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Governors, LGs and Nigeria’s diluted democracy
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 70 per cent 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 different 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, as it is 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, and reports even have it that there has not been any local government election in Anambra State over the past 10 years.
Incidentally, this particular governor came into office via 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. This man has held the state down in an emperor-like manner, playing to the gallery when occasion demands, especially at national events. For those who care to know, I am one of the very few who believe Anambra State can be far better than what we have on ground today, given her vast potentials and manpower. If you are in doubt, check Enugu and Imo states.
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 one tends to wonder how some of them became governors. They make the loudest noise when it comes to issues of resource control, true fiscal federalism, freedom of expression, corruption, marginalisation, sovereign national conference, regional integration and segregation and all those ‘big-big English’ that have no meaning to the common man, and adds little or no value to human existence. They tell lies with every side 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 through the same procedures that brought them to us.
In the midst of this conspiracy, we must, however, commend the governors of the 11 states where we now have properly elected representatives of the people as local council chairmen and councillors. I want to single out Jigawa and Lagos states in this regard. The case of Lagos would have been 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 high-handedness that played out in the process. Eventually, the local government election 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 party is challenging the results in 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 27 LGAs in that state have properly elected local council chairmen and councillors. That state is working, and those who assume that nothing is happening in the North should make a trip to Dutse. I have travelled extensively across Nigeria in the past 12 months and I have observed the quantum of development, especially across Jigawa State. One thing that is working is the governor’s choice to allow for democracy to run its full course at the local government level. This disposition is one of the core reasons why the state is advancing developmentally in terms of infrastructure, agriculture, manpower development, education, health, women and youth empowerment.
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 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 president. They will call him a tyrant and mobilise mobs to occupy the state capitals.
The truth is that we all must agree that any governor that have 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.
But then, majority of the state assemblies are equally culpable in this charade. I wish the masses know how many billions go down the drain as settlement between governors and their Houses of Assembly. The bulk of the money meant for development goes directly to the pockets of a few crooks and their foreign prostitutes.
One of the reasons why state governors and members of their assembly are afraid of conducting elections at the local government level is the massive looting of state 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.
Kolawole wrote in from Oyo State.Share