BY DAUD OLATUNJI
Local governments were at one time autonomous in Ogun State, but not so anymore as they have become platforms for political domination by successive governors
In the period between 1999 and 2003 when Aremo Olusegun Osoba was governor of Ogun State the chairmen of the 20 local government areas were allowed relative liberty in their affairs.
Osoba who governed on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy, AD ensured that his party won all the local governments in the election conducted during his governorship.
It was further observed that, many of the local governments executed big projects such as building of shopping complexes, construction of roads, provision of social amenities among others.
In fact, there was no strike action in any of the local governments for the four- year tenure of Chief Osoba.
However, Otunba Gbenga Daniel’s emergence introduced a new style into the governance of the local governments, which according to him was to change the face of governance as he took more interest in the affairs of the local governments.
Using the Joint Allocation Committee, JAC the Daniel administration made provisions for redistribution of local government funds in a way that all the local governments received the same amount irrespective of size or other consideration.
Like his predecessor, Daniel also ensured his party won all the seats. He, however, went more, as his administration in some cases brought local government sovereignty directly under the whims of the governor.
For instance, he at separate times removed the Chairmen of Abeokuta South, Ijebu North- East and Ijebu East for allegedly disloyalty.
Local governments in that period completely lost their autonomy during following the overbearing influence the state government wielded on the third tier of government.
Senator Ibikunle Amosun who succeeded Daniel in 2011 on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN rubbished the policy of his predecessor especially on the re-distribution of Federal allocation.
While it retained JAC changed the policy of equal allocation, but, the policy of suppression which incapacitated the governments at the grassroots may not have abated.
Once Amosun came on board in 2011, he inaugurated caretaker committees into the local governments which governed the councils for nine months before he conducted a controversial election which brought mostly his loyalists to the councils.
The governor did not only ensure that his party, ACN won all the seats, but also played a fast one on some ACN leaders as it emerged that mostly core loyalists of the governor were picked for the election. The action helped to balance the power equilibrium given that none of Amosun’s loyalists who came with him into the ACN got the party’s ticket for the state legislative election in 2011.
Few months after the local government election, it was common tale that the chairmen and councillors were playing cat and mouse as the councillors were reported to be fond of issuing queries to the chairmen and sometimes threatening to oust the chairmen from office.
Inevitably, the state government intervened by organising a one day workshop for all the 236 Councillors where they were cautioned on their excesses.
Speaking at the workshop Amosun cautioned the councillors to operate within their bounds. “I want you to challenge within your power not outside your power. It is not within your power to now say you are querying your chairman, how? It is not. It is just like one commissioner now says they want to query me, to do what?
“Your responsibility, when the chairman brings the budget, makes sure this is what he said he want to do. You can’t allocate the money. It is the responsibility of the local government chairman and not yours now say where you want to go and do this.
It is not surprising that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the State would describe the local governments as an extension of the governor’s office.
Speaking on the rot in the local governments in the state, said the local governments under Amosun lack vibrancy and performance.
“Local government administration is nothing to write home about,” the PDP’s Director of Organisation, Mr. Segun Sowunmi said in an interview. The Chairmen appear to be operating as caretaker Chairmen and Ogun State never had it so bad like this,” he added.
The People’s Party of Nigeria PPN, in the state also gave a damming verdict on the performance of the local governments under Amosun.
The party’s director of organization, Mr. Deji Kalejaiye said “the present local government system is nothing but an extension of governor’s satellite office. “Not only financially crippled to patch potholes in the local governments, they are also financially incapacitated to do any projects.”
“We don’t have local governments, the Chairmen were appointed by the governor,” the PPN official said.
But, the State Chairman of All Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON, Mr. Rotimi Rahman exonerated Governor Amosun from the woes of the third tier of government in the state.
“You will not expect anything short of that from opposition. Not a penny out of what comes from Federal Government is deducted by Governor Amosun,” he said.
“The system we met on ground was that all the allocations were taken by the government. But, when Governor Amosun came on board, he stopped it. He insisted that the sharing formula should be based on ratio”, he said.
President of Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE in the State, Mr.Oluseyi Tajudeen said “ the distributable allocation to local governments from JAC is not enough to pay salaries , let alone for the running cost and projects.