The recent local government elections conducted by the Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission, AKISIEC, has opened up fresh debates on the true independence of state electoral commissions and their ability to conduct free and fair elections.
From the same day the election was conducted, various stakeholders, particularly those from the APC, complained bitterly about being disenfranchised. They cried openly that they were never given the privilege of sighting electoral materials, not to talk of casting their votes.
Managing Director of the NDDC, Mr Nsima Ekere as well as a member of the APC BOT, Atuekong Don Etiebet was among those who never saw election materials in their units. They and other APC sympathisers thronged their polling units and waited on end, but the AKISIEC officials, according to reports, were everywhere apart from their duty posts on election day.
There were reports that a senator was even forced to scale the fence of the AKISIEC office in Oron, for fear of being attacked by rampaging youths suspected to be loyal to the PDP. In any case, PDP is in power in the state. The party won all the 31 local government chairmanship and 329 councillorship seats in the state, leaving the other 11 political parties that contested with no seat at all.
We observe that this has always been the trend over time in all the states. It is only in rare cases that other political parties, other than the party in power, will win a seat. The question to ask therefore is, how come the party in power is always winning, while the others would lose?
It is our candid view therefore, that there could not be a better time to amend the 1999 constitution to take away the powers to conduct local government elections from the states, and allow INEC to handle those elections.
A situation where the state governors are the ones funding the elections and also dictating what the electoral umpires in the states should do cannot be in the best interest of democracy. The sooner INEC took over the responsibility of conducting all elections, from the ward level to the presidency, the better for the country.
We support a constitutional review to this effect and hope that once that is done, there would be a semblance of elections in the third tier of government. Right now, what we are experiencing is a sham, nothing close to elections.