Obi’s New Headache
After waiting for 14 years for local government election to be conducted in Anambra State, aspirants to the position have decided to give the state government a two-month ultimatum to conduct election into the councils or risk the action of the masses. The aspirants who come under the aegis of Anambra Association of Chairmanship and Councillorship Aspirants, ANACCA also gave the Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission, ANSIEC till the end of this month to release the time table for the elections and as well release the sum of N200 million budgeted for the local polls as contained in the 2012 budget passed into law by the state House of Assembly. A release signed by the chairman and secretary, CAC Nnorom and Chinedu Ifeacho respectively noted that its plan “is to wipe out the plagues of Anambra political development and get elections to hold by June 2012 relying on nothing but the power of the people, which we have stepped out to galvanise.”
Before the latest development, Chief Emeka Onuorah, a chairmanship aspirant for Njikoka under the platform of All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, the ruling party in Anambra State, had filed a case against the state government and its agencies at Ogidi high court, asking it to determine “the constitutionality or otherwise of Governor (Peter) Obi running the local governments through caretaker committees. Onuorah said he took the action because Anambra State “is the only state in Nigeria that has not held local government election since 1998.” He noted that as a stakeholder and a foundation member of APGA, he had decided to put a stop to what he described as a clear unconstitutional action by filing a court action against the state government. ANACCA has its membership cutting across political parties in the state, including APGA.
The last local government election in Anambra State was conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on December 5, 1998. Since the expiration of the tenure of the elected officials in 2002, ANSIEC, which is the body charged by law, is yet to conduct any council poll. The state government has been running the councils through caretaker committees. The state legislature later amended the local government law and pegged a maximum of four terms for all serving members of the transition committee subject to renewal through election by the state assembly, acting as an electoral college. The House renewed the tenure of the present local government transition committees by three months, which will end in June this year.
Recently, the over 300 chairmanship and councillorship aspirants drawn from major political parties in the state demonstrated at the office of ANSIEC in Awka and demanded a date for the conduct of local government election. The group, which was led by Nnorom who is the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP chairmanship aspirant for Onitsha south local government told the acting chairman of the commission, Sylvester Okonkwo that the call was necessitated by the passage of the state 2012 budget, which contains ANSIEC’s allocation for the conduct of the election. But Okonkwo said “there are still necessary processes to be completed before elections can be conducted into the councils. Election is a process and not a one-day event. You should have hope in ANSIEC. We are doing a lot in ANSIEC now. We are preparing, and if you come here within two weeks, you will see a flurry of activities going on. We appeal to you to tarry awhile, as the election is coming very soon.”
The suit by former chairman of ANSIEC, Professor Titus Eze, against Anambra State government for his alleged wrongful removal is still pending in court. Political watchers believe there may be no local government election in the state until the case is dispensed with. This is because the ANSIEC board will not be constituted, which is the first step for conducting elections into the councils. ANACCA has also accused the state attorney general and commissioner for justice, Emmanuel Chukwuma of interfering in the matter. It called on the state chief judge, Justice Peter Umeadi for speedy dispensation of the case. It also wants the case to be transferred to another court within one week as applied for by the attorney general. Alternatively, ANACCA said the state government should apply to vacate all obstacles preventing the speedy hearing of the case to enable the commission have a substantive chairman who will conduct elections into the councils. The Anambra State government has lost the preliminary objections in the case and asked the chief judge to transfer the case to another court.