"Your friend falls, you laugh, your phone falls, and you panic! - Efosa Maxwell Aimiuwu - For a lot of us, there is little we can do when people so far away in Abuja, or so high up the leadership chain are looting the public treasury dry, and from time to time, the likes of the National Assembly would treat us to some mind boggling revelations through their 'dog cannot eat dog' probes. The phone of the friend which attracts more sympathy…
I conducted a small random research, and it was quite revealing, out of every ten persons I talked to, only three knew the name of their local government chairmen, of that ten, only one even knew the name or who their ward councilor was. Six out of the ten did not even know the name of their ward. Five did not know where their local government secretariat, another five did not even reside in their home local government area. We are so bothered about Jonathan, Sambo, and the Ministers. Legislooters and lators, governors, commissioners but we know little of the corruption and maladministration and in some cases a total absence of administration in our local governments.
The question here is, what does a local government chairman do, why are they there, in whose interest was he elected, selected or just a caretaker, how about ward councilors? Today, a man with no shoes, who failed with governing a state, is rewarded with higher task. A cursory look at our system tells you that really the failure of governance is from bottom-up most times, it is not about what happens in Abuja, city centers or state capitals, how about our local governments, your local governments, and my local government.
"Do you know that pension woman that ate with so-so-so million per day", we rant. But how about the local government chairman that eats with several thousand per second, the national assembly members do nothing, how about your ward councilor that converts drugs for the local dispensary for sale at his wife’s chemist shop? We are concerned about a far away focus-less, large bureaucratic and bogus Federal Government, when we could channel our energy to getting good and better governance at the local level. Today most local governments are centers for knitting, or reading newspapers when available, after which salaries are paid out on the 30th day if the money has not been 'wacked' by someone up.
Our constitution reads in its introduction, We the people of the federal republic of Nigeria: Having firmly and solemnly resolved: To live in unity and harmony as one indivisible--We want to live in unity in far away Abuja, but lack harmony in our local communities, we have not firmly resolved at getting it right at the closest level of governance to us. So naturally...the National Assembly which should make provision for statutory allocation of public revenue to local government councils in the federation; and (b) the House of Assembly of States which should make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to local government councils in the States, simply steal the money, cause nobody will ask, no one cares...
The constitutional provisions for which the local governments are supposed to be responsible for are just mere paper assumptions...collection of rates, radio and television licenses, establishment and maintenance of cemeteries, burial grounds and homes for the destitute or infirm, licensing of bicycles, trucks (other than mechanically propelled trucks), canoes, wheel barrows and carts. Establishment, maintenance and regulation of slaughter houses, slabs, markets, motor parks and public conveniences...in 2012 these are issues that sound mundane but have they been effectively done?
How many local governments really have been involved in the construction and maintenance of roads, streets, street lightning, drains and other public highways, parks, gardens, open spaces, or such public facilities...naming of roads and streets and numbering of houses. Refuse disposal, Assessment of privately owned houses or tenements for the purpose of levying such rates as prescribed. How many Councilors know anything about the control and regulation of--out-door advertising …, movement and keeping of pets of all description, shops and kiosks, restaurants, bakeries and other places for sale of food to public, laundries, licensing, regulation and control of the sale of liquor, as provided by the constitution, do these local politicians know their primary duties, or as their senior counterparts are just collecting bogus salaries and allowances for doing nothing.
The provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education, development of agriculture and natural resources, other than exploitation, provision and maintenance of health services are all expectations of citizenry at the local government level too, but how possible is it, when with the exception of a handful, less than 15% of the 774 local governments can boast of independence of any form. Paucity of funds, projects are at the discretion of the state CEOs. They only build culverts, and commission boreholes, pay salaries, loot the rest. In many a state, these local governments are littered with lackeys of the governors or left as consolation prizes for party men.
Like the dysfunctional Governors' Forum, we have an ALGON, which does nothing, all noise, and no substance, safe to conclude that at the local level, it is a breeding ground for local thieves, the nursery school for looting public treasury. If only the local government system can be made to work, although really nothing works, except corruption. If only we could hold the leadership at the level liable, if at local level, councilors go to jail for stealing, if chairmen were impeached for impeachable offences rather than removed at the whims and turns of a power drunk governor.
Through the local government system, we can institute a process of local politics that beget good governance, focusing on the goal and not the post. Yesterday's food find so delighted the hare; the hare went to the spot of yesterday's feeding and never returned. Persistence in risky ventures leads to disaster. The thieves are everywhere... At the local level what we cannot continue like these--time will tell.
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