In many States of the Federation, the story is the same: State governors treat Local Governments as appendages and not the independent third tier of government that the 1999 Constitution (as amended) proposes them to be. The three tiers of government in the awkward Federal system that we operate are the Federal, State and Local Governments, each of which are supposed to be independent of each other, the head of which is supposed to wield executive powers; perhaps, it is to emphasize this fact that many of us still affix the needless “Executive” to presidents and governors! Thus we have “Executive President”; “Executive Governor! Embedded in “President” and “Governor” already is the notion of executive powers but to make assurance doubly sure, we still call the governor especially “Executive Governor”. A Local Government chairman also is an “Executive Chairman” since, he, too, like the president and governor, is vested with executive powers by the Constitution. Therefore, the Executives in the three tiers of government (Federal, State and LG) derive their powers from the same source. But that, unfortunately, is where the good news ends for the LGs. Whereas they are meant to be independent and free to run their show as they deem fit, everywhere they are shackled by the State governors.
The battle to free the LGs from the apron string of governors has been on for ages. The governors are reluctant to let go of the LGs. Interestingly, many of the LGs were also seen voting to retain their servitude to their State governors; thereby rejecting and compromising the efforts of the Federal Government and the National Assembly to set them free. Unless you understand how the awkward federal system that we operate here functions, you will wonder why! The battle to accord financial autonomy to LGs – and the Judiciary – has been thwarted by State governors and, interestingly, the Federal Government respectively. The reason for this is obvious. The Federal Government fears a strong and independent Judiciary even as State governors prefer pliant LGs that will be at their beck and call. State governments leverage on the funds shared for the LGs directly from the Federation Account. In addition, they appropriate the sources of IGR of LGs as well as usurp their functions to feather their own nest while stripping the LGs naked and leaving them at the mercy of State governors. It is said that the easiest funds to embezzle by State governors are LG funds.
Local government chairmen are handicapped because, in most cases, they are appointees of the governor. One of the very first actions of governors as they assume office is to dissolve the LGs and appoint Caretaker Committees. How can such appointees raise their voice against the appointing authority? In like manner, they dare not raise their head when the Oga at the top is chopping! They must wait patiently for the crumbs that fall from the master’s table. This is said to be one of the reasons why there is hardly any development in the local government areas that the LG chairmen can boast of. So, when a State governor tells you that he is the one “helping” or giving “subvention” to the LGs to bring development to their locality, know that it is just a fraction of Abu’s money that is being used to entertain Abu! In case you didn’t know, it is not only would-be governors that are taken before Okija shrine to swear to oaths of allegiance; many prospective LG chairmen are also made to swear on whatever – their mother or father’s grave or have their spouse and children or whatever is dearest to them placed on the line. That way, how can anyone hear a whimper from them? Even where elections are held, how many LG aspirants can make it without the backing of the governor? Remember what Satan told Jesus Christ in John 6:15!
Last week, however, one LG chairman dared to be different; he wrote a damning letter, not directly to the governor but to an elder of their party who also had been a two-term governor and someone who is touted to have the ears of the president, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Was I surprised when I found out who the enfant terrible of a letter-writer was? No, not at all! Wale Adedayo, the LG chairman of Ijebu East, is as hard as nails. He did not meet me at PUNCH newspapers but his friend and one of the BB Boys, Mike Awe (bless his soul, O Lord!), brought him to my office at Ikeja Shopping Plaza one day and it cannot escape you that he has a charming and engaging personality. I understand he was one of the best Political Editors that PUNCH newspapers had. Our path crossed again years later when I was invited by my professional colleague, Kayode Samuel, to help with the repositioning of The Westerner newsmagazine. Kayode was Chief of Staff and later Commissioner of Information in the Otunba Gbenga Daniel (OGD) administration. I took up the task simply because of my love for Kayode, whom I respect as one of the best columnists of our time. I keep wondering that he chose to retire so early. As I prepared old Vanguard newspapers in my library for binding on Thursday, I came across some of Kayode’s flaming articles of yore. I will sit back and enjoy them again after this time out!
