Responsive Community Governance and the Role of the Nigerian People

in Government

Now that the traditional noise-making jamboree preceding what is regarded as elections in this clime had been concluded, and also after the "re-insult" (results) had been unleashed on us, there is a justified need for us to once again appraise our existence as a people.
It beats all reasonable imaginations to discover that after 48 shameful years of supposed independence, Nigerian politicians during the just concluded Local Government polls, could still tour our streets with their shameless clichéd campaign promises of "Good roads, portable water, free health care, free education ...", which in places like America and Europe, are read only in history books.

It even baffles one the more to learn that a particular chairmanship aspirant unapologetically goofed during his own version of the noise-making carnival. The candidate reportedly shouted to the high heavens, his intention to make sure that public power supply in his constituency get more regular than it was, if eventually elected. He obviously did not know or perhaps "have forgotten" that the subject of power was not a responsibility for the local government! This is a very good indication that the politician in question is a total ignoramus who was warming up to take the people of his local government through another round of failure, coloured by embezzlement and people destructive shenanigans.

Come to think of it, to promise good roads, portable water and so forth after almost 50 years of independence, certainly smacks of stagnancy of the highest order. The most painful part is that most of these candidates were gunning for a second term in the same office, and yet they still maintained the gut to think that electorates are blind fools without any good memory.

Audaciously, they still promise good roads, as if those bad roads had just sprung up from the ground some days earlier; as if they have not taken note of the roads before the campaigns. I can bet with any valuable article that, in another four year's time, these people would still come back to promise "good roads!" Hmn, Jesus wept!

It is high time the electorates devised means to hold political office holders more responsible. The fact must not be forgotten that the people possess the greatest power in any societal set up. This is because; the population of people holding elective posts is only minuscule, compared to the number of people being ruled. Consequently, one expects the populace to play a very significant role in the way and manner the society is governed and the management of public resources.

From time to time, the people should always demand for stewardship reports from their political leaders. If that of the Federal and State Governments cannot be obtained directly, the one from the local government especially from the councilors should be demanded for, at regular intervals. People in the grassroots should organize themselves into independent community associations, through which a general meet of all residents in a particular ward, for an instance, could be summoned, during which the elected councilors could be made read out his progress so far (or otherwise) in office. Rooms should be created for a question - and - answer forum during those meets. The councilors should not just be allowed to sit in office, receive allowances and feed fat on public funds.

If only this could be sustained in each ward of a local government for a period of time, I am cocksure that in no time, such initiative would be duplicated statewide, and nationwide.
However, the people should always refuse to be bamboozled by doctored stewardship reports, as most politicians (being their trademark) would go any length to make people believe what is not. Past experiences have demonstrated the enormous tendencies of Nigerian politicians to lie and cover up the same lie with another. The people should always take the initiative to investigate every "achievement" claimed by their political representatives, at every point in time.

These people (the elected office holders) are not ghosts, they live in our midst and we know them inside-out. So, monitoring them should come as easy as we want such to be. All forms of I-don't-care tendencies must be eschewed for the good of our society.

The rationale for the establishment of Local Government in the administration of the Nigerian society is hinged on the necessity to bring governance closer to the people. It is to ascertain that the presence of government is maximally felt at the grassroots, such that the people can effectively participate in the process.

But how much of this commendable intention has been achieved in the contemporary order of things? Hardly do people outside partisan politics recognize their representatives at the Local Government levels not to talk of having a good understanding of the way their resources (at least, allocations from the Federal Coffers) are being managed.

In the stead of carrying people along in Local Government administration, some smart, selected few in the guise of politics would rather grow pot bellies, feeding fat at the expense of the entire community, thus, the object of bringing governance closer to the people gets out rightly defeated. Painful still, these anointed few, in an obvious intoxication, assume to themselves unnecessary importance. Imagine, an ordinary chairman elect in one of LCDA'S in Alimosho hardly waited for the results to be announced before changing his mobile phone number! Even Mr Babatunde Fashola, the amiable governor of Lagos still maintains his old number, till date. It is quite obvious from this, that a gulf certainly separates the enlightened from the rustic illiterates.

Who blames them, anyway, when they know that no-one would hold them responsible for their actions and deliberate inactions, for as long as they can play the good-boy to their respective political godfathers, whose investments must be recouped before anything else?

Sampling people's opinion, I came to the realization that supposed upright and the ordinary Nigerians are not eager to participate in anything political. The belief is that politics is a dirty game for dirty people. The only thing a common, average Nigerian would rather do is to grudgingly complain behind a closed door where the presumed 'tormentor' or the larger society cannot categorically hear him.

I think since politics is a dirty game for dirty people, the clean ones need not complain. Afterall, it is a matter of picking the nose with the right finger, like the Yorubas would day. More seriously, it is high time we made the so-called politicians realize that we are not morons whose lives could be toyed with, by any individual or group of individuals. Their campaigns, since the second republic have always centered on good roads, water supply, improved health care delivery and so forth yet, decades after, the mirage still remained.

Nigerians, as a matter of fact should defocus on the central government and make the nearest tier work at all costs for the good of our respective communities. After all, Nigeria claims to practice federalism. When our community governance delivers the best for us, as a people, then, little would be expected from the central government, only as compliments.

Every individual and groups should wake up to this responsibility. We should think of means to make local politicians more responsive and responsible. They should always be kept on their feet by the consciousness of our vigilance and spotlight on them. To make our ' leaders' more responsible, all hands must be on deck.

PS: This Piece was written in October 2008, a week after the conclusion of the Lagos Local Council Polls

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Responsive Community Governance and the Role of the Nigerian People

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This article was published on 2010/04/04
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