BACKGROUND TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORMS IN THE IBB REGIME

Bala Takaya


The verdict may sound rather harsh. But it is an incontrovertible fact that our local government system is a product of endless manipulations over virtually a whole century. Indeed at the beginning, it was no more than a fraudulent contraption resulting from the British conspiracy to subjugate hitherto independent ethnic communities to emirate rulerships for the purpose of implementing the infamous colonial policy of Indirect Rule.

It is therefore obvious that because the very purpose for which the colonial local government system was designed had to change upon Nigeria becoming independent, the philosophical basis of our Local Government Administration system should also have changed or, at worse, been given a thorough re-think even at that point.

For the purpose of raising consciousness in that direction, this short paper will take a cursory look at the pre-colonial, colonial and post-independence picture of grassroots governance in the present Nigerian nation and conclude with suggested steps towards a more appropriate model and socio-political environment for the future.

This paper is written and presented with an open mind: with no malice towards anybody or, institution but with the firm belief that we can move forward as a nation only when we begin to talk frankly and openly:

  1. to, and about, one another;
  2. about the strengths and shortcomings of our leaders (uncoloured by personal or ethnic sentiments); as well as
  • about the strengths and shortcomings of our cultural religious and political institutions.

I must however confess that it is impossible for me to do justice to this topic in so short a paper to be delivered within so short a time of discussion. Moreso, because, to satisfy the intent and purposes of the topic, we ought to first proffer more satisfactory answers to three elementary questions than can be done here:

  1. Where have we come from?
  2. Where are we?
  3. Where are we going?

The questions may sound pedestrian. But it is a painful fact that we have already been 40 years in the wilderness. We cannot, therefore, understand the true nature of the Nigerian Local Government system without coming to grips with the answers to these questions. Of course the alternative is for us to remain the ignorant operators of a strange structure; with the inescapable consequence of continuing to roam the wilderness without a compass.

Babangida as a Historical Mile Stone

The forum provided by the national symposium on the perspectives and problems of interpreting the Babangida Regime is a unique opportunity for this national soul-searching exercise. For whatever reason the organisers deemed it necessary, the positive values of the symposium cannot be over-estimated, if only because Babangida can be seen as one of the three mile-posts that marked significant watersheds in the evolution of the Nigerian nationhood. For, it is my contention here that we should not see the Babangida era as just cue of those regimes that bestrode the Nigerian political scene and faded into the antics of history. Rather, his was one more God-given opportunity squandered. Why?

Before proffering any explanations, however, I should hasten to add that I have no intention to praise or condemn the Babangida administration here. But, as much as I personally disagree with some of that regime’s policy decisions, I rather sympathise with the man, Babangida because, like two predecessor political architects before him – Sheikh Usman Danfodio and Lord Lugard – he had the ill luck of being a heroic failure in the field of socio-political reform.

When General Babangida came to power, he publicly declared his intention and resolve to reform the Nigerian socio-political system by inaugurating and inculcating the culture of Social Justice and democratic values. As an army, General who not only fought in the civil war but was also a key player in the reformist regime of General Murtala Muhammed, he had a deep understanding of the problems that bedevilled Nigerian nationhood and their possible solutions. As such, we believed him; more so because his was a regime that, at least at its inception, seemed to have found and rested on the fourth leg of the Nigerian political stool.

General Babangida could be seen as a parallel to Sheikh Danfodio in the sense that the latter acceded to power with the proclaimed objective of consolidating hitherto disparate peoples into one Islamic Umma (community of believers) administered on the basis of Islamic social justice. His major thrust was to purge and purify the Hausa to have political and administrative system, then complete his proselytisation project by establishing a Dar al Islam (land of Islamic faith) in this West African sub-region. He succeeded in setting up a political empire but failed to achieve his nation-welding and socio-political reform objectives because the very beneficiaries of his political craftsmanship – the emirs whom he appointed as provincial governors – reverted to the very injustices for which the Hausa Habe rulers were sacked. Disappointed, Sheikh Danfodio stepped aside; preferring to return to his professorial chair to write copious guidelines as instructions on the principles of Islamic governance which a deliberately dumb and delinquent emirate rulership ignored and set the rules aside.

