22nd July, 2011
To come to terms with the crisis of local governance in Nigeria, the entire project of post-colonial state and nation-building needs to be re-examined.
This is in order to attain a coherent, clear and comprehensive vision of democracy and development in which the citizen would be at the centre and the community constituting a prime building block.
A guest lecturer and Director, United Nations Institute for Economic Development and Planning, Dakar, Senegal, Professor Bayo Olukoshi, said this while delivering a lecture in a paper titled: “Building Democratic Local Governance in Nigeria: The Imperatives,” at the third Wole Soyinka Lecture Series sponsored by Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism and The Orderly Society Trust, to commemorate the 77th birthday of the Nobel laureate.
According to him, the need to give more attention to local governance in the quest for democratisation can be hinged on some arguments, which he enumerated as allowing for deeper grassroots participation in the administration of the affairs of the community; offering a viable and sensible framework for citizens to enjoy the benefits of democracy first hand, including the efficient supply of socio-economic dividends; and evolving as the primary site through which a new social bargain between the Nigerian state and the citizenry must begin to negotiate.
He further listed others to include representation of the citizenry as individuals and communities, participation in a manner that ensures the active input of the populace in the exercise of policy choices and the making of decisions, and accountability to the citizenry both in the technical and political senses.
The lecturer stated that it was germane for the media to give visibility and voice to local communities through the reporting of their concerns and, where viable, the opening up of opportunities for community journalism.
Another speaker, Dr. Abubakar Momoh, who is a lecturer at the Department of Political Science, Lagos State University, in a paper titled: “Participatory Democracy and Political Accountability,” said many local government chairmen do not feel they owe the people good governance because they were products of the godfather syndrome.
He submitted that council bosses cannot formulate people-centred policies, which he said, was accountable for why people could not go near them.
Momoh said, â€˜â€˜When election approaches, they go to their godfathers to assist them in rigging. They believe more in their godfathers than in the electorate. The people are disenfranchised and alienated from the political process.
“Local governments are treated with utter disrespect, disdain and insensitivity by state governors and the Federal Government. Their strategic role in social and economic development at the local level is not appreciated.
â€œSimilarly, many local government chairmen, merely view their positions as that of regular disbursement of public money to state governors, traditional rulers, political mentors, their so-called godfathers and/or patrons/hangers on. Hence, all forms of development that ever take place at the local level often come from either the state or FG.â€™â€™
He concluded that the major problem confronting that tier of government was the lack of political will on the part of those who govern.