Archive for October, 2008

Local Strangers

October 10, 2008

Tomorrow, Lagos will go to the polls once again. This time not a national poll but the election into the local councils which officially has conflicting numbers along party lines – Action Congress (AC) is counting 50 while the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) wants to count 20. Meanwhile the political posters have once again placed church activity posters and there is a tremendous increase in the number of female contestants, women liberation I guess – but that will be a topic for another day. As usual the battle line is drawn between the ruling PDP and AC; campaigns have been intense; from council secretariats, to community leaders, and of course house to house call in carnival-like entourages. Need I also mention that a lot of young politicians are interested, in my adopted local council (Ajeromi Ifelodun) a poster reads: “The Banker is our Sure Banker” with a rider, “He is Young and has Vision” but one thing is sure, a politician will always be one.

Enough of the politics, to the real reasons I am writing this; I have been wondering if the local governments are truly serving their purpose? Are they just an extension of the state secretariat? A lot of people will agree withy me on the second thought, for instance; I was discussing with two broses (if you no know the meaning ask me) a few moments ago and when the issue of this elections was brought up one of simply asked, “who is even contesting?” now that’s a possible view of over 50% of the people living in this city with a population of over 15 million residents. The question is, who are the voters? I recently attended a lecture on Cooperate Social Responsibility (CSR) where the convener pointed out that one of their major challenges is the fact that government have refused to take ownership of project established in their localities for their people, I also have a situation where I am having to do the extra mile just to make sure I am working with the council leadership on our project.

A few questions; Does it mean they are suspecting everyone coming to them? Is it sheer insensitivity to the needs of the people? Is it greed? Can it be incompetence? Or is it a case of feeling important in office? Whatever the case maybe, we should start to realize that the local councils are the only real way we can directly affect the so called less privileged and kick start meaningful development. The fact that tenure of elected council members are always truncated and takes a long time for the next elected group to come has also worsened the situation – the Administrator sent by the state secretariat in most cases do not live in the area and is just coming to make sure that available staff are managed properly as well as deliver the message of his/her boss. Even the elected ones are not too different but as the saying goes, “if palm wine sees who it knows, it bends to his side”. The situation might seem helpless but we also need to start asking for our own in the craziest appropriate manner. When will you start?