Opinion: State governors and the truncation of governance at the local government level

By Ayodele lawal Adio

In a landmark judgement by Justice Abdulfatai of the Lagos state high court, the erudite judged unequivocally declared that no governor was empowered by the constitution to take over the administration of local governments through sole administrators or caretaker committees. The question, why governors recklessly interfere with grassroots democracy, is one that lies at the very core of governance and a key determinant of socio economic development.

The manner in which state governors have truncated governance at local governments have been nothing short of ignominious and a flagrant disregard of the process that brought them into office. It was Wale Oshun, a former chief whip in the federal House of Representatives that argued in his timeless master piece, clapping with one hand, that “however imperfect the practice of democracy may seem, the heart of it should be the freedom for the people to choose who governs them. That freedom cannot and must not be restricted under and means or excuse. It is when the people have exercised that freedom that they have in turn affirmed the national will or sovereignty as the case may be”. Where this freedom is denied, seized or trampled upon, there is neither liberty nor freedom.

For me the greatest tragedy is the culpability of the state legislative arm that seem to have form a formidable partnership with the executive to continuously game the system at the expense of the rule of law. A nation headed for the cliff can simply be defined as that which its legislators no longer have respect for the rule of law. I strongly believe that the quickest route to national prosperity is to accelerate local productivity which is the exclusive purview of the local government chairmen.

Just recently, the Nassarawa state governor decided to borrow a leaf from his Enugu colleague’s book– governance as jamboree, by swearing in sole administrators to run the local governments in the state. The governor’s apologists have been quick to defend such odium by arguing he invoked the doctrine of necessity. I think it is imperative one clears the air on this highly abused doctrine of necessity upon which such illegality have be perpetuated.

The doctrine of necessity is used to define or validate extra constitutional issues that fall outside the purview of the constitution but are necessary to preserve political stability. In a nut shell, the doctrine of necessity is usually adopted as a contingency to escape a political quagmire. The spirit of this provision is quite clear in that it is introduced to deal with issues not clearly defined by the constitution, one capable of creating social or political unrest. The autonomy of local government chairmen, its roles and responsibilities and of course its boundaries are highly conspicuous in the constitution. As such there is absolutely no need to invoke any doctrine on a matter clearly back by the constitution.

We should ask former governor peter Obi, why local government elections were never held for 8 years in Anambra and more importantly give account for the funds accrued to aforementioned tier of government during the period. We should ask governor Mimiko where he stumbled on the wisdom to run local government elections after 6 years of caretaker committees.

This highhandedness and total disregard for the rule of law by governors in connivance with state legislators must be resisted by all well meaning Nigerians. We cannot allow our rights to vote leaders in our councils be abused by men we elect into office. The words sole administrators and caretaker committee insults the spirit of democracy that confers on the people the right to vote their local government chairmen.

The struggle for the independence of local government is one we must all support as this is the closest tier of government to the people and its impact is directly felt by the citizenry. The bold and courageous display in defence of the rule of law by Mapka Malla, a member of the state house of representatives representing Wamba constituency, must be commended and encouraged. He might have been suspended from his legislative duties, but truth shall prevail and those that have rigged the people of their constitutional right shall soon find themselves cuffed by their own illegality. Without any hesitation we must work together to expel the words, caretaker committee and sole administrator from our political lexicon. That way we can demand improved efficiency at the various municipal point of service across the 774 local governments across the nation.

Ayodele Lawal Adio is the Executive Director of Become Change Institute

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