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COMMUNITY GOVERNMENT AND SOLUDO’S PROPOSED 4TH TIER

 
By: Law Mefor  
Published January, 25th, 2010

“What I offer you is a new world, a new Anambra in the 21st century; my vision is to put Anambra on the world map” Cee Cee Soludo

1 Cee Cee Soludo

The big idea behind the 4th Tier of government proposed by Soludo is making the 177 communities that make up Anambra State part of its governance. The Soludo model is one certain way of reestablishing the connection between Anambra people and their government, which was severed since the military rule. The people have been, all along, essentially on their own and launch development of their respective communities mainly by self-help. What will make the people once more part of government shall be Soludo’s novel concept of community government, which he said will be a full legal entity as 4th tier.

A tour de force of the communities will reveal that, at the moment, what obtains is each community pursuing for itself one capital project or the other such as schools, health centers, potable water, and even road construction and so on. But in the coming order, the people will partner with government to ensure safe, prosperous and healthy communities and will be doing so both for themselves and on behalf of government. Soludo plans to fall back on the Anambra communities’ unions, with elected presidents-general who are political heads and their traditional rulers all playing specific roles.

Ordinarily, going by their long history and track records of success as project and programme anchor points, the town unions should have been an administrative unit of governance in the entire southeast. But because our concept of democracy and governance does not have any direct bearing to the people, this time-honoured structure that connects the people has since fell into disuse.

The idea of town unions came up as a response to the failures of Indirect Rule and Warrant Chief Systems in Igbo land in the ‘50s during the colonial, ultimately culminating in town councils that at one point or th other, played roles in development rural levels.

Even after the civil war, this community based governance was still visible and East Central State Administrator, Dr. Anthony Ukpabi Asika fell back on it to bring tremendous rehabilitation and reconstruction to the in record time. But rather than continue with it and refining and perfecting it, the continuing military rule pushed the method aside, as accountable and people-oriented governance waned and palled off into insignificance.

The 4th tier of government as proposed by Soludo will be an improvement on such earlier attempts as it now seeks to bring back government to the people. It will put the people in charge of the quest for meeting their social and developmental needs multiplying in recent times with increasing government neglect of reasons why people need government in the first place. The new concept therefore aims to make each community where every member has the right to a decent life, the same opportunities, freedom and respect, somewhere to be proud of.

Ordinarily, Anambra state and the rest Igbo land should be the easiest place to govern in Nigeria and bring dividends of democracy to the people. When Igbo Communities were encouraged to form town unions that eventually became town councils to carry out development projects directly by the people themselves with funds provided by government, communities were better and happier places to live in and raise children. With public schools in rural communities now in complete dilapidation with blown roofs and without seats and desks for kids, primary education is practically nonexistent. That is one aspect that will certainly engage the 4th tier. The proposed tier’s job is really caught out and may prove the missing link for service and democracy dividends delivery at the basic level and if well established, can provide a model for the other states in the country.

The relevance and irrefutability of this tier is further underscored by the fact that the other tiers namely LGA, State and Federal are all artificial to the majority of our people who dwell in the communities and have been used to communalism at public level. The closest mode of governance to make sense to a great majority of such people is community government, which Soludo now proposes as a tier.

Soludo plans to cause into legislation a 4th tier of government to utilize the existing town unions in the state, which before now organized self-help programmes and projects for their respective communities. Now, they will function officially as a tier and with powers to deal with residual responsibilities. Following a town’s problems diagnosis to be undertaken by the union, it will draw its annual budget and receive a percentage of the state’s monthly income from the federation account to implement projects and programmes and other responsibilities to be made statutory.

From the broad outline of the coming policy should Soludo become governor, town unions will become full time job for their executives. It is still not clear how the residual government will function, but is likely there may be professional bureaucrats and civil servants serving as executive secretaries and administrators for it work well as government and not serve a narrow interest of some cliques in the communities.

Disclosing this in his campaign trail in Dunukofia LGA in Anambra state where he was received by some traditional rulers, Soludo asked them (the traditional rulers) to brace up for a role in the coming 4th tier scheme, to ensure checks and balances, accountability and prudent utilization of resources.

From this aspect of Soludo’s proposal, it is likely there will be a Town Council Development Committee for each town with the Igwe/Eze of the town as the chairman, with functions akin to a board’s in government parastals.

The proposal is really likely to unleash a growth engine on Anambra state as predicted by Soludo and take the state to the next level. Apart from development agenda, it will create jobs for the locales and engender accountability and full-blown grassroots governance. If not anything, the people in their various communities can monitor project implementation and easily hold their kinsmen handling such projects accountable for unexecuted projects and for projects shoddily executed. It is not likely to stamp out corruption but it has the potential to minimize it and ensure prompt and fairly prudently executed projects.

Accountability under such arrangement can take on serious forms ranging from social to legal and even extra legal. Because of it, indigenes with scruples are quite likely to try to live above board, more than they could be in executing an out government contract. It is novel but the concept contains enough logic of being capable of bringing government once more to the people. The areas of concentration for the tier will certainly be defined by the law to be enacted. But naturally, it will encompass vigilante service, in-town road maintenance and even construction, civic centers, some primary health, and local water scheme, among other sundry issues.

A sincere and committed and visionary town union (or council as they are likely to answer as in the past) that receives 3 to 5 million naira every month can change the face of the town in 2 to 4 years. And since it has to be town-based, monkey tricks inherent in our government system will be greatly minimized.

This brings in the issue of dealing with the attitude of Nigerians to government money and corruption. Our people do not seem to believe that stealing government funds even in large lumps amounts to stealing. Many see it as grabbing from the common wealth which means it is nobody’s money. But the 4th tier as a new government system proposed by Soludo will change all that, at least, since the town council will receive what is essentially the fiscal right of their towns and their people. By the action, it has become the people’s money, not government money or nobody’s money and demanding accountability will come only naturally from the people whose money it has been declared.

With coming of the 4th tier of government in Anambra state under Soludo governorship, the Anambra state to come can be this early envisaged as return to happy days.

The 4th tier as a Community Government therefore means working hard to create thriving, sustainable, vibrant communities that improve everyone's quality of life. Achieving this also means developing in a more planned manner and improving community public services, regenerating the areas to make life more meaningful and create jobs by engaging the locales in development projects (which is a kind of direct labour), working to produce a sustainable environment and tackling anti-social behaviour and extremism through well-funded vigilante (community policing) services.

A Community Government with such disposition should be a precursor and policy setter for the local government on issues. With time and perfection, heads of the 4th tier (the presidents-general) can directly translate to LGA councilors, who carry the communities’ problems, first hand, to the LGA and press home the need for remediation. For now, there is indeed a disconnection between the people at the grassroots and their government. To change it, Soludo’s proposed 4th tier is it!




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