The Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), the umbrella body of all registered political parties in Rivers State and the Green Party of Nigeria (GPN) have called the bluff of the threat of the main opposition party in the state, All Progressives Congress (APC) to boycott the forthcoming local government elections in the state.
In a press briefing in Port Harcourt, the state capital, IPAC chairman in the state, Mr Samuel Ihunwo condemned the threat of APC to boycott the polls, saying that the reasons for their action were untenable and unpatriotic.
Mr Ihunwo, who is also the state chairman of the Independent Congress of Democrats (ICD) party said that APC, which challenged the removal of its council chairmen by the state governor in 2015 failed to appeal against the ruling of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt which dismissed its suit on the matter.
While commending the state Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC) for planning to conduct local government elections in the state, he observed that a democratically elected government at the grassroots level in the state was overdue.
He however appealed to the state Electoral body to conduct a free and fair election by providing a level playing field for all participants in the polls.
This is the position shared by the state branch of the Green Party of Nigeria (GPN), whose state Coordinator, Mr Alphine Whyte said his party was fully ready and prepared for the election, pointing out that the polls would be the first to be undertaken by his party and therefore a veritable testing ground for his party to prove its popularity.
“First, I must thank them for the boldness to come up with an election timetable to usher us into local government elections. Of course, since after 2015, precisely May when we had a local government election, we have been expecting because at the moment, the local governments have been run by caretaker committees and I don’t think there is a proper legislation backing the caretaker.
“Of course, I agree with the fact that nature abhors vacuum. Somebody must be there to oversee their affairs. But with this recent development of RSIEC of an election, I am happy that the whole thing about caretaker will come to an end.
The grassroots will directly experience democracy as it affects them,” he told our correspondent in an exclusive chat at the party secretariat in Port Harcourt.
Mr Whyte who said that his party was yet to be a member of IPAC however expressed fears about the credibility of the election because, according to him, “he who pays the piper dictates the tune.”
He went on: “however, I have some fears. Within this short period as Coordinator of GPN in the South South, I have been opportune to witness that of Akwa Ibom and Edo states. If what I saw is regarded as local government elections, then I think there is more to it than meet the eyes.
“We have seen situations where the government in power in a given state will ensure that all the chairmen that would emerge in that election are from a particular party. They don’t give room for contest, which is not right.
So, when I heard the news that RSIEC came up with it, I was happy. But in the midst of my happiness, I had the feeling; can RSIEC be an unbiased umpire? Because, there is the saying that he who pays the piper dictates the tune. Won’t they dance to the paymasters?” He asked.
Earlier, at the stakeholders meeting with RSIEC, the state PDP chairman, Bro Felix Obuah had told newsmen that his party was set for the polls and commended the state Electoral body for coming out with the timetable, pointing out that the tenure of APC chairmen who challenged their removal in 2015 would expire on May 25, this year and that a vacuum would be created if the election was not conducted.
Calling off the APC threat, he said, “if out of 60 political parties only one is objecting, then they are on their own.”
A day after the RSIEC announcement of the polls timetable, the state APC told Journalist at a press conference in Port Harcourt that the party will not only boycott the election but would also challenge its legality in the court.