Similarly, Lugard came with the lofty zeal of reforming the emirate system and set up a fairly equitable political economy under the British philosophy of Dual Mandate; a philosophy by which Britain would help create a more humane and civilised polity out of her protectorate of multiple ethnic nationalities while exploiting their economic potentials through trade under the banner of Pax Britannica. No sooner had Lugard consolidated his territorial gains, however, than he became hostage to the then emirate powers, whose administrative skills he began to praise as attribute of ‘born rulers’.

But, to fully appreciate the foregoing, we need to go down memory lane by casting a quick glance at historical precedencies spanning the pre-colonial, colonial and post- independence periods.

The Pre-colonial Environment

To begin with, we must remind ourselves of the obvious fact that there was no such nation or country as “Nigeria’ before the advent of British colonialism. History tells us it was in fact the fiancee, later wife, of Frederick Lugard, the first colonial Governor-General of the Protectorate that first named the territorial domain, which came under his control as Nigeria. This christening act came at the point when the British had decided to “amalgamate” their Southern and Northern Protectorates into one; with him, Sir Frederick Lugard, as the Governor-General. What then was the situation before British colonialism?

A quick reference to historical facts would reveal that at least two forms of communal governance existed before colonialism. Political sociologists and anthropologists who did an early study of the people of the area had classified them as the state and the non-state systems.

  1. The State Systems

In time and space, the geographical territory now comprising Nigeria has witnessed the rise and fall of several political communities, which existed as independent states, kingdoms, and empires. As it is not our intention to narrate any details of historical findings here, we only need to go down the memory lane to recall that, several centuries before colonialism, there arose, waxed and waned some indigenous political systems as typified by the following:

  1. Kingdoms

(i) Bomo (iii) Kwararrafa (iv) Igala (v) Nupe (vi) Ife (vii) Benin (viii) Sukur (ix) The Delta Trading States (x) The Yoruba States (i.e. Post Katunga states of Ibadan, Abeokuta, Ijebu, Modakeke, etc)

(b)        State Systems

(i)         The Hausa States (Kano, Katsina, Daura, Zazzau, Rano, Gobir, Zamfara are usually named as the original seven)

(c)        Empires

(i) The Songhai Empire (extension of) (ii) The Kanem-Borno Empire (iii) The Oyo Empire (iv) The Dan-Fodio Empire.

By kingdoms, we refer to centralised traditional rulership systems based on inherited authority vested on an ancestral lineage over an invariably homogenous community. In such a system, political, administrative, military and even religious functions were fused in and radiated from the central monarch. Because such fused and centralised power corrupts absolutely, the ruler invariably assumed a dictatorial posture and even got elevated to the position of a Deity.

Kingdoms became empires when they were able to extend and impose their political authority over their surrounding non-indigenous neighbours. This was, almost invariably, achieved through wars. However, weaker neighbours were also brought into subjugation through “amicable” treaties of protection when, rather than be humiliated, on the battle field, such “sensible” neighbours would gracefully accept the subordinate status of tribute-paying protectorates by negotiation.

Ordinary state systems arise in situations where several culturally similar and contiguous communities develop into separate kingdoms, independent of each other. The coexisting states would, invariably, see themselves as neighbouring rivals in perpetual competition for local resources and opportunities. Community leadership here is based on hegemony, a more or less benign (if not democratic) authority structure in which the king depends more on the consensus opinions of his subjects rather than on absolute dictatorial powers.

 

  1. The Non-State Systems.

Always interspersed between or within the centralised state systems were communities with distinct ethnic identities but which the state systems were not able to incorporate or subjugate. Those were the systems which anthropologists referred to as the segmented communities. They were classified as non-state political units. Non-state because, unlike their state, kingdom or imperial counterparts, they had no central authority systems or single commanding personalities like kings or emperors.

