Benue and Her November LG Elections

Posted: October 15, 2012 in akume george, BENUE, makurdi, political, Uncategorized
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Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam The Benue State Independent Electoral Commission (BSIEC) has fixed November for the conduct of elections into the local government ouncils in the state. KULAS TER takes a look at the recent stakeholders’ meeting preparatory to the scheduled polls and the attendant controversyUntil recently, Benue state had always been in the eye of the storm, the cause of which majorly arose from the 2011 governorship election. While the petition by the state’s major opposition party – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) challenging the victory of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the poll lasted, there were lots of political upheavals between supporters of the two rival parties. In the process, scores of lives were lost and properties damaged.The Supreme Court judgement on the 180 days, which many believed saved the day for Governor Gabriel Suswam, finally put an end to the quagmire, hence the return of peace to the state.And it was probably in realisation of the need to guard against a repeat of the ugly past that the Benue State Independent Electoral Commission (BSIEC) gathered stakeholders at a sensitisation  workshop in Makurdi, the state capital  recently during which it  rolled out its timetable for the conduct of elections into the 23 local government councils across the state in November.The workshop which held penultimate Tuesday at the Senator George Akume Hall of the Local Government Service Commission (LGSC) office complex, attracted a large turnout of politicians and other stakeholders. In attendance were representatives of the major political parties in the state and others that were hitherto believed to have gone under, including the ruling PDP and its arch rival, the ACN. To further underscore the significance of the meeting, traditional rulers and the state governor were also part of it.The newly appointed BSIEC boss, Prof. Philip Ahile, set the ball rolling as he appealed to godfathers and other stakeholders not to sabotage the commission’s efforts, warning that anyone caught circumventing the rule would be prosecuted in line with the Electoral Act.Ahire, who promised a level playing field for all political parties, assured of adequate security to be provided for both the staff and the voting population, and promised that the security challenges in some parts of the state would in no way affect the conduct of the polls.In his remark, Governor Gabriel Suswam promised to give the Commission a free hand to enable it achieve a hitch-free exercise, adding that the state government would timely provide funds and logistics for its smooth conduct. He however warned that as the chief security officer of the state, he would not tolerate any act of misconduct from anybody, irrespective of status or political affiliation.He charged the state electoral umpire to do everything possible to remain neutral in order to avoid any form of acrimony that could be detrimental to the development of the state just as he appealed to all the stakeholders to play the game according to the rules to avoid chaos as they go about their campaign, describing political tolerance as key to any successful democracy.Curiously, the forum came shortly after the state chapter of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), led by its Chairman, Engr Baba Agan, accused the BSIEC of placing the interest of the PDP over and above other political parties by allegedly releasing the election  timetable to the party. To this end, the group threatened to pull out of   the poll if the commission was not neutral to all.High cost of nomination formsAs a show of its disenchantment, the opposition members never hid their position on the cost of obtaining forms, which they noted was rather on the high side. Agan, who spoke for the opposition at the meeting, later told journalists that the N2.5m tag on chairmanship and N500,000 for councillorship, was very high and appealed to the electoral body for a review.While accusing BSIEC of trying to kill other political parties, he also accused the governor of appointing persons that would do his biddings in the conduct of the poll, into the body, adding that BSIEC by law, was expected to give political parties three months notice for preparation. He further said that the political parties ought to have had the timetable long before the stakeholders’ meeting to enable them study and make the right input into it.Describing the programme for the elections as a kangaroo arrangement, Agan declared, “After all, a professor has never conducted a better election as far as this country is concerned.”The misgivingsDuring the sensitization workshop, former commissioner for Water Resources in the immediate past administration in the state and a chieftain of the ACN from the Benue South-south senatorial district, Hon. Benson Abono expressed reservations on the constitution of the BSIEC and reminded the forum that Ahire lacked the moral right to head the electoral body. This, according to him, was because the commission’s boss had served under the Suswam administration as Senior Special Adviser (SSA) and wondered whether he is truly not a card carrying member of the PDP.The apprehensionsOne of the leaders of the ACN and  Senate Minority Leader, George Akume, had at a public function, told the party’s supporters at St. John’s Day Secondary School, Gboko’s football field, that the party was not making any arrangement to go to court on anything concerning the local government elections.Akume specifically told the gathering that if the PDP can go all the way in allegedly manipulating both the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the judiciary that were not answerable in any way to the state government, the ACN as a party would not waste its time and resources with a judiciary and an electoral body formed and funded by the same Suswam-led PDP government.While charging party supporters to be watchful and alert during the Councils polls,  Akume urged  the electorate to stay back after voting to ensure their votes really counted, adding that time had come for people to die for a just cause. He stressed that when the time comes, everything would be decided at the polling units and collation centres.It is however contended by analysts that Suswam may have set a booby trap for the opposition, as their protest of some perceived lapses would ultimately be a reason for the extension of the unstipulated tenure of the present caretaker committees.They pointed out that the BSIEC chairman, who until recently was the governor’s aide, was seen working for the  PDP during  the 2011 general elections. Observers also believed that giving the manner the state/local government joint account was being run, Suswan would certainly want the status quo sustained through a supposed democratic process.From available records, the state has had more than enough of its share of crises and cannot afford to plunge into another round of chaos. The ball is in the court of the umpire to shape the path


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