By Ralph Madugu
Ahead of the October 9 Local Government Council elections across the 17 LGCs of Plateau State, a group under the umbrella of ‘Some Concerned Elders of Plateau State’ led by Mr. Dachollom Jambol, have expressed concern over the planned conduct of the LG elections across the state stating that they are “deeply worried about the timing of the elections in view of recent happenings in the state.”
According to them, Plateau State is still mourning the precious lives that were lost and in some cases are still being needlessly murdered especially in Jos North and Bassa that necessitated the imposition of lengthy curfews in at least three LGAs of the Northern senatorial district.
Addressing journalist at a press conference in Jos, the group of elders said “For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to state that we are not politicians and do not belong to any political platform but are a group of elders who are concerned with the peace and stability of the state.
“In fact, we wish to commend the PLSG for making arrangements for the conduct of the elections in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
One major area of concern, the elders said, relates to the timing of the polls is the security of the University of Jos in view of the reopening of the institution for academic activities.
Recalling the recent breach of peace which led to the killing of not less than 38 people in Yelwa Zangam with the 24 hour curfew imposed by the State Government, they elders said while they do not pray for ‘any re-occurrence of the mindless violence that necessitated the closure of the University, they insisted that any event that could result in the breach of the peace in the state or any part thereof, be postponed to allow students finish their 2019/2020 academic session without any threat to their lives.
The elders maintained that their demand is justified by what they described as “the contentious history of Local Government elections in the state from 1999 to date.”
They added that it is on record that these elections have most of the time resulted in violence stating that it was the reason why successive governments have always avoided elections especially in Jos North LGA due to its volatile tendencies and in some cases outcomes.
“It is on record that the present government had earlier in 2018 suspended local elections in 4 LGAs of the Northern Senatorial District including Jos North citing security concerns.
While calling on the on the government and the State Independent Electoral Commission to postpone the polls, the elders said “We can state without contradiction that security arrangements in those LGAs have not improved but rather deteriorated. It is common Knowledge that the curfew in the affected LGAs is still subsisting.”
Making a case for Internally Displaced Persons across the state, the elders implored the State Government “to show more empathy towards the situation of numerous indigenous communities who are still living in IDP camps having been displaced from their ancestral homes due to the violence unleashed on them by land grabbers.
According them, it will be a “great betrayal to disenfranchise” the people in a haste to conduct elections.
“We call on the PLSG to rather vigorously pressurize the state in 2018 pursuant to the Gashish attack and the same to the resettlement of the IDPs.
“We note with great concern the report of the Nigeria Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) that about 15,000 people in all the LGAs that make up the Northern Senatorial District need various forms of assistance.”
Commending the efforts so far taken by government and elected officials in providing relief materials to the IDPs, they maintained that it will amount to a gross betrayal if concrete efforts are not made to return the IDPs to their ancestral homes.
While applauding the State Government and PLASEIC for the determination to hold the LGC elections, the elders however expressed concerns over the process of the elections.
The elders posited that while they are persuaded that in democracy the process is as important as the outcome but reports available suggest that only the ruling party candidates are eligible for the elections of 9 October, 2021.
“We are also informed that the issue of exclusion of some participants is before the Court of law. We therefore would not join issues on the subject matter suffice it to say that participation and inclusion are necessary ingredients that give legitimacy to democratic elections.”
The elders, who frowned at any decision that shrinks the democratic space rather than expanding it to create room for choice, said “We sincerely hope that the statement credited to the Governor of the state during his party rally in Shendam that “l am very optimistic that we will sweep the elections because we don’t have opposition in Plateau State” (as reported in the Punch newspaper of 25 September, 2021) is not suggestive of a mindset determined to unlawfully shut the door against other eligible contestants! Continuing on this trajectory, will only lead to the shrinking and deterioration of the democratic culture we have been trying as a nation to imbibe.
“Finally, we wish to also express our concerns on how the proposed election is being funded. We are also informed that the election expenses were not captured in the 2021 Appropriation Law.
“We are also informed the no supplementary budget has been presented to State House of Assembly to appropriate funds for this crucial public expenditure. What is worth doing, is worth doing rightly; and as the saying goes a stitch in time”, saves nine, meaning if a problem is sorted out at the right time and in the right way, it would save a lot of extra work later,” the elders stressed.