Empower Community Structures at Local Level – Ayo Olukotun

The Occupier of the Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Adetona Professorial Chair in Governance, Prof. Ayo Olukotun of the Department of Political Science, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, has advocated for the empowerment of community structures in Nigeria in order to have provision of important services at the local level. For this to materialize, he suggested that Nigerians, as a people, must entice highly qualified and cosmopolitan personnel to serve at the local level.

Awujale-of-Ijebu-Land,-Oba-(Dr.)-Sikiru-Kayode-Adetona, governor elect
(L-R) The Ogun State Governor-Elect, Prince Dapo Abiodun, the former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, His Royal Majesty, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi and the Awujale of Ijebu Land, Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Kayode Adetona at the event.

The Professorial Chair was delivering the 3rd in the series of the Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Adetona Professorial Chair in Governance Annual Lecture entitled “Grassroots Governance: The Soft Underbelly of Nigeria’s Political Architecture” to mark the 85th birthday of Awujale at Ijebu-Ode on Friday, 10th May, 2019. Professor Olukotun declared that the failure of the local governments manifested in their inability to deliver basic public services and their disconnect from the communities of which they were a part. He emphatically stated that “in contrast to what obtains elsewhere around the globe, our local governments are little more than non-productive structures, having little or no impact on the people”. Making a reference to Aiyede (2009), Prof. Olukotun said that as currently configured, local governments were “embedded or captured in spoils sharing, distributive federal arrangement, with its feral and predatory politics”. Therefore, he posited that local governments would not be a viable vehicle for development.

The-Vice-Chancellor,-Olabisi-Onabanjo-University,-Prof.-G.O.-Olatunde
The Vice-Chancellor, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Prof. G.O. Olatunde delivering his Address at the event.

While describing the present political architecture as a failed design that has necessitated the insistent calls for political restructuring of Nigeria, the Professorial Chair submitted that what Nigeria required was a remapping of the current structure of local governments to make them more natural and more community oriented. He, therefore, proposed a new design, which according to him, would rejig the DNA of formal and informal institutions, at the base of government, in order to engineer the much talked about, but little implemented bottom-up approach to development.

To add more verve to the lecture, a panel of discussants that involved Prof. (Mrs) Remi Sonaiya, a distinguished academic and the only female presidential candidate in the 2015 election, and Prof Kingsley Moghalu, the Young Progressive Party Presidential candidate in the just concluded election was constituted, with Mr. Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, Group Chief Executive Officer, CMC Connect, anchoring the programme.

Prof. Remi Sonaiya fired the first shot when she alleged that the reason there was apparent poor governance at the grassroots level was due to the unwillingness of Nigerians to challenge the status quo. She argued that good governance occurs at the grassroots when those in charge were able to take immediate decisions in responding to local needs. According to her, the military-imposed centralized system that is being practised in Nigeria “makes absolutely no sense”. Prof. Sonaiya lamented that calls by the people for restructuring was met with resistance by those who were selfishly benefitting from the current fraudulent arrangement. She, therefore, suggested that local resources should be managed locally to ensure that such resources would be readily available for the benefit of all. She identified the real problem with the grassroots as their seeming unwillingness or inability to hold Nigeria’s leaders accountable and, therefore, called on Nigerians to be bold enough to “read the riot act to the political class”.

In his own contribution, the Young Progressive Party Presidential candidate at the last election, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu was on the same wavelength with the submissions of other two previous Speakers when he declared that the constitutional architecture of governance in the present day Nigeria has long rendered local governments, which should have responsibility for grassroots governance, ineffective. He added that local government areas have become an appendage of the state governments. Moghalu further argued that the over-concentration of powers in the hands of the central government has made it difficult for grassroots governance to be effective. The former Presidential Candidate, therefore, suggested that Nigeria would require the controversial, long-delayed but inevitable constitutional restructuring in order to achieve effective grassroots governance. He also stated that there was no real culture or a sense of ownership of governance by grassroots communities in Nigeria. He attributed this to citizens and political actors at the local level for looking up to state capitals and Abuja for survival.

