Democracy came to the grassroots in Gombe only on February 23, 2013 when the local government elections were conducted across the 11 council areas apparently because of public outcry against the apparent indecision of the Governor Ibrahim’s led administration on the issue.
Prior to then, the governor had turned deaf ear to the yearnings of the people for elected government at the grass roots.
He instead, maintained the system inherited from his predecessor, Senator Mohammed Danjuma Goje where care-taker committees constituted at the twilight of Goje’s in 2011 was used to run the local governments for upward 21 months.
According to sources, the care-taker committee chairmen were not given chance to execute projects. In fact, their mandate was to pay salaries of workers only and should any capital project be required, the council in question was expected to write a proposal to the governor through the commissioner for Local Government Affairs.
The process took time and sometimes and the proposals were often not attended to. That development obviously dislocated the people from the government. This was despite the fact that the state government embarked on construction and rehabilitation of some rural roads across the local governments.
But then, investigations by Vanguard revealed that there was more to the delay than could be peripherally discerned by an ordinary mind.
Alleged reasons for the delay of LG polls
Up and until the elections were conducted last February, Dankwambo had no political structures in the state. Notably, he rode on the back of the people and heavily relied on the political mastery of ex-Governor Goje who “bulldozed” his way in the 2011 gubernatorial elections for Dankwambo.
Dankwambo was a perceived godson of Goje and as a result, Goje donated all political structures in the ruling Peoples Democratic party (PDP) to him which felicitated his victory at the polls. But surprisingly, a face-off ensued between Goje and Dankwambo shortly after Dankwambo was sworn in as Governor on May 29, 2011.
Those who are in the know say that the new governor, in the light of the face-off, decided to conduct the election only when he felt that he had seized the structures from his predecessor and as such, curried the support of the stakeholders.
Similarly, the same reason was adduced by analysts to have delayed the formation of Gombe State Executive Council.
Another significant reason given by keen observers of political events in the state on why the elections were delayed was the political inexperience of Dankwambo. He was a career civil servant before his nomination for the office of governor having reached his career peak as Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) before he was enrolled into politics by Goje in December 2010.
Sources say that he needed all the time to learn the robes before he could embark on any political mission such as the local government elections.
Election: One Party Affair
The local government election that took place on February 23 was entirely, a one party affair with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP having a field day. The PDP won the 11 chairmanship and 114 councillorship seats contested on that day.
In many places it was more of an affirmation as the party was virtually the only one on the ballot except in Kwami Local Government where the Congress for
Progressive Change (CPC) joined the battle. But even there, PDP won.
Chairman of the CPC in the state, Barrister Audu Baba Kwami however rejected the results, saying “there were no elections in Gombe state but selection”. He later called for outright cancellation of the election.
Also, Dr. Garba Mohhamed Bajoga, a retired permanent secretary and opposition politician told Vanguard that it was a charade.
He said “Honestly, as far as we are concerned, democracy is about people and the beauty of democracy is where you have multi-party system. But whereby you now have only a single party controlling everything, it doest make for a democratic system. It looks like Nigeria is descending towards a one-party state and that is not healthy for democracy.
“Of course there are states that have not even conducted elections. It is unfortunate and that is exactly the kind of antics we don’t want because it looks like the state governments all over, not just one party, but every other party wants to control everything. It looks like you don’t want to conduct election so that you will have elected chairmen at the local government level.
But it is unfortunate that you now have people who are selected rather than elected into local governments. And these guys are easily controlled. And it doesn’t help the people.
”Definitely, there is no democracy at the grass root level. And even at the various levels of government like the houses of assembly, it looks like it is only one party that controls everything. Real democracy should be a rainbow where you see various colours. It gives variety and leave room for competition.”
The feelings of the people now that the elections have held are mixed. There are people who are happy that at least there are elected chairmen in the local government areas. But there are still others who feel lost in the scheme of things. Such persons alleged that there is no visible departure from what used to be before the elections were conducted as they allege the election was done to fulfill all righteousness. They alleged that the state government still calls the shot at the grassroots, leaving both the people and the elected chairmen handicapped.