By Chris Ochayi
National Chairman of Association of Local Government Vice Chairmen of Nigeria, ALGVCN, Hon. Lawrence Onuchukwu, in this interview with Vanguard in Abuja, said that the association was ready to sue state governors, who refuse to conduct local council polls in their states.
Onuchukwu, who noted that no fewer than seven state governors are yet to conduct Local Council polls, however, urged them to do so quickly to avoid being dragged to court. The ALGVCN Chairman, also lamented that Anambra State has not conducted local government election in the last 13 years, called on Governor Willie Obiano to urgently do the needful.
What is your take on the local government autonomy?
My association today, we are having a meeting with the Chairman of Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission to also appeal to them, to appeal to the governors involved to do the needful else the allocations to these local government should stop completely. You cannot continue to cheat the people, you cannot continue to siphon the resources meant for the development of the people, it is not acceptable.
Those at the local government have nowhere to run to any longer and that is why you see them going into crime. I am a grassroots man and I know how it works, I know how people feel. How many people can walk to the governor’s office and say I have come to tell you my problems?
Nobody, who will give you access to government house? But this is my office, I am the AMAC vice chairman, anybody walks in here and tells me his problem. If I have the capacity to solve it, I will solve it, but if I don’t have the capacity I will advice you on what to do – that is the government of the people, by the people, that is what it is supposed to be. You don’t sit down in government house and be issuing orders.
The last time we had a press conference, a press man asked me if I am not afraid that some of the governors will be angry. I said I will only be afraid when I see somebody who is a life governor or who has been a life governor of state. In the next couple of weeks, some people who are governors today will be former governor; so why can’t we talk about the development of our people? Governance is about the people, politics is about the people, position of authority is about the people. So anything you are doing outside the people count me out.
I want to sound this warning to the people that the earlier we stop worshipping these people who are in position of authority the better for us because when we do worship them like gods they think they are gods. We in the position of authority are the servants of the people, we are here to serve the people and not the people to serve us.
Why we need local council autonomy
The insecurity that we are talking about in this country emanates from the local government, from the community. So if the local governments are really empowered, and traditional rulers are really empowered they will go a long way in checkmating some of these insecurities.
How many states are yet to conduct council polls?
I am not sure of the figure but I am aware that there are more than seven states that are yet to conduct local government elections. At the press conference, I was particular about Anambra State because the governor has no reason not to conduct election. If Borno State governor is saying that he couldn’t conduct election because of security reasons that is understandable but for Anambra he has no reason whatsoever not to conduct local government election.
For God sake, how will a governor sit on his seat for five years without conducting local government elections, indirectly using the so called caretaker committee as a conduit pipe to siphon resources meant for the development of the people? I challenge anybody, the so called caretaker committees cannot even construct a culvert in their communities. It is so disheartening, nobody will be governor forever. Every governor including the president comes from a local government and I am sure it is only a mad man that would say he doesn’t want his community to develop.
Why councils must have elected chairmen
We are close to the people, we feel what they feel, we know what they pass through, they see us on the streets, they see us in our houses.
How many local people would have access to the governor?
If there is a local council election, at the point of campaign the chairmanship candidate will one way or the other promise the community what he will do, if elected. If he didn’t do it after one, two or three months, the community will refer back to him, that you promised to do so so and so but till today we haven’t seen anything. But the caretaker committee chairman, appointed by the governor, has no allegiance to anybody in the community, his allegiance goes to the governor who appointed him. Because nobody voted for them they have no business with anybody but for the man who appointed them. We will do everything within our power to persuade governors, who are yet to conduct council elections to do the needful.