Local Government Autonomy: A Dangerous Landmine By Adewale Adeoye

Our breakfast was roasted cocoyam, red oil and a lot of onions and tomatoes. For a long time, I have not had such a sumptuous and indigenous meal. Before we set on our different ways, we had had discussions for about an hour at the restaurant located in the basement of the small but cute hotel. That was some months ago.

 He was set for East Africa.I was set for Accra, Ghana, but somehow, we met at the airport again and continued the discussion for another half an hour.

 My friend is a member of the National Assembly and confessed he would have supported LG autonomy if we had not met. He promised to reach out to some of his colleagues from the same zone.

 My discussion with him convinced me of one thing: A lot of people, high and low, armed and defenceless people alike are disgracefully ignorant of the concept of Local Government Administration.

I think many NULGE officials are, though some of them support LG autonomy with the hope it would give them access to power and resources, without state meddling, not for utilitarian good. The Nigerian authorities had proposed LG fiscal and political autonomy for the Local Governments. NULGE, many of them labour bureaucrats, supports this proposal. 

Some Governors and Law makers do. However, the kernel principle of democracy and human liberty does not. History does not. Federalism does not. Common sense despises LG autonomy. Those who support LG autonomy are putting the country on reverse gear into the cesspool, off the cliff edge.

The logic is simple. What does a State mean? A state is a ‘territory considered as an organised political community under one government.’ Local Govt is ‘the administration of a district with representatives elected by those who live there.’ Without these universal definitions, LGs are administrative or political units usually created by the state for easy access to communities.

This simply means that Local Governments are the parts of a state without which the states are null and void. The State is like a building of five rooms. The LGs are the rooms inside the building. The State is the main, encompassing  building.

Seeking autonomy for each of the five room that make the whole building is dangerous. It will make the main building impotent, weak and vulnerable.

The five rooms looking outside the main building and the landlord for authority is not only disgusting but patently criminal and treasonable. If the financial capacity of the five rooms and their expenditure are determined from outside, the authority of the landlord, that is the state is at a peril.

This is why the positions of Dr Kayode Fayemi and Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu are progressive while those who oppose them are reactionaries.

The two governors have a deeper understanding of the issues. They know the long term implication of this boobytrap.

In fact the autonomy of these five rooms means the end of the constitutional, legitimate existence of the main building, that is the state. It is a curious and harmful plot to create another state, another government, another fiefdom within a state. Many short-sighted people cannot see the far reaching implication of this savage and anti-people law.

The only thing it does is that it will strengthen the Federal Government and turn it into a totalitarian gang. It will ensure the LGs scorn the states and look up to the FG as their administrator. It turn the states into empty shells. It will create recalcitrant politicians who will flirt with the FG to undermine the states.

 It will shift alliance of people in local communities from their states to the FG, the same cancer communities and humanity have fought for generations. In simple language, FG has no business with the affairs of Local Governments.

We are talking of devolution of powers. The FG has failed to devolve powers to the states, but seeks alliance with LGs potentially to undermine the state and now pretends she wants to devolve power to the LGs. If the LGs are under the control of the FG, it simply means we are in a unitary system disguised as democratic.

There is the argument that States overwhelm LGs, they seize their resources, they design their projects and even sometimes implement such projects for them. If that is the case, the solution is not for the Federal Government to literarily take over the same control, over LG.

 If the States control the LGs, the solution is not for the Federal Government to seek to take control of the same LG, whereas, in reality, the FG is far more corrupt than the states. The solution is for the states to be compelled to make laws that will ensure political and financial transparency at the LG levels. For the FG to now lay claim to puritan ethics is a shock, claiming it can better manage and hold in trust the resources of the LGs. 

It is even a greater tragedy that some people believe this, al beit for personal gains.  

We must understand that the term LG Autonomy as being defined by the Federal Government is another scam. It is mischievous if not dubious. It is a landmine to scuttle Federalism and its stringent rules.

 If the FG releases funds directly from Abuja to the LGs, that does not mean the LGs are autonomous. It simply means the FG now control the resources of Local Governments since the funds are still within the confine of a political authority outside the states. 

It means LGs and the millions of people there, now exist at the mercy of the Federal Government. This is a very destructive long knife aimed at cutting to pieces the century old struggle for Federalism in Nigeria. I urge the states that understand the meaning of this terrible proposition to make their own laws to subject LGs to State total guidance. 

If the FG takes the LGs away, the states are left with nothing putting all of us in great misery. Nigerians must rise and mobilise against the push for LG autonomy. It is a threat to self determination of indigenous communities. NULGE does not own the LGs. The LGs belong to us the people. 

I understand some progressive NULGE officials are with us. 

Yet in reality,  NULGE will not decide for us what is good for us. It can decide for its handful of members. 

The communities who are the real custodians of power in Local Government areas are the real people that can determine their fears and aspirations, not NULGE. 

The future is in our hands. Let us seize it.
Adewale Adeoye


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