All eyes are on Oyo State as it relates with the postponed local council poll. You have been laying emphasis on the importance of the election. What is your party’s postion now?
The position is very clear. The election was planned for February 11, 2017 and the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC) who was the electoral umpire already told us that that day was sacrosanct before the injunction restraining them came from one Federal High Court in Abuja. Before this happened, OYSIEC came up with a time-table which was released on November 14, 2016. When it was released, we in Accord and other political parties in the state noted that the time-table was lopsided. In that time-table, they expected the primaries of all the political parties to be conducted between 16th and 19th of the same month. We then told them that it was unrealistic, unacceptable and unworkable.
At the stakeholders’ meeting called by OYSIEC, the political parties, including the All Progressives Congress (APC), told them our decision on that. But our complaint seems not to go down well with OYSIEC as they said they were going to get back to us. Unfortunately, they did not get back to anybody and the political parties, individually as well as under the auspices of the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) wrote several letters, made several representations without any result and, until last week, there was nothing on ground to show that OYSIEC was prepared for the election. All the activities that were supposed to have taken place, none of them took place.
Until last week, when they came out with the revised time-table which was more lopsided than even the first one. In that revised time-table, they said collection of nomination forms will take place on the 26th, 27th and 28th of January and they said submission will be on the 26th; that is what was written on the time-table!
What is your view on the court injunction?
I want to believe that this court injunction should even serve as a saving grace for OYSIEC because I don’t know how they are going to conduct that election. All the political parties accepted February 11, 2017 but all the steps that were supposed to have been taken, none has been done. Even the conduct of primary election, which was supposed to be the first thing, has not been done by many of the political parties. As we speak, the ruling party in the state, APC, has not been able to conduct its primary for its candidates till the court injunction came.
So, we were of the opinion then that maybe OYSIEC was even trying to tamper with the time-table by extending the date for the submission of the list of the candidates of the various political parties to accommodate APC because it is the ruling party and we made the people to know, through the media, that OYSIEC was adjusting the time to January 26 in order to accommodate the interest of APC.
As a legal practitioner, what do you think are the implications of the injunction especially coming from outside the state?
Yes, the thing is that the law is a kind of a funny phenomenon. In law, when anything or any issue comes up before any court and that court has made its pronouncement, that pronouncement must be obeyed; whether it was wrongfully done and whether they have jurisdiction or not, you must, first of all, obey that pronouncement. After obeying the injunction, you can also take legal procedures to vary, alter, vacate or completely set aside the particular injunction through the process of the law. So, the laws are very clear on what can be done.
Again, it was in a Federal High Court and a Federal High Court in Nigeria is one jurisdiction and anything federal can be instituted in any part of the country, for as long as it is a Federal High Court matter. So, the argument of some of the people that why should the issue concerning local government election be taken to a Federal High Court, they were not able to see who were the respondents in that suit. The respondents included the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and a lot of other federal agencies, even including, I think, the Attorney General of the Federation. You cannot drag all these people to a state High Court.
Also, the issue taken to the court goes beyond the issue of restraining OYSIEC from conducting election alone. They also went ahead to say that the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) should not release the money due to local government areas in Oyo State to them until they are sure that the money will not be used for the LCDAs. So, the creation of the LCDAs was what the plaintiffs were actually targeting.
You see, it is always good for a government to listen to the people; don’t always say people are talking because they are in the opposition. When the government created these LCDAs, we did talked about it. But when we spoke, nobody was listening to us.
And in Oyo that we are talking about, you will discover that the entire Oyo Federal Constituency, comprising four local government areas-Atiba, Oyo East, Oyo West and Afijio- are part and parcel of Oyo Central Senatorial District. Now, you have taken part of Oyo Central Senatorial District to Oyo North because Oriire Local Government Area belongs to Oyo North Senatorial District.
So, all these are some of the reasons we heard were responsible for those people complaining about the creation of LCDAs and which was the reason for them for going to court. Whether they have used the right avenue to ventilate their grievances; whether the court have jurisdiction or not, as some people are arguing; whether that injunction is right or not, that injunction has come and nobody should endeavour to go against the injunction of the court, except that person is risking the contempt of the court.
Barring the court injunction, is your party ready for the local council election?
This can be confirmed from OYSIEC; I make bold to say that our party, Accord, I cannot say we are the only one but I am sure we are one of, if not the first political party, to conduct our primary. We did not just conduct our primary, we started with the selling of Expression of Interest Form; we conducted our screening. Then, we now fixed the date for the conduct of our primary for our candidates. When we were about to do that, we instructed all our local government chapters to write to OYSIEC in their respective local government areas. They came back with a report that they couldn’t find their offices. We gave them further directive that they should write directly to OYSIEC, which they did. And, with gratitude to OYSIEC, when they received our letter, they went to all the places where we conducted our primary to monitor the exercise and they have their report. If you go to OYSIEC, they will tell you that Accord is the only political party that has conducted its primary. We invited OYSIEC, the police and the DSS; all of them have their reports.
Culled from Tribune