By Joke Adeniyi-Jackson
The baton of leadership of local government administration in Kwara State changed hands on Tuesday, with the swearing-in of newly elected council chairmen by the state Governor, Alhaji Abdulfattah Ahmed on Tuesday.
The inauguration ceremony was a funfare of some sort as family, friends and well wishers of the new council bosses rolled drums to celebrate.
However, while the 16 council chairmen are basking in the euphoria of the celebration, they need to be given a nudge to wake them up to reality of the herculean task before them.
Before they are carried away by the celebration and the elevation of their status, they should be made to recognise the fact that huge responsibility has been placed on their shoulders to provide the much needed good governance at the grassroots level. With their swearing-in begins real governance.
The council helmsmen must be made to know that it is not yet party time rather they have to hurry to the drawing board to map out strategies to turn around fortunes of their respective local governments. The time is now to settle down to business of governance.
The new council chairmen are assuming office at a time when funding is a huge challenge, no thanks to the dwindling federal allocation. The local governments are neck deep debts of salary arrears of workers and pensions of retirees. Hence, the new local government administration must find a sustainable solution to salary crisis.
The council bosses are coming on board at a time the people expect much from them and they cannot afford to disappoint those who elected them into office. The people have, by their votes, discharged their responsibility, therefore it is now the turn of the chairmen to fulfil this part of the social contract made with the people of their local councils.
One major area the new local government administration must focus on is revenue generation. Chairmen must identify and exploit latent potentials of their various local councils for economic gains. The council areas should be able to develop their comparative advantage in terms of natural endowment.
And like Governor Ahmed implored, the chairmen should synergise with all relevant stakeholders to raise Internally Generated Revenue to meet their statutory responsibilities
“Every local government, especially those in the cosmopolitan and populated areas, has latent revenue opportunities that must be identified and exploited without imposing additional burden on the people. That is the only way your administrations can survive and meet the people’s expectations,” the governor said.
So also, transparency in resource management is pertinent while financial leakages must be identified and blocked. Financial prudence should be ensured in office. Despite the prevailing economic challenges being experienced in the country, the elected chairmen should endeavour to propel sustainable development in all possible ways.
In addition, most rural communities are battling infrastructural development deficit, it is one of the challenges that the new helmsmen are expected to tackle. Transformation of their various councils is of importance.
It note worthy that there are business opportunities in rural communities, but they lack requisite infrastructure to lure entrepreneurs and investors. For any community to attract new investment and foster economic growth and development it should have basic social infrastructure. However, effective leadership and conducive environment are also required to push economic growth development. Thus, the need for attention to be paid to all sectors of the economy at the grassroots.
For good governance, the dividends of democracy must be fairly distributed to all people without prejudice to political affiliation, gender, religious belief or ethnic background.
The people must be carried along and given the opportunity to have a say in policy making process and implementation, towards gendering and deepening democratic values and good governance at the local government level.
The traditional and religious institutions, associations and youths must be involved in governance, as the tasks ahead of the chairmen are daunting, which requires all hands to be on deck.
The council bosses must see themselves as servant-leaders, governance is not a tea party because their performance and non-performance will critically affect the pattern and pace of development in their localities. Therefore, they should pursue broader interest as against personal goals. It behooves them to justify the confidence reposed in them by living up to expectation.
On its part, the state government must support the new chief executives of the local governments towards fast tracking development at the grassroots.