AKOGUN IYIOLA OYEDEPO
There is a great wisdom in breaking large geographical areas into small units not only for administrative conveniences but also for inclusive participation in governance and human developments in all ramifications. Breaking geographical space into small units is an acceptable world-wide structural arrangement for virtually all nations in all climes. The small units in places like USA, Britain and Sweden are called county or borough. It was part of the structure of administration in pre-colonial old Oyo Empire and Sokoto Caliphate system in what is now called Nigeria. Even under colonialism and early independence, what we call Local Government Area today was then the Native Authority. The essential objective is to bring governance close to the people for rapid transformation of the country. In Nigeria, we have 774 Local Government Councils created through military arbitrariness. Some were created to honour domestic servants of the then men in authority, while even some were created to satisfy sexual bedmates of the then men in political authority. In our weird federalism, they were created and made part of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to enjoy federal allocations from a common pool at the centre. Perhaps, what happens to the Councils of Kwara State might be a national phenomenon that is tragic; Kwara I know and Kwara State problem I can write about, readers especially those outside Kwara State may want to locate the happenings in Kwara State and use it as templates for the understanding of the happenings in their States.
Local Government Areas by the 4th Schedule of the 1999 Constitution is not created to be a mere decoration or a tier of government to be plundered by the Chief Executives of the States. We grew up to know and see the Native Authority, a precursor of the present system, erecting culverts, grading roads, issuing bicycle licenses, building market stalls etc. Even in recent times we know of Local Councils that tar roads, build primary and secondary schools, aid students in secondary and tertiary institutions of learning etc. How come that between 2003 and now our Sixteen Local Councils in the State are now dead? Where are: the construction and maintenance of local market stalls, motor parks, culverts, construction and maintainace of rural roads etc. All these we grew up to know as the major responsibilities of the Local Government in Kwara State. And where therefore are the Local Government contractors; those that make their fortunes doing construction and supply jobs for the Local Government?
The decline of Local Government administration in Kwara State started in the first week of June 2003. That was when Dr Bukola Saraki assumed office as the eighteenth Chief Executive of Kwara State. He took three major actions on his first week in office that only pointed to the direction of the destruction of Local Government in Kwara State. The first was the abrogation without review the additional of Sixteen Local Government Areas created by his predecessor, Governor Mohammed Lawal. He cancelled the additional Local Councils created by Lawal; without reference to the creating authority, the Kwara State House of Assembly. The young, arrogant and inexperienced Governor just cancelled the Councils with mere Executive pronouncements. Since that first action went unchallenged, the systematic destruction of the Local Councils in Kwara State began. Secondly, Governor Bukola Saraki, the erstwhile Executive Vice Chairman of his family Bank, Societe Generale Bank Nig Ltd (SGBN) as an insider that had committed some abuses knew that the Bank was ailing. Yet, he made sure that the April 2003 statutory allocation paid in May was paid into the bottomless vault of the ailing Bank. The money went on a journey of no return. Thirdly, in the same first month of assumption of Office the then governor dissolved the Transition Implementation Committee that he met and refused to replace them for the first six months of his administration. For those first six months, the Governor put the running of the sixteen Councils in the hands of the civil servants under the headship of the Director of personnel of each of the sixteen Councils. The civil servants that took charge for six months were of ‘’am directed’’ and ‘’your obedient servants’’ tradition. By their training, they are to be on tap and never on top. For those six months when growth and developments were arrested, the man on top was Dr Bukola Saraki. No matter how long or late; this man must be held accountable for all the money that came into the sixteen Councils during his first six months as the Governor of Kwara State. Even after the expiration of the first six months, Local Council elections were not conducted. The Governor was perfecting his desire to strangulate the Local Councils of the State. He then appointed the Transition Implementation Committee (TIC) members for the sixteen Councils of the State. The Chairmen and members were placed on meagre salary with two hundred thousand (N200,000) naira running cost. They were not allowed to embark on projects for the duration of six months that the tenure lasted. The appointment was more of sustenance for the boys long dried and drained by poverty, than for the development of the Kwara Councils. Governor Bukola Saraki, the present Senate President should be made to account for one-year development lull when all economic activities were suspended in the sixteen Councils of Kwara State.
