Local Government Elections in Nigeria: A Charade that Calls for an Immediate Demystification

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By Dr Babayo Sule

These charades called local government elections are ridiculing democracy and mocking our psyche before ourselves. Earlier, several states announced a return of 100%, a miracle that even a mirage could not guarantee yet, here we wonderfully did it. The charade perpetrated by charlatans is not unique with any party or leader in Nigeria.

The ruling parties in their respective states almost always returned local council elections fully and squarely won. With the exception of few cases, ballot boxes were not provided with ballot papers, opposition parties were denied contest, credible candidates were weeded out while all sorts of challenges are emasculated by the state governors to pave a smooth way for their anointed candidates. These candidates are conspiratorial collaborators that further deepen the crisis of local government because they could not provide any meaningful leadership or representation for the majority of Nigerians that reside in rural areas.

They simply crucifix local government by stripping them naked for the state governors to rape their resources towards a lopsided urban white elephant non-beneficial projects at the expenses of rural electrification, agriculture, basic education, primary healthcare, infrastructure and other needs in rural places. Since 1999, state governors across Nigeria appointed some caretakers in the name of election widely condemned by well-meaning citizens. Today, the same cycle repeated itself making the actors of yesterday lament and since the action is consistently accentuated, the perpetrators of today’s shameful robbery will cry foul in future after passing the corridors of power.

But this is not the concern. The issue is that local government system is bastardised and continuously emasculated at the detriment of the majority vulnerable over 60% of the inhabitants who sit over all the national wealth in their localities, shortchanged by the unnecessary actions of state governors and loophole of 1999 Constitution. Local government is the process of harnessing and harmonising people at the grassroots and local areas with their resources for developmental venture. It is understood that most of the population in several countries specifically in developing ones, lives in rural areas.

Establishing local government brought governmental activities and decision making closer to the people. Local people are integrated in decision making, resources utilisation and agricultural as well as infrastructural development.
For the record, Section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution provides that: “The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the government of every state shall, subject to section 8 of this constitution, ensure their existence under a law”. Nigeria has 774 local governments and the 1999 Constitution provides for the system of local government through the recognition of democratically elected council of a Chairman and constituents Councillors that represent Wards in LGAs. Since 1999, each of the 774 local governments has ‘received’ not less than N30 billion from the Federation Account. This by total amounted to N23.200 trillion. Yes, received in quote because the bulk of the money are hijacked by the states.

The most annoying thing is there is nothing special on ground to show from this huge money collected by the states on behalf of the LGs except poverty, dilapidated schools, deplorable health care system, unconnected villages from electricity, no feeder roads, no improved agricultural development and basic needs of the rural inhabitants.

The contemporary operation of local governments in Nigeria is the revenue sharing formula which elbowed out the LGs from acquiring a reasonable share. Local governments are no longer autonomous practically. This may be the link behind the low level of development and a lopsided infrastructural development in the urban centres.

The sharing formula for revenue among the three tiers of government is 52.68% for the Federal, 26.72% for the states and 20.60% for the local governments. This means the FG and 36 states ended up taking approximately 80% of the total accrued revenue from the Federation Account at the expense of the 774 local governments which ended up with a meagre 20%. This is inspite of the LGs controlling under them nearly 70% of the Nigerian population, backward, neglected in infrastructural development and basic amenities.

The revenue-sharing formula itself is faulty because it does not consider the concomitant population configuration and needs of the three tiers in perspective.

The Nigerian population distribution as of 2019 according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) discloses that nearly 70% are living in rural areas as farmers and livestock rearers with some petty businesses.

Whatever can be said here will not rescue the debilitating situation except if some measures are taken.

One of the ways to emancipate LGs is full autonomy and the abolition entirely of the State Joint Local Government Account (SJLGA) for financial freedom and this will reduce states over assertiveness on local governments. Another way is to abrogate State Independent Electoral Commission (SIECs) and allow Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct LG elections during General Election.

Additionally, there is a need to revisit the sharing formula in favour of LGs who possess a higher percentage of the population to enable for grassroots development. If the negative trend in LGs is not reverse, poverty, unemployment, insecurity and other social problems will persist.

As humans, we have a moral burden, personal integrity and decency to cater about.

Throwing these components of spirituality to the dogs for a miniature tokenism of life says much about one’s moral standing and norm. Ideally, a society where shamefulness is an abomination would have its members decline from accepting such stolen seats. As for those who emerged as beneficiaries of this charade, I implore you to serve well.

If it is not shameful to identify with this imbroglio, personal integrity is a burden to consider. Our insatiable quest for change and good governance will continue to elude us if, at our level, we cannot do the right thing or avoid the wrong ones.

Nevertheless, if you still surrender your integrity despite the sermon, congratulations and I wish u success.

Babayo Sule (PhD), Department of Political Science, Faculty of Humanities Management and Social Sciences,Federal University Kashere Gombe, Gombe State Nigeria Email: babayosule@gmail.com Mobile: +2347038653490″

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