The tenure of the sixteen chairmen of the Transition Implementation Committee (TIC) across the state is approaching finishing line with the decision of Kwara State Government under the All Progressive Congress (APC) led administration of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed to conduct the local governments election this year. In this piece, HEAD POLITICS, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM looks at the concerns their imminent exit has generate in the polity and whether the coming council poll has not overshadowed some of their agenda for the people.
In about 37 days from now, the tenures of the present set of the Transition Implementation Committee (TIC) will be coming to a close. That impending exit for the chairmen across the sixteen local governments in Kwara State has however somehow found a place at the front burner of discourse in the polity, thanks to decision of the government to finally conduct the local government election this year.
While question of how far they have been able to fulfil their purpose has been on before now, the issue in sector of governance this days is who is doing what among the government, the Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission, (KWSIEC) or the political parties in the state as regards the coming council election.
As expected, the council election has generated lot of buzz among the political parties and the umpire of the process which has raised the discourse to another level of accusations and counter accusations regarding the decision and intension of some of the motives of some policies of government for the exercise.
But, while this has been on and unfortunately relegating activities at the third tier of government in the state to the background, there appears a growing need to turn the searchlight to council administration to bring to light how far most of the respective chairmen have fared so far in the saddle.
Analysts in the state have continued to debate the value addition of the outgoing TIC chairmen. The storyline has revolved around, how far they have been able to conquer the daunting challenges they met on ground especially as regards salary backlogs which remains debatable and subject to various interpretive narratives.
After the present set of TIC chairmen were inaugurated by the Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed led administration, there were high and renewed hopes amidst the litigation from the opposition party that the plight of the local government workers would have improved by the time of their exit.
This followed the expectation of the Governor that the TIC arrangement will mark a turnaround in the state to clear the backlogs of local government salary arrears that had accumulated to several months.
According to the governor during the inauguration ceremony at the Government House they are “to avoid making unnecessary appointments, shun ostentation and avoid any conduct capable of calling your integrity into question.”
Governor Ahmed reiterated that “We promised to support the local government councils within available resources and guidance to see them through the difficult times and when the report of the State Committee on Personnel Database Development is submitted, monthly recurrent expenditure at the local and state levels will reduce, thus freeing funds for infrastructural development”.
But months down the line, the issue seem not to only have remained the same, but has included other hanging concerns that may define and dominate discussion by the time the administration through the KWSIEC finally conclude the council election slated for November 18, 2017.
For critics of the arrangement, the purpose of inaugurating the TIC has not only been defeated but unnecessary. Also, not only that the chairmen through the arrangement were not able to offset the backlog that has continued to be recycled with subsequent TIC administrations, there were threats at a time of even outright sack of some of the workers inherited.
Until there time wound up, the immediate predecessors of the present TIC chairmen had expressed helplessness over the salary crisis rocking their councils. It was the former TIC chairmen of Ifelodun Local Government Area of the state that first raised concerns over the situation when he threatened to sack 51 casual workers in the council owing to salary arrears. According to Alhaji Garuba Labaka, the decision became unavoidable when the revenue coming to the council could no longer cover their salaries but however promised to reengage them when “things return to normal’
This position is particularly worrisome and coming from one that has been described as the most experienced person as far as local government administration in the state is concerned having spent over 12 years in the council. In the light of the current development in the polity, Labaka is expected to retake the mantle of the council administration if the APC wins in Ifelodun after his emergence as the party’s candidate. The question now is, will the opportunity of being the substantive chairman with three years electoral mandate be enough to bring the necessary paradigm shift for progressive change?, that is another ball game altogether.
There is no doubt that the next few days before their tenure lapse is very crucial and when the argument that most of the incoming council bosses are greenhorns is considered, it remains to be seen, how will they operate.
With the earlier threat of sack and retrenchment coming from some of the TIC chairmen about workers in the local government that had once dominated the polity, there seems to be little difference in the routine of just collecting money to pay salaries. Yet many of them promised to reinvent the process of local government administration before they bow out of the council.
Except for some few caretaker chairmen, who have demonstrated creativity in the face of the gloomy situation prevalent about the financial situation in the local government, others have not really measured up to the daunting challenges facing council administration in their respective local governments across the state.
As the saying goes “the sunlight out there is enough to dry the cloths”, the few days remaining can be used to make some impressive and impactful decision for a turn around than they met the local governemnt.
This is particularly the case when the issue of some them using their remaining hours in the council for lobbying in an attempt to guarantee the “security of their job” since the election date has now been fixed. And for the only surviving present TIC chairperson that got the APC ticket to contest the chairmanship seat in Ilorin south, Hajia Funmilayo Salau, this should not only be a period of stock taking and resolve to leave the council better, the note taking now for the state ALGON boss should include how to hit the ground running if she eventually emerge the council chairperson and if the status quo on ground is retained by the electorate.
Unfortunately, the directive of the party that the candidates for the council election to maintain sealed lips for now until the party gives them the nod seems to have made the present TIC chairmen to refuse to comment on the what to expect in their last days. Granted that the APC party chairman Ishola Balogun Fulani might be guarding against unguarded comment in the polity, but trying to regulating their comment and even directing them to avoid press few days to the election is a big disservice to the electorate.
In the meantime, the few days remaining of their tenures must not be used to play politics at the detriment of impacting positively on the local councils in the state. Going forward now, the TIC chairmen must look at how best to tap from the various windows of opportunity to empower the people in areas like agriculture and solid minerals, among others, like some of them had earlier promised to grow their council in the areas of finance and human resources and make the state the better for it.
If anything, the recent reform being embarked upon by the Executive Chairman of the Kwara State Local Government Service Commission, Hajia Sarat Adebayo, should be seen and serve as a good and welcome development in the scenario.
Now that the local government and KWIRS have “already formed a synergy with the Revenue Officer (RO) of various councils who have been on board before the coming of the KWIRS, the lingering issue should be heading for a final solution especially coupled with the cries and agitation for local government autonomy.”
According to some analysts, if at the end of the tenure of the TIC chairmen and despite the “windfall” from the federal government in the form of the Paris/London loan refund, the issue of backlogs still lingers in the state, then there is some disconnect somewhere, especially with the governor’s ingenuity in the establishment of the now nationally acclaimed KWIRS described by many as the only functioning “ministry” in the state.
While the opposition parties are still dancing in the court arena waiting for the outcome of their legal suit concerning their grievances over the forthcoming election, what is certain is that those that are at the helms of affairs now piloting the council’s activities in whatever capacity must do the needful to pull it out from the woods instead of engaging in unnecessary politicking. The political activities that have dominated the process of the conduct of the council election should not overshadow and relegate to the background questions to how they have fared in the saddle so far.