The 1976 Local Government Reform was a systematic and deliberate reorganisation of the local government administration in Nigeria. The military needed a link between their centrally controlled political system and the people at the grassroots to mobilize the people to get their support with the aim of legitimising their illegitimate regime, after they have edged out a democratically elected government. Ever since, the local government has continued to remain a vibrant and quintessence form of government, both the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions guarantee democratically elected local government councils.
Today, the total number of local governments recognised by the 1999 Constitution are 774 in numbers. However the 1999 Constitution empowers the state Assembly to create new local government but must be forwarded to the National Assembly for ratification for the purpose of including such a local government in the constitution.
In 1999, when the democratically elected government was ushered in, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, was uncomfortable with the 20 local government areas he met in Lagos. Tinubu could not comprehend how Lagos State, with a population of 15 million at that time would be given only 20 local governments when Kano was having 44 local gvernment, despite the fact that Jigawa State had been carved out of it, which almost doubled local government areas in Lagos State. For instance, Alimosho Local Government Area alone, both in population and land mass was bigger than Bayelsa state with eight local governments.
The military leaders were masters of deception, they knew the importance of Local Government, and they utilized the creation to benefit their states of origin; knowing that the more the numbers of local government, the more the Federal Allocation would be given to their local government. He immediately set in motion necessary machineries to increase the numbers of the local government areas. At the end of the exercise, the number of local government areas remained 20, but 37 new Local Government Developmental Areas (LCDA) were created.
Lagosians welcomed the development, praising Tinubu for such vision. But the People Democratic Party (PDP) condemned the newly created developmental areas. The PDP led-Federal Government seized the monthly Federal allocation to local government areas. And the action was challenged in the court in the celebrated case of AG Lagos Versus AG Federation. At the end of the case, the Supreme Court held that the House of Assembly is empowered to create local government areas in their states but must forward their newly created local government to the National Assembly for the purpose of adding them to the existing local governments and for the purpose of enlistment and allocation of fund to the local governments. That although, the newly created local governments in Lagos State were in order but, “it is Inchoate,” until it is enlisted in the constitution by the National Assembly. It held further that the Federal Government has no power under the constitution to withhold allocation to any part of the states in Nigeria.
Why Osun need more local governments?
Osun is located in the Western part of Nigeria. It covers an area of approximately 14,875 square kilometers.
According to the National Population and Housing Census exercise conducted in 2006, Osun has a population of 3,423,535. As an agrarian area, there is the likelihood that its annual population growth will be around 5 per cent.
In the next few days, the governor of the state of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, may give the state a Christmas gift of new Local Government Developmental Areas (LCDA), in accordance with the power vested in him, and to an extent, the State House of Assembly. It is important to solicit for the cooperation of the people of the state on the forthcoming exercise, as the new LCDA may not satisfy all the interest groups in the state. But it is incontrovertible that a local government brings progress and development to its people . However, the viability of local government is vital to its running and sustainability.
Apart from the constitutional functions of a local government, grassroots politics will be encouraged as government will be brought closer to the people. The much desired development in the state will further be pronounced and experience if will whole heartedly welcome the newly created local governments.
It is important that the people of the state cooperate with the administration of Ogbeni Aregbesola and support the LCDAs and to ensure that nothing is to disturb the existing peace reigning in the state, irrespective of political or religious persuasion. We are one and must see the need to continue with the developmental agenda in all areas of our state.