Leye Ige: Letter to Pastor John Ojo

As the Oyo State Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees(NULGE), you were reported to have stated, during your union’s ”Save Our Soul’s” visit to the Alaafin, that “there is no doubt that Local government autonomy will bring about rapid transformation to the grassroots, unlike the present situation of stunted growth and inaction, adding that grassroots development will tremendously reduce rural urban drift, congestion and criminal propensity in our city centres. ‘’If autonomy is granted local governments, there will be a reduction in rural urban drift which will equally reduce organised crimes in the country. Council workers would not be owed salaries for months as is presently the case in the state’’.

Your submission is troubling in the sense that you ascribed solutions to rural-urban migration as “local government autonomy” without providing either theological or political reasons, so that those who heard or would read you will be further enlightened as to the issues at stake. You simply assumed it to be the truth. This is more so when political developments in Nigeria have becomes enmeshed in spurious morality as to what is expected of government and what is not.

Yet, political or any other morality is a function of the material conditions from which it sprouted. Morality is not happenstance, it is a deliberate manifestation of a reality of existence.

As a Pastor, it is expected that you embody a morality, which ought to influence your interventions in public affairs. As a Unionist, it is also expected that you will represent the union members in such a way that their existence is not lost in the morass of unnecessary politicking or worse, in negating their existential   imperatives, which “local government autonomy” portends.

Since we have no idea of how you reached the conclusion as stated in your statement, we can only go by what is publicly available, that is, as a Pastor and a Unionist, both of which have ways of influencing either your congregation or the society at large.

Theologically, it is recorded in Revelation 7:9 that “a great multitude, which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, Peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes with palm branches in their hands……….”— “these are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”. Of course, the “nations, tribes, Peoples and tongues” must exist for them to be part of this scenario. Furthermore, the Christian Body is often referred to as the “Body of Christ”, with many members, each with its own specific assignment. In this context, each of the nations created by God has its own assignment and some will not make any headway in this assignment when it either voluntarily or involuntarily makes itself subservient to another. All the Peoples of the earth may be said to constitute one humanity (the Body); yet such humanity is not a uniformity, otherwise there would not be any separate members with different functions.

Politically, the notion of “local government autonomy” is antithetical to a Federal System; a Federation being simply a formal relationship entered into by two or more political units. But Nigeria’s “Federalism” is false, hence the insertion of the false paradigm of “local government autonomy” as a truth.

The Nigerian Central government cannot decide on the Federalist nature of Nigeria since by definition, the Federal Government itself must be created by those entities making up Nigeria.  Thus, asking for “local government autonomy” from an existing central government already denies any entity an independent existence whose realities will determine its relationship with others thereby making it a false Federalism, which had been the problem with Nigeria since 1966.

Your statement also denies the fact that it is the Governors, especially in Yorubaland, who created Local Community Development Areas beyond what the centralist 1999 Constitution decreed, to such a point that they were even denied funding from the centre. These Governors are now being derided as being responsible for the failure of the centralized Local government system with more centralization being suggested as the solution. If they can see beyond the limitations of the centralist 1999 Constitution, obviously, asking the same central government to grant “autonomy” to Local Governments will be akin to neutralizing what we, as a People and a nation, are capable of.

So, this calls for addressing the fundamental question of Nigeria’s Federalism, otherwise, when such autonomy is granted, do not be surprised if the centre begins to interfere or even determine who becomes the Oba of any locality.

One of the inclusions in the post Franco settlement in Spain in 1978 is “Article 155” which can be used to dismiss any regional or State administration and now deployed to dismiss the elected Government of Catalonia.  A similar event occurred in the Western Region on May 29, 1962, even without an “Article 155”. The then Federal Government simply contrived a crisis in the Region as the pretext for the Unconstitutional removal of our elected Government.

Now that a Constitutional Amendment process is taking place, all hidden behind “Restructuring or True Federalism”, it can be assumed that the central government will find a way to formally introduce Nigeria’s version of “Article 155” into the Constitution, more so when all Constitutional amendments in Nigeria since 1966 had always ended up further centralizing power detrimental to the Yoruba Nation.

It is a fact of history that it is only the Yoruba Nation that had no expansionist ambitions in Nigeria. The Igbo had manifested this since the colonial days, while the “North” predicated its participation in Nigeria on its having control at the center, hence all the census manipulations that had been witnessed in Nigeria to favor greater population figures for the North, not forgetting utilizing the military as the enabler of its continued political dominance. This was how the Obasanjo military administration devised the Dasuki commission to “reform” local government in Nigeria and the gradual nationalization or centralization of local government governance in Nigeria. What you are asking for, is a continuation of this process.

As a Yoruba, a Christian and a Pastor, your position will aid  in neutralizing the Yoruba as a Nation, as a People and as a Tongue.

Rather than playing a part in this pursuit, what is expected of you is to join hands and forces with other Yoruba who are working towards Autonomy of existence for Yorubaland as a nation, a people and a tongue, which is the only way the Yoruba “omoluwabi” social morality can become a vehicle for civil governance. One of the major Constitutional issues that must be addressed by Nigeria’s Federalism and the Yoruba Nation is the level of interference in the affairs of a Federating Unit. To do so means the question what or who constitutes a Federating Unit must be answered. Demanding “Local Government Autonomy” is not providing an answer. It simply gives away our ability to do so.












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  • Charlie

    The problem with you are article is that you are guilty of what you’re accusing the pastor of. Your argument against local government autonomy is twisted and convoluted. I don’t see how local government autonomy affects true federalism, on the contrary it will allow for true devolution of power that is key in all the varied restructuring ideas. Autonomy does not mean that the states will no more exercise any leverage over local government, but it means they will have financial independence and elections, unlike now where basically the governors in most states impose their cronies as administrators and spend their allocations as the governors please. Autonomous local governments can serve as incubators and display for executive leadership that can be transferred to higher tiers of government. It will also reduce political tension caused by winner takes all system as it is now, by allowing the areas that are in political opposition a consolation government in their areas, which is important for peaceful coexistence of the people.

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