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A new dawn in democracy

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Rauf Aregbesola

We are gathered here to inaugurate 389 councillors representing the same number of wards in the state. This will be followed by the inauguration of the parliaments from whence will emerge the governments in the Local Government Councils, Local Council Development Areas, Area Councils and Administrative Offices in our state.

The councillors emerged after a keenly contested election on January 27, 2018, following many years of delay tactics employed by those who are afraid of their inevitable defeat and rejection at the polls by the grassroots.

It is most pleasing to see democratic government return to the local governments after many trials with caretaker committees and executive secretaryship.

The process culminating in today’s ceremony is in fulfilment of Section 7 (1) of the Nigerian constitution that requires that ‘The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the Government of every State shall, subject to Section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under a Law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.’

There have been genuine concern as well as malicious opposition to the adoption of parliamentary system of government at the local government, when in contrast, we have the executive system at the national and state levels. Such fears and worries are unfounded.
First, our decision is not against the constitution, as quoted earlier. Nowhere did it mention executive or parliamentary – only that it must be democratic – and parliamentary system is as democratic as you can ever get.

You will recall that in 2012, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria asked for memoranda on the review of the 1999 Constitution. A 15-man committee was set up in Osun under the chairmanship of Barrister Gbadegesin Adedeji to aggregate the opinion and views from the state. The committee held public sittings for three weeks during which members of the public, institutions, nongovernmental organisations and others made submissions.

In the end, it was the overwhelming wish of the people, as stated in the committee’s report, that parliamentary system of government be adopted at all levels of government. What we have done therefore is to defer to the wish of the people in their clamour for parliamentary system of government.

Secondly, parliamentary system is more democratic, compared to the executive, in that the executive system tends towards dictatorship, arbitrariness and absolutism, since power is concentrated in one man’s hand, with little or no check. Whereas, in a parliamentary system, the executive emerges from and is formed in the parliament, making the members of parliament to be members of the executive as well and the leadership of the executive to be first among equals, primus inter pares.

In a parliamentary system, decisions are taken collectively and must be agreed upon by the majority in the house while members of the executive who are also parliamentarians can and are daily called to answer questions on any executive action taken.

Thirdly, because the executive members are appointed from parliament, a lot of cost is saved, compared to when fresh persons have to be appointed as ministers, commissioners, chairmen of councils etc. This system also saves campaign cost and reduces the impetus for corruption considering that a candidate only need to campaign in his or her constituency, unlike in the executive system where a presidential candidate must tour the whole country and a governorship candidate must tour the whole state while a chairmanship candidate must tour the entire local council.

The final reason we preferred parliamentary system is that it affirmed the supremacy of the political party. The party is an institution that is greater than an individual. It is a body that personifies the views, ideology, beliefs and tendency of a political association. When a citizen joins a party, it is because he or she agrees for what it stands for. Indeed, parties campaign for elections on the strength of their tendency and field candidates that embody and will represent the party in every way. This brings stability, reliability, predictability and order to the political system. This is why studies have consistently shown that parliamentary systems are more stable and less prone to corruption, compared to the executive system.

Those who are familiar with the British Parliament and our experience in the First Republic will attest to the fact that parliamentary system deepens democracy and offers far greater political representation and governance effectiveness than any other system.

This is the system the councillors being inaugurated today are getting into. You must therefore listen to your people and give them access. Your status has placed you in a position of leadership, but not in a position of supremacy and tyranny over the people.

You must also see yourselves as change agents that will transform governance at your local communities and deepen democratic practice with quality representation of your people.

Your first task therefore is to maintain sanitation of the environment. You must bring an end to the filth that tends to overrun our communities if care is not taken. You must take ownership of waste management by working with the relevant government agencies and private operators to make our state to be spic and span, neat and beautiful to behold.

Secondly, you must also take charge of the various markets in your communities. You will organise the people and get them to buy and sell only in the markets and eliminate any form of street trading. Street trading is primitive, dangerous, contributes to garbage accumulation and impedes road traffic. There must be no room for it again.

Thirdly, but not less important, is revenue generation. You will galvanise all resources at your disposal to generate revenue for the government. We all take the government for granted in the past, but as we all see now, without revenue there can be no government. You must therefore generate revenue from all taxable adults and businesses within your various constituencies.

Lastly, you must take your election seriously as an opportunity to serve the people and not for frivolous engagement and primitive accumulation. You must not be self serving, but be constantly public-spirited.

Do not see your position as an instrument for perpetrating musical chairs in which leaderships of your councils are removed and installed at will, through conspiracy and subterfuge. The party remains supreme and must guide all actions, policies and positions, in the true spirit of parliamentarism. The falcon, to paraphrase WB Yeats, must hear the falconer, in order that things might stay together (and not fall apart) so that anarchy is not loosed upon the world.

I must thank all those who worked to make this project a reality. Immense thanks go to the participating political parties and the political class in the state for agreeing to the rules of the game and for making the election a huge success. In particular, I must commend our political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) for representing the people very well and for presiding over a progressive government which has brought an unprecedented development to our state. I must also thank the State Independent Electoral Commission (OSIEC) for its impartiality, fairness, diligence and for being truly independent.

Lastly but more importantly, I commend and salute the good people of Osun who have wholeheartedly and unwaveringly given us the opportunity to serve. We will continue to serve and will not disappoint you.

Aregbesola, governor of Osun, made this remarks at the swearing-in ceremony of 389 councillors that will form the parliaments of the local governments in the state on Tuesday, February 6, 2018.


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