By Obinna Osuagwu
Much of these other states are circumstantially different to Lagos. They are one-city states—yet too primitive and are predominantly rural. The centralization of governance in the states of Nigerians therefore takes a worse toll on them as it stifles the ability of the LGAs to even try out their potentials—minuscule as they are. In these states, there are not those GIVEN potentials as the viable seaport of Lagos for which the British could run Lagos as an independent colony—with a vibrant economy right from 1861—and which the Nigerian state would subsequently inherit as a Federal Capital territory.
In same vein, therefore much of Lagos’ potentials consist in its long term strategic seaport which was harnessed by the British and Nigerian state who owned them as an independent Colonial protectorate and Federal Capital respectively.
Lagos therefore is tied to real enterprise driven on such potentials—not necessarily resource wealth. The city as a result readily becomes a destination for most capital in Nigeria. In short, activities drive Lagos and not resource.
For the other states, they are largely agrarian—and endowed with Resource Wealth—including earth resources. Therefore, there is need to harness these potentials actively. Whereas the fact of the overly centralization of state governance in Nigeria has not allowed for the dynamics of governance critically needed for the peoples apply the local governance of their states on all fronts to vent harness the thick forests, ocean fronts, rivers and lakes in these states which are largely rural, the Federal Government’s Exclusive Rights over mining of the resource wealth within them, which could have constituted yet another great potential for them to take a quantum leap in urbanization, has posed a huge hindrance to their ability to conquer these vast areas and improve their better living thus generating the activity levels that could make them become vibrant activity-driven economies.
With the powers conferred on the state level of governance over the LGAs by the fiats of the 1999 Constitution, common politics has engendered much of advantage-taking of these constitutional provisions by politicians at the state level and their accomplices/beneficiaries to bring active local governance to a near impossibility.
Centralized administration of states has entailed that State governors and their legislators take advantage of the constitutionally prostrate nature of Local Government Councils to make state-governing laws for their political convenience thus completely subjugating Local Councils to the state level of governance—which invariably implies a subjugation and overrunning of the people.
In many states, the “Joint Allocations” clause of the 1999 constitution has been traditionally seized to retain all funds allocated to the LGAs at the state center—and only doling out the amounts they think the LGAs critically need for their administration. The rest of the funds is subsequently used to conveniently run centralized state economies.
Most State Houses of Assembly have made laws that empower state parliamentarians to suspend elected LGA chairmen—even indefinitely. In many states, laws have been made that enable state governors to call for council elections whenever they would, while administering the local councils by selected party faithful dubbed Local Council Caretaker chairmen.
Also, it is commonplace for governors to take over any viable sources of revenues available to LGAs to the state level—even arbitrarily. All these, have been done given the inadequacies of the 1999 Constitution and have been applied by state level politicians—especially the governors—to the political exigency of protecting their power bases!
Given such centralized governance, state governance has simply amounted to capital city governance, while the rest to these states have remained rural. For the citizenry and politicians hailing from these rural LGAs, it seems just enough to live in the state capital, satisfied that they have LGAs on which basis they could become Assemblymen, receive some monthly stipends, have a permanently secure job at the Local Council and derive other fringe benefits and responsibilities which are statutory while bearing minimal responsibility.
Hence, true to the Nigerian system, a balance of all interests is created thus ensuring the anomalies of waste, ineffectiveness and low functionality that breeds poverty continues unabated.