REPRESENTATIVE government is the hallmark of democracy. In Nigeria, local government was instituted, pursuant to achieving this, even at the most remote segment of the society. This tier of government is the closest to the people.
Prior to the Local Government Reforms of 1976, administration at this level took various disuniform structures across parts of the federation. Never, before that year, did the local government administration assume a level of high conceptualisation as the reforms imbued in it. This gave credence to what we have today.
Down the line of history, standards set had it that appointment into political offices at this level should come through elections, which, initially were scheduled to hold at intervals of 4 years. The reforms, a creation of military government, suffered implementation setbacks, especially in areas of appointments of headship into its successive governments as the military junta appointed members into the council as it chose. Thus, we had at its head at several times, chairmen, caretaker chairmen, sole administrators and the likes at its beck and call.
Since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999, elections have become sine qua non to having cabinets in place at this level. However, further reforms reduced the term of governance to 3 years while elections are to be conducted by electoral bodies set up by state governments, referred to in the suffix ‘SIEC’, i.e. State Independent Electoral Commission. These are facts backed up by appropriate sections of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended.
Unfortunately, aberrations have almost completely displaced these constitutional provisions, such that in most places, state governments from time to time stage-manage elections or even manipulate events such that instead of elections, selections carry the day. Opposition parties worsen matters through litigations, which their inconclusive nature scarcely allows for elections into this vital tier of government. In all, subsisting judgment of the Supreme Court has finally pronounced caretaker administration illegal and unconstitutional.
Recent developments in the State of Osun saw us nosediving from known high standards and reputable pace-setting traditions, especially the strides and feats recorded in years back, when a model elective parliamentary system was introduced, following the creation of more Local Council Development Authorities (LCDAs) and Area Offices (AOs), bringing the total number of councils to 67. The best tradition, which aligns with democratic ideals, was the conduct of elections, the like of which saw the light of day on January 27, 2018. Any arrangement falling short of this will work contrary to best democratic ethos of the progressives. We should not stoop that low.
As one good turn deserves another, the elections under reference, which produced the local government parliamentarians whose tenure just expired, deserve continuous replication. Though criticised popularly for lacklustre tenure and apparent lack of political willpower, the tenure was rancour-free and the manner of emergence of functionaries far less strenuous, less expensive and very easy to manage.
At best, and in copious fulfilment of his promises during the inaugural meeting held with council managers, holding the fort as helmsmen over local government structures in the state, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola is urged to make the period of interregnum, during which the civil servant appointees and/or any other caretaker managers will hold sway brief. At the expiration of their unconstitutional stay, they should be replaced with duly elected parliamentarians, in the best elective traditions, in tandem with the Republican Constitution of 1963. The National Assembly should choose the path of virtue: offering the very best to the Nigerian public by embracing options that will serve its best interests; reverting us to that Republican order, especially at the local level, is best for all time.
Above all, all encumbrances obstructing smooth transition at the grassroots level could be conveniently swung overboard if conduct of elections into that level of governance is reverted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and if the system is made parliamentary, leading to the emergence of a collection of equals, among which a chairman eventually emerges.
This is the clear, right and legal way out of the current doldrums.