On Monday, July 26, 2021, the local government electoral process came to a conclusive dénouement in Ogun State as Governor Dapo Abiodun swore in the 20 newly elected local government council chairmen of the state, thus signposting that all democratic institutions have been emplaced in the Gateway State.
The planning, execution and delivery of the process attest to the credentials of the state as a leading light in the nation’s political firmament. For Governor Abiodun, it was a dream come true, as he activated a new vista in governance at the grassroots level through a free, fair, credible and thorough process.
It was the first time since 2016 that elected representatives would be sworn in to government in the state at that level. Within their first 10 days in office, many of the new council chairmen behaved like Olympians in the governance race.
It is not surprising because many of them came into office largely prepared for the challenges of their offices. From the sound of the buzzer of inauguration, for instance, Wale Adedayo, a veteran journalist and one-time Chief Press Secretary to ex-governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel and just elected chairman, Ijebu East Local Government rolled out graders on Iwaya Road, Isapodo, Ijebu- Ife, the next day.
Days later, he supervised the channelisation of drainage around Itele Central Mosque and received Ijebu East Local Government chapter of the National Youths Council of Nigeria.
The same story is replicated in Ogun Central where former Secretary to Obafemi/Owode local Government also just sworn in as Chairman of the council, Adesina Ogunshola.
His tutelage in governance seems to have prompted him to commence the building of 50 units of low cost houses within the local government in his first year in office.
Hungry for impact, Sheriff Musa, newly inaugurated Chairman of Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government in Ogun West Senatorial District commenced with Citizens Engagement and accepted a charter of demands consisting of the priority areas where the citizens want the chairman to focus on.
It speaks volume about inclusive and participatory governance that Governor Abiodun preaches. Adedayo, fondly called Babalawo said: “…
We are going to make sure that all our roads are properly maintained and the gutters are free for easy flow of erosion. The major cause of flooding in most part of Ijebu East LG is the blockage of the existing drainage system. This is being attended to across the local government area.
The government will do its own part of drainage evacuation while the residents should henceforth shun dumping of refuse in the drainage…”
And on youth empowerment, it is premised on the state’s promise to “tackle the challenges of teenage pregnancy, unemployment and positively engaging recalcitrant youths together”.
These are said to be DA-mentored chairmen. They emerged from a mosaic of aspirants, thoroughly sieved through in a complex selection process that was inclusive and the enthusiasm of parties that vied for the coveted offices across all the 20 LGAs and the 236 Wards.
It also attests to the fact that the people were ready to embrace change at the grassroots before and after the 2021 LG poll in Ogun. Expectedly, the rallies attracted unprecedented crowds where the governor not only gave his scorecard but marketed each of the candidates of his All Progressives Congress (APC) as the leader of the party in the state.
For him, it was strategic to score the bull’s eye and beyond body language enthused that he was not only good at winning a free and fair election like he did in 2019, but that he is capable of midwifing a rancor-free and trustworthy democratic process.
Speaking during the ceremony in Abeokuta, Gov. Abiodun promised to provide good governance which would continue to strengthen the local government administration in the state.
Although APC won all the chairmanship seats in all the 20 councils in the state, thus attracting bad blood from one wing of an opposition party, the factionalised Peoples Democratic Party which attempted to discredit the legitimacy of the polls, it turned out it was a sour grape when majority of the other opposition parties endorsed the outcome of the election as a true reflection of the electorate’s wish.
Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Ogun State Chapter, Abayomi Arabambi was unequivocal in his commendation of the Babatunde Osibodu-led Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGSIEC) when he enthused: Abiodun has always maintained that, as a direct beneficiary of the electoral system and democratic process, he finds Section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution sacrosanct.
“The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the government of every state shall, subject to Section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils,” the section reads.
It is in this context that we can categorically say that no state in Nigeria is committed to grassroots democracy as a driving force for grassroots development than Ogun State.
And in fulfilling its promise to ensure that local government councils in the state derive their powers and autonomy from the people, the Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGSIEC), on July 24, 2021, conducted election into the 20 local councils in the state.
And, after casting his vote at Ward 3, Iperu1, Unit 002, Ita Osanyin, Iperu, Ikenne Local Government Area, the governor reiterated his commitment not just to grassroots democracy but also to its autonomy.
At the inauguration of the elected LG officials on July 26, Prince Abiodun cleared any doubt as to where the local government derives its powers by charging the people to demand accountability from their elected officials.
With the successful and peaceful completion of the LG election, new lease of life has been breathed into local council governance after five years.
It is for this reason that we hope that the retreat being organised for the newly-elected council officials would bring them up to speed with the shared prosperity mentality embedded in the “Building our Future Together” agenda of the state government. Somorin is the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Abiodun