By Richard Thomas, Ibadan
Residents of Oyo State have been urged to develop an interest in the election of political administrators at the grassroots by attaching importance to local government council elections, just as witnessed during the National election.
The Chairman, Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission(OYSIEC), Aare Isiaka Olagunju stated this during a courtesy call of the commission to media organizations, Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) and State Security Service (SSS), Oyo state command, all in Ibadan.
Olagunju, who described the roles of relevant stakeholders as very important in achieving credible election, said active participation of all political parties in election processes was necessary for the development of the state particularly at the grassroots.
He reiterated that the board is not subjected to a certain arm of government based on the law that established the commission, noting that the freedom of the commission would not be truncated.
The board chairman example explained that new innovations would be adopted to put an end to apathy on election day and also ensure the state become a model in the conduct of acceptable local government council elections.
Olagunju, who identified lack of trust from the governed to the government as a major challenge before the board said the commission would continue to do the needful to change the established narratives towards achieving an inclusive and unbiased poll.
He appealed to the leadership of the organizations to continually engage the public to have trust in OYSIEC and prepare to witness a transparent, free, fair, and credible local government council elections during his tenure.
In his words: “There is this fear of insecurity which usually contribute to low turnout during the elections.
“We believe in the security architectures of the State Security Service, Oyo command as well as other security agencies, and we are at the command for both of us to seek collaboration for the management of security architecture during the forthcoming local government elections in order to enhance participation by the peace-loving people of Oyo State.
“We are creating awareness that people of the state should be interested in local government elections, it is not only the national election that their interest should be.
“Their interest should basically be in the grassroots because without a democratically elected local government officer there cannot be a meaningful development at the grassroots, this is why we are urging the people to have a greater interest in our activities.
“We are equally urging all the political parties too, to please, participate in the process, they should have that trust and confidence in us that we will not disappoint them.
On insinuation regarding the usual influence by the ruling parties on local government polls, Olagunju, maintained that section 197 of the Nigerian constitution did not place the commission under any authority except members of the board, noting that the commission has been assured by the government that there won’t be interference as experienced in the past.
“We have the assurance of His Excellency, Governor Seyi Makinde that he is not going to interfere in the process of elections and we believe in him.
“He has given us an assurance that he is going to allow us to perform the responsibilities without undue interference.”
In his remarks, the State’s Resident Electoral Commissioner, Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC), Barrister Mutiu Agboke, harped on the need for the leadership of OYSIEC to operate an open door policy and put all political parties on the same page in the election process to have a change of mind about the usual conduct of local government elections in the history of the state.
Barrister Agboke, while presenting the names of the existing sixteen political parties to OYSIEC boss, hinted that INEC would deploy a team of experts to the commission for training and retraining of both the permanent and ad- hoc-staff of the board for optimal performance.
Also speaking, the Secretary, Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Oyo State, Comrade Segun Abatan, while appreciating Governor Seyi Makinde led administration for recognising the union, said the union would contribute its quota towards achieving an inclusive local government council elections.
“The project is an act of necessity, we are about fifty thousand and we are going to mobilize our members. Also, the union would set up an arm that will sensitize the people on the need to participate actively in the elections.”