Of governors and grassroots development 

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu hit the bull’s eye when he charged state governments to prioritise the needs of local communities by ensuring accountability and efficiency in the administration of local government councils.

The president made the charge Thursday as the Supreme Court gave the 36 state governors a seven-day ultimatum within which to file their respective defence in the suit brought against them by the federal government, seeking full autonomy for the 774 local government councils in the country.

Making a plea while receiving in audience the leadership of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Tinubu said: “We are running a constitutional democracy.

I will appeal to you to summon the governors. I am doing my very best to enhance the revenue base of the country. They must equally be sympathetic, and they must urgently consider the needs of the local people.

“People reside in the local communities. That is where they work, farm, and live. If the local governments are not effective in delivering services; as leaders, we must not hang on to the numbers. We have 774 local government areas, but are they truly effective? Do they solve problems for Nigerians? Do they coordinate development programming with the state and federal governments?

“Who is being held accountable for the performance of the 774 local governments? Maybe we should look at recalibrating. What was good four years ago may not be good today. When we want the votes, we go to the locals; when we get the votes, we move to and focus on Abuja.”

Highlighting the significance of education in nation building, the president described the situation of out-of-school children in parts of Nigeria as unacceptable.

“The question of out-of-school children is unacceptable. Education is a tool against poverty, and that is what brought many of us here. We must use our education to serve the people and improve their conditions. We must develop the backbone of Nigeria’s economy, which is the education system. We will collaborate with you on this intensively.

“We are still building Nigeria, and I am glad that you have emphasized the need for development. The infrastructure decay is unacceptable, and the level of poverty in the north is unacceptable. We must eliminate the source of these trends,” President Tinubu said.

On security, he commended the National Security Adviser, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, for his efforts. “Everybody wants to be secure, and we need to invest more in technology. We will do it, I promise you. We will put our heart and soul into ensuring that Nigeria is secure and its citizens are protected.

“The AKK project, the dredging of the River Niger, and improving port access and infrastructure nationwide, in order to shorten travel time, will make us more prosperous as a nation. We have to fight insecurity so that people can make a decent living anywhere they live”.

On economic development and livestock management, President Tinubu said: “Animal husbandry has been a huge problem for Nigeria. Dairy farms can grow our economy significantly. Talk to the governors and tell them to make more land available. Talk to herders to collaborate with the states. The lands are with the states. We are ready to put funds in place to help the herders. We can do it, and we will be able to do it. If the Brazilians and the Dutch are doing it, we can also do it.”

The president also used the occasion to appeal for national unity and continued support for his government as it solves decades-long challenges confronting the populace.

He directed the establishment of a committee to follow up on the issues raised at the meeting and assigned the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume, to lead the follow-up efforts. “We must tick the boxes on all that we must quickly do”.

In his remarks, leader of the delegation and Chairman ACF Board of Trustees, Barrister Bashir Dalhatu, congratulated President Tinubu on his first year in office and expressed the Forum’s appreciation for his achievements and service to the country.

”Your Excellency may wish to recall the invitation extended to you, which you graciously honoured and which led to a robust interactive conference at the Arewa House on the 19th of October, 2022.

”We make bold to say that Your Excellency’s vigorous, firm, and credible commitments and assurances to Northerners, made at that meeting and during the course of your election campaign, proved to be a game-changer,” he said.

He said Northern Nigeria reposes strong trust and confidence in President Tinubu, adding: “Your tireless support for and collaboration with Northerners that helped many to win elections into various positions, including that of the presidency in the past, has consolidated the love and trust in the hearts of Northerners for you, as confirmed by the pattern of voting in the last presidential election.”

The ACF BOT chairman further highlighted several achievements within the president’s first year in office, including the prioritization of funding for agriculture and education, as well as the maintenance of good relations with Nigeria’s neighbours.

The ACF applauded Tinubu for prioritising the Sokoto-Badagry Highway and the Trans-Saharan highway and his implemented measures to fast-track the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex.

It is trite to state that local government councils and their chairmen have been reduced to mere appendages and errand boys of state governors. The 36 state governors have not only usurped the statutory functions of the 774 local governments in the country but have also denied them access to and appropriation of their revenue from the Federation Account.

Furthermore, governors have deprived the local of governments and the people at the grassroots of the exercise of their democratic right to vote and be voted for. Consequently, many local government areas are either being run by caretaker chairmen appointed by the governors or by stooges who emerge from elections highly compromised and manipulated by the governors through the instrumentality of the State Independent Electorate Commissions, SIECs. 

It is on the backdrop of the foregoing that President Tinubu’s charge to governors becomes germane and inevitable. There is, indeed, a compelling need to halt this clear and obvious constitutional infraction, pervasion of justice and impunity by the governors, which have over the years stifled socio-economic and political development at the grassroots level as well as stalled the evolution of Nigeria’s democracy.