Autonomy of local communities: a dangerous landmine By Adewale Adeoye

Our breakfast was roast cocoyam, red oil and lots of onions and tomatoes. It has been a long time since I had eaten such a sumptuous, indigenous meal. Before resuming our different paths, we had talked for about an hour in the restaurant located in the basement of the small but cute hotel. It was a few months ago.

He was set for East Africa. I was headed to Accra, Ghana, but somehow we met again at the airport and continued the conversation for another half hour.

My friend is a member of the National Assembly and confessed that he would have supported LG autonomy if we had not met. He promised to reach out to some of his colleagues in the same area.

My discussion with him convinced me of one thing: many people, high and low, armed and defenseless, are shamefully ignorant of the concept of local government.

I think many NULGE officials are, although some of them support LG autonomy in the hope that it would give them access to power and resources, without state interference, not for good utility. The Nigerian authorities had proposed the fiscal and political autonomy of LGs for local governments. NULGE, many of whom are union bureaucrats, supports this proposal.

Some governors and legislators do. However, the fundamental principle of democracy and human freedom does not. The story no. Federalism no. Common sense disregards LG’s autonomy. Those who support LG autonomy are reversing the country into the cesspool, at the edge of the cliff.

The logic is simple. What does state mean? A state is a “territory considered as a political community organized under a government”. Local government is “the administration of a district with representatives elected by those who live there”. Without these universal definitions, LGs are administrative or political units usually created by the state to facilitate access to communities.

It simply means that local governments are the parts of a state without which states are null and void. The state is like a building with five rooms. The LGs are the rooms inside the building. The state is the main, all-encompassing building.

Seeking autonomy for each of the five rooms that make up the whole building is dangerous. This will render the main building helpless, weak and vulnerable.

The five rooms facing outside the main building and the owner of authority are not only disgusting but blatantly criminal and treacherous. If the financial capacity of the five chambers and their expenditures are determined from the outside, the authority of the owner, ie the state, is in jeopardy.

This is why the positions of Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu are progressive while those who oppose them are reactionary.

The two governors have a better understanding of the issues. They know the long-term implications of this trap.

Indeed, the autonomy of these five chambers signifies the end of the constitutional and legitimate existence of the main edifice which is the State. It is a curious and harmful plot to create another state, another government, another fief within a state. Many myopic people cannot see the profound implications of this savage, anti-people law.

The only thing he does is he will strengthen the federal government and turn it into a totalitarian gang. This will ensure that the LGs look down on the states and see the FG as their administrator. It turns states into empty shells. It will create recalcitrant politicians who will flirt with the FG to undermine states.

This will move the alliance of people from local communities in their states to the FG, the same cancer communities and humanity have fought for generations. Simply put, FG has nothing to do with local government affairs.

We are talking about devolution of powers. The FG has failed to delegate powers to the states, but seeks to ally itself with the LGs to potentially undermine the state and now claims to want to delegate power to the LGs. If the LGs are under the control of the FG, it simply means that we are in a unitary system disguised as a democracy.

There is the argument that states are overwhelming LGs, grabbing their resources, designing their projects and even sometimes implementing them for them. If that’s the case, the solution isn’t for the feds to literally take the same control over LG.

If the states control the LGs, the solution is not for the feds to seek control of the same LG, when in reality the FG is far more corrupt than the states. The solution is for states to be forced to make laws that will ensure political and financial transparency at the LG level. That the FG now claims to have a puritanical ethic is a shock, affirming that it can better manage and confidently hold the resources of the LGs.

It’s even more tragic that some people believe this, albeit for personal gain.

We have to understand that the term LG Autonomy as it is defined by the federal government is another scam. It is mischievous if not dubious. It is a landmine to scuttle federalism and its strict rules.

If the FG releases funds directly from Abuja to the LGs, it does not mean that the LGs are self-sufficient. This simply means that the FG now controls the resources of local governments since the funds are always within the bounds of political authority outside the states.

This means LGs and the millions of people there now exist at the mercy of the federal government. This is a very destructive long knife aimed at cutting to pieces the century-old struggle for federalism in Nigeria. I urge states that understand the meaning of this dire proposition to make their own laws to subject LGs to total state direction.

If the FG removes the LGs, the States will have nothing left to put us all in great misery. Nigerians must stand up and mobilize against the push for LG autonomy. It is a threat to the self-determination of indigenous communities. NULGE does not own the LGs. LGs belong to us the people.

I understand that some progressive NULGE officials are with us.

Yet, in reality, NULGE will not decide for us what is good for us. He can decide for his handful of members.

The communities who are the real guardians of power in local government areas are the real people who can determine their fears and aspirations, not NULGE.

The future is in our hands. Let’s grab it.

Adewale Adeoye