The question above would not be necessary if Nigeria were a country where everything is normal. There are a lot of unresolved contradictions as to the administration, performance and operations of Local government administration in Nigeria as enshrined in Section 7 and other similar sections of the 1999 Constitution. The confusion is more compounded by the sections which gives similar and controversial roles to both the National Assembly and the State Assemblies. Another is the problem of creation of state joint local government account for the purpose of receiving allocations from the federation account as appropriated by the national assembly, the same role the State Assemblies are to perform in Section 162 (8) of the same constitution. These anomalies are being expertly exploited by the state Governors to perpetrate fraud against Nigerian people.

At the resumption of the fourth republic in 1999, the local council election was conducted nationwide by the federal Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC ). The election produced results that was fairly acceptable by all across the country. The common man had the opportunity of playing critical role in determining who becomes the candidate of the party. There was limit to the power of “godfathers”.

The country was also blessed with some matured Politicians who later became Governors in their different states at the time. These Governors allowed the elected executives of local government in their states to operate freely without any hindrance. The controversial Joint account with the state was never in the dictionary of the country during the period under review. During this period, that is, 1999 – 2003, Chairman of a local government can make a campaign promise and he can be wholly held accountable for the fulfillment of that promise or otherwise. The Chairman have all the powers to appoint those that would be in his cabinet without any influence from the state. A Chairmanship aspirant does not need to know the Governor before he can emerge as the candidate of the party.

Regrettably, the story changed in 2003 when Politics became a do - or - die affair courtesy of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his party, the PDP. Obasanjo probably felt so embarrassed that despite being a Yoruba man that no state in the southwest was under the control of the PDP. He wanted a second term badly and if he cannot get any support from home then how can he ask outsiders to support him? He allegedly entered into an alliance with the AD Governors in the West, a pact that eventually marked the political suicide of majority of those Governors except a certain Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Lagos. Tinubu was smart enough to discern that Obasanjo cannot be trusted from the beginning. He was right.

It happened that the AD Governors were campaigning for Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP in Yoruba solidarity while Obasanjo and his foot soldiers in the PDP were digging their political graves. It was too late  before the true motive of Obasanjo was revealed and nothing could be done to salvage the situation. The election came and PDP swept everywhere in the Southwest except Lagos. The same happened across the country. That fraudulent success was well developed into a formidable winning formula over the years until the PDP became the Giant and a Party that would rule Nigeria for 100 years without break in the dreams of the top party national officials at the time.

The desperation to grab power at all cost caused the PDP officials to jettison quality for quantity. It was evidently clear that they were not interested in character of whoever emerges candidate at different levels as long as the candidate has some money to throw around irrespective of the source. All manner of clowns emerged and became leaders in Nigeria. Thugs and cultists found themselves in position of authority, making decision for and on behalf of the people. Against the constitution of the party, new entrants and defectors with deep pockets were granted waivers to contest at kangaroo primaries. That a candidate had won at the primaries was not a guarantee that such candidate would be flying the flag of the party. Harlots and concubines of party bigwigs were rewarded with tickets and appointments. The level of impunity was so much that Nigeria democracy was thrown back into abyss.

The 2003 Politics was a battle of power and money. Obasanjo who had the power of President and Commander - in - Chief provided a buffer for the stinkingly rich candidates of his party. After the elections, the new state chief executives had to recoup their expenses and also to make profit having spent so much and so the local government funds became one of the casualties. The states took over the local government allocations deceptively via the deficiencies in the constitution in what is now known as “joint account”. The implication of this is that the performance of a local council executive Chairman is dependent on as far as the Governor allows it to be.

Unfortunately, the hands of the local council executives are tied because they are mostly selected and not elected into their offices. Hence, they remain in the office at the mercy of their master, the Governor. The damage done to our democracy by the Governors through their cronies in the State Independent Electoral Commission is second to none. The SIEC only mandate is to return all candidates of the ruling party in all the wards and local councils in the state. It doesn’t matter what happened at the polling units on the election day, the results to be announced are already prepared. The election only needed to be staged so as to fulfill the constitutional provision.

As at today in Nigeria, local government elections is almost a one - party affair. This is because the other parties already know that it would be a waste of time and resources to contend with the ruling party in an election organised by a State electoral body fully under the control of a Governor. Whoever get the ruling party ticket automatically becomes the winner. To make matter worse, the candidates in the party will begin to run to the state for endorsement. The Governor who in turn desires an absolute control of power at the grassroot will then find among such aspirants the one more loyal to him in servitude. Such candidate becomes the aspirant and the eventual winner whether the people like it or not. This is why their allegiance is to the Governor and not to the people. Too bad isn’t it?

At the end of it all, what comes to the people as local government Chairmen are paper weight. They only exist in names with no capacity to bite. They get salary alert every month and some other side benefits though but are never in position to perform their core constitutional duties due to lack of fund from the state. Worst still, the Chairman will still throw in their neck at any slightest opportunity to defend their masters so that they can continue to perpetuate themselves in office. At any sign of disloyalty, such Chairman is out immediately.

We are now in 2021 and  another round of local council election is drawing nearer especially in Ogun State. As usual all the known contestants so far has been from only one party, the APC. These candidates have started making promises in their posters and media adverts, promo and jingles. Some of these candidates no doubt have certain degree of quality but can they sincerely manifest all those campaign promises upon assumption of office? I think these are the issues the candidates needs to be addressing and not just making promises on the posters and issuing frequent political statements without any convincing strategic backup.

 Abel Babatunde writes from Iwoye – Ketu, #Zone4, Imeko-Afon LG, Ogun State.

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