Opinion: Our apathy will cost us a progressive Lagos

by Dayo Israel

 

The APC primaries fiasco has continued to trend in the past few weeks, especially with the recent judgement by a Lagos Court in favour of the aspirants in Mushin and Odi Olowo. This is not because APC is the only party in Lagos State but because of the strong stature of the party in the state and the national scene.

Aside from party members, most citizens have failed to see the coming election as a collective matter irrespective of our party learning. We forget to see that, largely because of the way our democracy is at the moment. In all the most developed countries, local government is the bedrock of state/regional and national planning, because it provides the fundamental information required to provide key services to citizens.

Lack of effective and competent local government can result in previous progress being undone with serious consequences, especially in cities like Lagos, which attracts thousands of new people every week hoping to fulfil their dreams in Nigeria’s most prosperous State.

Why should we be concerned about Lagos LG Primaries and Election:
1. It is known in Nigeria that the ruling party in the state most times sweeps the local government polls as we saw recently in Benue and Ogun State. As a matter of fact in Benue, they didn’t read any result, they just announced the state ruling party as the winner of all the LG seats. So brutal, no other party picked as much as a councillor in that state.
There is a very strong and high chance that the APC will sweep all the chairmanship seats in Lagos. So, there are strong indications that anyone who emerges chairmanship candidate of the APC in Lagos is as good as the winner.
2. Because there is no strong opposition in Lagos State at the moment. This has arguably contributed to the lack of a strong internal democracy in the APC. If the APC had threats from other parties to produce candidates of worth and appeal to the Grassroot, our choices of candidate would have been better.

I once heard that a former senator was penned down by party leadership to take over from The Governor of Lagos state in 2007, but when a Pharmacist declared interest to join the race, the party leadership immediately shunned the idea of the initial candidate and went shopping for a pedigree that can tackle the pharmacist at the poll, and this was allegedly how a Senior Advocate of Nigeria came into the picture and became the Governor.

When APC had to defeat Jonathan, as the opposition, the party shopped for a combination that PDP could not beat. The PDP didn’t have a candidate to match the combination and today they are obsolete.

That is the beauty of democracy. Challenges push us. The lack of strong oppositions across our country, be it in PDP or APGA or APC controlled states generally threatens our democracy a great deal.

I must give great Kudos to the APC, who while in opposition that kept the PDP busy and on their toes.

Let’s move on, let me make this clearer. Our apathy about local government elections and management is killing us.

Recently the Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State said that the outbreak of Type C Cerebrospinal Meningitis in the country was a direct punishment from God to the people of Nigeria for their various sinful acts. Our inability to take responsibility for our challenges has kept us as a nation in darkness. We blame God for everything, Good, bad or ugly.

This is not God but a result of bad governance at the state and local government level. Zamfara has the lowest civil registration and also lowest vaccine coverage as a result of weak or none existent local government.

Local governments are responsible for registrations: birth, death and marriages etc. In other words key data required to plan for everything from education, health care, housing, transport etc.

Recently I saw an Infographic data map from @afridevinfo which shows how weak or non-existent local govt governance in Borno/Yobe especially on education had created a serious crisis resulting in 63% – 83% Males respectively not having access to primary and secondary education – paving the way for rapid spread of extremism, which in turn has cost Nigeria billions of dollars in defence spending that could have been utilised for economic growth.

The dynamics in large ungoverned rural spaces (or vacuum) also allowed extremism to capture and occupy territory. In urban areas, this is more likely to result in the formation of gangs, as is now developing in some parts of Lagos.

In general local govt is the most vital of all tiers because governance gaps at that level have a bigger impact on foundation issues such as primary education, primary health, urban or rural planning, etc. Ideally, the three tiers of govt should implement budgets in a synchronised way so policy is cascaded upwards based on local needs, and then integrated at the state and national levels.

In other words, if local governments don’t or can’t do their job, the state/regional and national governments are unable to effectively do their jobs at the level of state / national budgeting and economic planning, with serious national implications.

In summary, local government is so fundamental to the development of society, that where local government fails, problems loom. This is why citizens need to pay more attention to local governance. Yet many citizens do not pay attention to local government elections.

Political Parties also need to pay more attention to capacity and competence of local government candidates. Many elected officials managing local governments do not have the capacity to transform the lives of their communities, more so in mega-cities like Lagos where a complex range of factors has to be factored into urban planning.

As the elections draw near, let us in our large numbers troop out to vote. Let us vote for a better Local Governance that will complement the effort of our Super Governor – Akinwunmi Ambode.


Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Dayo Israel writes from Ebute Metta in West Africa and is a lover of Nigerian Jollof rice. A patron of the National Association of Lagos State Student, Dayo is the First African to be elected as Student Council Chair in London Metropolitan University and until recently was Events Manager for (VAC Campaign) at UNICEF Nigeria.

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