Enough of illegal regimes in Local Govt
CONSTITUTIONALLY, we have 774 local government areas (LGAs) in Nigeria today. Some states have gone ahead to create additional units referred to as local community development areas (LCDAs). Over seventy percent of these LGAs and LCDAs are under the siege of a strange and autocratic leadership concept called interim management committee (IMC) and popularly referred to as caretaker committee (CTC). Under the IMC structure, state governors in wicked collaboration with their state houses of assembly unilaterally hand pick cronies and proxies to sit and act as sole administrators of local councils with a few other people selected via absolutely unconstitutional means to oversee the administration at the local level for periods ranging from three months to three years in some instances. The case of Anambra State is very interesting, undemocratic, irritating and pathetic. The governor of that state for whatever reasons, has consistently refused to conduct election into local councils in the last six years of his tenure and reports even have it that there has not been any local government election in Anambra State over the past ten years. Incidentally, this particular governor came into office via an election process that was not just clumsy but also exhaustive to say the least. One would expect, that considering the wearisome circumstances that eventually led to his emergence as governor, he would be one of the staunchest advocates of democratic tenets, institutions and the rule of law to put it in clear terms. The opposite is the case.
It is however, equally important to note that the governor of Anambra is not alone in this onslaught against democracy at the grassroots level. He has his co-travelers in almost every region of this country. They are so arrogant and ignorant that sometimes you tend to wonder how some of them became governor in the first instance. They make the loudest noise when it comes to issues of resource control, true fiscal federalism, freedom of expression, corruption, marginalization, sovereign national conference, regional integration and segregation and all those big-big English words that have no meaning to the common man and adds little or no value to human existence. They lie from all sides of their mouths and most of them are worse than traitors. My take is that we must bring these state governors to obey the laws and the same procedures that brought them to us.
In the midst of this conspiracy, we must however, commend the governors of the eleven states where we now have properly elected representatives of the people as local council chairmen and councilors. I want to single out Jigawa and Lagos State in this regard. The case of Lagos would have been excellently remarkable but for the series of allegations and counter-allegations from various angles pointing to the deliberate manipulation of the outcome of what would have been a very perfect model for others to follow. We all saw the immaturity and highhandedness that played out in the process. Eventually, the LG elections conducted in Lagos was far from being free and fair. I always believe that unfairness to one is unfairness to all but in any case I am aware that the opposition is challenging the results in the courts. What democrats must continue to remember is the fact that minority must have their say even when the majority will have their way. When you stifle the minority, you are technically setting yourself up for possible counter insurgence, a situation that may likely breed internal terrorism.
The case of Jigawa on the other hand is instructive; all the twenty seven local government areas in that state have properly elected local council chairmen and councilors. That state is working and those who assume that nothing is happening up north should make a trip to Dutse. I don’t really buy the bundle of arguments put forward by some of these governors who have deliberately and technically decided to kill democracy at the grassroots level. They don’t have any excuse under the heaven and I think we must all rise up to challenge them legally. The attitude of these governors can be likened to that of a President refusing to allow for governorship elections in the federating states. By now, some of these governors would have instigated all kinds of crisis to make the nation ungovernable for such a president. They will call him a tyrant and mobilize mobs to occupy the state capitals. The truth is that we all must agree, that any governor that has so far refused to conduct local government elections or set in motion the process of election at that level in their various states are despotic, undemocratic and should be recommended for impeachment if their state Houses of Assembly are still alive.
One of the reasons why state governors and their Houses of Assembly are afraid of conducting elections at the local government level is the massive looting of funds meant for grassroots development via the constitutional anomaly called Joint Account. Technical looting is going on behind the scene and the state governors are settling house members heavily to keep it that way. Their arguments are always shallow and suspicious and it is only the unschooled that will think they are sane. My suggestion here is total abolition of anything called joint accounts between states and local governments. And this brings me to the clamour for an amendment of the constitution in favour of local government autonomy. It is what we need in this country right now.
Another reason I have observed is the remote desire of state governors to keep the poverty structure of their various states intact so as to make economic empowerment and development a function of their crowded emotion. By this, I mean they enjoy dispensing favour to only those who bootlick around them or run dirty errands for them with funds meant for the development of local government areas. A governor sits in the snug government house and awards a contract for a remote rural road in a community hundreds of miles away to a stooge without due process or any form of community input. Then you have a situation again where the governor uses the resources that would have provided clean water for rural dwellers in some villages to erect useless statues within the state capital in the name of urban renewal. It is immoral and like I say so often, these men will reap the whirlwind either here or the hereafter. Urban renewal in the face of extreme urban poverty will eventually lead to urban ruin.
The deliberate attempt to indirectly continue to promote a sense of insecurity which shields governors from being accountable to the people they govern is another major reason why they are afraid to have elected local government administrators at the grassroots level. They want people to continuously be afraid and thereby forget about asking questions about how government resources are being spent, so they tactically sell fear to the public by sponsoring apprehensive events.
The other issues are personal ego which will not just kill democracy but give birth to a dangerous dimension of chaos which may be greater than what we see Boko Haram doing especially in the north-east region. At the peak of this insensitivity is sheer wickedness. The baseline of course is the fact that all these add up to one thing, and that is corruption with a capital c. The madness of wanting to take everything to oneself at the expense of the entire society is a wicked phenomenon. I think it is senseless to work against the same system that brought you to public relevance just because you now feel insecure in your new position. One of my friends has argued extensively that most of these governors were never democrats in the true sense of the word, they are mere opportunists and they will not change until they are dragged out by vicious means.
I hope the twenty five other governors who are yet to decide on making democracy work in their states will see this as a challenge and set in motion almost immediately the necessary machinery to have local government elections conducted under a free and fair atmosphere.
And as for the supposed powerful who sit in the recess of their palace to cook election results at will, terror will soon knock at your doors.
Kolawole wrote in from Dominion Villa, Ikoyi-Ile, Oyo State.Share