The most potent political authority in these types was the head of the family compound. Family compounds were instinctively grouped into villages or village­ areas under benign leadership of lineal patriarchs. A patriarch may himself be the oldest male in the lineage pedigree or a religious priest who interprets oracles from a communal deity. The following communities are usually referred to as exemplifying the advanced prototypes of this category:

The Igbo nationality

The Tiv nationality

The “Minority” ethnic groups.

In all of these political systems, it was only the empires and to some extent, the kingdoms that manifested any forms of subordinate territorial sub-divisions that can, today, be referred to as local governments. But even in those major proto­types, such local governments (which may better be referred to as provincial holdings) were ran as chiefdoms by absentee title bearers. Absentee because they were, by rule, required to reside at the centre to be supervised by the central authority through daily homage to the supreme ruler. Regimental administrative system, you might say.

Supervision at arms-length basis was, however, granted to communities voluntarily subjugated as protectorates. All the same, some representatives of the central authority were required to reside in the protectorates to provide “technical” advice to the native rulers on behalf of the centre.

  1. The Post-Jihad and Colonial Environments

The fore going represents a bird’s eye-view picture of the political set-up in and around the territory which became Nigeria before the Fulani jihad of the early 19th century. The Fulani jihad was a complicated and multiple coup d’etat that was long in the making. It was a culmination of a long-standing clerical, administrative and diplomatic influence which Fulani muslim elite had wielded in the courts of native rulers of this part of West Africa.

The Fulani were not responsible for introducing Islam into the Nigerian territory. In fact it is on record that Islam was already being practised as court religion in Kanem-Borno and in virtually all the courts of the Hausa states. As a matter of fact, the Fulani did not even arrive the territory as Muslims. They were animists who migrated into the region as nomadic pastoralists. Since the rise of the Songhai empire in the western Sudan, however, those of them who happened to have lost their cattle quickly took to Islam and settled down in Diaspora, as fulanin gida or squatters, around the capital cities of their native hosts. They avidly took to Islamic scholarship and, for a living, they offered clerical services in the courts of rulers of their hosts. Soon, they were to take advantage of their literacy, Islamic scholarship and territorial linkages with the Diaspora by further serving the courts as administrative and diplomatic staff.

Since the Fulani clerics successfully plotted and changed the course of the Songhai empire (through the palace coup that overthrew Emperor Sunni Ali’s successor son, Abu Bakr Dao, and ushered Askia Mohammed to power), however, their capacity for power intrigues knew no limits. This culminated in the Dan Fodio led jihad that overthrew virtually all their host native governments in the centralised state systems of the Northern Nigerian environment. In their place, the leaders of the Fulani squatters around every native administrative headquarters were given flags of authority to proclaim emirate status over any piece of their hosts’ domains they could possess. The Fulani Empire was born!

From political perspectives, however, there are five major defects that need to be noted about the rise, consolidation and continuity of this empire as it affected both the future of Islam and, by extension, inter-ethnic integration or co­existence in the Middle Belt sub-region, Viz.

  1. Firstly, though the empire was brought into being in the name of Islam, the proselytisation aspect stopped as soon as each emirate became well established and stabilised.

  1. In the Middlebelt sub-region, the natives were deliberately denied access to Islam because it paid to keep them under the rule of the Dhimma, a unilaterally imposed treaty of subjugation as tribute-paying protectorates.

  1. By that arrangement, and contrary to the religious purification and proselytisation objectives of the jihad, slave-raiding wars could be waged on the dhimmi at will. As a matter of fact, the dhimma communities were considered to be more or less hunting game reserves; for which purpose the native communities were callously weakened by a well-planned and systematic destruction of their agricultural economies.’

  1. To be exploited as such, the natives must be denied Islamic religion. For, exposing them to Islam would have brought the habe communities to the state of equality with the Fulani muslim under the Sharia and, therefore, protected them from predatory or irrational exploitation and oppression. Any wonder, therefore, that the ethnic nationalities of the middle-belt areas remained animists until the advent of European and American missionaries who came to proselytise the so-called “pagan tribes” into Christianity?