Between 2004 till now not less than four Local Government elections had been conducted in Kwara State. We are about conducting the fifth on the 18th of November 2017. None had been free and fair. The coming one has no such promise unless we have vigilant opposition and electorates. The word ‘’independent’’ in Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission (KWASIEC) is a mockery. From 2004 when the government of Governors Bukola Saraki and Fatah Ahmed had constituted the membership of the commission, they have always appointed members of their party or civil servants that are more partisan in their favour even than the card-carrying members of their Party. Sometimes, a person will leave the National Assembly and take up the Chairmanship of the Commission. At another time, a Special Adviser or Commissioner that is no more preferred in government could be appointed a Commission member. If these people fail the test of impartiality in the conduct of Local Government elections in Kwara State, it means they have been programmed to do work of electoral manipulations and fraud. Thus, the experiences here in Kwara State in the four elections thus far conducted; State Electoral Commission members have been card carrying members or sympathizers of the ruling party, with the ruling Party scoring 100% in the elections even when all the Local Government Councils are dying. Could it be that the people of Kwara appreciate the stultified developments in their Councils, hence the ‘’massive electoral support’’ for governments that often ruin the Councils? Could it be that Kwarans reward failures with their votes? Or could it be that the more we are oppressed, the happier we are in Kwara State? And it could be that people and votes do not really count in elections in Kwara State. Instances here had been recorded where even councillors of other political Parties won in elections; KWASIEC returned candidates of ruling Party that failed in elections! In Offa, Isin and Ifelodun Local Government Areas Councillors and Chairmen had won the elections and KWASIEC did not return them. Candidates of the ruling party snatched not only the ballot boxes but the KWASIEC was used by those in power to snatch mandates freely given by the people. There is no greater way to rip-off our Councils than by manipulating the electoral process to favour the incompetent and the undeserved.
In Kwara State there is Executive/Legislative conspiracy to rip-off the Local Councils of the State. When a Party controls the majority or indeed win all the seats in the State Assembly, dictatorship is instituted. So dictatorship is not by the use of guns and decrees alone. A crafty politician can also institute ‘’democratic’’ dictatorship. When men of low self-esteem that are deficient in character and integrity are promoted by a god father to become law makers, there will be an angle of unholy convergence between the Legislature and the Executive. This type of sinister convergence results into an abuse of separation of power without which there can be no democracy. The type of democracy we have in Kwara State since 2003 is one that goes through the rituals of elections, to legitimize the rule of one man. What a democracy!
And how does democratic dictatorship operates in Kwara State? A Legislature that is weak will have the following: Legislators that are weak in character, financially insolvent, deficient in knowledge and ideas. That Legislature is a prey in the hands of the overbearing Chief Executive. Such legislature may not be able to distil executive bills to unwrap the selfish desires of Governor coded in a bill whose intended sole objective is to steal public money and dry up the treasury. That was what happened in a 2004 joint project bill that later become Joint Project Account law passed by the 4th Kwara State Legislature. I often refer to this law as a stealing instrument! The stated intention of this law in the hands of rural development driven governor is good. The intention is State/Local government rural development agenda. It was a law that made for joint contributions for rural development among the two tiers of government. The sixteen Local Government Areas of the State will pay specific amount of money into a designated account to which the State will also contribute. The money so mobilized will be reasonably big to help to embark on meaningful projects in the Local Councils of the State. This can be done one after the other according to the size of money so mobilized. The philosophy is that what one council cannot do alone, joint efforts will accomplish. The designated account for the joint project was opened in the defunct Intercontinental Bank PLC with the State Accountant General and the Commissioner of Finance as signatories. For the years of the operation of this account, Kwara State did not make any payment into the account. In any case while there was an agreement on the amount the Local Councils will contribute into this account, there was no stated amount or percentage that the State should contribute into the joint project account. Yet, the State operated the account. Deductions of money into the project account is usually made at the monthly JAAC meeting where through fraudulent Local Council elections all the sixteen Councils Chairmen who are members of JAAC are not only members of the Party of the Governor but are also his cronies. A peep, into the sixteen councils of the State that are terminally ill; show that the operation of the joint project account is a stealing instrument and another rip-off of the Councils of Kwara State. In the second part of this write-up we shall have a peep into the accounts of the sixteen Councils of the State.
AKOGUN IYIOLA OYEDEPO, Chairman of Kwara PDP writes from Ilorin
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