To cure these fundamental defects, Prof. Moghalu called for the scrapping of local government as a constitutional third tier of government in addition to a constitutional redesign of the architecture of governance.

The-BOT-Chairman,-Mr-Tunji-Ayanlaja,-SAN
The BOT Chairman, Mr Tunji Ayanlaja, SAN

Earlier in the day, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Oba (Dr) Sikiru Kayode Adetona Professorial Chair in Governance, Mr Tunji Ayanlaja (SAN), while welcoming guests to the event, highlighted the main purpose for the gathering which according to him was “to do honour to our donor, Oba (Dr) S. K. Adetona, the Awujale of Ijebu land, on his 85th birthday and to listen to our Professorial Chair who is statutorily presenting his stewardship for another year”. On behalf of the BOT, he congratulated the Awujale and the Professorial Chair. The BoT Chairman informed the gathering that a visit to the website of the Awujale Professorial Chair would give people the opportunity to access all the submissions and materials about the lecture series since its inception in 2016.

Reading an excerpt from an interview granted by Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, Mr Ayanlaja appraised the special qualities of the Awujale whom the Alaafin described as a courageous, frank, accommodating, generous and well respected monarch among his fellow Obas and indeed his subjects. According to His Imperial Majesty, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, “to have another Awujale of this class would take another century. He is a phenomenon and symbol of what a Yoruba Oba should be”.

Meanwhile, the Vice Chancellor Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Prof. Ganiyu Olatunji Olatunde, while joining the BoT Chairman in also welcoming the guests, stated that the Professorial Chair was one of the budding legacies of Oba (Dr) Sikiru Kayode Adetona with the goals of permanently creating the basis for research into the problems and issues associated with the delivery of the basic essentials of the purpose of government to the satisfaction of the citizens. Prof. Olatunde added that the University was proud to be associated with the Awujale’s giant strides and that efforts were already being made in putting together a compendium of useful information on the subject of governance. The Vice Chancellor profusely thanked the Awujale for giving the Olabisi Onabanjo University the opportunity to be part of what he described as “a great initiative”. He noted the Kabiyesi’s invaluable support and efforts in the development of humanity and governance as well as His Royal Majesty’s positive contributions in the area of poverty alleviation, security, peace-building and conflict resolution. Prof. Olatunde revealed to the thunderous applause from the crowd that this Professorial Endowment that was flagged off three years ago with over ₦15 Billion remained the biggest in the history of endowments in Nigeria.

The Vice Chancellor informed the gathering that the Kabiyesi had almost completed the construction of a befitting and imposing building complex that would house the Professorial Chair consisting of guest chalets and service apartments. He expressed his belief that the professorial building complex would further strengthen the Professorial Chair as well as nudge it in the direction of being an appropriate good governance center.

In his remarks, the celebrant and donor, the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba (Dr) S. K. Adetona, commended Governor Ibikunle Amosun who was represented at the event by his deputy, Mrs Yetunde Onanuga, for his support. He said, “I must thank Governor Amosun because he stood by me … So whatever has happened has happened and is gone. So I want us to come together and do things together so that we can together love our desired country”. The monarch also expressed his gratitude to the current Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ganiyu Olatude for his support and commitment toward the successful hosting of the event, most especially the lecture and other allied activities associated with it. Kabiyesi also thanked the immediate past Vice Chancellor. Prof. Saburi Adesanya for his co-operation and interest in ensuring that the idea of the Professorial Chair materialized as planned.
O Nigeria, Awujale said, “many people are fed up with the situation of things in the country because many of the things in our hands now are fake. When everybody is tired of the situation, we would go back to the way we did things in the olden days”.

Among the eminent personalities who graced the occasion were two former governors of the state, Chief Olusegun Osoba, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, the in-coming Governor, Otunba Dapo Abiodun, the Secretary to the State Government, Barrister Taiwo Ade Oluwa, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi and other royal fathers and distinguished guests.

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