If power were a person, I would have urged us to arrange a gathering where the people who have blackmailed him or her would kneel and beg for his or her forgiveness. The people who make the accusations that power corrupts are either former public servants or their assistants, whose true selves were exposed by power. Power corrupts and consumes, in my opinion, and these clichés serve as justifications for dishonest public officials. Nothing corrupts with power.
I always think about Michelle Obama’s biggest applause lines at the 2012 Democratic National Convention whenever the topic of “power” comes up. She claimed that holding the office of president does not alter who a person is; rather, it shows who they are. You will realize that African leaders including big politicians, are not corrupted by their positions of authority but rather are miscreants or abusers who were dormant but roused by the roar of power.
It can be very frustrating, and very unsatisfactory when using Africa as a case study to discuss the arbitrary use of power by leaders. When I allude to the misuse of power in this context, I do not mean the intimidation of the populace, the repression of the press, or the assaults on opposition leaders.
These examples of power abuse are said to be essential components that characterize the milito-democracy style of administration that we practice in Africa. There are undoubtedly new lows in how African leaders use their authority, but no one could have predicted that it would also include public office holders groveling to one another for personal benefit.
Both civilians and government officials do not bow down in monarchy-practicing nations. They simply curtsy or bow to the monarch out of respect. Even though it is a dreadful low, Nigeria as a country has records of instances where public officials were forced to prostrate for one another in exchange for favors.
Abacha’s deputy, Oladipo Diya, reportedly knelt down and pleaded for his life after being accused of treason. According to Professor Wole Soyinka, ex-President Obasanjo during his campaign for a second term knelt down for his vice, Atiku Abubakar to get the PDP presidential ticket. Ayo Fayose, a former governor of Ekiti State, also asserted that Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president, had knelt down for Muammar Gaddafi, a former head of state of Libya during his struggle to chair African Union.
Sani Abacha passed away on June 8th, 1998. This occurred 25 years ago. He was the leader of a military government and a soldier. Late in 2002, Olusegun Obasanjo knelt down for Atiku. That happened 21 years ago. Why should chairmen, who are the leaders of a third level of government (local), be seen prostrating for governors, who are the leaders of a second level (state) of government? A blatant abuse of authority that is also exceedingly embarrassing and ridiculing. Well, it took place in the states of Osun and Ogun, respectively.
Similar to 2002, when Obasanjo is said to have prostrated for Atiku, according to Wole Soyinka, the chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria’s Osun Chapter, Sarafadeen Awotunde, was photographed doing the same for Her Excellency, Yeyeluwa Modupe Adeleke. During a courtesy visit, the caretaker chairman, known as Spain, reportedly prostrated for Yeyeluwa for appointing him as the state’s ALGON chairman.
A ten-second video showing what men could do to maintain power appeared online just seven days later. In this video, local government chairmen can be heard singing “Ewo le fun Agba, Agba lo n gba ni” (Prostrate for elders, for elders are the ones who can save) as they prostrate for His Excellency, Dapo Abiodun, who is seated majestically on his chair and enjoying full-grown adults stroking his ego over allegations of diversion of LG funds.
Similarly to Oladipo Diya, who knelt and begged Sani Abacha for his life, the council chairmen could also be seen groveling and pleading for survival. This emerged few days after the caretaker chairman of Ife Central Local Government was seen begging her Excellency, Yeyeluwa Modupe Adeleke to release funds for local governments.
Sincerley, when I initially heard about the video, I assumed it was a skit—starring clowns or funny actors. My second hunch was that a politically inebriated group of miscreants was making a movie to denigrate the office of the governor, which should be held by a person who is modest, unselfish, kind, and compassionate. In this day and age of social media, where secrets are what cameras cannot record, I still did not think that such a video could exist.
I reasoned that a governor wouldn’t be so enamored or swayed by power that he would not give a damn if the people saw his actual nature. I felt awful after watching the movie twice, but I was comforted to see that I was right when I said that Nigeria doesn’t have leaders; instead, it has tyrannical junta chiefs in Agbadas.
In certain circumstances, prostration is not really the main issue at hand. Our chairmen and governors clearly demonstrate a slave-to-master relationship and disregard for their respective positions. Heaven did not fall when an adult opted to pray for a presidential candidate while completely exposed. Even if it was an act between him and God, his worth, honor, self-respect, and esteem as a person were simply called into doubt.
Actually, no one would have cared if those who prostrate for these governors are not council chairmen. It occurred in Osun and Ogun, respectively, but the situation in the other 34 states is the same. Others have either been fortunate, cautious, wise, or prevented such behavior in front of cameras. This ultimately related to the demands for local government independence. The third branch of governance must be completely autonomous and cannot continue to be seen as pawns by bigger animals.
We must work to protect local governments from governors who use them as conduit pipes or tools for money laundering if we want them to be autonomous. To fulfill its primary goal of delivering the benefits of democracy to citizens’ doorsteps, local government cannot remain at the whim of state governors.
I believe that the complete abolition of state election commissioners for council elections should be the first step in saving local governments. Council elections should be handled by INEC’s resident electoral commissioners. Simply put, they need to be strengthened and elections made mandatory in all 774 councils.
Furthermore, the ministry of local government commission was primarily established by state governors to control, restrain, or oversee the operations of local governments. Because these councils are autonomous governments, this ministry need to be abolished. The Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) is a component of the Joint Allocation and Accountability Committee (JAAC), where state governors develop strategies to divert cash intended for local governments and release little for their leadership to manage affairs, making it nearly hard for these councils to achieve anything.
Even with all these measures in place, Nigeria will not necessarily improve, but at least the public will be aware of those who should be held accountable. Local councils are continually robbed by state governors, leaving them with no money and at their mercy. It is preferable to eliminate local councils and prevent the world from learning our type of local administration than to make them dysfunctional if we are unable to strengthen them and enable them to operate freely.
When local governments are independent and free, council chairmen would not been seen prostrating for governors or de-factos because they want to survive.