The local government elections in Edo State have been won and lost. The winners across the state’s 18 local government areas have also been sworn in. Finally, the third tier of government has been put in place in Edo State in fulfilment of Section 7(1) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended), which guarantees the establishment of democratically elected local governments in each state of the federation. Governance must now permeate the grassroots.
The role of the local government in a democracy has never been in doubt. Scholars reckon that no matter the extent to which modern governments are able to widen their scale of operations, there are still certain needs that are of direct concern to particular localities which are best dealt with locally. And local people are presumed to have superior capacity to understand and conduct their local affairs.
We commend the Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, and the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission (EDSIEC) for the peaceful conduct of the elections. We equally remind all the elected chairmen and ward councillors that they have a duty to the people in their various localities who trooped out on Saturday, September 2, 2023 to vote them in. The people do have expectations, and justifiably so.
Governor Obaseki was spot on when he charged the local council executives during their swearing-in on Monday to throw in everything they have to serve Edo people, urging them to be creative and focus on the key policies and programmes of the government to drive all-around development at the grassroots.
The governor identified education as a key priority. He told the new council chairmen, “A lot of innovation has taken place in education in the local government areas as we expect you to support our system. We are redesigning our secondary education system and have selected a pilot of about 54 schools to start the digital secondary education from next quarter where our students are going to use computers alone at the secondary level. We need your support as council chairmen as it’s without Federal Government support.”
He said the state government would also collaborate with the local governments in the area of the environment, urging the council chairmen “to make the area of sanitation a priority as the environment is a big issue around the world today as floods are being experienced due to our neglect”.
We could easily say the local government executives have their jobs cut out. However, we deem it fit to highlight, for their benefit, the functions of local governments, and these include construction and maintenance of roads, streets, drains and other public highways, parks, and open spaces; establishment, maintenance and regulation of markets, motor parks and public conveniences; provision and maintenance of public transportation and refuse disposal; control and regulation of outdoor advertising, movement and keeping of pets of all descriptions, shops and kiosks, restaurants and other places for sale of food to the public, and laundries; collection of taxes and fees; establishment and maintenance of cemeteries, burial grounds and homes for the destitute or infirm, among others. There is no gainsaying that some of these areas have suffered in the past in the absence of elected council executives.
Thankfully, one of the chairmen, Hon. Tajudeen Alade Suleman, reassured that he and his colleagues would not fail the people of Edo State, saying, “We would work round the clock to deliver the dividends of democracy to our people as we hit the ground running, taking advantage of the platform created for us. We will collaborate with you to make Edo the pride of the nation.”
Action must now follow. Election into a public office is not – and must not be seen as – an opportunity to line personal pockets. The local government is the government closest to the people and must be seen to work in the interest of the people.