We Are Ready For Council Polls


 The Lagos State Independent National Electoral Commission, LASIEC has fixed 22 October for the council polls in the state. Following this, activities at the 20 local government areas and 37 local council development areas have been on the upbeat. In this interview with P.M.NEWS, Lagos State Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Otunba Henry Ajomale, speaks on the party’s preparations for the polls. Excerpts:


 The Lagos State Independent National Electoral Commission has come out with its guidelines on the local government polls fixed for 22 October. When is the party going to issue its own guidelines for the elections?

We have seen LASIEC’s guidelines and we are preparing our own. You know we cannot come out with our own without that of LASIEC because there must not be any problem. We are going to follow the timetable released by LASIEC in preparing our own guidelines. And like you know, we are always prepared like the Boys’ Scout.

We want to ensure that there is no infringement of LASIEC’s guidelines; whatever we put out now is what our people will act upon. We don’t want to mislead them. We are working in tandem with the guidelines of LASIEC. The fact that we have not released the guidelines does not mean that we are not doing anything. We have our structure. Meetings are going on in our wards, local governments and the zones. Soon we will come out with the guidelines.

What preparations are you making for the polls?

Like I said, we have seen LASIEC’s timetable and we are following the timetable. Meetings are going on. It is much easier for the wards to decide on their candidates to represent them. We are not going to choose for them. They will choose their representatives themselves. We are doing whatever we can as always to ensure the victory of the party at the polls.

In the last local government election, many of your members complained of imposition of candidates from the top. What are you doing to ensure that this does not occur again and prevent rancour?

Our elections have always been free of rancour. We have always been fair to all the aspirants. At the beginning like this, you find that every aspirant has his own agenda. We have only one position to fill and when about 20 people are fighting for that one position, then there is a problem. One of the twenty will occupy the position. With that scenario, there is no way you conduct a primary that they will not say you imposed someone on them. If you get a form, the other gets a form, only one person will get that position. But some people are so ambitious that they want the election to favour them at all cost. Unfortunately, it is not always so.

But you see in our party, we have some mechanisms in resolving our problems such that immediately one person emerged at the primary to represent the party, the others fall in line. That is the beauty of democracy. You will never see anybody voting against the party. Immediately somebody emerged as the party’s candidate, the others will fall in line. This is exactly why we are the party of the future.

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How would you rate the performance of local government chairmen in the state?

Human beings are difficult to predict. When someone is contesting, you won’t know his mind. They make a lot of promises but usually failed to fulfill them. The people have the right not to elect such people again. At the primaries, they can kick such a fellow out. Last year, our primaries were held in the open and they were very successful because the people were able to exercise their right to vote. We saw some people here agitating when they failed, some were shouting and crying foul all over the place. We were democratic by allowing the people to make their choice. As regards performance, there is no way to know what is on the minds of aspirants. They have their own agenda. It is when they get there that you find out that they are running after something which they did not promise the people. Some of them will be running after money. They want to make as much as they can make. This should not be. If you want to serve, you come out. If you don’t want to serve the people, stay out. On our part, we try to scrutinize them and find out from people about their past activities. You give some of them opportunity and they disappoint you at the end of the day. It is not only at the local government level, it is something that is akin to the Nigerian politician. I pray that the younger ones will change, but unfortunately, the younger ones are even worse.

How do we solve this?

I have said this before that in electing members for various political positions, we should follow the system in Britain or the United States of America where you find a bureau that is charged with selecting successful people who have retired to represent them in various political positions. These set of people are very keen to serve because they see it as an opportunity to give back to the society that made them successful. Instead of idlying away their time, doing nothing, they see it as an opportunity for them to contribute to the development of their communities. These people are not after money. All you do is to pay them sitting allowance. Forget the rest. These people have made their money. They are volunteers who have decided to develop the area they are living. Many of them are retired accountants, engineers, doctors, successful businessmen who have worked 35 years and above. Asking them to come for the position of councillor or chairman of a local government will give them the opportunity to develop their communities. The experience they have garnered over the years will be able to help them in determining the economic future of their countries. But here we have young men whom we thought would be able to take care of the generations to come. Rather than do this, they are busy taking care of themselves. Instead of thinking of others, they are serving their pockets only. So we end up with the old generations, we achieve nothing.

Are you advocating this at the local government level?

Yes, at the local level. The masses will be able to benefit from these people and then we can stretch it to the state and national level. Let us try this first and let’s see how it will work out.

But let’s restrict ourselves to the performance of council chiefs in Lagos, would you say they have performed?

Many of them have performed up to the level of funds available to them. How much do they get from the federation account and how much do they generate. If you look at it, the state government has taken over the functions of most of these local governments. Some of them do this in order to harness their economic development. The state government constructed and rehabilitated so many roads, hospitals and other infrastructure in the local governments. They harness money going to the councils to ensure that they have even spread of developments all over the state. In most cases, after paying salaries, local governments have less to spend on capital intensive projects like the provision of roads, hospitals, potable water and others. My own conclusion is that some of them performed and some of them did not. In terms of performance, I think majority of them performed according to the resources available to them. But you will also find some, even if they give them all the money required, they will not get there.

Election campaign will start soon at the grassroots, what are the dos and donts?

Those aspiring for political positions can do their campaigns within their constituencies for now. Unless you become the candidate of the party, you are not to use our logo because it is only our candidate that can use our logo. That is one important don’t. You can go from house-to-house to solicit for votes. This is permissible. Don’t forget the primaries are coming. If you scaled through the primaries, then you become the candidate of the party, then you can use the logo of the party. For now, you can go around and mobilize your supporters but you can’t use our logo for now until you become the official candidate of the party. And the candidates will emerge after the primaries.

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