After the Edo LG elections (2)

WE still wonder why the PDP expected the results to be otherwise. Of what stuff did they prepare their porridge that they expected it to come out thick? We kept reminding them that the best manure in any farm is the farm owner’s footprints.

In due season, this column advised them to go and canvass for votes so that they could win a few councillorship seats but, nay, they would rather remain in the comfort of hotel rooms, issuing frivolous press statements on the age of a man who was not even contesting the particular elections. They should count themselves lucky that they have one or two councilors produced through stray and protest votes.

We have said, often enough, that government is about human need, the satisfaction of which is the sole justification for government. It will take a height of ingratitude, for which Edo people are not known, to drive on those township and fantastic inter-city roads, go to the polling stations in those red roof school buildings and vote against the administration that provided those facilities.

And we are dealing with the same generation – the generation that witnessed the rot and infrastructural decay to which the PDP sentenced everybody for more than 12 years. This same generation is seeing a local government election for the first time. Hitherto, this generation never knew the colour of any ballot paper at a local government election. Without going back to ancient history, in the particular case of the December 2007 PDP charade, four days to the election, election officials had been summoned to a hotel in Benin City to sign the election results. Those were the results announced on the election day.

Evidently, every beginning is difficult. This time around, the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission, EDSIEC, was honest enough to acknowledge that it had a few initial hitches, for which it has duly apologised to the people.

For the first time, we are seeing an EDSIEC that means business; an EDSIEC built on integrity. Unknown to the fraudsters, this EDSIEC had gone the extra-mile to produce different colours of ballot papers for the different local government areas. So, when they were busy stuffing the ballot boxes at the “Oriemarule Republic”, little did they know that they were stuffing counterfeits. Perhaps, a clear case of “cunny man die, cunny man bury am.”

They must cry blood. It is not as if they are oblivious of the fact that if the elections were re-run a dozen times, the ACN would win 12 times – the only difference, being that the winning gap would be incrementally wider. Let’s not keep wasting time, talking about the forest. Rather, we must now focus on what to do with the woods.

With monotonous regularity, this column has quoted Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965): “Even more important than winning the election is governing the nation. That is the test of a political party – the acid final test. When the tumult and the shouting die, when the bands are gone and the lights are dimmed, there is the stark reality of responsibility”.

In Edo State, we see a new dawn in local government administration. We see a regime in which the peer review mechanism will stand out tall. Invariably, during their campaigns, all the chairmen pointed at the direction of “The Oga at the top” for their pilot light. That pilot light is still burning at the top. Anyone who extinguishes it at his local government level stands the risk of being lynched. It is no longer business as usual. Luckily, we now have an electorate that is well informed.

Governor Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole means business when he says, repeatedly, that the residency requirement for local government functionaries will be religiously enforced. This rule requires that the people must live where they work. We have written extensively on this issue (see The Nigerian Observer, 27 May 2010, page 32 and Thisday, 03 June 2010, Page 18). Five major reasons have been advanced in favour of the residency rule:

First, it ensures that the employees take pride in their work. This assumes that employees who live where they work have a greater interest in the quality of the services they render. If important government officials live within the communities where they work, they will ensure that public utilities – light, water supply, sanitation equipment, etc., function more efficiently.

Second, there is no better way to promote understanding of local customs and habits on the part of the employees, thereby ensuring that the employees relate better to, and identify with, those they serve and vice versa. This, in turn, promotes confidence in the local government by showing the citizens that those who work in the local government also find it a suitable place to live in.

Third, the residency requirement protects the public coffer in the sense that those who reside in the immediate area must necessarily spend their salaries there and consequently keep the tax money circulating within the local government area. Again, this makes sound economic sense because it keeps people in the area meaningfully busy and gainfully employed.

Fourth, the residency requirement enhances emergency manpower pool by ensuring that off-duty employees will be readily available for call-in and able to respond quickly when contacted. This aspect is particularly pertinent to police, fire, health care and other key personnel.

Fifth, perhaps most importantly, our present system, which is akin to an army of occupation, encourages absenteeism and tardiness. The importance of this issue can be better appreciated in the elegant declaration of the Third Enogie of Oghada, Prince Ewaensefe Iyiewuaefo-Eweka at his installation on Saturday, 11 May 2013: “I will live with my people. That’s the only way to feel their pains and enjoy their gains”.

The Edo State House of Assembly will do well to lift this important issue beyond the level of abstraction to the level of reality by enacting relevant laws to give it strong biting teeth.


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