- By Abdulganiyu Abdulqadir – ABDUL ABDUL
**On housing, education and skills, health and social care, transport, and economic development, local government is better placed to make decisions in the interests of local communities.
- Wesley Streeting
December 31, 2023, the last day of the past year witnessed individual and organisational stock-taking. It was a time for all to reflect on the last 365 days and take a renewed vow. It was in that light that the Elites Network for Sustainable Development (ENetSuD) reminded Kwarans that the administration of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq again in 2023 persisted in its disregard for a court order nullifying the appointment of the Transition Implementation Committees (TICs) in place of elected Local Government chairmen in Kwara State.
ENetSuD had dragged Abdulrazaq to court over his refusal to conduct local government elections in Kwara State since he assumed office in 2019. The civil society organization won the case, as Justice Hassan Gegele of the Kwara State High Court categorically described the action of Governor Abdulrazaq and his government as executive rascality and abuse of power. The governor contested the judgment at the Appeal Court and lost. But rather than admit his faux pas and right the wrong, the Abdulrazaq government, out of sheer superciliousness approached the Supreme Court and has since devised all tactics to delay the case.
ENetSuD in its statement of December 31, 2023, said, “After his repeated loss at the High and Appeal Courts, Kwara Governor filed another appeal at the Supreme Court but he has refused/failed to diligently prosecute his case to buy time and avoid conduct of LG elections and the sack of illegal TIC as directed by the courts. The reputable Kwara-based CSO conclusively stated the obvious, naming Governor Abdulrazaq as “The only Governor in Kwara history that operates 16 LGAs unconstitutionally and tyrannically for four and a half years with impunity. What an ignominious feat to be remembered for!
In all candor, we cannot agree more. And when I say we, I mean all well-meaning sons and daughters of Kwara state. After suspending and later sacking the constitutionally elected Local Government executives in 2019, Abdulrazaq did not attempt to redeem his image by at least, conducting the election for the LG administration. All calls on the Governor had continually fallen on deaf ears. Rather, in October 2023, he sponsored an amendment to the Local Government Electoral Bill 2023. The executive bill – before the rubber-stamp House of Assembly – among other things sought to extend the period for the conduct of local government elections in the state from 90 days to 360 days. Why he waited this long explains his political chicanery. The Governor knew what he was doing all along. If anyone was in doubt, the can of worms that led to the resignation of a former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in Kwara, Hajia Aisha Ahman Pategi, was enough pointer to what was to come. The scandal followed the irreconcilable crisis over the alleged monthly diversion of N300M local government funds.
Hajia Pategi who was moved to the Ministry of Special Duties by the governor following the alleged scandal, got embroiled in an altercation with her counterpart in the Ministry of Finance, Mrs Florence Oyeyemi over the monthly diversion of the LG funds without due process. After a huge outcry, a commission of inquiry headed by Retired Justice Mathew Adewara was set up – also amid protest. The panel – as envisaged – dismissed the allegation. But its decision was never enough to exonerate the APC government and save it from the opprobrium.
If the Abdulrazaq government meant well at all, it would have promptly retraced its steps afterward and conducted the local government election.
Under the present administration, Kwara State has become one of the worst examples of democracy. The government typifies what the late Afro maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti christened, “Demonstration of Craze.” How Mr. Abdulrazaq and his lackeys can sleep at night after denying the people a government of their own beats me hollow. Indeed, the state of their conscience needs to be studied as a course in the psychology department of a university.
This is because governments at the local level are pivotal to the consolidation and sustenance of democracy everywhere. It is the closest and most accessible to the people. The third tier of government is best positioned to meet people’s basic needs and facilitate grass-roots participation in governance. If a government has thus, chosen to asphyxiate the local government and turn it into mere administrative offices, it is a clear indication of its myopic perception of what governance is all about. The Abdulrazaq regime has by its action, shattered the framework for testing the transparency and responsiveness of its government.
Truth be told, it did not take the Aisha Ahman Pategi saga to know that any government unwilling to ensure a duly instituted local government administration has ulterior motives. The plot has always been to divert funds and manipulate political outcomes. The plan was unfolded during the last general elections.
[ ] A government like that of Governor Abdulrazaq is living in fear of certain factors. The present administration knows the fluke nature of its so-called popularity, and fears losing the local structure to the opposition. He also does not want competent hands in the office, for the dread of losing control of the plot woven around the local councils and their resources. Rather than conduct polls to institute democratically elected local government structures as decreed by the Constitution, Governor Abdulrazaq towed the anti-democratic path, by imposing his lackeys on the people. The name: Transition Implementation Committees (TICs) as Local Government chairmen in Kwara State, makes it more laughable. TICs stand for ad-hoc arrangements put in place to fill a void and prepare the ground for the substantive. Ludicrously, the ad-hoc nominees have been in the position of authority for more than the constitutionally stipulated tenure of a duly elected LG executive, doing nothing other than the mindless bid of their benefactor.
While the Constitution stipulates that each LGA is entitled to allocations from the Federal Consolidated Revenue Account, the Abdulrazaq administration serves as a conduit pipe by which allocations due to the local government areas are brazenly siphoned and maniacally diverted. The TICs in the various LGAs have been in office with nothing to show. The caretaker committees are bereft of ideas and just in a position like dummies awaiting directives. While the failure of the APC government at the grassroots has worsened insecurity and heightened criminality, the so-called TIC Chairmen cruising about in the state capital, merrymaking with vans that are supposed to be used for security purposes. I recall that in Asa LGA, the TIC in 2021, spent 97% of LG funds on salary, pension, and overhead. It spent only 3% on the public. The story has not changed. What a dashed hope at the grassroots.
It is pathetic that the Abdulrazaq government despite all public clamour and agitation chose to function at variance with the constitution of the Federal Republic. By Section 7 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), a local government system is an independent structure with democratically elected executives in its councils. It stated that the government of every state shall subject to Section 8 of the Constitution, ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance, and functions of such councils.
A British Labour Party politician and former Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Wesley Streeting, asserted that “On housing, education and skills, health and social care, transport, and economic development, local government is better placed to make decisions in the interests of local communities”. However, the Abdulrazaq government out of utter impunity, unabashed lawlessness, anti-democratic posturing, and unfettered disregard for Kwarans, has chosen to rob the people of a government of their own. Indeed posterity will remember the Abdulrazaq government (2019 – date) as one who came, saw but did not deliver to the people. Kwarans, for the umpteenth time, are asking the
Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq-led APC government to do the right thing at the local level as a way of easing the daily socioeconomic hardship occasioned by the rudderless government of the day. To state it in the trending Nigerian parlance, “In this 2024, we no dey gree for anybody.” Kwara must be liberated.
Abdulganiyu Abdulqadir – ABDUL ABDUL writes from Ilorin, Kwara State.