SINCE Governor Seyi Makinde constituted the caretaker chief executives into the local governments and the local council development areas (LCDAs) in Oyo State, there has been a heightening of noise about the propriety of the governor’s action.
The dividing line is expected. The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) supports and hails the governor for a ballsy move to restore order in the administration of local government authorities in the state, while the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) is busy alleging that the governor’s action is illegal. Which of the two sides is upholding the truth is left for the court to decide when the judiciary wades in to interpret the legality or otherwise of the governor’s proclamation.
The suspended chairmen, all of them of the APC bulk, have many a time mounted the soapbox and made spirited efforts to make the state government reverse the decision to suspend their tenure in office. Unfortunately, the bid to salvage their so-called mandate should have been directed at the immediate-past governor of the state, Abiola Ajimobi. The aggrieved suspended local government chairmen should have asked the former governor why he chose to defy a court order in May 2018, which stopped him from proceeding with the conduct of the election.
It would be recalled that a Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan, the state capital, had ordered the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC) to halt the conduct of election into the 33 local governments and 35 LCDAs in the state. Incidentally, the suit which the court ruled upon was initiated by members of the same APC and not PDP – the more reason the APC should seek self-introspection, rather than blame the PDP for its current woes.
That the May 12, 2018, local government election in Oyo State was a shambolic exercise propped by executive rascality is not difficult for anyone who followed developments up to the election to decipher. That the PDP, a major opposition political party at that time, did not participate in the election tells it all that the processes leading to the election was not credible and the product thereof could not have been sustainable. In that sense, it is not unexpected that the government of Governor Makinde, backed by the Oyo State House of Assembly, would most certainly suspend the chairmen made out of such election until the protocol is straightened for a proper local government election in Oyo State.
If the then Governor Ajimobi had submitted himself to buffoonery by conducting an election that makes a mockery of democracy, would anyone then blame his successor for doing the right thing by cleansing the Augean stable and setting the protocols aright for a smooth local government administration in the state?
Though one shares the pain of the suspended local government chairmen, the impression should not be made that Governor Makinde is deliberately punishing them for belonging to a rival political party. Perhaps, they also have themselves to blame for their travails, because if they had prevailed on the government of the day when their election was being conducted to apply reason instead of brawl, their mandate would have been water-tight and very difficult to take away by anyone even with a malicious intent.
It is difficult to fault both Governor Makinde and the Oyo State House of Assembly for suspending the old board of the OYSIEC on account of conducting election into the 35 LCDAs created by the Ajimobi-led administration. If that administration had listened to wise counsel, it certainly would have consulted more widely before delineating those LCDAs. Worse still, the administration misled the OYSIEC to commit an illegality of conducting elections into those LCDAs – entities that are not known to the 1999 Constitution.
Based on this sheer infraction, it is wrong of the opposition to cite a ruling of the Supreme Court barring state governments from dissolving local government administrations. What the Supreme Court pronounced in the wisdom of the court was to protect local government authorities from the authoritarian tendencies of state governments. But the verdict of the Supreme Court is not meant to provide a blanket cover to improperly-constituted local government authorities.
In any case, since the House of Assembly has passed a bill sacking the suspended local government chairmen and they, in turn, have approached the court to challenge the action, it suffices, therefore, that there is a vacuum in the local government administration in Oyo State.
The question that arises is that should Governor Makinde fold his arms and not put an interim measure in place for the day-to-day running of local governments in the state till the courts resolves the current imbroglio? I think those criticising the governor for constituting a caretaker committee in the local government areas and development areas in Oyo State are merely disguising their purports of pursuing a political agenda.
Since the case is already in court, it will be more patriotic for the embattled chairmen to wait for the pronouncement of the judiciary, rather than go about causing tension in the state and sabotaging the incumbent council chiefs.
- Sanni, a public affairs expert, lives in Ibadan