Parliamentary In A Presidential System: Osun Local Government Way
Nigeria News takes a look at the recent Local Government polls in Osun State and how it may lead to litigation.
Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is a disciple of the former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He is an ardent supporter of true federalism. One of the things he did on assuming power was to rename Osun as the State of Osun instead of Osun State.
Aregbesola said that he had the constitutional right to do so. Though there was litigation over the renaming, the state of Osun stands till now.
Last week, the state government, riding on federal structure again conducted the local government election in a parliamentary way even though the country runs a presidential system of government.
At the poll, only the councillorship position was contested for in all the local government areas with the arrangement that the councillors would elect their chairman.
This is contrary to the presidential system and the Nigeria constitution that allows the election of candidates into both the chairmanship and councillorship position.
To many, it negates what the constitution says until the All Progressives Congress, APC ruling party approves and adopts its proposed restructuring formula that allows the state government to take full control of the local government.
Recalled that former President Olusegun Obasanjo withheld Lagos State Local Government funds for eight years just because the erstwhile Governor Tinubu created 36 Local Government Areas.
Tinubu later changed it to Local Government Development Areas and won the case at the Supreme Court but the funds were never released by Obasanjo.
To the state government, the system being run now in its local government was only misunderstood in different forms.
It said that the Osun Local Government Parliamentary System is not in contrast with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The system which provides for only parliamentarians at the local government setting operates with Councilors; a new method of governance away from the customary presidential system where the Chairman exercises full Executive Powers as practised over the years.
In the new arrangement, there will still be the acclaimed “Local Government Chairman” but not elected. The chairman is a product of the Councilors who are lawmakers at the council level. He/She is elected by his/her colleagues who have been duly elected by citizens of respective wards across the state.
The arrangement is not in any way an aberration of the 1999 constitution as it fully defines the relevance of Section 7(1) of Nigeria’s Constitution and Section 22 of the LG (Administration) Law of Osun State 2002 as amended.
The elected Chairman among other councillors will exercise full executive powers over the local government just as the Prime Minister does in other parliamentary democracies.
The new system reduces the cost of governing the third-tier of government, eliminates local government-wide campaigns by prospective LG Chairmen and their deputies as well as curbing wastage in providing for two more offices since the Chairman and Vice Chairman are councillors and maintain their status quo as councillors.
A good attribute of this is that the chairmen and vice-chairmen can be removed and replaced if they underperform or lose the confidence reposed in them by their colleagues.
But to me the state laws should not override constitutional provisions, rather it should be subservient to it. The constitution is not silent about structure, mode of appointment and operational and political structure of local governments. The states cannot act otherwise.
In time, I expect the court to rule on this. Though the state gave reasons that the parliamentary system would reduce the cost of governance, I believe that the form and structure and funding are different issues from the mode of selection of the chairman or system of government. Once the constitution is specific, every other argument is pedestrian and merely cosmetic.