Socrates once said, “Where there are a number of laws drawn up with great exactitude, it’s a proof that the city is badly administered; for the inhabitants are compelled to frame laws in great numbers as a barrier against offenses.” One of the greatest American presidents in history, Abraham Lincoln, opined thus: “Public opinion is everything; with it nothing can fail, without it nothing can succeed.” Oftentimes, I am greatly awed by the nation called the United States of America and I must say that it’s pertinent for any reader of this piece to note that I used the word “nation” instead of the more regular word “country”. This great respect I’ve had for America since my adulthood is not based on any kind of obsession or fondness for the nation and I am yet to visit that nation but for the fact that I am always inspired by the ideals and core values of America which resonate deep within the innermost part of every true American.
Another fact I find awe-inspiring is the patriotism, selflessness and ingenuity which their founding fathers displayed during the founding of America at a time when mankind was still very far from civilization as we know it today. Yet, men like George Washington and his compatriots were able to put in place the foundation for the greatest nation on earth, a foundation that has stood the test of time and upon which generations of their descendants yet unborn will have no issues whatsoever in consolidating.
I’m sure by now you are wondering what this long intro has to do with local government autonomy in Nigeria. I’m aware that our educational curriculum has been modified overtime but I’m not aware of what our educational curriculum looked like in the 60s and during the military incursion but being a child of the early 90s, I can affirm that I was taught in Junior Secondary School (Social Studies class) that we have three (3) tiers and three (3) arms of government, the federal, state and local governments and the the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary respectively.
Recently, the executive resurrected the familiar babble about local government autonomy. This time around the Federal government is talking about “financial autonomy” and I’m still wondering if local government autonomy has to be put forward in batches just like the way Nigeria annually calls up young graduates for the national youth service. The Federal Government as well as the state governments and the national and state legislatures should discard the hypocrisy and lip-service being paid to this issue of local government autonomy and bastardizing the word “autonomy” in general. If the Federal Government is sincere about this all-important issue, the president should go beyond giving mere directives and send a bill to the National Assembly with regards to full-time, all-encompassing and permanent autonomy for our local governments most especially now that the much touted “cooperative” 9th Assembly is on ground.
For goodness-sake, the local government is the closest to the people, the masses and the common man on the streets of Nigeria and as such there should be no excuse(s). The checks and balance is already there, the ward councilors will do the work of the legislature at that level and of course the Judiciary at that level in form of the Magistrate Court (I stand to be corrected) is also there. We need to fully activate the various existing checks and balance in the governance of Nigeria at all levels as well as in other institutions and create additional checks and balances when and where necessary so as to entrench good governance and systematically expel unworthy individuals from occupying positions of power in our dear country. It’s about time we discarded unproductive, irresponsible and arrogant practices like, Caretaker Chairman/Transitional Chairman/Local Council Administrator or whatever it’s called being appointed or installed by governors. The SIECs (State Independent Electoral Commissions) should be scrapped and subsequently converted to State INEC headquarters. Local government and ward councillorship elections should be taken over by the INEC and inserted in their elections timetable as mid-term elections to be held nationwide on a biennial basis. The INEC should conduct all elections from the presidency to the ward councillorship. No governor should be allowed to sit down somewhere and conduct cum influence local government elections at his/her convenience. Our leadership should shun the rotten tradition of half-measures or in some cases no-measures at all when it comes to addressing prime issues. I strongly believe that the best politics is to do the right thing.
• Dominic Uzomechina Ugwudike, an aspiring entrepreneur wrote from Abuja