Home » Articles, Columnists, Elections 2019, Leonard K. Shilgba, PhD, NNP Columnists » Can I Trust Your Electoral Choice? – Dr. Leonard K. Shilgba

Can I Trust Your Electoral Choice? – Dr. Leonard K. Shilgba

By Dr. Leonard K. Shilgba | Yola, Nigeria | Feb. 23, 2018 – DEmocracy , as a human contrivance, is dependent on human choice among an array of options. The choice of majority of qualified electors is considered “free and fair” no matter the intrinsic quality of the choice that often manifests later in the form of ability to turn promise into performance, which is called competence. In many democracies such as Nigeria, the choice of the minority is a complete waste of votes. Accordingly, the minority must either share in the benefits of the wisdom of the choice of the majority without paying dues or suffer from the tragedy of the foolish choice of the majority without compensation. In the light of this, I wish to interrogate the probable basis of the electoral choices of the Nigerian voter. You the Nigerian voter, can I trust your choice?

The electoral choices of voters are usually based on emotions, information (or misinformation), and inducement. Certain expectations from a candidate, even if wrongly framed in complete conflict with constitutional provisions (which may not even be known by the electorate), may play a part in voters’ decision concerning them.

In 2015, after President Buhari’s electoral victory in the presidential election that year, I listened in to an interactive listeners’ program on a radio station in Bayelsa State. The discussion was on expectations from Buhari government. A caller said, “I would like Buhari to construct Yenagoa-Ogbia road.” The host correctly told him that the road construction was the business of the Bayelsa State government. Similar wrong expectations are entertained by many Nigerian voters who may sincerely not know enough, while some may just be plain mischievous.

First, let me make an attempt at education on constitutional functions between the three tiers of government in Nigeria. Functions of a Local Government Council (LGC) are provided in the Fourth Schedule of the Nigerian Constitution. Do you know that LGCs are constitutionally responsible for “construction and maintenance of roads, streets, street lightings, drains and other public highways, parks, gardens, open spaces, or such public facilities as may be prescribed from time to time by the House of Assembly of a State; provision and maintenance of public conveniences, sewage and refuse disposal; the provision and maintenance of primary, adult, and vocational education; the provision and maintenance of health services; the development of agriculture and natural resources, other than the exploitation of minerals; establishment and maintenance of homes for the destitute and infirm”?

I have only extracted from the many functions of LGCs these few to make a point that poverty of Nigerian families would be reduced if the LGCs were allowed by the State governors to perform their constitutional functions. LGCs are also empowered by the Constitution with “collection of rates, radio and television licenses, assessment of privately owned houses or tenements for the purpose of levying such rates as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of a State; establishment, maintenance, and regulation of slaughter houses, slaughter slabs, markets, motor parks and public conveniences; licensing of bicycles, trucks ( other than mechanically propelled trucks), canoes, wheel barrows and carts; control and regulation of out-door advertising and hoarding, movement and keeping of pets of all description, shops and kiosks, restaurants, bakeries and other places for sale of food to the public, laundries, and licensing, regulation and control of the sale of liquor.”

Please, can you slowly read through AGAIN some of the functions of LGCs, which I have listed above? Now, think about the physical, economic, and social state of your Local Government Area (LGA). I am sure that many Nigerians are discontented with such state of their LGAs. Do you know who to blame? It is not your president; the guilty suspect is your State Governor, who is destroying (or has already destroyed) your LGA. Can I trust your electoral choice?

The average population of Nigeria’s 774 LGAs is about 250, 000, while average monthly allocation to a LGA from the Federation account is more than N100, 000, 000 (i.e. more than N77.4 billion)!

In the first quarter of 2017, LGAs shared a total of N269.42 billion as follows: In January 2017, LGAs shared N85.4 billion; in February 2017, LGAs shared N96.52 billion; and in March 2017, LGAs shared N87.5 billion. The revenue formula of Federal Government: 52.68%, State Governments: 26.72%, and Local Governments: 20.60% was used [Source: Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) Report 2017]. Besides this revenue source (Federation Account), consider the internally generated revenue (IGR) that should accrue to your LGA from the sources listed in the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution. Now I ask you, don’t you think your LGA deserves better? Revenue meant for your LGA is seized by your governor, and not spent to provide those conveniences of life listed in the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution. This is partly responsible for the burning poverty in your LGA, and state of insecurity in the land! Your governor appoints his lackey as LGC Chairman of your LGA ( don’t mind the charade called “Local Government elections”), gives him handouts from your LGA’s share from the Federation Account, and takes over the collection of revenue that the constitution empowers your LGC to collect, and shares with his godfathers and political collaborators. Workers are being owed salaries for many months (in some States up to 9 or 12 months!) in many of those States and LGAs, not because there is no money, but because the governors and their political godfathers and collaborators are stealing at gunpoint. Yes, you read right, at GUNPOINT. If you complain too loudly, killers may be sent after you. Your governor has turned into your tormentor, tormenting you with scorpions. But you blame the central government that is “far away”, which is not sending hired thugs after critics. Can I trust your electoral choice?

In September last year, I took up the issue of owed staff salaries with a State governor. Later, he asked a senior official in his government to call me. The official confessed to me that salaries of all staff in that State could be paid from IGR alone! But why would the government not do it then? He said there was some opposition to the governor. I think we need governors who can be bold enough to defend both the treasury and life/ property of their people. Can I trust your electoral choice? That very month, the State received N4.2 billion from the Federation Account. I have heard stories of some Nigerians committing suicide because of the constitutional breach by some State governors. Those governors are responsible for the collapse of the local government system, which has resulted in excruciating poverty in the land.