The foregoing means that the oppressive attitudes of Fulani rulers portrayed Islam as a religion of oppression; injustice, slave raids, and ruinous plunder of ethnic settlements. For, desirous to seclude the ethnic communities as game reserve to plunder at will, the Fulani rulers not only mounted a road block to Islam, but in the process, painted and presented the religion as an embodiment of evil from which the natives must run away. And ran away they did! Indeed the situation was such that until very recently, any native who became a Muslim was avoided and shunned by his kindred like a small-pox patient; because he has subscribed to their ways and become part of the oppressors!

  1. The Hausa-Fulani rulers consistently lied to their Sultanate superiors at Sokoto: claiming that pagan tribes hated religion, and that it was the reason why they refused to subscribe to the Islamic faith. Contrary to this claim however, Christianity was very enthusiastically received by the same natives on the arrival of the European missionaries much later on. For, within a brief period of its introduction, the religion spread as rapidly as a wild fire on a dry savannah grassland across all ethnic towns and villages of the so-called pagan communities that the missionaries could reach. This is a historical fact in respect of the entire segmented “minority” ethnic groups of the entire Cultural Middle belt.

All said, the foregoing analyses point to a very vital fact usually not appreciated by most students of political history or, at best, politely ignored as a subliminal sentiment. It shows that the blame for the lack of spread of Islam among the minorities of the Cultural Middle belt lies very squarely on the neck of the greedy and oppressive Fulani leadership.

III. Socio-Political Implications

It was the Hausa-Fulani emirate set-up that the British inherited and incorporated into the colonial administrative structure through the policy of Indirect Rule.

Herein lies the problem: if, as Lugard declared, one of the objectives of British colonialism was to reform away from the ‘Evil elements in the system of government in the emirates,’ did Indirect Rule represent the ideal form of local government? And if later, as the 1947 dispatch from the colonial secretary said, the British Government’s intention was to introduce the modern form of truly democratic Local Government system into the colonies, did the persistence of Indirect Rule in the North represent true democratisation?

From the stated objectives of every attempt to reform the system, it appeared, all along, that the answers to these questions were in the negative. Unfortunately, rather like the colonial consolidation reforms did, the net effect of the post independence military reforms, including those of the Babangida Administration were to also systematically dismantle what remained of the political independence of those ethnic groups in favour of emirate controls. For, in the name of Indirect Rule, the emirate powers really went for the jugular veins of the hitherto independent intervening ethnic minority sovereignties; the emirs either posted their own Fulani relations to native areas as new rulers or, where fierce native resistance would prevent this, they selected their own native cronies (usually petty knaves or cultural rejects) who, after superficially islamising them, were imposed on their respective communities as surrogate rulers. The surrogates were also armed with the vicious Native Authority” (N.A.) police, N.A. courts and N.A. prison powers against any possibility of internal resistance or uprisings.

The efficacy of this British-backed Fulani incorporation policy later made it imperative for local native rulers (pagan or Christian) to involuntarily convert to Islam in order to retain their ancestral traditional rulership stools. Alas, this only re-inforced the image of both Islam and the Fulani rulers as representing injustice. More so as the hitherto fiercely independence-loving ethnic nationalities of the segmented non-state communities were now subjugated under central regimentation of emirate rulerships. It is noteworthy that such ethnic nationalities would (like the Koma people of Adamawa State), rather retreat to the hills to dwell in mountain garrison settlements than lose their cherished independence to any other nationality, until the British came with their superior gun powers and the native police system.

