When Will Kwara Get It Right?, Dr. Alagbonsi Abdullateef (ENetSuD)
Since 2011 that I resigned from partisan politics, I have focused on and participated solely in governance matters. In the recent time that I have been understudying the nexus between partisan politics and governance, I have continuously realized, as posited by many people, that good governance starts from partisan politics (yet, I am not still interested in partisan politics). This will lead me to air my opinion on how governance matters in the Kwara state are being affected by bad party politics. The bad party politics have produced unfit candidates (who do not have the capacity to perform their representative duties) for election, thereby making good governance a mirage.
In Kwara, just like other states, we elect just one Governor and many state legislators (otherwise called “Honorable”). Just like the situation in other states, Kwara citizens do not attach much importance to the processes that birth the “Honorable”. No wonder that any kind of person, even without any credibility or track record of pro-people efforts, can be elected as the Honorable members of the Kwara State House of Assembly (KWHA).
The first question that I have kept asking myself without a conclusive and altruistic answer is: why have we, as citizens and electorates, concentrated more on the election of a Governor (just one person) but not the twenty-four “Honorable” members of the KWHA? Another question that is closely related to this is: why do we only question the Governor always but not the twenty-four Honorable members? My assumed answer to these questions is that citizens do not know the enormity of the legislative powers vested in the “Honorable” members. Citizens don’t even know that many aberrations attributed to the Governor (and/or his cabinet) are of legislative origin, or have legislative contribution/support. These answers are not an attempt to exonerate the Governor from the perceived aberrations but to underline how the arm of government that we have paid very little attention to (the legislature) has been significantly involved in the commission or omission of those alleged offences (in the eye of the citizens).
Let me make the KWHA-induced maltreatment of the Local Government (LG) in Kwara State by the Governor as one of various examples in order to make readers (especially Kwarans) understand why the KWHA election needs to be given our maximum attention in 2023. The Governor suspended all the executives and legislative councilors of the sixteen LGs of Kwara State following the resolution of the KWHA. The KWHA passed a resolution on the 18th June, 2019 that all of the LG structure be dissolved pending the outcome of the investigation it was conducting on the alleged misappropriation of public (LG) funds so as not to jeopardize the process of the investigation. The Governor so acted within the speed of light and continually extended the suspension until their tenure expired in November 2020. Whether the KWHA and the Governor have their powers of resolution and suspension respectively is a legal matter that I will not authoritative talk about, as I am not competent to do so. However, my interest here is to establish the fact that, the suspension of the LG structure by the Governor had a strong root from the KWHA.
On Tuesday 20th August, 2019, the KWHA approved the dissolution of the Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission (KWASIEC) and 2 others as requested by the Governor. Although both the Governor and the KWHA acted within their constitutional powers, they, however, acted in bad faith and against the public interest in my honest opinion. Section 201(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that “Any person holding any of the offices to which this section applies shall only be removed from that office by the Governor of that State acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the House of Assembly of the State praying that he be so removed for inability to discharge the functions of the office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for misconduct. This section applies to the Offices of the Chairman and members of the State Civil Service Commission, the State Independent Electoral Commission (KWASIEC) and the State Judicial Service Commission”. While I am not interested in dwelling over the legal correctness of the Governor and the KWHA to have exercised their constitutional power on the dissolution of KWASIEC, I am interested in establishing the fact that the KWHA is also a co-author of this dissolution. There could never have been a dissolution of the KWASIEC without the approval of the KWHA.
The last example I will refer to is the approval of ₦35 billion bond for the Governor by the KWHA. The 2020 guideline for the external and domestic borrowing released by the Nigerian Debt Management Office (DMO) provides compulsory conditions before a State can borrow externally or domestically. Two of these conditions are the Approval of the State Executive Council and the Resolution of the State House of Assembly. Of course, the KWHA (within its legislative power) rightly approved the bond for the Governor. I consider their approval right because they have the power to do so and decide on how to conduct their business in the House, and the public expectation of the KWHA to have called a public hearing on the bond is not a compulsory requirement precedent to their approval. However, the KWHA did a blind approval, as it approved without knowing what it approved. It is like a University awarding a degree to a Student without screening the student’s application, administering courses, and examining the student. The lawmakers had no information on the breakdown of the money, projects to be executed, repayment plan, and other critical information that ought to have been deliberated upon and constructively criticized before such approval. By implication, the KWHA members have dragged all Kwara citizens (whom they are representing) into the blind approval. Let me stop here.
Fellow Kwarans, it is pardonable to have a Governor that will make mistakes. The drafters of our constitution and the creators of our democracy had envisaged that a Governor (and his/her cabinet) might be making mistakes. That is why our democracy welcomed legislature as the youngest arm of government (contrary to what we had under the Military dictatorship era). I do not need to explain the role of the legislature, but the only one I will emphasize apart from its primary lawmaking function is the oversight power over the executive (check and balance) exclusively given to it by the Constitution. If a Governor wants to get it wrong, the legislature must not get it wrong. If a Governor wants to go astray, the legislature must stop him. If a Governor wants to be undemocratic, the legislature must protect our democracy. If our democracy fails, it is because we have a weak legislature.
The 2023 election is an opportunity for Kwarans to elect the right legislature. Kwarans should pay more attention to the occupants of Asadam road (KWHA) than the occupant of the Ahmadu Bello Way (Government House, Ilorin). If we want to get it right, we need credible and reputable people in the KWHA. We need fulfilled people in the KWHA. We need men of integrity in the KWHA. We need courageous and fearless people in the KWHA. We need thorough people in the KWHA. We need people who love to read and learn in the KWHA.
Dr. Alagbonsi Abdullateef writes from the Republic of Rwanda. He is a son of Ilorin from Okekere. He can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org