“If President Buhari cared, why can’t he deduct at source the salaries of LG and State staff from the allocations for their LGAs and States from the Federation Account and pay them?” some Nigerians ask. Well, no Nigerian president has such powers. You made your choices of governors, live with them.

The collapse of primary and secondary healthcare systems (at both local and state levels) has put unexpected pressure on the tertiary healthcare system (which is better funded and managed), thus defeating an intended referral healthcare system. Decrepit local healthcare centres and State hospitals in many of the States testify to failure of governance at those levels. But many people put all the blame on the Federal Government. Can I trust your electoral choice?

1. Security structure of a nation cannot be changed by the president, but by the legislature. For instance, the establishment of State and Community police departments can only be accomplished through constitutional amendment, not by presidential fiat. National security funding is impossible without legislative appropriation. Nigerians should hold their legislators accountable for our current poor security structure. No president can fix our security situation without appropriate legislative input or amendment. Can I trust you the Nigerian voter to interrogate the legislative agendas of candidates for legislative offices? Do you care to find out the legislative agenda of candidates for our State and National Assemblies? It is not legislative work for your (State and National) legislators to once in a good while give out handouts such as sewing machines, tricycles, motorbikes, and wheel barrows, and to sink some boreholes. These are not “dividends of democracy”. Simple but nifty legislation on universal healthcare for Nigerians, STEM education reform, workers security and welfare (which may include provisions such as 30 per cent compounded interest on owed staff salaries up to the third month, requiring that thereafter, the LGC Chairman, State Governor, President, or CEO of the company, as the case may be, must compulsorily resign from office; and in the case of a private company, consistent failure to pay after the fourth month would result in deregistration of the company, liquidation of assets, and payment of owed salaries, with the interest, from the proceeds), tax reform that considers marital status and family size, infrastructure, and on other benefits of citizenship provided in the second chapter of the constitution ( which are currently rendered non-justiciable), would improve the quality of life of Nigerians. Who would you send to your State House of Assembly and National Assembly next time? Can I trust your electoral choice?

2. The president of Nigeria does not have powers to interfere with investigation and prosecution of the accused or indicted, and neither does the legislature. Accordingly, when the EFCC, ICPC, DSS, NIA, the Nigerian Police, or any security agency arrests or prosecutes any Nigerian, it would be display of ignorance or mischief or both for anyone to call for the intervention of the president or attribute it to “the president fighting his political enemies.” Can I trust you to know this and vote according to this knowledge? On one hand, we claim we don’t want our president to be a dictator, while on the other hand, we ask him to do things that only a dictator would do, such as interfering with judicial processes.

3. Evidence abounds that many Nigerians imagine a course of action, become inflamed with fear, and then begin to spread such imaginary fears about government as fact. For instance, someone says, “The Federal Government would establish cattle colonies across Nigeria for Fulani herdsmen.” The president or FG has no such powers under our constitution (and President Buhari has affirmed that he has no constitutional powers to establish cattle colonies). We (especially some that call themselves “Christians”) also claim that certain Nigerians would “Islamize” Nigerians. When was the country “Christianized” that now it would be “Islamized”? Islam is not the antonym of Christianity; not being a Muslim doesn’t make one a “Christian”. Furthermore, as a pastor, I should say that rather than worrying about what other religionists may do to our society, we genuine Christians should be engaged in evangelizing our neighbourhoods or communities, being mindful of this truth: “Upon this rock I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Quite often, alarmists are not Christians at all. And you see this in their insults, curses, untamed anger and tongue, impatience, and threats of revenge. Jesus says, “By their fruits, you shall know them.” Christians don’t live in fear, but by faith; they are not driven by fear, but by love. If you are driven by fear, should I trust you to vote the right candidates? If you are driven by the fraternity of religion, tribe or tongue, can I trust your wisdom of choice? If you are driven by anger, how can I trust your good judgment? Christians are peacemakers, not warmongers. We are the light of the world, not its dark side. We are the salt of the earth, our flavour remains.

4. Primary and secondary education, respectively is the responsibility of Local and State Governments. The Federal Government may intervene under certain conditions, but it must not be held responsible. Do you know this? If your State Government fails to pay the salaries of its teachers and provide the appropriate environment and infrastructure for learning and teaching at those levels of education, hold your governor responsible, not even your LGC Chairman, except your governor has not confiscated the treasury of your LGC.

5. If you ask for and receive money and material inducement from candidates for elective public offices, you have forfeited your right for good governance. You have sold your “birth right”. If the electorate receive material benefits from candidates during campaigns, they must not expect “dividends of democracy” after electoral “victories”. Where do you think the money and material gifts came from? Those cost money, and you “forced” candidates to part with them (You are guilty of extortion). Does equity not demand that the candidates recoup their “investment” with “profit” after they have entered upon their office? With this attitude by majority of Nigerian electors toward candidates for elective public offices, can free and fair elections alone guarantee credible and good governance? Often, candidates for elective public offices in Nigeria are victims of the intractable greed of the electorate, who would scoff at credible, visionary, brainy, and cerebral candidates, who don’t have deep pockets. They go for the deep pockets, who often don’t have the required endowment for good governance. The people always get what they deserve. Can I truly trust your electoral choice?

Professor Leonard Karshima Shilgba

Short URL: http://newnigerianpolitics.com/?p=50031

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