By Austine Uche-Ejeke
As the vibe for the conduct of Lagos State local government elections gathers momentum, Lagosians, nay Nigerians, are jostling with anticipated hope on when this will be eventually concluded.
But this may not be far from reality as Lagos State government under Governor Akinmwumi Ambode did set up the Lagos State Electoral Commission last year with the mandate to conduct local government elections. The commission under the chairmanship of Honourable Justice Ayotunde Philips has already set the ball rolling.
At this juncture, it must be pointed out that the history of local government administration in the country has not been cherry at all and it’s replete with stagnation and stunted growth at extreme case. This is taking into cognizance that constitutionally local government is supposed to be the third level or layer of government after the federal and state governments.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case as that level of government has always been relegated to the background. On the count of the finger tip we can mention how many states in the federation that have a running and viable democratically elected local government administration. Most of them have caretaker sort of arrangement that are manipulated at the whims and caprices of the governors. Some of them are dissolved at the slightest provocation. As such the culture of participatory democracy has not been deepened in local government which is reputed to be the cradle and bastion of grass root democracy. No wonder most governors will do anything possible to shoot down any bill or legislation that to would want to confer autonomy to local government!
Coming down to Lagos state, for close to three years now the state has no democratically elected local government structure in place following the outright dissolution of the former regime by former Lagos State governor and current minister of Housing, power and works, Babatunde Raji Fashola. Within this period Lagos state government has toyed with several models in attempt to run the councils.
They have had what they call Executive Secretaries and now Sole Administrators. With all sense of responsibility most of these models have performed bellow expectations as attested by residents and observers. People complain of lack of development at the local government areas. The two typologies that have been tried cannot show anything on ground as their tangible achievement. A typical example people are quick to point out is Isolo Local Government where there is stagnation and no improvement all these years. Most of the roads in the council area are dilapidated and virtually all the public amenities are in sorry state.
Thus, it was with glad tidings that Lagosians received the news of an impending local government election. Like earlier stated the ball was set rolling with constitution of the electoral body to over see the actual conduct of the election. since last year several dates have been bandied as the date for the conduct of the election and just like everything political the goal post has been shifted on several occasions. Prominent among the reasons for the shift was the fears and apprehensions in some quarters within the ruling All Progressive Congress that if elections were conducted earlier on the party will record a woeful outcome.
Their perception is hinged on the wobbly performance of the party at the federal level as at that time. Secondly, was bottled up emotions of some ethnic groups on the way and manner the Lagos state government was treating them particularly in reference to wanton demolition of markets and business outlets without adequate and prior notice and effective resettlement of displaced traders. Also, there were cries of heavy and multiple taxation and harassment by some enforcement agents of the state. This has made many people to openly vow to vote against the party if elections were to be conducted by that time.
But all those fears and resentment have paled into insignificance with the trail blazing trend of Governor Ambode as virtually everybody is happy with what the governor is doing. The roads and bridge construction are out of the world and unprecedented in the annals of the history of Lagos state. As such the party and the state government are hoping to cash in on that and make an electoral fortune out of the sterling performance.
Perhaps that may be the reason behind the sure-footedness on the forthcoming local government election in the state. But like everything in politics, it seems that a lot of bad blood has been generated with the way and manner candidates were selected and imposed on the people. Summoning stakeholders meeting of the party recently the leadership of the party imposed and in fact returned all the eighteen sacked local government chairmen.
This singular act has not gone done well with the people in the sense that since the whistle was blown for politicking for local government elections last year many aspirants have been consulting; campaigning, spending money and time to garner support that they believed would have translated to electoral victories for them at the primaries. But this was not to. The aspirants were instead handed the shock of their lives by the despotic, undemocratic and automatic handing over of the tickets to same group of chairmen that were earlier on sacked. Lagosians may not forget in a hurry the agony they passed through on the fateful day when virtually the whole of Ikeja and its environs were locked down as a result of the stakeholders meeting at ACME Road state headquarters of the All Progressive Congress.
And what was the outcome of the meeting, announcement that eighteen former chairmen have been offered automatic ticket to contest the local government election slated for July. Aggrieved people were then questioning the rationale for the blockage of the road and waste of resources and time if the cardinal item on the agenda of the meeting was to announce the candidates. They were of the view that the party hierarchy could have just called a press conference or even stayed back in the comfort of their office or residences and roll out the names and it will not make any major difference.
But feelers from majority of the local governments and party faithful indicate a barrage of disappointments and anger as most chairmanship aspirants given automatic ticket performed woefully during their tenure. Ranging from far flung Badadary to central Oshodi local governments it was unison of complaints of the shoddy performance of the former chairmen. Thus, members of the party and indeed electorates were much expectant of a new lease of life and breath of fresh air if indeed new people were given the opportunity to contest at the primaries and eventually succeed to go to the polls and emerge victorious. This they believe would have set a new target and template for them to perform based on what they will meet on ground. But at alas their hopes were dashed!
No other ways to authenticate the anger in the minds of people of Lagos than the murderous and riotous attitude exhibited at Teslim Balogun Stadium, venue of the APC local government primaries. It was that day that the chairman of the organizing committee, Senator Tokumbo Afikoyomi, was beaten to stupor and stripped naked. He escaped death by whiskers as he was led out of the stadium venue by heavily armed personnel. Yet the embers of rage have not assuaged as the boisterous Oshodi is still burning with violence that has climaxed with the shooting down of one NURTW helmsmen popularly known as Hamburger at the venue of the party’s primaries for the imposition of councillorship candidates for the local government elections in the Oshodi council.
If it were when there was a viable opposition, most local government areas will be lost to opposing political parties. But nay, the political climate and permutations in Lagos and indeed Nigeria is not at the moment in favour of the fortunes of other political parties apart from the ruling All Progressive Congress. This may not be in good interest for the advancement of democracy in the state as many pundits see this imposition of candidates without subjecting them to primaries as one of the things that will breed bad blood and scuttle whatever achievement the party and indeed democracy may have achieved all these years.
Austine Uche-Ejeke, a public affairs analyst, is Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Agenda Community Newspaper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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