Mr. Oseloka Obaze
Mr. Oseloka Obaze, a good governance advocate and a frontline contender in the 18 November Anambra State governorship poll, says a functional local government system is key to grassroots development.
Obaze, who is also the immediate-past Secretary to the Anambra State Government, SSG, disclosed this during an interactive programme held over the weekend in Onitsha. The public policy expert said decentralization and autonomy enthroned a sound, efficient and effective public administration.
Obaze who noted that governance was needed mainly at the grassroots, said it was a body meant to manage local affairs by the locals in a designated locality, even as he expressed worry about the increasing encroachment of the federal and state executives in local government administrations.
'There is supposed to be decentralization and devolution of powers between the three tiers of government. However, systemic ambiguity exists in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and this has made it difficult for local governments to function independent of the overbearing influence of state governments."
Obaze frowned at what obtains in several parts of the nation where state governments had taken over the funds, internally generated revenue sources and functions of local governments.
'Those in the grassroots must run local governments. What does the man in Abuja understand about Ayamelum or Awba-Ofemmili, and whether they need roads or water? They don't understand. But the elected local government chairperson from these vicinities will know they need water, healthcare or roads or other unmet needs.
'The constitution devolves certain functions pertaining to local governments to the national assembly and some to state assemblies. So there's no clear ownership as it relates to funding, making laws, including setting up joint local government account. What happens is that instead of allocations flowing directly to the local governments, it is passed on through the state as a conduit,' Obaze stated.
While calling on the people to stand up and demand for the conduct of local government elections, Obaze recalled the role he played to bring about democratically elected local government chairmen and councillors in Anambra State.
'Well before I became the SSG, I met Gov. Peter Obi in Atlanta and told him that if he conducted local government elections before leaving office, that's the legacy people will remember him for.
'He disclosed there were subsisting court judgements that he would not go against, being himself a beneficiary of court rulings.
'When I became the SSG, that was two years before the end of Governor Peter Obi's administration, I worked with him and the then Attorney General of the state, Mr Peter Afuba, and others, to resolve some of the pending court cases. We are eternally grateful that we were able to get past the numerous impediments and conducted those elections.
'That situation is very different when you don't have litigations, no force majeure; no crisis. Why wouldn't you conduct local government elections? But it does not happen in Anambra State alone. It happens in many of the nation's thirty-six states and that has led a lot of people to believe that state governors are manipulating the local government system purely for financial reasons,' Obaze said.
He wondered how a president or a governor who derived legitimacy from a democratic election turned back to deny the officials at local government level the opportunity to derive such legitimacy from elections.
'If you adapt to global best practices, it is only proper that you hold local government elections. It creates functionality, integration and development,' he concluded.