LG autonomy, accountability and the media in governance

Over the years, many issues have remained dominant in national discourse in the media. These include local government autonomy, accountability in governance, resource control, devolution of powers, constitutional amendment, and restructuring. The reason is that these matters deserve urgent attention to get things right for the nation and for all citizens to contribute their own quota, partake and benefit from what their dear country can offer them. Taking a cursory look at the role of the local council in the scheme of things, the President, Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Ogun State Chapter, Comrade Ayuba Olatunji, has hinted that economic activities of the nation can bounce back if local government areas are properly developed as originally designed to do. 

Comrade Olatunji made the disclosure while fielding questions on the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) Ogun State radio station, FUNAAB Radio 89.5FM live interactive programme, Boiling Point. According to him, union advocacy is what would make local governments come into the limelight by addressing the many challenges confronting the nation. He argued that state governments should not dictate what the local governments should do, but be allowed to function as the third tier level of government. He added further that NULGE, as a body, “Have not left anything unturned” and that it has rather been agitating for local government autonomy. The union leader added that NULGE had engaged in many advocacy activities aimed at drawing the attention of the people to the importance of the local government within a federal state like Nigeria. 

Comrade Olatunji stated that by virtue of the 1999 Constitution, local governments remain the closest tier of government to the people. He, however, stressed that the concept of management and administration of the local government required that they be run by grassroots people themselves who are democratically elected. He advised that local governments should be empowered to function effectively, stressing that the aspect of the constitution that puts the local government under state authority and control must be amended without further delay. The NULGE President lamented that the responsibilities of the local governments are now being transferred to the Community Development Associations (CDAs); a situation that he claims does not augur well for the interest of the nation. 

On accountability, Nigerians have been charged with the need to hold political office holders accountable for them not to engage in the misappropriation of public funds. This admonition was given by the Southwest Bureau Chief of Business Day newspapers, Mr. Razaq Ayinla while featuring on the radio station. According to him, it is time for Nigerians to be asking their representatives in government what they were doing in their various political offices and that the country must have a participatory government. He added that the government needed to invest more in agriculture and desist from relying too much on crude oil. Mr. Ayinla decried the rate at which political leaders were becoming financially reckless, saying if the trend does not change, the nation’s economy would suffer for it. He said Nigeria’s financial literacy level was very low when compared with other countries of the world, adding that, “We are not well in tune and well-educated in terms of financial literacy “. He added that reckless spending needs a political solution, urging policymakers to legalise the use of locally-made products so that more money would domicile in the economy while stressing the need for attitudinal change to better the economy.

The journalist called on the government to come up with policies that would make life easier for manufacturers and investors to invest and expand their investments, saying “If we do not do that, we will continue to rely on what we are importing, which is not sustainable”. In performing the role of watchdog, the media have been charged to avoid reportage of anything that would work against the unity of Nigeria. This charge was given by a veteran journalist and former Director of Operations, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) on the radio programme, Boiling Point. Mr. Aina said the ethics of journalism had to be balanced and factual without being biased. He urged journalists to avoid fake news, hate speech, be transparent, and double-check their stories before dissemination.

The former NBC boss called on the government to educate Nigerians on the ideal media practice, which is part of the message for this year’s celebration, to stop the spread of fake news, by spearheading national cohesion and unity while urging the mainstream media to be steadfast in getting factual information. The radio guest added that fake news is sometimes peddled by politicians against the opposition. He said, “Let facts come out fast and talk to platforms through which fake news come out from” and enjoined the government to do more to assist the media environment to become favourable. Certainly, the admonition by NULGE boss, Comrade Ayuba Olatunji, the Southwest Bureau Chief of Business Day newspapers, Mr. Razaq Ayinla and former NBC Director, Mr. Eddy Aina should form a veritable platform to urgently look at these contending national issues.