Governor Fayemi’s Last Minute Rush In OfficeArticles/Opinion, Latest News Saturday, July 5th, 2014
The Ekiti tsunami is an experience that will not be forgotten so easily in the political landscape of Nigeria. The election has been received with mixed feelings. While many people seem to believe that it was free and fair, the opposition party on the other hand has condemned the militarization of the state through the preponderance of armed security personnel, which to them had elicited a mental picture of combat operation rather than what it should really be – civil electoral process – a factor that could have accounted for the low voter turnout that was 50 per cent of eligible voters in the state.
The candour displayed by both politicians after the election has been impressive. While Governor Fayemi openly accepted defeat with maturity, the governor-elect has already paid the governor a formal visit as they had promised to work together in the interest of their people. This rare display of statesmanship and civility is a clear departure from the do-or-die politics that has dogged the nation’s political space for long. The cordial relationship between Governor Fayemi and Governor-elect Fayose is expected to translate into peaceful transition and continuity in governance.
Regrettably, this hope may be dashed going by the decision of Dr. Fayemi to create 18 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in addition to the existing 16 local government areas in the state. Governor Fayemi, who has barely four months to go had set up the local council’s creation committee and stated that government will strictly adhere to the provision of the laws on the creation of new councils, adding that this consciousness had accounted for why a decision was taken to subject the report to State Executive Council’s pronouncement and legal process. Dr. Fayemi said his administration will immediately set up a White Paper Committee that would prepare the white paper that will eventually enable the State Independent Electoral Commission carry out a referendum in the affected council areas.
The proposed LCDA and their headquarters are: Ado West (Okesha), Ado-North (Oke-Ila), Ado-Central (Ijigbo), Ekiti North-East (Kota-Ekiti), Ogotun/Igbaraodo (Oke-Agbe), Osi/Isokan (Ifaki), Eka Meta (Erijiyan-Ekiti), Okemesi/Ido Ile (Okemesi-Ekiti), Gbonyin (Aisegba) and Irewolede (Iloro-Ekiti). Others are Irede (Ipoti-Ekiti), Ikere West (Anaye), Ajoni (Aiyedun), Ifelodun (Igbemo-Ekiti), Araromi (Iyin-Ekiti), Ero (Igogo), Ifesowapo (Bamisile-land) and Ifeloju (Ilupeju-Ekiti). When the legal framework is put in place, they will operate as LCDAs pending the concurrence of the National Assembly, which would expectedly accord them the status of full-fledged local government councils.
While throwing light into how the recommendations were made, the Chairman of the Committee, Justice Akin Ajakaye (retd) had stated that the committee received a total of 72 memoranda from 15 local governments and painstakingly analysed, verified and a public hearing was held where all communities which sent memo were made to defended their proposals after which the committee gave very detailed objective considerations to the requests of all the communities.
Since this announcement was made, I noticed that a lot of misgivings have set in. For instance, following the disapproval of Ifaki-Ekiti as the headquarters of the proposed Osi/Isokan Local Council Development Area, the people of Osi under the present Ido/Osi council area have rejected the proposals and asked for its reversal because to them, siting of a new local government headquarters in Ifaki-Ekiti was unacceptable. They had advised the government to either give the slot to Osi from Ifaki-Ekiti or they should alternatively give them a brand new local government while Fayose had said “it is quite ungentlemanly for any governor to create local government councils when such government is on its way out. He has proved to be a statesman. But it will be ungentlemanly for him to start creating local governments or employing people he has not employed in four years now. I want to advise that he has been honourable and he has to maintain this”. Similarly, the Ekiti State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has instituted legal action against the Ekiti State Governor at the High Court of Justice, Ado-Ekiti Judicial Division, which the PDP says is illegal, unconstitutional and a flagrant violation of the provisions of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution.
No doubt, the importance of bringing governance closer to the grassroots cannot be over-emphasized. It is true that when governance is moved nearer to the common man through the instrumentality of local councils, there is the likelihood that democratic dividends will accrue to many people. However, inspite of the imperative of this tier of government to bettering the lot of the people, the necessary structure and wherewithal should be on ground before any government can contemplate creating council’s, otherwise it would become another drain pipe to the lean purse of a heavily indebted state like Ekiti.
Another source of concern is the timing for the creation of the LCDAs could also be said to be curious going by the fact that the incumbent has just lost out in the gubernatorial election and could be seen as looking for avenues to make last minute impact. And why the hurry? It could equally be misconstrued as an attempt to compensate party loyalists or presumably a ploy to outrightly create problems for the new government by bloating the state bureaucracy unnecessarily. That is why the governor should be circumvent by revisiting his proposal and ask himself whether the LCDAs are sustainable and defensible. More importantly, the idea should key into the programme of the incoming governor. It is for these reasons that Dr. Fayemi should ensure that the establishment is not seen as an imposition over the state, hence the need for a reappraisal. I still remember a similar case of Lagos State, which created 37 new LCDAs that pitted the state against the Federal Government. This almost crippled the state financially as statutory allocations totalling about N10.8 billion were not only released until the Umaru Yar’Adua administration came on board. This should not be allowed to play-out in Ekiti because if he forces the councils on the new governor, it could be counterproductive.
As the white paper report is expected to be with the House of Assembly to work upon it before being sent to the state SIEC for referendum before the creation. There is need for caution. That is what Dr. Fayemi should do by displaying his gentlemanly posturing, humility and maturity in the best interest of his state.
Kupoluyi writes from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, vide, email@example.com, Twitter, @AdewaleKupoluyi
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