Local Govt. Elections: ‘You Do Me, I Do You’ Democracy

By Erasmus Ikhide

‘YOU do me, I do you, God no go vex’ is a diluted coinage of Nigerian adulterated English for ‘an eye, for an eye and ‘a tooth for a tooth’. It’s a vengeful hysteria bereaved of ethical, political, economic and spiritual morality. ‘You do me, I do you’ is a primitive propensity for getting even with political opponent or enemy, who knowingly or unknowingly hurt your hunt and cause you incalculable damage that debased your humanity.

Governor Oshiomhole
Governor Oshiomhole

‘You do me, I do you’ is an invocation in the degenerate Nigeria politics and a way of celebrating institutional collapse which paved the ways for impunity, brigandage and rottenness of the political structures and architectures that keeps the nation in perpetual damnation. It’s a strategy that was prevalent in the era of hunter-gatherer which mocks 21st-century Nigerian politicians who have refused to be human.

In 2013, former Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State rolled out the drums to conduct election into the eighteen local government councils. It turned out to be hoarse! One fateful morning — putting on dishevelled appearance — something suggesting drunkenness after what seemed like rumple or dizzy encounter with whores, he upturned the party primary conducted across the state. In split seconds, Oshiomhole selected candidates for the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) for the eighteen local councils, long after the primary elections have been conducted for the same purpose at the various local government areas. That was the beginning of total madness that attended the exercise.

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At the election proper between the ruling (ACN) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in one particular instance, the former union leader became dementia. While vote counting was in progress and one Mr. John Yakubu of the (PDP) was coasting home to victory in Esan North East local council against the (ACN) candidate, Mr. Sam Oboh, Oshiomhole forced the state-owned television and radio stations to announce the victory of his party’s candidate as the winner of the election! When confronted by newsmen that election was still in progress, the former governor chortled at his own execrable pun: “PDP did the same thing while they were in power in this state”! It was a perfect ‘you do me, I do you’ recitation!! That’s the tragic story of Nigeria democratic experience.

The barrage of bad news from the local councils’ elections across the 36 States of the federation has remained dangerously pervasive and no one can easily predict an end to it, anytime soon. A friend’s call from Akwa-Ibom State ruptured my optimism for the redemption of local government elections in Nigeria at the twilight of 2018. He was extending the invitation to me to attended his swearing-in ceremony at an agreed date as a council chair when the election was yet to be conducted! When I quipped about the inappropriateness of the invite, he retorted thus: “you’re not a Nigerian in Nigeria”. The usurpation of the people’s will is so real, commonplace, complacently received and the perversion of the people’s mandate is so entrenched to the extent that the ruling class dramatizes the obscenity without any form of resistance from the electorate.

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The national assembly moves to correct certain anomalies in the local government administration, which partly stipulates that any local government without democratically elected officials will no longer receive federal allocation in such states, thereby stampeding them to conduct elections hurriedly has created more crises than solve them.

A legal luminary, Barrister Yomi Obaditan posit that the unless (INEC) takes charge of the conduct of council elections across the states in Nigeria, we will continue to remain in the wilderness of self-imposed under development.

“First, there must be properly democratically conducted the election in all the local governments across the country. The election should not be conducted by States Electoral commission if the conduct and outcome is to be free and fair. The reasons are not far-fetched. The commission members are usually governors appointees and they must protect the governor’s interest. Some of the state commissioners in the commission are card-carrying members of the governor’s party. This affinity affects their sense of neutrality and makes them be biased and even allow the executive to rig the elections in favour of their appointing governors.

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“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should conduct elections into local councils, otherwise any political party in power will continue to win all the elective positions in such the local governments. The fund or revenues derived at the local councils should determine the number of workers. The era of federal allocation will be over once the local government department of agriculture embarks on communal and mechanized farming. Financial leakages should be curbed and accountability maintained. Godfathers should be discouraged who fix misfits and charlatans to run the affairs of local councils”, he said.

However, local government administration is under the state in accordance with section 7 (1) of the 1999 Constitution. The 1976 local government reform was carried out with the creation of 774 local government areas. The sole aim was to bring the local government closer to the people. Both the reform and the Constitution require that only elected members should administer the local government areas. Therefore, a large percentage of these local councils are being rubbed by selected members, which they call caretakers. The implications of these have been the total failure of the managers or chairmen who bluntly refused to give an account of their stewardship to the electorate, because they were never elected by the people, to start with.

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Consequently, the local government has since become the avenues for the looting of the commonwealth by the governors and their political appointees. The local government was supposed to provide water, schools, markets, motor parks, playgrounds, cemeteries for the people and from these services generate enough revenues with which to run affairs of the governance process. But because oil money, most of these services are no longer provided. The local councils have become dumping grounds for political thugs, mistresses, and gossipers and snippers of the political leaders.

The employment of lazy and unproductive workers at these local government and inclusion of ghost workers in the payroll overblown the monthly salaries of the workforce that have since become a big headache for governments to pay their workers. The example of Kaduna State where teachers employed could not pass primary four pupils’ tests best explained the crisis. The redundancy that has befallen the local governments is mind-numbing. The way out is not in seeking for local government autonomy alone because the Constitution recognises only two tiers of governments: the state and the federal under a federal administration.

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The monthly allocation from the federal government is a depressant that killed revenue generation at the local government levels. Until the state stop from pilfering with the local government funds the little that is coming from Abuja will not be well utilised for the rural dwellers. Until (INEC) is Constitutionally mandated to conduct local government elections in Nigeria, we will remain condemned to ‘you do me, I do you’ democracy that elevates mediocrity, rewards heartless godfathers but take the nation downhills.

Erasmus, A Public Affairs analyst writes from Lagos

Email: [email protected]

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