Ahead of the 2023 general elections, a group of media professionals has charged political office seekers, civil society organisations and concerned Nigeria desirous of better governance to put the demand for local government autonomy on the front burner of national debate.
The group – Media Professionals for Good Governance – pointed out in a press statement on Friday, that local government autonomy was a sure path to getting Nigeria out of its governance quagmire, as representative development is best formulated and achieved at the grassroots level of government.
Signed by its Convener, Wonah Odey, the statement that was titled ‘2023: A Patriotic Call To Return Local Government Autonomy To The Front Burner’, argued that campaigns and public debates by candidates in next year’s polls provide appropriate opportunities for them to specify how they intend to make local government councils more workable for national development.
According to Odey: “Development experts have roundly concluded that genuine and faster developments stems from a working local government system, or any other name by which grassroots governance is called.
“Unfortunately, Nigeria’s local government system has not lived up to expectations, whether by default or deliberate machinations and manipulations. One of these is the obvious stranglehold on the system by State Governors who represent the second and higher tier of government.”
The media professionals, therefore, declared that “we believe that even if the most credible elections are conducted in 2023, the leaders that will emerge may be constrained by the institutional bottlenecks that have clogged the wheel of national development.
“One of these bottlenecks, as have been debated and agreed upon at several fora, is the lack of autonomy for the local government councils, which constitute the third tier of government in Nigeria.
“The local government councils are the closest to the majority of Nigerians at the grassroots. It is a known fact that more Nigerians live in rural settlements than urban areas and cities. Their most basic needs are therefore, supposed to be sought for, or impacted at the local government level.”
Odey lamented that years of efforts made by concerned stakeholders to free the local government from the grip of State Governors, have been not yielded much fruits, as these are usually deliberately thwarted.
“Therefore, we advocate for more and stringent efforts like we are doing now, to put local government autonomy on the front-burner of national discourse as the politicians and office seekers strut round the country seeking votes ahead of the 2023 elections. Incidentally, the bulk of the votes that will get them elected will come from the grassroots.
“So, while we are talking to the politicians and putting them on their toes, we should consider the several recommendations put forward severally to breath more life into the local governments. We urge our other partners and stakeholders to demand that candidates, especially gubernatorial, be made to specify their stance, and make concrete, firm promises regarding local government autonomy.
“Indeed, State and National Assembly members and candidates, cannot be left out of this crusade. Their campaigns and public outings should not be made complete without questions and issues of local government autonomy tabled, addressed and tackled.
“This has not been observed to be happening so far. Yet, it is our opinion that collective efforts in this regard will lay a good path to faster, broader development of our nation.
“We call on political rights crusaders, media partners, human rights groups, other civil society organisations, and serving and aspiring political office holders to see this quest for local government autonomy as a national duty, a patriotic assignment and a legacy worth leaving for future generations”, the statement added.