Wale Adedayo aka Babalawo was so helpful to me when I was the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Westerner newsmagazine and he the Chief Press Secretary to OGD; together with Awofolaju (bless his soul, O Lord!), Protocol Officer to the governor, whom I taught English Language in Form Two at Osogbo Grammar School, they helped me in every way they could. Wale availed me with his wealth of experience as an insider; I regret not making use of some of the nuggets of street-wise wisdom he offered me! He was a professional who had to imbibe the ways of politicians the hard way. I was a professional who stubbornly refused to learn the ways of politicians. Wale was touted to be very close to OGD; even at that, he was practical enough to know his limits as a minority in the cut-throat competition of cabals. All the same, he fell apart with OGD. Their relationship soured to the extent that Wale reportedly had to seek refuge at Bourdilion. All that is now history! The cat and dog relationship between Bola Ahmed Tinubu and OGD has given way to an enduring relationship of collaboration and partnership.
Wale, too, must have bounced back into reckoning to have become a LG chairman. Why did he decide to square up to Gov. Dapo Abiodun at this point in time when the governor is still at the crossroads? Is he fighting solo or are there unseen hands directing affairs from behind the scene? I must confess that I have no answer but two things I have learnt about politicians; nay three. One: Don’t take sides when they seemingly are fighting. They fight in the morning and settle at night. Two: No matter how altruistic or nationalistic politicians may pretend to be, there is always selfish interest at the base of most of the actions they take. Three: When a politician denies something, fix your gaze at that very something because there must be some truth in it for, as they say, there is no smoke without a fire. Or when a politician mounts the rooftop to accuse another politician of planning to commit a crime, know that he himself has just perfected his own plan to commit the same crime – or even a more heinous one! He is accusing the other fellow just to divert attention from himself!
So, in all of this, who is right and who is wrong: Wale accuses Gov. Abiodun of starving Ogun LGs of funds; the governor says there is no iota of truth in that. The other Ogun State LG chairmen have sided with the governor to say that Wale lied; and that they have not been starved of funds. In addition, they have all gone to the governor to apologise (for the embarrassment, I guess) that Wale’s (unfounded?) allegation might have caused His Excellency. For effect, Wale’s Ijebu East councillors have met and have pronounced him suspended for three months on allegations of maladministration and financial mismanagement. Responding, Wale has maintained that his LG received no such funds that his colleagues said they received and has asked the LG chairmen who went to beg to account for the funds they said they received from the governor. He has also called on the EFCC to step in and investigate the matter. In addition, Wale and his family are said to have gone into hiding, fearing for their life and safety. Protests – are they for or against? – are also said to have rocked the embattled LG.
This is not the right time for this kind of “rofo-rofo” fight from politicians, especially with military coups happening all around us. What if some people here, taking a cue, are already compiling their own excuses? I am sure you understand what I mean! So, let the Ogun politicians caution themselves. Failure, let higher authorities read them the Riot Act. This is not the right time for “two fighting”, as they say! Did you watch the video of the Ogun State LG chairmen prostrating to Gov. Dapo Abiodun? Regal and magisterial, the governor looked on as the third tier of government that is supposed to be independent, grovelled before him like errant school children before a village headmaster! It was a pitiable, horrible and appalling sight! What kind of characters are these? What leadership properly so-called can any one of these charlatans offer? Please tell me, is this democracy in action?
A man should be free to criticize his leader; that is the very essence of democracy. If he is wrong, say so and present the facts; that’s all! You don’t run him out of town for exercising his democratic right of freedom of expression. Or is Wale playing politics with his going into hiding? You don’t endanger a man’s life and put his entire family in jeopardy simply for speaking out. In fact, you should jump at the opportunity his speaking out offers by defending yourself with facts and figures and shining with it. If the Ijebu East councillors who took this material time to find out that their chairman is guilty of “maladministration and financial recklessness” are Yoruba, then, they should have little difficulty understanding that the witch that cried yesterday is the one that killed the child that died today! As our people would say: “Ejo l’owo n nu”!
* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.