The negative effects of this profile of the Fulani leadership to our present-day inter-communal relationships and co-existence may be summarised as follows:

  1. Unlike those of the justice-seeking Kwararrafa and other state-builders in Nigerian history, the Muslim-Fulani leadership portrayed the Fulani ethnic nationality in bad light as a selfish, racist and unjust people. To me, this erroneous notion about the Fulani, as a people, is not only wrong but also a most damaging legacy imposed upon a whole people by the reckless greed of a fascist group of rulers connected to that nationality only by ancestral roots. For, it is tantamount to generalising that all Germans are fascists because Hitler and his lieutenants in the Nazi Government of Germany were Germans! People who know the accommodating, even timid and peace loving nature of the ordinary Fulani of the Talakawa class will bear this out as true.
  2. The Fulani leaders’ fascist adventure into politics as empire-builders in the name of Islam, in combination with the foregoing bad image, “also gave that religion a bad name in the Nigerian middle-beltan territory.
  3. The continuation of this group, with even more coercive powers, as surrogates of British colonialism, further bred and reinforced a culture of inter-ethnic distrust, tension and crises among our communities.

It is only fair to comment here, however, that in his deep political sagacity, the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, was able to get a penetrating understanding of the poor socio-political picture that Middle-beltan minorities had of both the Hausa-Fulani and Islam (rolled into one), because of the injustices they suffered in the hands of emirate rulers. For this reason, he endeavoured to forge a new political relationship that would recast the image in a better light for the sake of both his ruling party, the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and his efforts to carry the peoples of the North together’.

Unfortunately, it was almost too late. For even though with the benefit of the hindsight such as this may attempt to cast him as a just and integrationist statesman, the leadership he left behind would rather re-inforce the ills he was repairing than imbibe the spirit and culture of fair play and social justice. Sultan Abubakar might indeed be right than Hali zanen Datse!

  1. The Military Re-organisations and Reforms

It has been indicated above, that in the North, it was the resultant administrative and political structure engendered by the Fulani imperial scaffold that was used as the N.A. system in tune with the policy of Indirect Rule. Here, the emir was first designated as the Sole Native Authority. Later, a nominated but wear council was added to make the NA system a Chief- and- Council set up. This later gave way to a Chief-in-Council arrangement where elected representatives were introduced. But even in this situation, candidates for election into the NA councils could only be allowed to contest at the pleasure of the emirs. The emir thus became armed to the teeth with powers which tradition never granted them.

Attempts were also made to replicate the system in the Southern part of the country. While the attempt was partially successful in the South-West however, it was a total failure in the Southeast. This was for want of indigenous rulerships with centralised authority system similar to those of the Hausa-Fulani emirates of the North or the limited Yoruba Obaship institutions of the Southwest. An attempt to replicate a similitude of these by appointing and imposing “warrant chiefs” failed as they couldn’t fit into the Igbo political sociology.

It is thus not surprising that the first move to reform the so-called Nigerian NA system in favour of modernisation started from the South; following the historic dispatch from the British Colonial Secretary to this effect in 1947. Hence in both the Eastern and Western Regions, the NA system was dropped in favour of direct representative from the local government.

 

The Gowon Reorganisations

The most significant nationwide approach to local government reforms, however, took place during military administrations. This began during the Gown era when, between 1968 and 1970, each of the 12 states then in existence, set up committees to study proposals for the reform of their local government systems. The resultant policies that emanated from these reports produced a variegated approach to LG Reforms. Four of the most significant common outcomes of the reforms, however, stand out as the obvious reasons why the Federal Military Government instructed the state governments to embark on the reforms. Among, other things, the Gowon reforms led to:

  • The breakup of the territorially large LG units into smaller administrative areas
  • The renaming of Native Administrations as Local Authorities or Local Government Administration in some Northern States
  • Transfer of LG functions to the central (state) governments
  • The divestment of Emirs of their NA powers (Police, Court, Prison, Taxation, etc.).

For these reasons, it is apt to conclude that the military government was mainly interested in making Transitional Re-organisations or preparing the ground by which they could bypass any resistance to foreseen future reforms by the affected traditional rulers.

