A former Chief of Staff to Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State and visiting professor at Igbinedion University, Okada, Adeolu Akande has said that conduct of local government election by state governments has denied the third level of government the opportunity of recruiting competent and accountable leadership at that level in the country.
Prof. Akande, who is also the Director of the Centre for Presidential Studies at the same university, advocated local government autonomy as the panacea to the problem of local government administration in the country.
He stated this when he appeared as a guest on a television programme monitored in Ibadan, Oyo State capital at the weekend.
He said local government in the country has failed to achieve the objective of grassroots development because of three factors; lack of autonomy, lack of direct financial allocation from the federation account and the failure to elect local government councils, explaining that the three factors boil down to the issue of local government autonomy.
“Local government councils will be accountable to their people if they are elected. Caretaker committees are only accountable to their appointing autorities,” he said, explaining that it is when a government is accountable to the people that it is motivated to perform to the expectation of the people,” he explained.
He said the failure to make direct financial allocation to local government councils also inhibit local government performance. “The Joint State-Local government account system denies local councils the opportunity to determine projects that are relevant to their people. The situation where state governments award uniform projects for all local government areas is a negation of the principle of grassroots development that undergirds the creation of local councils as third tier of government,” he said.
He advised that the Joint State-Local Government account should be abolished while administrative guidelines are stipulated for the payment of teachers and other workers’ salaries as first line charge on local government accounts.
Akande said that the Constitution should also be amended to allow Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) or a new national electoral body comprising representatives of states and political parties to conduct local government elections.
He said the present system where ruling parties at the state level win all local government elections that they conduct does not promote democracy, good governance and competent leadership at the local government level.”It is indefensible that no ruling party in any of the 36 states has ever lost a local government election in their respective state. This clearly makes a mockery of our democracy and there is need for an urgent review of this electoral embarrassment”, he submitted.
He revealed that the said the conduct of local government election by state governments has denied the third tier of government the opportunity to recruit competent and accountable leadership at that level. “The caretaker system has denied the people the opportunity of electing leaders of their choice at the local level. This is against the provisions and spirit of the 1999 Constitution”, he said, arguing that the conception of local government as a training ground for leadership at higher levels of government is lost because democratic tenets of governance are not allowed to blossom at the local government level.
Speaking on the situation in Oyo State, Prof. Akande explained that the autonomy of local government could have been ensured if local council elections had been held. He claimed that the governor had triggered the process of election twice but the process was truncated by court processes. ”The governor triggered the process in 2011 but a court case instituted by the members of the state electoral panel constituted by Governor Ladoja but dismissed by Governor Alao Akala resulted in a court injunction against the new Commission constituted by Governor Ajimobi.
“The Governor triggered the process for council elections again in 2016 but some parties aggrieved with provisions of the Local Council Development Authorities (LCDA) got a court injunction against the conduct of the election”. He expressed the confidence that the resolution of the court case will restore local government autonomy in Oyo State.