This unfortunate situation is not localised to APC alone. In Ekiti, PDP cleared all the 16 LGA and 177 Wards. I do not think the situation would have been different even if APC hadn’t boycotted the election. So whether you are in APC or PDP is not the problem the real issue is that the governors have turned the state electoral commission to their personal tools of giving legitimacy to their unreasonable use of power destabilisation of our political institutions and processes.
In 2015, in Rivers State, under the outgoing Governor Rotimi Amaechi, there was an election that gave victory to APC in all 22 LGAs where the elections held. It would take Governor Wike about 6 months to get the court to sack all the chairmen that were elected in May 2015 — about a week to the handing over of power to Governor Nyeson Wike.
There is something troubling about election frauds happening across the land because if this continues the few people who are interested in the political space will eventually give up and political apathy will reign supreme. This has to stop!!!
So what can be done to curtail the excesses of the governors in usurping the power of the people and entrenching this lawlessness and impunity?
I think the place to start is amending our laws to ensure that INEC handles all elections in the country because all these state electoral commissions with ‘independent’ in their names are the least independent government agencies in the country. I know many will come at me for this point and their argument will be that LGA election is the sole responsibility of the state, therefore, INEC is not needed. If you have any other proposition, please share. I am very happy to learn.
One of the progress we’ve made with INEC election is the introduction of technology in the accreditation process — using card reader machines. There is no such thing with Municipal elections in Nigeria so maybe we can start from there to first weed off massive fraud in all these elections.
While some of our brothers and sisters are making good stride to ensure that the #NotTooYoungToRun legislation get passed into law some of our countrymen are ensuring that #NotTooYoungToVote also gain ground as the video alleging underage voting in Kano has shown. This glaring unconstitutional and annoying recklessness has to stop but in a country where we lack the proper census figures and no proper register of birth and death, I struggle to see how we can immediately deal with underage voting without dealing with census first. There is a need to align the census database with the voters’ registers to check underage voting.
The clamour for full autonomy for LGA as the third tier of government is something we must all get behind and see it to a logical conclusion. This is important because LGAs were essentially created to deliver services at the grassroots and bring governance closer to the people. This division of power simplifies the activities of government and serves as a viable incentive for good governance and development. It has also been observed that the local government system serves as the most effective avenue for delivering basic goods and services to local communities
I actually think that LGA Autonomy is the single most powerful thing that can rapidly transform this country. By that, I mean that we MUST ensure free and fair elections, transparency and open government at the local level devoid of undue influence by the state government.
While the NASS has taken steps to amend the nation’s constitution we wait to see if the amendments as passed by the federal legislators will receive the concurrence of their state counterparts. So far about 19 states have passed the local government financial autonomy bill with only Taraba State House of Assembly rejecting it. Five (5) more states and it will become law once the President ascent to it.
On a final note, I think the time has come for us to rethink our current electoral system because this winner-takes-all option hasn’t really served us well. Across the globe there are three main types of electoral systems:
- Proportional representation (PR) — where you vote for a party and the party gets seats according to the percentage of votes it received. Candidates are drawn from a party list. This system protects smaller parties since all votes count. For example, in South Africa, if a party get 0.25% in the National Assembly elections it will still get a seat.
- Constituency-based — this system elects an individual to represent an area. It is called the “winner takes all” since only the person who gets most votes are elected and all votes cast for other people count for nothing.
- Mixed — this system combines a PR and a constituency system. There are many different ways to do this
Perhaps we should consider either the proportional or mixed electoral system seeing that we have tried the Constituency-based system with little or nothing to show for it.
Until we are ready to reform our electoral systems, we will continue to waste our time and money organising and participating in shambolic activities called elections.