The 1976 Reform

The 1976 reforms which ushered in a uniform LG system proved this to be true. For not only did the reform prescribe a mini-max population qualification size (of 150,000 to 800,000) for local governments but also imposed common terminologies, structures, functions and staff grades. It also ensured, for the first time, that traditional rulers would not be involved in the administration of local government affairs and futuristically banned them from participation in politics to ensure free and fair popular representations. For the Emirs, the 1976 reforms certainly came as a coup de Grace.

The Post-1976 Reforms

Rather than concentrate on perfecting the gains of the 1976 LG reforms, however, what happened (and is still happening) thereafter can best be described as the bastardisation of the noble intentions behind that reform. The 1976 reform saw the Local Government as a genuine third tier of government. A third Tier structure in a federal set up is a completely self-sustaining economic and socio-political, quasi-sovereign, unit with devolved governmental powers. As such, a minimum population size of 150,000 to 800,000 was prescribed. But no sooner did the country return to civil rule than the proliferation of council areas of doubtful viability and grossly sub-standard sizes began. By the demise of the Second Republic, as many as 603 LGAs had been created nationwide. The return of the military in 1983 saw an attempt to reverse the trend as the General Mohammed Buhari led-government abolished all the LGAs created after 1976.

But Buhari’s initiative was a short-lived effort as the Ibrahim Babangida Military Government re-opened the floodgate when, twice within his administration, the number of LGAs in the country was increased from 304 to over 600! The Abacha administration later increased the number to as many as 774 units as of today.

IV Observations And Recommendations

The Babangida Regime: Towards an Interpretation

We had earlier observed that, notwithstanding the usually lofty objectives justifying every reform carried, out by any Nigerian administration – including the Babangida Regime – the ultimate effect has always been that of subjugating the interests of minority ethnic nationalities to those of the emirate leadership.

An instance may serve as an example. In spite of the General’s much advertised social justice stance as his agenda in governance, he blew up an excellent opportunity to put paid to the recurring question of social equity in Nigeria as offered to him (concerning the status of traditional rulers) by the Government White Paper on the Report of the Political Bureau. The Bureau had observed, among other things, that these category of leaders possess no special qualities and the question of using them to enrich the political system or to instill moral rectitude in public life does not arise. It will make little or no sense to install in the political system people whose primary qualification is ascribed status at a time whenthe people are demanding for a truly democratic polity.

The Bureau then went ahead to recommend to the effect that misnomer. The role of this category of leaders should be confined to the local government areas within their communities where they have relevance. Even here, however, they should not be granted legislative, executive, or judicial functions.

The clear message here is that there is no reason why any traditional ruler of a different ethnic or cultural background should be imposed upon other peoples of different cultural origins as obtained in the emirate set-ups within the cultural Middlebelt. Though Government accepted, indeed started implementing, this recommendation, it made a surprise and face as soon as one or so traditional ruler complained.

This supports the view that rather unwittingly, or probably for some ulterior motives masking a hidden agenda, he became a hostage in the hands of what we allegorically refer to as The Kaduna Mafia in academic and polemic circles.

As analysed in a work with that title, this particular mafia has a long term agenda for exclusive control of political and economic power in Nigeria; for they would not mind even setting the country on conflagration, provided they would be the custodians of the ashes, rather than share political power with any other social group in Nigeria. As such, they may sponsor or ignite inter-ethnic or tribal conflicts, religious unrest, boundary disputes and even industrial tension; the search for solutions to which they love to grand pose as peace-makers – all with a view to feign indispensability as the nation’s leading “statesmen”.

Surely, having come to power on the solid support of crack middle Belt and Southern officers, and enjoying unlimited support from both the fiery eggheads of the ivory tower and the top-notch gurus of the press, “Babangida had the greatest chance of becoming the greatest Nigerian leader ever”, as one analyst puts it. But he lost his bearing in the labyrinth of the maze which the mafia spun and conned him into. How did he get hijacked by his most vocal opponents and critics? Only the General can answer that. What was obvious to political observers was that no sooner had he consolidated his hold on to power than he began to distance himself from his real pillars of support: alienating some of the most loyal military top brass; stigmatising most of the honest academics as radicals and extremists; antagonising the best pedigrees of the press; adopting the timeworn anti­democratic crudity of mafia god- fathers (viz. annulment of elections in the face of defeat). The result is now history: unsure of which direction he would take next, Babangida cleverly stepped aside; a better option, rather than grope on to the precipice through what was aptly described as “a never-ending political transition maze “.

