Former chairman of Ibarapa Central Local Government and the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Oyo State chapter, Mr Demola Ojo, is the Public Relations Officer of the Association of Former Local Governments Chairmen. He speaks with MOSES ALAO on what the body is doing on local government autonomy and politics in his Ibarapa zone. Excerpts:
YOU are a former chairman of ALGON in Oyo State, where there have been different opinions on the non-conduct of local government election in the state since the government of Governor Abiola Ajimobi came into power about six years ago. How do you think this affects governance at the grassroots?
It is a very dangerous trend for democracy and for governance at the grassroots, because you will find out that a lot of people that are in politics or even those in need of development, live at the grassroots. Those that play active politics are mostly in the grassroots. But a lot of opportunists, who came from the grassroots and have become what they are now, have not forgotten what exactly democracy is all about. If for six years, the governor has refused to conduct election in the local governments so that the people can elect the people that will govern them; that is not good enough.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, recently criticised the strong hold of the governors on the local governments, making a particular reference to the States/Local Governments Joint Account. What is your take?
Let me just take Ibarapa Central Local Government as a case study; for six years now, there has not been any physical development there. It is very sad. We thank God that a lot of deadly situations had been taken care while we were still in government; if not, I don’t know what we will be saying now. While I was in office, there was the issue of guinea worm, which we tackled head on. You can imagine what would have happened if that was not tackled and a government comes in and neglects the whole of a local government for six years in the name of joint account. Is the local government’s allocation not sent? That is the question we should ask them.
Even if states and local governments run joint account, in the past, we used to sit down at the joint account committee to decide what we want to do in each local government and we still had allocations to each local government go there to take care of their physical and immediate needs. But right now, they just appoint some people and pay them stipends; even the workers’ salary they are not paying.
While you were in office, one could remember that ALGON used to fight for autonomy…
(Cuts in)… We are still fighting for autonomy. We have already formed the Association of Former Local Government Chairmen, which I happened to be its public relations officer. That body supersedes ALGON, because ALGON is immediate and tenured; when you leave office, you leave ALGON and so efforts you have made on critical issues may not be followed up. All the presidents and heads of state that have served before usually come up at a forum; former governors and even former deputy governors have meeting points to discuss. So, we have also taken the bull by the horn to come up as former chairmen of local governments to clamour for the autonomy and we are going to get it. If the constitution has authorised autonomy; how can some set of people just sit down and do what they like because it pays them to do so? Many times, the issue has got to the National Assembly but the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) has always been there to kill it. But by the time our forum, which is by a far a larger forum, because we have 774 local governments and as former chairmen of these local governments, you should belong to our forum and that shows that we can achieve this autonomy.
Let us talk about your politics; in the last few years, you have moved from the PDP to the Accord Party and all that, such that people no longer even know which party you belong to anymore. Which party are you now?
I am in the PDP. Like you said, at a point, I moved with my people to the Accord Party and it was for a peculiar reason. The reason was peculiar to my local government, because we saw that a lot of impunity was going on in the PDP, as a particular person, because he was elected into a position to represent our constituency, decided to turn the party into his private property. So, we decided that the best option was to try another sister party and that was why went to Accord. We thank God we have won; we have got him out of office and now, everyone is on the same pedestal.
Who are you are referring to?
Honourable Ajibola Muraina.
You used to belong to the same camp; what went wrong?
That is exactly what I told you earlier. We brought him into the PDP; voted for him and he became the House of Representatives but he decided to turn the party into his personal property and we left the party for him, because we knew he was in power and if we didn’t leave, he would continue to do what he liked. And immediately we got him out of office, we came back to the party to reorganise the party.
But are you not back to the same party, as he is also still in the PDP?
I am sure his antecedents will not make him stay in PDP. Immediately he is true with his ambition in a particular party, he leaves. Maybe he is only playing politics now by making himself a self-acclaimed chairman of an interim management committee of the Makarfi group. Who made him interim chairman of an illegal group in Oyo State?
Leaders of the Makarfi Group made him chairman at a well-reported event, where about 28 other members drawn from across the state were inaugurated.
There was no time leaders of that group sat and made him chairman. What you called a well-reported event was done outside the Cultural Centre, Mokola, Ibadan, not even under a canopy. Has that been done in PDP before? PDP has a party secretariat; any PDP event should take place at the secretariat. They just made a mockery of the political system.