OYO101: LG Poll: Contest Without Winners | Muftau Gbadegesin

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    The next local government election is supposed to evoke some sense of optimism and excitement. That people in all the 33 local councils of Oyo state will have the incredible opportunity to vote for candidates of their choice in a poll that will see 18 different parties slug it out with each other. Unfortunately, that excitement, optimism, and enthusiasm are almost inaudible as they’re muted. Nothing of high expectations in that contest is on the line. The usual razzmatazz that surrounds elections is lost in the high-handedness with which the state government has managed the affairs of government considered closer to the people.

    Perhaps, Governor Seyi Makinde’s first term has convinced people to rethink their stands on local government administrations. It has taught them to be careful, mindful, and conscious of the way they approach local matters. In essence, it has opened them up to the reality of the current political arrangement – one where the constitution of Nigeria is turned upside down just to enable the Governor, to enjoy absolute authority in ruling both the state while planting his puppets in various councils. Heartbreaking that nowhere is high-handedness in local affairs rife and palpable than in Oyo state. But when you consider what Governor Dapo Abiodun has turned council chairmen to in Ogun state, you might be apt to say Ogun and Oyo are not just geo-political brothers, but they are also governed by Governors who see local government as an extension of their fiefdoms. Frankly undoubtedly that the political and financial autonomy belonging to various local government areas in Oyo state have been whisked away, the hope of a better future kidnapped and the aspirations of millions sandbagged.

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    Whereas Nigeria is known to have large areas of ungoverned spaces. Instead of equipping and empowering institutions at that level to stem various tides, the stark reality in Oyo is such that, what is left of local government influence in local matters has been held at gunpoint for undisclosed ransom. Today, the easiest way to irk the Governor or make it to his black book is to call out the monumental corruption chewing the growth and development of that system for breakfast.

    You can be rest assured that nothing will make the Governor upset and irritated than calling for accountability and transparency in the ways local government funds are being managed. So many skeletons in the cupboard that those in the government would not want to openly admit. The indicting investigation of the Punch Newspaper is still startlingly fresh.

    In his first term, Governor Makinde;s position on local government autonomy was crystal clear. He left no one in doubt when he publicly proclaimed that “there can never be three federating units in the country”. He literally and publicly obliterated an important section of Nigeria’s law. Quite instructively those who knew the gravity of his gaffe marveled at how such an unconstitutional remark during a live debate in the wake of the last election could harm his chances. But somehow, like the rest of his excesses, he got away with it. In the first local council poll under his watch, only his party, PDP contested against itself – it was a contest without contest. Others including the main opposition APC went on hibernation in search of redemption after losing gallantly in the previous 2019 gubernatorial race. This contest may be a repeat of that political farce.

    Of course, the last council contest was more of a selection than an election. Council chairmen were hand-picked out of loyalty to the Governor or party chairmen in their respective communities. Most of them have little or no leadership or administrative skills, one that can help improve the lots of their people. And the high-handedness on the part of the Governor only makes matters worse. At least, they could point directly at the excessive influence of the Governor and his honchos in almost any matters in their respective domains as the clog in the wheel of their various interventions.

    Over the past three years, most council bosses will go home more disappointed given the ways the state government under Governor Makinde has crippled and stifled their initiatives. What is known as the standard in the local government administration has been reduced to a sliver. The pace-setting bar has been broken; leaving innocent people to heart-wrenchingly bear the brunt. Nothing is inspiring as far as the forthcoming election is concerned. It might as well end up as a contest without credibility; an ceremonial election with coloration of political selection.

    In an instance, Governor Makinde’s democratic credentials will be on full display. Many will watch how tolerant the Governor is in allowing the people to have their way. Should there be intimidation and harassment, people will wait for him in the future. But regardless of the eventual outcome of the coming poll, nothing substantial will change. When politicians want to make people in rural areas feel important, they resort to saying politics is local. But the reality staring us in the face has demonstrated that, indeed, politics may be local but any intrusive Governor can hold the ace from his 5-star executive suites without batting an eye. That enormous power and the safety net of constitutional immunity has apparently morphed into impunity.

    And nowhere is this more obvious than in the way local government autonomy has been handled. The same set of people state government want to liberate from the shackles of poverty are the ones they are throwing into the mouths of sharks. And this forthcoming council is just another tactic to further keep the people in whose interest they purport to serve in perpetual bondage. What is in a contest without winner? Ultimately, the winner of the next council poll will still inherit a system that’s rigged and stamped from the beginning.

    OYO101 is Muftau Gbadegesin’s opinion about Issues affecting Oyo state, published on Saturdays. He can be reached via @TheGMAKing on Twitter, muftaugbadegesin@gmail.com and 09065176850

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