The third tier of government otherwise known as local government administration is an important part of government, constitutionally designed to bring development to the doorsteps of the people at the grassroots.
Local government authorities are multi-purpose bodies responsible for delivering a broad range of services.
Despite its significance, local government election is not taken seriously in most states of the federation by state governments whose responsibility it is to fund the conduct of local government polls.
Rather than conducting local government elections as at when due, most state governors often resort to the appointment of caretaker chairmen and supervisory councillors to man the affairs of the local government councils.
The implication of the use of caretaker chairmen to run local government administrations is that the appointed persons cannot operate independently. They cannot enjoy autonomy. Their administrative operations are always at the mercies of those that appointed them.
In Bayelsa state for instance, since the expiration of a constitutionally elected set of local government chairmen and councillors over five years ago, no elections have been held. The third tier of government has been run across the state by those handpicked by the state governor. This indeed is unhealthy as it does not promote an effective local government system as enshrined in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
This may explain why Bayelsans are happy that the Bayelsa State Independent Electoral Commission (BYSIEC) has announced a date for a belated local government elections in the state. Though long overdue, at least, the right thing ought to be done.
We commend BYSIEC for listening to the yearnings of the people, even though some have argued that the sudden change of mind by the electoral body to conduct local government polls three months to the governorship election in the state may have some political undertone. It is better we have a local government system that has constitutional backing. We prefer a local government administration that is put in place by the people and for the people to a set of political appointees that wouldn't care about the plights of the rural dwellers but only pay allegiance to their masters.
We are therefore urging all political parties in the state to prepare themselves and present credible candidates to the people during the polls. Parties should play by the rules and allow peace to reign during the exercise. We are also aware that over thirty-two political parties in the state are threatening to boycott the exercise if the state governor, Seriake Dickson refuses to withdraw the appointment of Mr. Ball Oyarede as a replacement for the chairman of BYSIEC, Dr. Perekeme Betola who resigned on the grounds of "threats to his life and family". The grouse of the political parties is that Ball Oyarede is a card carrying member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and as a result may not conduct a free, fair and credible election.
However, Oyarede has debunked the allegation, pointing out that he resigned his membership of the PDP before picking up the appointment and that his former position as a member of a particular political party won't affect the outcome of the polls.
We therefore call on the political parties to shelve the idea of boycotting the exercise and make use of this opportunity to ensure that the local government system in Bayelsa state gets working again. We advise that rather than boycotting the polls, aggrieved parties should seek redress in court while they allow the process to go on.
The state electoral body should provide a level playing ground for all political parties before, during and after the exercise to give room for a free, fair and acceptable election. The outcome of the polls should reflect the wishes of the electorate. This is the only way to guarantee a rancour free exercise.
The state government on its part should ensure an adequate funding of the state electoral commission to ensure a smooth exercise. All necessary logistics should be made available to avoid hiccups that may negatively affect the outcome of the polls. Adequate security must be put in place for staff of the commission as well as the electorate. Those whose stock in trade is to cause electoral violence during elections should know that the evil that men do lives with them, bearing in mind that they may not be so lucky to get away with it this time.