By Ali Abare
The Nasarawa State Independent Electoral Commission ( NASIEC), in line with its constitutional mandate, has since sounded the gong, for political parties and actors, to take up the gauntlet and to enter the ring, ahead of the October 6 local government election.
Indeed, the atmosphere in and around Nasarawa State, especially Lafia, the state capital, has become electrified, as political aspirants and their supporters, rode in motorcades, in time to meet up with the NASIEC timeline of events, particularly, picking their nomination and expression of interest forms.
Thus, with all things being equal, electorates in Nasarawa State, will troop to the polls on October 6, 2021, to elect chairmen and councilors for the 13 local government areas and 147 electoral wards respectively.
As characterized in such exercise, political parties, which are the vehicle for attaining political aspirations, are awake from slumber since the aftermath of the 2019 general election, as they outline schedule of activities, towards ensuring their active participation in the coming council election.
It’s generally accepted that, local governments are created with the ultimate goal of bringing government closer to the people at the grassroots, with recent reforms, aimed both to accelerate development and to enable the local population participate and hold those in power accountable for their governance roles.
Ironically, a true third tier has never taken off in the governance structure of Nigeria, despite the widespread endorsement of local government as a potent system to mobilise people for local participation in governance.
Several studies have established the challenges bedevilling the Nigerian local government system, including issues such as poor funding, paucity of human capital, corruption, poor service delivery etc. In Nasarawa State, the story is not too different, as can be testified by the prolonged crisis afflicting the councils, resulting in the none payment of salaries and pension of workers and retirees, over dependence on monthly statutory allocation, absence of sustainable development, among other issues.
Since his assumption of office as governor of the state, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, has left no stone unturned, in the determination of his administration, to give the local government system its pride of place, as the pulse of governance, since it provides service delivery at the grassroots.
In fact, with the local government area being closest to the people, the governor promised to, in consultation with appropriate arm of government, initiate reforms in the state local government administration, towards improving their capacity and effectiveness in the discharge of their mandate of efficient service delivery to our people at the grassroots.
One of the steps taken by Engineer Sule aimed at bringing sanity to the local government system, was to inaugurate a high-powered, six-member committee, that was charged with the responsibility of investigating why the councils were unable to even pay salaries of workers, talk less of embarking on meaningful development project that will touch the lives of the people at the grassroots.
Earlier, Engineer Sule, mandated the Ministry for Local Government, Community Development and Chieftaincy Affairs, Auditor-General for Local Government and Local Government Service Commission, to appraise the situation at the councils, which led to the suspension of Directors of Personnel Management (DPMs) and Finance and Supplies (DFS), in the local government councils and development areas.
However, a far reaching decision taken by the governor, was to fully comply the order from the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit guidelines for the autonomy of local government areas, which will ensure prudence and accountability in the management of resources.
According to the governor, local government area autonomy became effective in Nasarawa State since June 1 last year, with the administration putting in place machinery to ensure its success.
However, the most practical steps the governor has taken, so far, in order for the local government areas, assume fully their constitutional responbility of providing much needed development at the grassroots, is to reiterate his call for the people of the state, to elect only competent individuals that will provide the necessary leadership at the third-tier of governance, thus complementing to the giant strides of the state government.
Specifically, the governor said he would prefer to see the people elect chairmen who have the experience and capacity to exploit and harness resources found in each of the councils, rather than depending on monthly subvention just to pay salaries.
Engineer Sule further appealed to the people to ensure that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), field only competent candidates that will assist the administration by exploiting and harnessing abundant natural and human resources at the councils.
This may not be a tall order, considering that, Nasarawa State is abundantly blessed with enormous resources, both human and natural resources, which when effectively exploited, will change the narrative in terms of much needed internally generated revenue, that will ginger the councils to do more for the people.
Indeed, electing capable and competent individuals to man the councils, will not only bring a breathe of fresh air by introducing new thinking and attitude, but will the pieces of the state’s development puzzle, fall at the right places. For electing chairmen who can think within and outside the box, will ensure that Engineer Sule development agenda, permeates through the grassroots.
For these reasons and more, it’s expedient therefore, to call on the electorates to ensure they vote for new ideas and innovative individuals who will assist the governor in his transformation agenda. In fact, this pruning scheme should even begin at the party level, with the APC urged to ensure that it’s not going to be business as usual at the local government areas.
Thus, as the October 6 local government election approaches, Nasarawa State citizens, must rise to the occasion, by supporting the vision Engineer Sule has for the local government areas, by making sure only capable and competent individuals are elected as chairmen of the 13 local government areas.
Abare is a special assistant on media to the Nasarawa State governor.