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Published On: Sun, Aug 3rd, 2014

Delta LGA Primaries: Security, Voting Pattern and Matters Arising

Dr Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe
LAGOS 4TH (URHOBOTODAY)-All is now set for the various candidates aspiring for nominations for elective offices under their political parties during the forthcoming Delta State Local Government Elections, to exhibit their political pedigree at the party primaries scheduled for August 7 and 9, 2014. In the last couple of days, the aspirants for the chairmanship positions have been extremely busy making last minutes consultations with stakeholders and party leaders so as to fly their party’s flag at the polls.
There have been reports from some local governments of candidates imposing while in some other places popular candidates were anointed as consensus candidate. Places were candidates were adopted by parties are few depending on the history of election violence in those areas. It was gathered that some parties, particularly the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is mindful of election violence and as such has given marching order to party leaders and elders to help prone down the number of aspirants to manageable size with special consideration on the level of popularity, competence, qualification and loyalty of candidates to the party.
Media reports have revealed that there are wide spread allegations of candidates imposing by some major stakeholders in nearly all the major political parties in all the local governments in the three senatorial districts. It is not however clear which parties are involved in discrete imposition of candidates. It is also of common knowledge that reasonable percentage of Deltans are now more enlightened politically especially with the advent of social media which opened a flood gate of political information super highway via mobile phones and handy communication gadgets. The youths have been sensitized via the social media than normal field campaign. They stay glued to their mobile phones, chatting with friends and sharing ideas and political information on the internet and social media.
During the 2011 general elections, youths across the country captured ward results along with photographs of alleged cases of ballot-box snatching and posted same on the internet. Some of these photo-actions and images were largely used as primary evidence in some states a elections tribunals by virtue of section 83, 84 and 85 of new Evidence Act 2011 which expressly admits genuine electronic images and documents as evidence.
We are here again, this time the local government elections in Delta State. This internal party electioneering event will certainly be the focus of print and electronic media in the coming days and weeks which is why the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC) must do the needful to ensure a hitch-free party primaries across the state. Credible party primaries are absolutely necessary for the survival of our fragile democracy. In recent times, imposition of unpolular candidates has generated bad-blood within the rank and file of some political parties. However, consensus party candidate is reasonable where the candidate is well known, popular and possesses the relevant track record to deliver on promises made to the electorate.
Two key issues must be addressed by the Delta State election umpire and the security operates. First is that adequate combined team of riot policemen and solders must be on ground to checkmate the anti-democratic electioneering activities of some candidates and their supporters. Security operatives should be posted on cross–LGA operations which enables police officers in Ethiope East to provide security in Burutu while Burutu security operatives are made to provide fierce security in another LGA. The soldiers should always be brought from other states on special assignment a day to the party primaries and election on October 25. The reason for these strategies is to foil the tendency of certain candidates going through the back door to influence some of the security operates in their favour.
This has been the case in some party primaries where the process was hijacked by wealthy but unpopular candidates in the open, with their supporters shooting guns sporadically while the security operates watch with absolute dismay. It is therefore very critical at this stage of our political experience to forestall all known electioneering antics and manipulations of the past so as to achieve the much desired free, fair and credible party primaries and subsequently a transparent and peaceful election on October 25.
The second vital issue is that of voting pattern. In the past, the open secret ballot system was adopted which was characterized by fraudulent vote counting and ballot-box snatching. Instances were this happened unpopular but battle ready candidates were declared winners to the disappointment of popular candidates, their supporters and party faithful. In the light of the above, the August 7 and 9 party primaries should be a departure from the old voting methods.
It is strongly recommended that delegates should be made to queue behind candidates of their choice in the open glare and under press and video cameras. The counting is done instantly. In fact, the length of the queue behind a candidate tells the winner. It is simple, straight, free, fair and credible. The Delta State Independent Electoral Commission should adopt this pattern under tight security to curb election malpractices. The video can also be kept as primary evidence in case of litigations arising from electoral issues. It will help the electoral body to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt should any of the candidates challenge the credibility of the voting process in an election tribunal.
Adequate security and voting pattern where delegates queue behind their candidates in an open field will definitely check election malpractices in the forthcoming party primaries in Delta State. August 7 and 9, are critical dates in our electioneering history in Delta State. The security agencies and DSIEC should galvanize efforts to give us credible, free and fair party primaries.

Dr Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe, National President of the Green White Green Vanguard wrote from Lagos

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