In what appears to be a compromise, the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC) has shifted the scheduled local government election from December 17 to 21 2016.
The chairman of the State Chapter of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Chief Emeka Okafor had called for the postponement of the poll on the grounds that the political parties were not given enough time to prepare for the election.
Okafor who is also the Chairman of the state’s Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) requested for the deferment of the election by at least two weeks to enable the political parties to resolve the crisis arising from their primaries.
In addition, he accused ABSIEC of charging outrageous fees for its forms which charges he argued, put undue financial pressure on their candidates in view of the prevailing hard economic situation in the country.
Similarly, the state Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Chief Donatus Nwankpa, noted that postponing the election was imperative because ABSIEC failed to strictly abide by its original timetable for the exercise.
According to Nwankpa, “Our fears include that ABSIEC would not guarantee free and fair poll as the exercise has seemingly been designed to favour the candidates of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
ABSIEC chairman, retired Justice Igboruruike Akomas, in announcing the shift, explained that the change in the date of the election was made in response to the many demands of majority of the stakeholders especially the call from IPAC as well as to enable substituted candidates enough time to market their themselves.
He said that electioneering campaigns would now continue till Monday December 19, assuring the commission would deliver a free, fair and credible local government polls.
Reacting to the new date for the polls, Okafor said it was a step in the right direction that fell short of the desired two weeks.
However, the PDP upped its preparations for the council polls with a formal flag off campaigns ceremonies where party flags were handed over to its chairmanship candidates and their deputies in the state capital, Umuahia.
Addressing the gathering, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu vowed that the era of using unelected political leaders to run the affairs of the 17 local governments of the state was over, as elections would now be conducted on schedule.
He recalled that the last time local government poll was held in Abia was in 2008, adding: “Having decided to revive democratic governance at the grassroots, there would no longer be any interruption of the process.
“If we have been holding election in the past 10 years, by now we would have five successive governments. We have started Local Government poll and it won’t be interrupted.”
The governor charged party members to regard the election as a very competitive, and that they should not assume victory or take it for granted that the PDP is the ruling party in the state stressing, “the only way to win is to campaign well and squarely, you should make your campaign issue-based.”
The state Chairman of PDP, Chief Johnson Onuigbo, charged the candidates to work very hard to justify the confidence reposed in them by winning the poll and in turn assist the government in deepening development at the grassroots.