Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
After almost 10 years of flight from the local government system, Abia State democracy is set for a return as voters go to the poll today to elect 17 chairmen and 292 councilors across the state.
The state last witnessed local government election in 2007 at the end of Orji Uzor Kalu’s administration, and at the expiration of the tenure of the elected council officials, successive caretaker committees were appointed to run the 17 councils.
However, the state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, after initial dillydallying over paucity of funds to hold council poll, has decided to end the cycle of appointing caretaker committees to run the councils, and therefore, directed the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC).
The state electoral body ran into a hitch in its preparations for the poll as the owner of the rented property it is occupying sealed it off over unpaid rent amounting to over N8 million. As the anxiety started mounting over the likely effect of the rent issues on the council poll, it was gathered that ABSIEC and its landlord has agreed to settle the issue amicably.
Aside from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which has 17 chairmanship candidate and 292 councillorship candidates, four out of the opposition parties are fielding candidates for the elective positions. They include All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) with 13 chairmanship and 153 councillorship candidates while All Progressives Congress (APC) has 11 chairmanship and 71 councillorship candidates vying for the seats.
Labour Party is presenting two chairmanship and four councillorship candidates while the Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA) could only afford to present 12 councillorship candidates.
Chairman of the state chapter of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Chief Emeka Okafor, told THISDAY that the chairmanship candidates presented by PPA could not afford to pay the nomination fees of N400,000 charged by the state electoral body.
Meanwhile, the PDP, which is the only party mounting robust campaign for the council poll, has concluded its zonal campaign rallies which ended last Monday at Ohafia where party flags were presented to the five chairmanship candidates for Abia North zone.
The state Deputy Governor, Ude Oko Chukwu, while addressing the party faithful from the five local government areas that comprise Abia North zone, charged them to ensure that the ruling party scored 100 per cent at the poll.