  1. The Way Forward

If this paper succeeded in doing anything at all, I hope it is in drawing attention to the following real, yet much suppressed facts about the problems of our socio­political coexistence and nationhood:

  1. One of the most critical sources of science, nay obstacles, to our national unity and integration is the must-lead culture of Northern emirate self-centeredness and, in consequence, political injustice which still dies hard.

  1. All Nigerian political administrations since the advent of British colonialism including and especially the Babangida Military Regime – began to falter, fail popular expectations and eventually fell after embracing the emirate-derived Northern power mafia and alienating their true friends and more enduring base of support.

  1. The Northern power mafia manipulate sensitive and tension-laden sentiments in the community like religion, ethnicism and or regionalism to survive as front row power elite.

  1. The most long-standing sentiment the emirate power mafia employ in their survival strategy today is that of the Islamic religion. Yet it was the same emirate mafia that were the de facto obstacles to the spread of Islam in the cultural Middle-belt; thus making it necessary for the Almighty God to send Christian missionaries to bring the light of religion to these areas.

  1. It should be worth noting here that until the possibility of popular democracy became real at self-government, they effectively denied access to the Islamic faith to native nationalities of the Middle-belt for fear of the latter achieving socio-political equality with them under the Sharia.

  1. It is not possible to achieve true national unity in Nigeria until the emirate power elite come to terms with the fact that people of other faiths and other regions must have equal access to political power. More importantly they should realise that the rapid spread of Christianity in Nigeria is God’s own response to show them that He has the power to Islamise or christianise any society on earth.

In particular they should realise that the current proliferation of militant, regional forces like the OPC the Bakassi and the Egbessu is a response to their leadership excesses. In particular, they can no longer draw support from the cultural Middlebelt as easily as before until they learn to respect these peoples’ pride as a people, religious sentiments and political self-determination. Indeed short of making reparations for the centuries of pillage of these peoples, they must demonstrate sincere remorse and apologise for their past if the drive towards co­operation or association based on administrative history, as espoused by the Arewa Consultative Forum is to make any sense to cultural Middle-beltans.

  1. Political leaders of the present and the future should learn from hindsight that success does not necessarily lie in responding to the pandering, wishes, threats or dictates of the emirate power elite.

Towards a True Local Government Reform

If the term evolution is to be understood as the movement from the state of infancy to that of maturity and perfection, local government, in Nigeria, can be said to have suffered more of reverses and uncertainties of direction right from the half-hearted attempts of the British colonial powers to introduce the idea (of local government) as a structure of governance at the grassroots. This has rendered it a midget of sorts.

What is certain at the moment is that the idea of that structure serving as a third tier has caught on. But some more constitutional and administrative reforms need to be carried out for it to operate as a truly democratic and modern structure of governance at the grassroots. The reform, when honestly effected, should reposition Local Governments as:

  1. The first stage for the practice of intra/inter-communal equity and social justice.
  2. The real base for effective service provision to the real public at the personal level.
  3. The real base for implanting and operating the foundation programs of national development and social well-being of citizens:

(i) Primary Education ii) Primary Health iii) Primary infrastructure (iv) National civic registration (v) National security identification/surveillance (vi) National food security (vii) National justice delivery (would minimise court congestion at higher courts of record).

For these to be effective and rational, however, the reform must also be very definitive on two burning issues:

  1. Who owns the Baby, is it under the Federal or State Government; jurisdiction?
  2. What is the real status of local government within the Nigerian Federation, a quasi-sovereign or an infra-sovereign unit? In other words, is it of “equal and co-ordinate” status vis-a-vis the other tiers? If quasi- sovereign, what is the constitutional position of a Legislative Council and the “laws” it makes?