By Ochereome Nnanna
WHEN I learnt that Imo State’s Governor, Anayo Rochas Okorocha intended to set up what was described as “the Fourth Tier” I was excited. My excitement was based on my long held belief that the current local government system has failed to take either governance or development to the grassroots. For a very long time, I have campaigned for the scrapping of the local government system and the establishment of governments based on kindred-defined communities covered by the various town unions.
My reason is simple. Give power to the grassroots and impetus is immediately created for healthy competition and the grassroots will burst with economic, social, political and cultural rejuvenation. It will curb rural-urban drift of migration.
Not only will the community councils generate their own revenues, but the federal and state counterpart funds that will come every month will be less likely to be frittered away through unchecked corruption. It will also do away with the internal colonisation which many communities suffer within the current local government system.
On Monday, May 28th 2012 on this column, I once again rooted for the adoption of the community government system when Okorocha took steps to activate it in his state. But I made it clear that neither Okorocha nor any other governor had the power to dissolve the constitutionally-created local governments and impose a “Fourth Tier” or community government. In fact, Okorocha’s “Fourth Tier” is obviously a misnomer, since the “third tier” has been “abrogated” by him!
For emphasis, I noted as follows: “The Rochas idea has its many problems. The Community Government Councils (CGCs) cannot co-habit with the current LGAs. The LGAs have to give way first before the CGCs can take root. And the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 has to be amended to do away with the ineffective, corrupt, colonising and money-guzzling LGAs”.
The best that Okorocha could have done, as a budding political leader, was to help create a broad national consensus on the need to do away with the local government system and allow states or regions to determine how the grassroots are governed. Once the constitution is amended to this effect Okorocha can proceed with his Community Government Council (CGC) novelty.
From all indications, we were addressing a man who does not believe in any constitution or law, even though it was through the constitution that his election under our democracy became possible. Since he took over the reins of power eighteen months ago, Governor Okorocha has behaved worse than the political class that “made” him: The military. He has systematically dissolved many statutory bodies with tenures defined by law, such as the Civil Service Commission (CSC), House of Assembly Service Commission (HASC) and Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
He not only sacked the elected
chairmen of the 27 local government areas but he also dissolved the Local Government Service Commission (LGSC). Most of the affected interests took their cases to court and won against the government’s action, but an adamant Okorocha ignores court rulings and goes on appeal instead.
The most celebrated of them all was the dissolution of the elected local government councils, a sin that most other governors have committed since the dawn of our renascent democracy in 1999. The Governor doggedly refused to obey serial orders of the High Court and Court of Appeal asking that these elected officers be allowed to go back to work.
Ironically Rochas was a beneficiary of due process and the rule of law because as soon as he was pronounced the winner of the highly contested and controversial gubernatorial election in 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan, the leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) not only congratulated him but also ordered the entire state apparatuses to comply and enable him to assume power without hitches. In fact, though pained and unconvinced of Okorocha’s victory, his predecessor, Sir Ikedi Ohakim, gamely ushered him into the seat of power.
One would have expected Okorocha to extend this healthy democratic attitude to allow the elected local council officials to stay in office and woo them over to his side just as he was able to woo some PDP members of the State House of Assembly to his side.
There are very few obstacles that political maturity and sagacity cannot achieve in a democracy. Before former Governor Ohakim, who was elected on the platform of the Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA), returned to the PDP (and derailed, as some put it) he was able to work harmoniously with a PDP-dominated State House of Assembly. He always maintained that Imo people were first of all Imolites before being members of their different political parties.
With the mass appeal that Okorocha rode into the Government House mid-last year, he could easily have got majority of the council chiefs behind him through normal astute politicking. But his resort to disobedience of court orders prompted a call on him by the Attorney General of the Federation, Bello Adoke, to obey the July 4th 2012 Court of Appeal (Owerri Division) ruling reinstating the elected officials. This Okorocha also ignored, thus prompting a call for his impeachment by President Jonathan’s loquacious Political Adviser, Ahmed Gulak.
I do not believe that the solution to the conundrum in Imo State is for the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC) to withhold Imo local government funds to force Okorocha to obey the law. That would be applying Olusegun Obasanjo’s bad medicine. I will also not support the idea that the Federal government should pay Okorocha in his own coin by unleashing its coercive powers. Two people cannot be mad at the same time.
Okorocha must obey the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) based on which he won election and was sworn-in. He must pursue his political agenda democratically, lawfully and with civility. Many unsavoury indices of mis-governance are becoming too obvious. He still has enough time to correct himself or his political rising sun may never get to 12.00 noon! Recent by-elections which went to the PDP are useful early warnings.