A rights group, Recover Nigeria Project led by Osita Obi which a month ago dared Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra state to democratise the much delayed local government election, on Wednesday took to a peaceful demonstration to make the threat a reality.
The group gave the state governor five months ultimatum to commence the process of election in the council areas or face other legal actions.
The letter addressed to the state governor dated Sept. 16, 2020, and signed by Mr. Osita Obi, Convener of the group, and three others demanded immediate conduct of the polls to ease the suffering of those at the grassroots.
While addressing the participants in Awka, Obi said that the group viewed non-conduct of local government election in the state as ‘criminal denial of citizens’ political right for close to 8-years of the present Administration under Willie Obiano.
The group, however, gave the governor five months ultimatum to commence preparations for the conduct of council polls in the state or face legal action and mass protest.
He said other groups were collaborating with Recover Nigeria Project on the matter including 50 drivers of Great Tippers Drivers Association of Nigeria, Anambra State Chapter, Association of Councillors of Anambra state, among other concerns support groups.
Obi emphasised that a vibrant local government system was a faster means of reaching people at the grassroots.
“If elections are held in the local government areas, it will create jobs, reduce insecurity, and serve as a breeding ground for good politicians.
Obi, who championed the struggle for local government election in Anambra during former Gov. Peter Obi’s administration, said he had no political interest in the demand.
He also appealed to the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Nigeria Union of Local Employees NULGE in the state to join forces to help their colleagues for a better Anambra.
He, however, advocated for total autonomy of the local government tier and commended President Buhari for his recent move to ensure financial autonomy for the councils.
In their separate contribution, the state chairman of Great Tippers Association, Chief Ebuka Davies, and his counterpart of State Councillors Association, Mr. Godson Nnuriam, said it was an infringement of the people’s political right not to allow the people to elect their leaders at the grassroots levels in a democratic system.
Some placards with inscriptions by the groups were also used during the protest, as; “Caretaker Committee are Undertakers, Obiano pays us gratuity, Obiano conduct local government, 8 years staff leave office state government has refused our severance, gratuity, and Allowances, among other demands.
Meanwhile, the state government, in her reaction, has alerted the public of ongoing plans by some tipper drivers in the state to start a politically motivated action.
The plan was to start from Sept. 16 2020 to block major roads and streets, ostensibly to ask for, among other things, an immediate election in the local government system.
The Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment Mr. C Don Adinuba, said the drivers were being manipulated by a desperate politician who cannot wait for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to lift the ban on the electioneering campaign for the governorship elections in November 2021.
“The government noticed that politicians seem too ignorant and desperate to know that the question of an election into local governments in the state is sub judice, as it is, before the Supreme Court.
“Being unable to accept the state government’s victory on this matter at the Court of Appeal, a handful of opposition politicians escalated the litigation to the Supreme Court rather than accept the decision of the Court of Appeal in good faith and prepare
for an election.
“Anambra has over the years remained Nigeria’s safest and most peaceful state, with a level of social harmony unknown
in any other part of the country since the restoration of democratic rule,” he said.
According to him, the security agencies in the state have been directed to ensure that no illegal action capable of disturbing the public peace is allowed to take place today, Wednesday, or any other day in the state.
The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) has also urged Gov. Willie Obiano, to commence processes towards the conduct of free, fair, and credible local government election in the state.
CLO Chairman in Anambra, Mr. Vincent Ezekwueme, said that democratically elected officials at the grassroots would bring governance nearer to the people.
He urged the governor to reconstitute the Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission, to enable the commission to commence the process of conducting the council election.
“The call for council election in Anambra is in tandem with the Constitution, Electoral Act and landmark Supreme Court judgment that asserted that local governments must be governed by elected officials,” he said.
Business mogul and elder statesman, Prince Arthur Eze had also raised Anambra State’s political ante, when he declared that incumbent governor, Willie Obiano, would be made to repay every kobo he has received as allocations belonging to the 21 local government councils of the state since he became governor in 2014.
He lamented that the development and deepening of democracy had been stalled at the grassroots level of the state by the refusal of the governor to conduct elections into the councils. He accused Obiano of handpicking cronies as Transition Committee Chairmen to run the councils’ affairs.
“I want him (Obiano) to know that since he has refused to hold local government elections since he took over power, he must be ready to vomit all the allocations and revenues of the councils at the end of his tenure.“
“He will not go free,” Eze said. “I have taken up the matter formally in writing with President Muhammadu Buhari concerning all Southeast governors, especially those of the geopolitical zone, who have refused to organise council elections but chose to unilaterally usurp the functions and finances of that level of government. They will all be called to account. None will get away with it.”
Since Eze made his view public, certain interpretations had been given to it. Obiano’s government has insisted that whatever hampered the conduct of elections at the third tier of government was not its fault and that funds accruing to councils were being disbursed according to law.
It is not new what local governments have become since 1999 in the country. Various state chief executives have continued to treat that tier of government as an extension of their private concerns, handpicking and determining who runs them and their mode of operations.
The system has become a platform for the settlement of self-acclaimed political godfathers, who gather to handpick those that should serve as either elected or appointed council chairmen to the detriment of the people.
All this is aimed at siphoning the revenues and allocations that accrue to the local councils thereby under-developing the councils. The Southeast zone is not immune to the ugly trend, where these resources are frittered away.