- FCT residents, registered to vote, have an opportunity to vote for their preferred local council leaders on Saturday, February 12
- Election experts say elections aren’t complete or credible until they represent the voices of the electorate
- All eyes are now on the residents of the Federal Capital Territory as they elect their leaders at the local level
FCT, Abuja - Nigerians residing in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja will be heading to the polls on Saturday, February 12 to elect new local area council chairpersons and councillors.
478 candidates will battle for six chairmanship positions, while 62 candidates will slug it out for the councillorship positions. Also, only 9% of candidates for the various posts are women.
The six area councils in the FCT are Abaji, Kwali, Bwari, Kuje, Gwagwalada, and Abuja Municipal (AMAC).
Political parties that are fielding candidates in the election include Action Democratic Party (ADP), All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Allied Peoples Movement (APM), African Action Congress (AAC) and Labour Party (LP).
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1,373,492 registered voters are expected to participate in the elections in 2,229 polling units across the Nigerian capital.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is also deploying three national commissioners and six resident electoral commissioners with about 12000 staff to conduct the election.
While preparations are in top gear, stakeholders are worried about voter apathy and vote-buying rearing its ugly head again during the elections.
Both situations have been recorded during past FCT area council elections, prompting concerns from election observers.
Observers say vote-buyers are bolder when there is voter apathy
Samson Itodo, executive director of observer group, Yiaga Africa, captured it saying, succinctly:
“Secondly, the turnout for voters at the elections have been appalling and Yiaga Africa working on elections is very disturbed like other stakeholders and we are very determined to change this.
“So we encourage people to come out and get the leadership that they want, the more you stay away from the voting centres, the more you are going to have political actors subvert the will of the people.
“Riggers rig because people don’t come out for elections, so one way to stop politicians from rigging elections is to come out en masse to vote, stay at the polling station until ballots are counted and results are declared.’’
In a message addressed to FCT residents, an electoral knowledge and innovation one-stop-shop for sustainable democracy, Electoral Hub noted:
“In a democracy, political participation is the cornerstone of citizenship. You have a right to vote, and your single vote determines how freely you may enjoy your other fundamental rights.’’
CLEEN Foundation also informed Nigerians that
“Voter apathy is a threat to Nigeria's democracy and affects the quality of leadership you enjoy.’’
INEC speaks on its preparations, vows to punish voter buyers
On its part, INEC has warned political parties to shun vote-buying during the election or face the full weight of the law.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave the warning in Abuja, recently at a stakeholders’ meeting, saying said the ban on the use of mobile phones and other photographic devices at voting centres is still in force.
Yakubu noted that voter inducement in all forms, including vote-buying at polling units, is a violation of the law.
He disclosed that the commission has accredited 58 observer groups, deploying 2,242 field observers, including 45 media organisations deploying 340 journalists.
He said 593 polling units in the nation’s capital are without registered voters, 1,328 units have between 1-50 voters, while 546 others have over 1,000 registered voters.
Yakubu declared that election would not take place at units without registered voters, adding that materials were not produced for these units and no personnel would be deployed to them.
Abuja, a cash cow for politicians, residents not interested in elections, says Analyst
Meanwhile, the coordinator of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Emmanuel Onwubiko, in an exclusive chat with Legit.ng, said that FCT residents have lost interest in Abuja politics, saying that majority of them are not even aware that an election will be held in a few days to come.
He further alleged that politicians have converted the nation’s capital into a cash cow, as they constantly troop in to influence elections into various positions.
Onwubiko cited the example of the committees set up by political parties where they put governors in charge of the election.
According to him, that singular act signifies their interests in capturing Abuja for their own interests.
He said ordinarily, Abuja is supposed to be a megacity where businesses and other things thrive, but that, unfortunately, nothing works in the nation’s capital.
The infrastructural deficit in the Nigerian capital
Over the years, it has been observed that since a former FCT minister, and now the governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai carried out a major developmental reform in Abuja, the city has been struggling to survive
Residents say most roads at the satellite towns are completely impassable while many towns have no access to portable and treated water as most residents rely on alternative water supplies to their homes through the sinking of boreholes.
A borehole expert and geologist, Engr Emmanuel Ibeh told Legit.ng at Dutse Alhaji that in this community, almost all landlords have sunk boreholes because they don't have access to pipe-borne water.
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“If those who live in Ushafa, just a stone throw from the dam that is supposed to supply the entire Abuja water have no access to water, how do you expect us down here to have access to water?
“Now, they are calling for our votes. Very soon, we will go into the national election. How long will things continue like this?’’
As the FCT area council elections hold on Saturday, February 12, one can only hope residents will stop complaining and start voting to ensure change.