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Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos

The chicanery called local government elections By Bola Bolawole

Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos

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This is not about the PDP or APC or any political party – better still, political platform – for there are really no political parties properly so-called in the present Nigerian political system. What we have are mere political platforms on which politicians contest elections, considering whichever one at any point in time serves their selfish interest. The situation is akin to someone travelling from Point A to Point B who went to the Garage to board a vehicle. He gets there and makes his choice depending on the fares, the type of vehicles available (for his desired comfort), and the one that will quickly get him to his destination. That is why politicians change parties as if changing their pants.

In a sense, parties here can still be defined as the coming together of like minds to pursue clearly identified goals; but the goals this time are not to serve the public interest but selfish interests. They are in politics for what is in it for them. Where their bread is best buttered is where they flock. Which party will most likely serve their selfish interest is where they kill or do anything to get on board. And the best party in that regard is the party in power. Opposition parties are rarely ever able to muster the required strength to win elections – except in the rare case of 2015 when everyone was tired of the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan and Jonathan himself was too nit-witted not to know what to do with the awesome power in his hands.

Politics and elections are monetised here and, like I once heard a politician say, “a ki n f’owo ara eni se oselu” (meaning, “no one spends his personal money on politics”). It has to be government money; a typical case of “Owo Abu l’a fi n s’Abu la’lejo”. You entertain Abu with money siphoned from Abu! So, a party that is not in power is handicapped ab initio while the one in power has an unlimited access to the treasury. Does this, then, mean that opposition figures do not have the financial muscle to give the party in power a run for its money? Not really but a general malaise of Nigerian politicians is that any money that gets into their hand hardly comes out again. It is usually siphoned offshore while they wait for the next opportunity to add to it. It is usually the case of “olele t’o ba wo’nu eko” that does not find its way out again!

And our people cannot be completely excused from blame in the tomfoolery that politicking and elections have become in Nigeria. Gone were the days when party members contributed to finance their parties; these days, it is the party that finances party members. The order of things is reversed or inverted. As they say, “Ko si ‘so mi’ laafin mo; gbe ru mi” is what we now have! Ask the Kabiyesis! That is why money-bags have hijacked the parties. It is also why the treasury is looted by the party in power to compromise voters and those involved in the election process. How many voters vote without asking for a bribe? How many Nigerians can do what some Ghanaians did recently – rejecting bags of rice from politicians and asking for jobs instead?

So, in local government elections, it is the government in power that clears the whole slots. The opposition usually is not on the sheet. Witness the just-concluded shambolic local government elections in Lagos and Ogun states! The sordid story is the same all over the country. If we say the Federal INEC is anything but independent, free, fair, reliable and dependable, the state electoral commissions are not a shade better. If states manipulate their own INEC so shamelessly, how can we trust them with state police? With state police they will most likely hound their opponents, the noose around the neck of the opposition becomes tighter and the dictatorship complete. This is one way the states themselves are not helping the strident and popular argument for state police.

To start with, once a party loses an election, it immediately goes into a coma or sabbatical. It rarely musters the drive to transform into a viable, vibrant, and visible opposition, give the party in power a run for its money and begin to work seriously towards the next election cycle. Four years is too long a period for politicians here to wait in the cold and plan for the next election. They better defect to the winning party so they can immediately begin to jostle for a piece of the action. That way, it will be difficult to have a vibrant political system or build a democracy that endures.

To get it right, Nigeria’s federalism must restructure if it is not to crumble in no time. Nigeria must have strong federating units, not the current 36 begging bowls. The United Kingdom’s model may still serve the needs of Nigeria if we stop wasting precious time trying to preserve the present crumbling system. Each federating unit will then decide the local government system suitable for it. The present LG system was another of the devices by the North to siphon more resources from the South, in that the North awarded itself more LGs in arbitrary and provocative manner and then made the number of LGs one of the criteria for resource allocation.

Scrap the local governments! Save the resources wasted on them and expend such elsewhere! LG elections everywhere are a sham! Let the shenanigans stop! Money wasted on such elections should be spent elsewhere. After all, what commensurate service do the LGs render? They are, for the most part, mere cost centres and cesspools of corruption. Little wonder, then, that someone called them “share the money” and everyone vamooses the next moment! This is especially so in many remote LGs all over the country!

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