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Fresh concerns over Abia LG polls


As EndSARS protests coincided with the time scheduled for party primaries, stakeholders and observers are worried that aspirants’ and parties’ preparations for the December 2020 Local Government Elections in Abia State may be negatively affected, reports Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu

SOME stakeholders and keen observers have expressed concern over the likely effects of the EndSARS protests on their preparations for the December Local Government Elections in Abia State. It would be recalled that Abia State Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC) had scheduled the election on December 18, 2020, directing that political parties should conclude their primaries between 21st September and 21st October, 2020. Incidentally, EndSARS protests took most of the scheduled time for political party primaries.

Chairman of ABSIEC, Prof Mkpa Agu Mkpa, who made the announcement on the timetable for the elections during a meeting with leaders of registered political parties in the state early September, said interested political parties should visit the office of the commission from September 14 to pick interest forms.

He added that the election will be held in all 17 local government areas and 292 wards of the state for the positions of chairmen and councillors.

As he puts it: “Political parties that are interested in participating in the poll should visit the office of the commission from Monday, 14th to Friday 18th September to obtain the detailed timetable while the date of collection of forms for candidates will be communicated to the parties later.

“Party leaders are to ensure that the prevailing relevant COVID-19 protocols are observed throughout the period leading to the polls and assured that the commission on its part will ensure that the polls comply with COVID-19 safety protocols,” he said.

Mkpa also urged parties to ensure all candidates to be presented meet requirements to avoid disqualification by the commission.”

Today, barely two months to the Election Day, some party chieftains told The Nation that prevailing social realities are hindering effective preparation for the grassroots polls.

“First it was the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic, now the EndSARs protest has made political preparations impossible. Recall that ABSIEC’s timetable said collection of forms for election by political parties would be done on 25th September, 2020, while conduct of primaries by political parties, including resolution of disputes arising from primaries are supposed to be concluded between 21st September and 21st October, 2020. Now, how can we achieve these under these prevailing circumstances? It is worrisome how the current realities would affect the forthcoming December election in Abia State. As I speak with you, Aba, Umuahia and other areas in the state and in Nigeria are yet to fully recover from the EndSARs protests. Do you expect an aspirant to ignore the unfortunate realities on ground and to go ahead to convoke a political meeting; certainly not.  Before the protest, political mobilisation here in Abia was seriously hindered for months by the limitations posed by Covid-19 pandemic,” lamented Chief Agwu Ogwo, from Abia North Senatorial District.

Ogwo argued that given the prevailing circumstances, it may therefore be difficult for the political parties to meet up with the timetable which requires submission of names of candidates to ABSIEC by political parties between 29th October and 12th November, 2020.

The Nation reported recently that political activities in Abia State picked up considerably after the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission announced its readiness to hold the state’s local government election on December 18, 2020.

It was observed then that political meetings, which dropped significantly in the state following Covid-19 pandemic, garnered significant momentum.

Mr. Ndukwe Orji from Item in Bende Local Government Area had confided then that his political party, All Progressives Congress (APC), had commenced grassroots mobilisation ahead of the grassroots elections.

A member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Ikwuano in Umuahia, Kelechi Ugochukwu, also confirmed that the ruling party had made spirited moves to put its house in order in preparation for the elections.

Preliminary preparations notwithstanding, The Nation learnt political activities were largely grounded in the last two weeks following the tensed political atmosphere; a development observers feared may make it difficult for political parties and the candidates to meet up with the official schedule.

“Given the timetable for this year’s local government elections, the last two weeks, in which issues of party primaries were supposed to be resolved, are very critical to the success of the election. Unfortunately, it turns out that within these weeks, Nigerian youths took to the streets, grounding all political, social and commercial activities. I may not be the right person to make demand for adjustment but I can assure you that the effect of the current circumstances on stakeholders’ state of preparation is not palatable,” says Dr. Onyebuchi Uzoma, a social analyst in Umuahia.

Uzoma warned that issues resulting from party primaries must be conclusively resolved before the Election Day as failure to do so will not only hinder development but it will also consume resources unnecessarily. “Any student of Nigerian politics will confirm today that post primary election disagreement is one of the major causes of political violence in the country. Most of the issues that drag on in election petition tribunals have their roots in disagreements during primary elections. So, in the coming grassroots elections in Abia, it will do us good if we ensure that all tangible issues arising from primary elections are conclusively resolved before the elections. That is why I am worried that the current civil unrest may negatively impact on the December election in Abia.”

It remains to be seen how the authorities intend to resolve this problem ahead of the elections.

Credit: The Nation

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