Baba, where is the LG reform?

By Mas Damisa – 2004

There are those, who acclaim themselves as incurable optimists. Don’t ask me what they mean, because I won’t know, since I am not one of them. To conclude that I am an irredeemable pessimist is to misjudge me by presumption.

Out of traditional respect for elders, one is not permitted to say it as it is, especially when an elder is the subject matter. General Olusegun Obasanjo is not an ordinary elder. As three times head of state, Obasanjo is an elder in triples, whether by status, role or by age.

As an extra-ordinary elder, the ordinary folks expect more than mundane expressions or actions from him, and when they are getting less than their expectations, the superman takes on the looks of one, who could hardly be picked out of the crowd.

President Olusegun Obasanjo

When Baba announced the setting up of a committee for the reform of Local Governments, people were divided as to the desirability and/or timelines of the exercise. Questions were flying everywhere as to the motive of his government; more so, when election into the LGAs, which fell due in June, 2002, were postponed without sensible or responsible reasons.

What heightened the peoples’ anxiety was the fact that Baba had just been re-elected, and was yet to form a cabinet. It takes the appointment of ministers to form one called the Federal Executive Council. While Nigerians were expecting him to do the right thing, he did a wrong one. His party, the PDP, quickly announced the appointment of their LG chairmanship aspirants as care-taker chairmen across the country. Because this was a coup against the constitution of the land, the action amounts to felony, treasonable or not.

It was my colleague (Ohi Ohida), who in his article titled “expecting a deformed reform?” in Vol.4 No.9, 2003, of this magazine cried out that the PDP had released one of their hidden agendas in the postponement of the LG election as in the appointment of caretaker chairmen.

Said he, “… the PDP wanted their operatives to control the LGAs so as to prepare a master-plan for scientific rigging, so that whenever it pleases their federal government to conduct election into the councils, the PDP will then score more than 80% nation-wide. With that, the ground would have been prepared to make the party, the only grassroots party in Nigeria, if not the only party – a prelude to a one-party state.

So, given his or their antecedents, Nigerians are entitled to expect a deformed reform, which may be useful only to PDP members. But is the country’s interest not greater than a party’s gain? Is the PDP Nigeria?”

When the earnest plea or undertaking of an extra-ordinary elder turns out to be a veiled perfidy, optimism is bound to take flight, giving way to the so-called irredeemable pessimism. And, who do you blame: the pessimist or the perfidious? Climbing the Olympian heights is a difficult task; falling from there is quite easy.

No one has had a feel of Obasanjo’s LG reform before elections into them; what we all saw, and continue to see, is the bastadisation of the third-tier of government by hand-picked party pimps by the party in power at the states, which means that no reform was actually intended, and that the committee’s work was a ploy to buy time, in order to entrench the party for an undue advantage over opposition parties.

We now know by the result of the LG elections that the PDP is determined to take hostage of democracy and majority rule; and that the decision to ‘capture’ the LGs was taken way back in 2002 when their lifespan expired. The result just declared is, therefore, a fait acompli.

The result of the LG elections was foreshadowed by the method or manner through which chairmanship candidates emerged. In the PDP, for instance, incumbent caretaker chairmen became automatic candidates of the party. It was only in a few opposition parties that electoral primaries were used to select candidates. Therefore, the PDP led the way in killing the democratic process through which candidates ought to emerge.

When incumbency is used to supplant a choice, the product of which is obtained by a forced consensus, then the value of choice is diminished and the choice itself becomes cheesy and cheapish. Where then is majority rule, when the number of the electorate is indeterminate?

The hackneyed refrain of PDP government’s time-servers is that Obasanjo means well for Nigeria. They stopped short of telling us that he is the only one, who means Nigeria well, while opposition politicians mean ill for the country. If the LG reform is a barometer of how well Obasanjo meant for Nigeria, then, he may also have prepared to preside over the disintegration of the country. If Baba means well, we are yet to see how, in his “achievements.”

Culled from Our VISION magazine, Vol.5 No.3, 2004

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