April 27 LG polls: Explaining discordant tunes in Oyo IPAC  

BAYO AGBOOLA from Ibadan writes about the differing views in the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) that trailed the April 27 Local government polls that held in Oyo state

Ripples generated by the April 27 elections of the Chairmen and the councillors are yet to abate causing fresh crisis within the Oyo state Chapter of Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC). 

While some members of Oyo IPAC are of the views that the election was free, fair, credible and successful, the other side comprising six registered political parties in the state were of the contrary views.

IPAC’s positive report 

It all started when the Oyo state IPAC  Chairman, Otunba Adegbenro Fagbemi, few days after the elections issued a statement where he said the election was a huge success and rivaled an election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

He stressed that the election did not witness any form of violence and was a validation of the people’s will for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to continue in governance in the state.

Fagbemi minced no words in stressing that the April 27 local government polls  was the best in the history of the state in terms of preparations, efforts, engagement and personnel deployed by the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC).

He further said the fact that the opposition parties participated in the election showed their belief in the integrity and fairness of the Olagunju-led OYSIEC.

According to the IPAC Chairman, the  OYSIEC under the leadership of Aare Isiaka Olagunju (SAN), was transparent and followed due process as it began the preparation for the election a year ago and carried along all parties in the election process.

Fagbemi stressed the fact that even though election did not hold in a few units, it could not invalidate the election held in over 6,000 polling units across the state, as no election was perfect in the world. 

He emphasised that the April 27 election was a work in progress and was the best among elections conducted in the state. 

The Oyo state IPAC Public Relations Officer (PRO) Engr Gbeminiyi Ayodele corroborated the IPAC Chairman’s position on the April 27 local government elections, “I am proud to tell you that except the election conducted by INEC in 1999, Aare Olagunju, the OYSIEC chairman conducted 2024 elections can be referred to as one of the best. 

“This election was prepared for like an election that INEC planned for. The electoral law of the nation stipulated that the planning for the election should start a year before the election. Election preparation started 28th April, 2023. In most of the states, hardly would you see a major opposition party participate in a local government election.

“The reason why they didn’t participate was that they believed that it will be as usual, it will be an election that would not be conducted. But this election was conducted under a free and fair atmosphere. The preparation started a year ago and that was why you see APC participating”.

Engineer Ayodele stressed, ”Every election will always have the positive and the negative. But I am glad to tell you that the plus in this election is more than the minus. This is the first local government election in Oyo state that election materials were sighted by all political parties, monitored and dispatched to LGA’S and wards by IPAC organized monitoring agents which are representative from all parties that participated. 

From the report gathered, no LGA or ward that the materials did not get to. It’s on record that there was late arrival of voting materials to some polling units across the state which was as a result of scarcity of fuel and vehicles to convey OYSIEC staff and materials, Fuel Scarcity was a national problem which we have little or nothing to do. 

“Upon receiving the report, the OYSIEC Chairman ordered that elections should continue in those areas until the last people on the queue at the affected polling unit cast their votes. Upon the close of vote on the election date, results were announced at each polling unit, units that election did not hold, the vote was not collated, likewise polling units that witnessed violence. 

“The collation went smoothly, announcements were made, the council humbly urge all parties who have one grievance to approach the tribunal within the stipulate time and stop doing media trials on a concluded process”.

Voice of opposition 

However, six of the opposition political parties that contested in the local government elections faulted the claims by the Oyo state IPAC Chairman and the PRO, especially, the claim that the election was free, fair and credible, alleging that the April 27 local government polls were mere selection and not election.

Speaking through the Oyo state SDP Chairman, Hon. Michael Okunlade, the opposition parties namely the All Progressives Congress (APC), African Action Congress (AAC), African Democratic Party (ADP), Labour Party (LP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), and YP condemned the April 27th local government election in the state, alleging that it was full of deceits and frauds which should not be allowed in the history of local government polls in the state.

Hon Okunlade on behalf of the opposition parties asked the people of Oyo state to disregard the position of the IPAC Chairman and the PRO saying it was their person opinions, “not the position of IPAC”, adding, the “outcome of the election was known to the whole world and the public who at different times expressed their reservations about the so-called 2024 local government elections” and that “in a situation where over 70% of polling units did not receive ballot papers and stingily distributed to some other polling units, can anyone adjudged that as an election”.

“Our observations and position owing to the statement made by the IPAC Chairman, we regret to say that the statement represented his personal opinion and bring therefore, questions of integrity. 

However, we would like to give Otunba Adegbenro Fagbemi benefit of doubt that he probably mistakenly used IPAC name instead of his party, APM, that he represented. And we equally doubt if his party participated in the election. For him to have gone public to have made a statement that OYO LG polls was free, fair and credible is a careless statement that does not represent the position of members of IPAC’ 

Hon Okunlade stressed, “Even as a chairman of IPAC, he does not have the moral right to declare the election otherwise because the ruling PDP is also a member of IPAC.For these reasons, whatever he said must have been to represent the position of his own political party. 

Be that as it may, there is a moral question on the  ipac chairman to have used the name of IPAC in his address.Does he have the moral ground to declare the election either way using IPAC name? No but we understand that this connote possible underpinning factors that made him to make such unjustifiable statements.

“On the process that led to the election, we want the public to be aware that none of the political parties wanted to participate in the election in the first instance going by the experience of local government election conducted by oysiec under the leadership of Aare Isiaka Olagunju in 2021. 

“We were given assurances time and time again that the election was going to be a record breaker in terms of transparency and credibility in the history of local government elections in Nigeria.  Aare Isiaka Olagunju also promised the political parties that His Excellency Engr Seyi Makinde was not going for third term and was going to leave a legacy of free, fair and credible election in the state. 

The opposition parties noted, “He took his time to go public on the media giving assurance on the election.The OYSIEC Chairman even made attempt to use BVAS for the election in order to give credibility to the elections. 

“At that time, the IPAC Chairman was Apostle Oludare Ojo. It was on that honourable arrangement and assurances that all political parties agreed to participated in the election. In fact the assurance also encouraged APC that did not participate in the last election in 2021 to participate in this one in 2024.

“The general perception was that local government elections are always for the party in government. But Aare Isiaka Olagunju disabuse the mindset with an oath that the election would be transparent.”

With or without the disagreement in Oyo state IPAC, the fact remains the the April 27 local government has come and gone and become part of history. The elected Chairmen and the councillors are expected to give the people real dividends of democracy in the next three years tenure in the saddle.