Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



Needless Distraction In The Face of Crying Needs And Mass Poverty

By HT Soweto

One controversy that is on now is the legitimacy or otherwise of the 37 Local Council Development Authorities (LCDA) set up by the former Action Congress (AC) governor of Lagos State Bola Tinubu during the regime of former president Olusegun Obasanjo. Few weeks ago, the Federal government declared the LCDAs illegal and threatened to take actions against the Lagos State government if there is no reversion to 20 Local government councils created by the 1999 constitution. From both sides of the divide, jurists, lawyers, politicians and public analysts have shouted themselves hoarse in a fruitless effort to justify either positions of the Lagos State government and the Federal government.

First and foremost, it must be expressly stated that for Nigerian workers, youths and poor masses, this controversy between two sections of the corrupt capitalist ruling class as represented by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government at the Federal level and the Action Congress (AC) government in Lagos State is a needless distraction in the face of crying underdevelopment, government failure in all facets of the economy and the continuous rise in mass poverty despite the abundance of human and natural resources. Despite all legal, constitutional and moral arguments marshalled so far by the Yar’Adua government, everything amounts to a crude war between the different sections of the corrupt and anti-poor ruling class for territorial and political supremacy without consideration for the real and genuine interest of the poor masses.

For instance, one would think that militancy in the Niger Delta, the recent boko haram crisis and the possible emergence of ethno-religious tension in other places all of which are caused by the condition of perpetual poverty and mass penury to which millions of people in the delta and the rest of Nigeria are consigned are enough to occupy the attention of the Yar’Adua government. For the past 8 weeks or more, University students have been at home due to the indefinite nationwide strike actions of ASUU, SSANU and NASU. There is unemployment, epileptic power supply which has crippled small and medium scale businesses of artisans, rising incidence of crime, collapsed agricultural sector which has led to importation of food items despite abundance of land, almost daily closures of factories, the impassable condition of roads and collapse of infrastructures, education and health. These are some of the acute social problems that should preoccupy the Yar’Adua government instead of engaging in fruitless controversy over the legitimacy or otherwise of LCDAs in Lagos State.

Unfortunately, the Yar’Adua capitalist government has failed to act decisively on any of these areas of crying needs. Instead, it has continued to implement neo-liberal policies of privatization, commercialization, deregulation of the oil industry and other anti-poor policies that have worsened the condition of the masses by widening the already alarming inequality in society wherein just 2% politicians and moneybags enjoy the oil wealth through fat salaries and direct looting of the treasury while millions of people wallow in excruciating poverty.

On the other hand, the Lagos State Action Congress (AC) government of Governor Fashola would have us believe that the 37 contraptions christened Local Council Development Authorities (LCDA) are “magical wands” that will resolve the age-long under development ravaging communities in Lagos by bringing development closer to the grass root. But the record of the LCDAs right from the regime of former Governor Bola Tinubu has proved this position wrong. In all the areas which fall directly under the authority of the LCDAs, under development, bad roads, decrepit school buildings and collapsing clinics denuded of drugs are the order of the day. In communities where there are semblances of road construction projects, they are usually poorly done. In deed, the raining season has given the lie to all the celebrated road projects the AC governments at both local and state levels claimed to have executed. Everywhere is flooded and simply impassable whenever it rains. Most worrisome is that with the 37 additional LCDAs, taxes have become multiplied for the vast majority of danfo drivers, okada riders, traders and home owners. The proceeds from these taxes are not used for genuine development like fixing roads and construction of basic infrastructures in the council areas but to sustain the large army of politicians allocated to different LCDAs on the basis of patronage.

A few weeks ago in Orile, Agege, in Lagos State, a woman was washed into a culvert by the side of the road after she fell from her bike which, because the road had been flooded as a result of rain fall, ran into the uncovered culvert. It would have taken the LCDA in Orile Agege a few amount of money and engagement of the youths for direct work to cover the yawning culverts which line the streets and alleys of Orile Agege to avert the death of the woman. The death of the woman in such circumstance epitomizes the gross irresponsibility which goes on at the local council levels of governance with or without 37 additional LCDAs. If the Yar’ Adua government should then go on to carry out its threat to stop allocations to the 20 local government councils created under the 1999 constitution under the false intent of implementing his rule of law mantra, it would give the Fashola AC government in Lagos a good excuse of unavailability of funds to justify the LCDAs incapability to stimulate meaningful development!

The DSM had argued before now, during former president Obasanjo’s and former Governor Bola Tinubu’s administrations when the LCDA controversy started, that division and re-division of government into several Local Councils is not the panacea to under development rather the replacement of neo-liberal and anti-poor policies of privatization and commercialization which is the hallmark of AC, PDP and all other ruling parties by socialist policies of public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under working class control. Several years after, our position has been confirmed as the LCDAs have not done anything tangible to bring substantial development to areas under their control, instead they have succeeded in bringing brutal exploitation and a huge tax burden closer to the people.

Also, the division of the erstwhile 20 local government councils into 57 without commensurate allocation from the federal coffers has led to a situation where-in resources inadequate for meaningful development are now divided among the 57 entities. Of course, a better portion of these allocations goes to pay the salaries and allowances of the additional political office holders and staff of the 37 local councils. In this case, the so-called genuine intention of the AC in creating the LCDAs has led to superlative waste of resources as a result of crippling state expenditures on the maintenance of chairmen, councillors, permanent assistants and their retinue of political jobbers, first ladies, thugs and hangers-on.

From all intents and purposes, neither of the gladiators in this controversy has the sincere interests of the poor working masses at heart. It is the anti-poor and neo-liberal policies implemented over the years by Nigerian capitalist ruling elite in power at national, state and local government, corruption as well as the profit-first motive of capitalism that is responsible for poverty and absence of basic infrastructures. It is not the size or otherwise of local government councils. Therefore, for genuine development to come to the grass-root, the neo-liberal policies of privatization, Public Private Partnership (PPP) and commercialization must be jettisoned for pro-poor policy of nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy under workers’ control. Under this arrangement, it can be possible to fully mobilize society’s resources, which under the current system is trapped in the bank accounts of corrupt politicians and oil moguls, to fund a comprehensive program of public works geared towards infrastructural development.

If a genuine working class and poor people’s government anchored on worker’s democracy is in power, there will be no need to first divide local councils into small entities before meaningful development can come closer to the people. The recipe for rapid and sustained development is for the poor working masses to take control and management of their own affairs by taking political power from the capitalist ruling elite and forming a workers’ and poor people’s government based on a democratic system which allows for elections of workers representatives subject to recall into governance at streets, communities, workplace, state and national levels. This is the only way to ensure that development comes close to the people.