By Waheed Adekunle
Saying the policies of the current administration of Governor Ademola Adeleke in Osun State have been crippling the local government administration or compounding the inherited challenges, is to say the least of the obvious reality at various Councils in the state.
A dispassionate assessment of the current situations at different Councils within the state has shown clearly the unprecedented retrogression being witnessed by the people at the grassroots in particular and citizens of the state in general. This is occasioned by socioeconomic, political and environmental challenges at the third tier of government under the present administration in the state.
The palpable retrogressive menace, which had technically crippled the third tier of government in the state had now become a phenomenon and cancerous tumor hitting hard on the daily livelihood of the people who had hitherto been politically brainwashed into believing nonexistent miracle from the Council bosses right from their appointments.
Generally speaking, local governments are created in Nigeria to decentralize governance, bring government closer to the people at the grassroots and render social services pivotal in engendering national development. So, being the closest to the people, it occupies a peculiar position as promoter of grassroots mobilization and participation in governance, and catalyst for rural transformation and development. They are purposefully located and responsible for the governance of about 70 percent of the estimated about 200 million people of the Nigerian population.
However, the demands and expectations from local government councils over the years have been on the increase while the finance required to deliver the dividend of democracy and good administration at the grassroots continue to dwindle, inadequate, mismanaged and misappropriated.
Recall that Governor Adeleke had on December 1, 2022 ordered the vacation of the elected Chairmen and Councilors of the respective Councils from office, following the judgment of the Federal High Court, Osogbo, sacking the said local government bosses.
Sequel to the obnoxious Executive Order sacking the elected local government chairmen, vice-chairmen and secretaries respectively, Governor Adeleke afterwards announced, and precisely, on August 16, 2023, sworn in 69 caretaker chairpersons to administer the affairs of the Local Government Areas, Local Council Development Areas, Council Areas and Administrative Offices roughly nine months after his coming into office despite the pending case at the Court of Appeal.
Inaugurating the appointed council chairmen, Governor Adeleke was quoted to have reassured the people of the state of a new dawn in the art of governance across the nooks and crannies of the state, boasting that his administration was poised to return governance to the grassroots.
Also, in the build up to the 2022 Osun governorship election, one would recall that Senator Adeleke, who was the then, gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), outrightly condemned the way and manner the Local Government Areas were being administered under his predecessor with a pledge that if elected he would ensure the return of governance to the grassroots immediately he assumed office.
Adeleke was quoted in some of his electioneering campaign promises where he bragged that the administration of the councils in the state would witness astronomical facelift under his watch within six months, if elected, with an affirmation that Osun people would be marvelled when wonders begin to manifest at the councils as soon as he assumed office but ‘lo and behold’, the reverse is the scenario at the moment as the suffocating Councils have been grasping for survival under the watch of the Adeleke’s appointees.
Alas! it is surprising that inspite of the pocket of pledges at different fora by Governor Adeleke to revamp the local government administration within six months of coming to office, up till now, no iota of development worthy of celebration has been witnessed in any of the Councils thus far.
Going by the evidence-based analysis and empirical facts on the unfolding political events thus far, there is no doubting the fact that the style of governance of the current administration in the state, has crippled the administration of local government as many of these Councils have practically become orphans in the hands of political demagogues.
Though many would have expected wonders under the current administration as earlier promised by the governor, in view of the humongous funds accruing to the three tiers of government from the Federation Account on monthly basis under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, yet, Osun is neither here nor there in the scale of performance while juxtaposing same with her earnings in the comity of states and local governments in the country.
While it is on record that since the emergence of President Tinubu coupled with the savings from the fuel subsidy regime, the statutory allocations to the states and local governments have not only been jerked up exponentially, but tripled what they used to earn, whereas Osun is yet to justify same with visible or invisible, physical or otherwise development thus far.
As a discerning mind, it is disheartening that despite the substantial increment in the resources coming to the coffers of both the states and local governments, Osun in particular is still crawling while others are apparently walking-running and flying.
Without being prejudicial, the reality at each of the Councils including the Area Office and LCDAs across the state remains that, the current administration has been strangulating them by its management style.
Emerging facts from many councils in the state clearly showed that the socio-economic and political activities at the grassroots have been stylishly paralysed for cheap political scores thus making them to be at the mercy of the state for survival inspite of their sizeable allocation of resources since last year June.
