D EMOCRACY is cherished everywhere in the world. Nigerians relish it with utmost joy. The only lacuna in the case of Nigerians and in some few unfortunate African countries is the recurring proclivity of leaders to frequently abuse the ethos and laws governing democracy.
President Muhammadu Buhari had a single vision when he sought the mandate of Nigerians to rule the nation. He was unmistakably out to rescue a country somewhat irretrievably steeped in the morass of “everything goes” mentality. Buhari’s presence has not, however, changed the destructive tendencies in leaders at the lower rungs of power.
But much as this is a strenuous challenge, it is not however, impossible to surmount. But sadly, supporting organs, especially at the state level have sworn aversion to this cause. They have preferred to flounder and fawn at governance.
In states across the country, some governors are state chief executives only in nomenclature and the public impact of their offices is just the shrill sounds of blaring sirens in bogus convoys.
Mathematically, state governors elected in 2015 have just one and half years to devote to governance of their respective states, out of their four-year tenure. The last year is traditionally devoted to weird politicking and campaigns for re-election.
But nearly two years into the stewardships of some governors, there is no completed project to either commission themselves or worthy to invite the President to commission. Of the 36 states in the federation and randomly, far less than 10 states have unveiled the plaque to commission a completed project for the masses. A few states like Lagos, Ogun and Edo among others have shown a distinction.
The excuse has often been economic recession and its accompanying paucity of funds to expediently execute peoples’ oriented projects. But this is a lie rehearsed and retold in different shadows and with too many tongues.
While the cock and bull tales are refurbished, the same state governors easily forget the billions of naira loans their pliant and complacent state Houses of Assembly have dubiously approved for them on behalf of their states. What they do with these loans is subject of academic debate.
And to deepen the pain, these governors with unbridled flair for loans are accumulating fresh workers salary bills. They have so invaded and castrated the system to the extent a pauperized citizenry has neither strength nor voice to cry out loud.
In addition, virtually every state of the federation has a security challenge. Each state has its own share of insecurity threats from the least to the most deadly. But governors feign helplessness.
It’s like no state governor has access to hourly security reports in his domain or President Buhari has stopped releasing security votes to states. What is often demonstrated is that most states display no conscious or serious proactive measures to avert crisis before they erupt or get to explosive dimensions.
The governors feel pained to dip their hands into security votes to expend it on the purpose for which government’s wisdom has budgeted. Since it is unaccounted votes, it is reserved until budding crisis explodes and the next option is to again cry out to the Federal Government for assistance.
Therefore, majority of states in Nigeria failed the litmus test of transparency and accountability in governance when President Buhari contemplated a fresh N90 billion loan facility to salary-indebted states. This was after the initial near N800 billion bailout to clear backlog of salaries.
Only few states met the 22 conditions released by the Presidency for states with intention to apply for the loan. In spite of loud claims of governors to sanity in governance, many states could not; publish audited annual financial statements within nine months of financial year end; Introduce and comply with the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS); publish State budget online annually and publish budget implementation performance report online quarterly;
Also most states could not endorse the domestication of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA); resist the temptation commercial bank loans and the routine submission of updated debt profile report to the DMO.
Having fared this badly, what is a familiar trend among state governors now is the suspension of democratic rule at the local government level and its replacement with autocratic rule based on the dictates of governors. The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, which recognises three tiers of government in Nigeria, also admonishes that at no time should any tier of government by administered undemocratically.
But Nigerian governors have brazenly abused this stipulation and by the Constitution’s express permission to State Assemblies to enact laws for the administration of the 744 Local government Councils in Nigeria, state lawmakers have criminally substituted democratic elections in councils with caretaker committees or Sole administrators, despite its overt contradiction of the !999 Constitution.
State governors have held unto the fraudulent laws to continue to rape and plunder the resources of council through handpicked appointments of presiding council officials. Councils have become the pots of feasts for governors, their lackeys, party chieftains and social friends.
The choking grip of governors on local governments has necessitated by the unquenchable desire to continue to protectively pilfer with council federal allocations. States in Nigeria without democratic council leadership far outnumber states that have conducted elections.
So councils in states like Lagos, Imo, Rivers, Benue, Plateau, Osun and Anambra states among others have not held elections for upward of two years. Anambra has reportedly not held council elections since 1999.
The National Assembly should begin to explore ways to alter the clause in the Constitution which allow state Assemblies to sustain undemocratic structures at the council level. In the meantime, President Buhari should tinker with suspension of federal allocation to councils in the country administered through autocracy.
- Raheem writes from Kaduna State.