By Ibrahim Sheriff (Gold)
Nigeria democratized in 1999 with the start of the Fourth Republic, structured under three autonomous tiers and arms of government. While we have Federal, state and local governments as the respective tiers, the different tiers are also structured to have three arms of government; executive, legislature and judiciary, at their various levels. Each deriving their power from the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
Just like States, local governments have their powers, areas of control and functions clearly spelt out in the Nigerian constitution, with the ultimate intention to stimulate growth and enhance development at the grassroots level across Nigeria. Unfortunately, the structure of Nigeria politics, where politicians make themselves more powerful than the people continues to jettison democratic institutionalization of the third tier, which guarantees good governance and sustainable developments.
However, one would imagine if a government that rode to power on Change mantra and “OTOGE” exodus, will only be here to continue the phenomenal rots and undemocratic practices we all echoed ‘enough is enough” against.
The appointment of TIC Chairmen, which was, as at last week, being rumored has been confirmed with the pictures of inauguration of the illegal Chairmen by the Deputy Governor of Kwara state, Mr. Kayode Alabi. Notwithstanding, the continued disregard for the people of Kwara state, whose franchise were usurped unexplainably by the ‘Powerful’, with continued silence of the State government over such important issue.
Having affirmed this position, a chronological analysis of local governments in Kwara state indeed, showed that the longest vacuum and aberration in the history of local governments in Kwara state is happening right under our own government of “OTOGE”. A government that promised to change the narratives of the bad old days. We may just be succeeding in changing our democratic narratives more adversely, if the precedence in Kwara’s local government administration is anything to go by.
At the inception of Nigeria democracy in 1999, Kwara like several other states had local government elections, prior to the conduct of general elections, which produced Governor Mohammed Alabi Lawal of late memory. Consequently, Gov. Lawal met local government council Chairmen in 1999 and worked with them till the expiration of their tenure in 2002.
In 2002, when their tenure expired, Gov. Lawal appointed TIC and also created Local Council Development Authorities (LCDAs) at the wake of 2003 general elections and his reelection bid. Unfortunately, he lost the 2003 general elections leaving behind TIC at the helms of local government affairs.
Bukola Saraki, who emerged in the 2003 Kwara state gubernatorial elections, upon assumption of office, dissolved the TIC and LCDAs constituted by Gov. Lawal immediately and conducted proper elections. Observers believed the dissolution of the TIC was a welcome development, however, the LCDAs disbandment is seen as a major setback for local government development in the State, taking cue from its fruition in Lagos and some other states.
In 2006, immediately the tenure of those elected in 2003 ended, another local government elections was conducted, which produced the likes of Toyin Sanusi in Ilorin west.
In 2009, Kwara state conducted another local government elections, with their tenures ending 2012. It is thus suffice to say, Gov. Bukola Saraki never appointed TIC between 2003 and 2011 when he held sway as the Governor of Kwara state. The credibility or otherwise of such elections may be though subject of debate, which can be subjective.
Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, elected in 2011 also met elected local government Chairmen on board, whose tenure expired in 2012. Barely after a year in office, Gov. Ahmed also conducted local government elections in 2012, continuing the uninterrupted chain of democratic leadership in Kwara local governments.
The 2013 local government elections, though marred by apathy, produced the likes of Suleiman Ebedi in Ilorin South, Tajudeen Sulu Oloje in Ilorin west and Barr. Lateef Okandeji in Ilorin East among others. The tenures of those elected in October 2013 expired in 2016.
In 2016, citing untenable excuses of lack of fund to finance LG elections, because of the then opposition’s growing strength, Gov. Ahmed was reluctant in conducting local government elections and therefore opted for the TIC illegality. A move met with stiff opposition by the opposition PDP at that time. Sadly, most of those backing the TIC illegality of Gov. AbdulRazaq today stood vehemently against same.
In 2017, Gov. Ahmed later conducted local government elections, which produced the sixteen local government Chairmen, whose tenure were supposed to end November 2020, but suspended by Gov. AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq consequent upon an indictment in allegations of financial misappropriation and diversion of funds by the State House of Assembly, in June 2019.
The sixteen suspended local government Chairnen remained on suspension till and beyond their tenure. They were conveyed home in the vehicle of suspension after 17months of unending investigation, for which Kwarans are not aware of its state after almost 2years.
Flowing from the above trajectory of local governments in Kwara state, it suffices to say that at no time in the history of Kwara state we ever had our local governments subjected to this magnitude of leadership vacuum, that saw Directors of Personnel Managements, DPMs of local governments and most senior civil servants who manned our LGs for over 17months and even had audacity to inscribe their names on public projects. A groundbreaking anomaly in our democratic sojourn.
Months after the tenure of suspended LG Chairmen elapsed, one would expect that like in 2003 and 2012, Gov. AbdulRazaq would immediately pave way for the conduct of LG elections that will enable the people make their choice of leadership at the LGs, but he’d rather opt for illegality option by appointing TIC. The same action condemned and resisted by the opposition in 2016, for which Gov. AbdulRazaq was a member and one of the aberrations he is supposed to correct as one who rode to power on the mantra of Change.
Just like Gov. Abdulfatah, who gave flimsy excuses of lack of fund to conduct LG elections in 2016, Gov. AbdulRazaq is also hiding under pretense of the Kwara state Independent Electoral Commission being subject of litigation. Even when the same Governor appointed people currently functioning into other statutory commissions; Civil Service and Kwara Assembly Service Commissions, that are also subject of litigation. Is this a case or selective amnesia or feigning ignorance to deliberately insult Kwarans common sensibilities?
This sad development becomes more worrisome, when people whose franchise had just been rascally usurped rise in open celebration of such illegality in the name of political loyalty and when the perpetrators are those elected to right the wrongs of the dark ages. It is now appearing that some parts of the dark ages we rejected were even brighter than some days of the ‘Change’ age we craved and strived to achieve. Like unearned income in the accounting parlance, our Change appears unearned with the current realities.
Now is the time to build our polity around a sustainable public institutions and not mortal political personae. We must consistently act to please the institutionalization of the State and not of individual’s political interests if we won’t be revolving around democratic stagnation or regression. The local governments are institutions whose sanctity must be restored if grassroots development matters to us.