It is on record that the state has not had it as bad as it is at the moment. In fact when the state government was battling with huge debts and receiving minus allocations after deductions to service inherited loans from the Federal Allocations under the immediate past government in the state, the situation was never this bad.
As a student of history, taking it from the return to democracy in 1999 that gave birth to the administration(s) of former Governor Abdul-Kareem Adebisi Akande (1999-2003) to Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola (2003-2010) to Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (2010-2018) to the immediate past Governor Adegboyega Oyetola CON (2018-2022), the Councils never experienced a ‘sorry state’ of socio-economic bizarre as bad as it is today.
As a matter of fact, we are all living witnesses to the gains recorded by the Councils under Chief Akande’s administration vis-a-vis Prince Oyinlola who even during his tenure popularized the grassroots governance.
Even despite the paucity of fund occasioned by the sharp downfall in the prices and sales of crude oil in 2013, with its ripple effect on the allocation to the states coupled with the humongous debts incurred under the administration of former Governor Rauf Aregbesola, there was life in the Councils across the state. Despite that, many projects were executed by each of the Councils with little or no burden on the system.
In the same vein, the administration of former Governor Oyetola now Minister of Marine and Blue Economy witnessed astronomical progress in the life of the local government administration in the state in his four years of being in office as every sincere mind could attest to despite the obvious socio-economic and political challenges that enveloped his tenure.
Despite the outrageous debt profile of the state, inherited by the Oyetola’s administration, the governor did not in anyway allow such to affect the management of the affairs of the Councils but rather explored opportunities in difficulties to impact meaningfully on the lives of the people at the grassroots. The incontestable and incontrovertible facts are there to fact check and cross-check for whoever wishes to do so.
Under the Oyetola’s administration, it is on record that the local governments were not only given the full autonomy but allowed to operate freely with their respective resources to the extent that what were meant for the Councils were not in anyway being tampered with by any arm. The records are there to verify. So, one will definitely wonder why local government has been rendered incapable to perform anything despite the regular, prompt and timely allocation coming in every month.
While the current situation in the state in general and local governments in particular has been yearning for noble attention of stakeholders and the expertise of the economists and political scientists, it is also pertinent to espouse some of the missing links that led to the current socio-economic quagmire in the state.
Since the inception of the current administration, the local government administration has become an appendage in the scheme of things at the centre inspite of their clearly stated constitutional obligations which had invariably turned them to glorified signpost entities.
Findings across the councils apparently indicated that, unless there is a shift in policy, the situation would remain unabated as many of the Councils could neither operate freely nor earn as much as envisaged.
It is quite unfortunate that the local governments that used to be the centres of excellence in grassroots development, and Points of Sale of local productions and socio-economic advancement, are now ‘deserted entities’ making them unattractive to many to visit due to the current palpable ‘dry situation’.
This claim, as a matter of fact, has been processed and attested to by the series of lamentation day-in-day-out from even members of the ruling party particularly from those at the grassroots whose hope had been technically dashed to the stringent policy that had incapacitated and handicapped them from doing the needful to their people. It is not only ridiculous but sordid to hear that some council chairmen couldn’t afford to sustain the tradition of gift gestures usually extended to citizens during festivities.
Insinuations have it that, the discouraging situation has further encouraged dereliction of duties as many political appointees have resorted to a self-help through ‘absconding’ in order to avoid fulfilling unofficial financial commitment whenever they are seen in their councils.
So, the raging questions to ask the incumbent government are: What are the causes of the current socio-economic situation in the state acknowledging the humongous funds coming monthly to state and local governments’ coffers? Why have the Councils in the last 15 months been drifting backward under the current administration? What has been happening to the allocations of the Councils thus far to the extent that many of them found it pretty difficult to fulfill their constitutional obligations to the people of their various domains? Are the local governments’ funds being raided for unknown reasons? Why can’t the current council chairmen meet up the expectations of the people at the grassroots? Is it true that the Councils’ funds are being used for state capital projects or kept to execute some planned state projects such as the proposed ‘N100billion infra plan’ among others.
So, these and many others must be answered if the state government is genuine in taking Osun to enviable heights as promised.
May Almighty God heal our land!
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