By Mutiu Oladunjoye
Oyo State is the only state in the South-West region of Nigeria where the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in control of government. Thus, it is not surprising that the party ruling at the centre, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is so interested in its affairs.
Judging by the way we play politics in Nigeria; it is not unexpected. The South-West is very strategic in the political equation of the country; and it is not lost on the people that certain powerful elements in the leadership of the APC in the region are ready to do just anything, including throwing a part of the region in chaos, to achieve political goals towards the 2023 elections.
But the APC-controlled Federal Government needs to be careful not to be used to destabilise a supposedly federating unit, simply for the purpose of the ambition of a person or a group of persons.
It is instructive that earlier in the week, the media had reported about a letter purportedly written by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Muhammed Adamu, to the Oyo State Commissioner of Police, Mr Shina Olukolu, instructing him to implement an earlier directive from the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) on the 68 sacked local government and LCDA chairmen. With that directive came threats from the sacked chairmen to take over the local council secretariats and following those threats and the fears that new tenants at the councils, the Caretaker Chairmen appointed by Governor Seyi Makinde, might engage the chairmen in a supremacy tussle, the State Executive Committee (SEC) of the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) in Oyo State directed all its members in all the 33 local government areas and 35 local council development areas (LCDAs) of the state to stay away from offices as from Monday, January 27, until the issue of local government chairmanship is resolved.
Before this latest development, many Nigerians had criticised the earlier directive from the office of the AGF and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, contending that he lacked the power to issue directives from his office as a federal minister for a chief executive of a state to carry out. The position is that the matter between the Oyo State government and the embattled former local government leaders is not only before the courts, but also that it is one that only a competent court of law can make pronouncements on. Is the office of the AGF a court of law under this dispensation? I doubt it!
Also recently, about the same time the frivolous directives came, the same office of the AGF made a similar statement that drew the ire of not a few Nigerians. Malami declared the security initiative of the six South-Western states, the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), also known as Operation Amotekun, as illegal. How would the chief law officer of a nation, whose primary duty is to take issues of concern to the Federal Government before competent courts of law and get justice from there, now constitute himself into a court that makes judicial pronouncements? Though there were reports later that Mr. Malami had turned around to say his ‘position’ on the Amotekun issue was misunderstood, it is highly reprehensible for such a weighty blunder to emanate from an office as high as that of the AGF.
Back to the Oyo local government issue, a lot of people are not oblivious of the clandestine moves by some people in the APC to use their oft-touted ‘federal might’ to undermine the efforts of the Engineer Makinde-led PDP government in the state. At least, a serving senator had been quoted as saying that they “set three traps for him (Makinde).” All these are attempts to make governance difficult for the PDP government and they have the potential of throwing the state into turmoil.
The Malami directive on the local government dissolution was said to have mentioned other states where similar matter is on ground. Ogun, Kwara, Katsina and many others have been said to have fallen in the same bracket with Oyo on dissolution of local government leadership, with the latter even having a solid ground due to the pending matters before the Court of Appeal. But why the express mention of Oyo State? Why was the leaked AGF letter sent to the Oyo state commissioner of police only?
Everything seems to point at a victimisation agenda, one which the Federal Government should be wary of encouraging. The leadership of the APC needs to be reminded that Makinde’s predecessor in office, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, did not conduct local government election until the twilight of his eight-year administration.
The same minister of justice was in office (and still is) for about five years out of those but no one heard of any such directive from Abuja.
Besides, the Makinde-led government has set in motion the process of conducting local government elections and promised that within the first quarter of 2020, all political parties will have the opportunity to test their popularity in an election that will be acceptable to all, unlike the contentious local government election conducted by his predecessor that berthed the current imbroglio.
With the needless crisis created by AGF and IGP’s misstep in Oyo comes the fears that some people at the highest levels do not want what is good for Oyo State people, who are expected to bear the greatest brunt of the ongoing development. Already, with the stay-at-home order by NULGE, it is clear that the grassroots will begin to feel the pangs of the unsavoury development created by the not-well-thought-out agenda to fight Makinde at all costs.
How does governance get to the grassroots, pending the time acceptable local government election will be held? Does the Federal Government support a situation where the people of Oyo State would continue to live in palpable fear? These are the critical questions that need be answered at this time.
Meanwhile, Governor Makinde has appointed caretaker committees to run the 33 local government councils and sole administrators to the 35 LCDAs. The caretaker committee chairmen and sole administrators have also been tasked to identify development projects in the areas, with a view to executing them for the benefit of the people. But will the needless crisis caused by the power-drunk elements in APC allow the development projects to be achieved?
Already, we are almost in the second half of the first quarter of 2020, if the APC leaders in the South-West are unmindful of the need for the people to live in peace and enjoy the benefits of democracy, the Federal Government should be wary of their antics.