By Bayo fasunwon
In Nigeria’s democracy, the people at the grassroots are the most unfortunate participants in the political system. Often times, they are the venues of concocting ghost voters for election rigging, and mostly the first victims of diseases. Many political office seekers knock on their doors, promising the installation of air conditioners in the sky, while campaigning. However, once the money is in the bag and the (s) elected is in the saddle of power, they are forgotten, and left to pray to God, for the performance of the duties of men. It was for this and other purposes that the Local Government Areas were created, enlarged and expanded to bring government closer to the people. It was expected that the Local Governments would understand the needs of the people, identify talents, and meet the ‘not-too-much’ needs of the people.
The failure of the local governments to live up to expectations had led to various reforms and the constitutional empowerment in the fourth schedule to carry lout specific functions. However, the local governments did not still fulfill the yearnings of the people. The State Governments had also perfected plans to ensure that the leadership of the local government is mere stooges who would sacrifice the yearnings of the people for personal aggrandizement and the unchecked gluttony of the Governor at the centre. In order to check this, there have been clamour for true democratization and autonomy of the Local Governments. In addition, the President had told whoever cares to listen that the statutory monetary Federal Allocation shall be paid directly to the local governments’ accounts. These gestures are meant to enhance the productivity of the local governments, but would they?
While one would support the autonomy of the Local Governments, it is palpable to say that they would do well as autonomous tier of government. Do not get me wrong. The elders used to say that any child that would become a leader in the future must have shown traits of leadership in its childhood years. The local government leadership in many States of the Federation has hidden under the excesses of State Governors to enact mediocrity, slothfulness, and aggrandizement as a way of life. Even the ‘meager’ sum of money left by State Governments has not been used to meet certain cheap needs of the people. These little needs are however essential for the socio-economic development of the people and the area. Furthermore, some of these needs, which fall within the ambits of their constitutional functions, when neglected, promotes insecurity and hinders planning. Let us discuss some of these.
The rains are here, and it brings with it the routine problems of flooding. The cause and outcomes of flooding is peculiar to each geographical area in which the menace occurs. Proactive and people centered local government should have, at this time engaged direct labour or even employees to reduce the incidence of flooding in their areas. The cheapest means would be the clearance of waterways, especially the drainages. Given that we are in the rain season, local governments ought to undertake this task on fortnight basis. When the drainages are cleared of hindrances to water flows, then flooding and the attendant consequences would be reduced. Added to this task is the provision of waste disposal outlets to the citizens at the grassroots. It is a known fact, that many eagerly await the onset of the rain to dump their wastes into the drainages thereby clogging them. While this practice is not only barbaric, it is also devastating. However, many residents have complained about the unavailability or inefficiency of Waste Disposal Units. A responsive local government ought to have made this service available at a fee or engage the private sector to ensure good waste management. Furthermore, forward thinking local governments should use this period to gather data about flood prone areas, bad drainages, closed or closing water channels and collapsing bridges. This data would be needed when funds arrive for construction of drainages and bridges, dredging and enlargement of waterways as well as planning of building layouts in these communities. Doing this would reduce the incidence, havoc, and losses being recorded during the rains.
Businesses in this modern world has gone digital. Hence, one could sit in the comfort of his house and order for goods from China, and receive such at his doorstep. This has in no small way helped those involved in the sales of used clothes, computers, and other goods. However, this business is being hampered by the negligence of Local Government Councils/ this is because, they have not made it easy for one to locate the recipient of the goods, after it has been ordered. Many local governments have shied from naming streets and houses for easy identification and transaction. This deliberate negligence has in more time than many prevented security operatives from identifying the exact location of reported crimes and thus stops the nefarious activities of the marauders. Without house and street numbering, the programs of census, vaccination, and project implementation had been more tedious than it should have in recent times. Beyond this, it makes revenue collection easier and more effective. Using masts, Suya sellers and other landmarks to describe the way to particular residences is not archaic but also nauseating. It is time for democratic local governments to rise up and start this necessary numbering.
In addition, one should emphasize the need for local governments at this time of the year to embark on clearing of the bushes by roadside due to poor visibility. Apart from clearing these bushes, chemicals could be used to endure that these accident-promoting plants are kept at bay. The weather is not at its best right now, and roads are slippery, so helping road users with enhanced visibility would surely save many from the pains and agony of road mishaps.
Finally, with the arrival of the Delta variant of the dreaded COVID 19, it is important for Local Government Councils to sensitize people at the grassroots of this deadly variant. The Local Government is best positioned to reach out to the masses f people across the face of Nigeria, and ensure a sensitization programme in the language that the locals would understand. The Local Governments are expected to be closer to the people and ensure governance at the local level; hence, it is not out of place to insist that they carry out their constitutional roles without delay and excuses.