Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, has is about to fulfill one of his major campaign promises: conducting local government elections, writes Wale Suleiman
But for the manipulation of the local government system by state governments in Nigeria, governance would not have been a challenge at the grassroots.
This glaring encroachment into the functions of the Local Government Areas, LGAs, as enshrined in the 1999 constitution, has in no small ways, undermined the capacity of that arm of government to perform at an optimum level.
Apart from the tampering of funds of the LGAs through the joint account system, state governments seem to have the condemnable penchant for not conducting elections in the LGAs as required by the law.
Through this negation of the democratic aspect of local administration, LGAs have across the country, become tools in the hands of state governors, who often times, preferred the LGAs to be manned by sole administrators or executive secretaries.
To ensure that Abia State is not viewed in that light, the state governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has concluded plans to conduct election into the 17 LGAs in the state.
Indeed, the news came a cheering one for Abians, who had long desired such especially on the strength of the failure to conduct the exercise in the last eight years.
Bearing in mind what had eluded the local populace as a result of the failure to have democratically elected leaders at the local level, the decision remains a popular one irrespective of a few knocks by the opposition, which I think was natural.
In this regard, the myopic opposition in Abia should be ashamed that it found nothing good in the governor’s desire to return governance to the grassroots which are its natural abode.
What manner of opposition would deny the people their right to elect those to govern them?
Maybe I should remind the opposition about where the state is coming from regarding the poll perhaps that would address their jaundiced sense of reasoning.
Since 1999, local government poll had only taken place twice, as the first one was conducted by the administration of ex-governor Orji Kalu while the Ikpeazu’s predecessor, Theodore Orji conducted the last exercise in 2008.
At the expiration of the tenure of those, who emerged in that contest, sole administrators were appointed six years ago to superintend the LGAs.
As far as I am concerned, the decision to conduct the exercise shows the governor as courageous and principled given the historical context of LGA election in Abia since 1999.
What was expected of the opposition was to have suggested measures that would ensure a credible exercise instead of engage in non-constructive criticism which would only show the opposition as misguided.
The Ikpeazu, that we all know, would never embark on anything that would not add value to the life of Abians. Hence the decision to conduct the election, which was a product of a careful study of the pulse of the people he is serving.
Notwithstanding, it is surprising that an initiative that would complement the current efforts at sustaining good governance in the state is being ridiculed by a few for selfish reasons. While it is their right to express themselves as guaranteed by the 1999 constitution, the people of Abia State would not be deceived by their antics, which only seek to put Abia in a bad light. From Aba to Ibeku, Abriba to Isiukwuato, the mood of the people is ecstatic as the excitingly prepare for the exercise, which would stimulate governance at the local level.
As a believer in democratic processes and acceptable democratic norms, the presents administration in the state needs men, who are chosen by the people to localise the laudable policies of the governor at the grassroots.
That, common sense suggests, can not be properly be done by appointed council leaders, whose mandate hardly come from the people.
Governance globally is about the people given that the inalienable right of leaders to govern was derived from the people. So, any government that fails to prioritize issues that affect the people, is obliviously toying with its legitimacy and longevity.
The Ikpeazu, who is making Abia a reference point in terms of staying committed to the cardinal principles of governance, is just a spectator in this race since there are institutions that are saddled with the responsibility of conducting the exercise. I am sure, his interest is simple: Democracy must be deepened at the grassroots!
This, he had earlier stated when justifying his decision to conduct the exercise.
Speaking in that light through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Apollos earlier, he said: “Deepening democracy at the local government level is very important in ensuring accelerated even development across the state as well as spread democratic participation and dividends. Also, as the dominant and ruling party in Abia, the interest of aspirants to vie on the PDP platform is not strange. This was exactly what informed the decision of the governor to approve the conduct of local government elections as well as maintain absolute neutrality in the contests to select PDP candidates.
“The governor did not endorse any aspirant, as there was no reason for such. Therefore, any claim to such endorsement is false. The Governor will only endorse properly nominated party candidates presented by the PDP. He is bent on providing a level-playing ground for all participants in the elections. “The governor wishes to assure all Abians that he will do everything in his power to ensure the conduct of a free and fair local government poll on the 17th of December 2016.”
Therefore, as the date for the exercise draws near, the people of Abia are excited about the prospects of choosing the leaders, who would man their affairs at grassroots.
–Suleiman wrote in from Lagos