Local Government and Good Governance in Nigeira's Emerging Democracy, 1999-2011: An Analysis of the Constraining Factors

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Abstract

When local governments were democratically instituted in Nigeria in 1999, Nigerians widely assumed that democratic rule would usher in good governance at all levels. This study however discovered that the expectations of the people have not been largely met. This failure the study further discovered is attributable to a number of constraining factors. The paper analyzed these constraining factors and prescribed measures that can engender good governance at the local level in the country.

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INTRODUCTION

The idea and practice of localizing government is a universal and age-old phenomenon. In Nigeria, before the emergence of the contemporary state system, governance in all originality was locally or community based. With the emergence of the state system, local government still finds a place in the scheme of things. The philosophy of localizing governance in the modern day setting as most scholars have concurred is anchored on the need to bring government closer to the people (Mills, Janda, Barry, & Goldman, 2000; Ajayi, 2004; Kolawole, 2003; Ola, 2004). Thus even as its functions and relevance sometimes overlap with those of other levels government, it is still seen as a contrivance that will not only engender development and make governance more efficient and effective, but equally compatible with a majoritarian view of democracy (Janda, Barry, & Goldman, 2000, p. 122). After close to two decades of military repressive rule (1983-1999) Nigeria was again returned to democratic rule in 1999. When the new democratic dispensation was about to take-off, expectations of the citizens were high in respect of the responsiveness of the democratic government at all levels that were to succeed the military rulers. Indeed, it was a general presupposition that the incoming democratically elected government would envelope and deliver to the people good governance. While it is acknowledged that democracy is not a destination, it was still assumed that, democratic rule would usher in good governance at all levels. However, the report card has not portended flying colours for all the tiers of government in the country namely: Federal, State, and local government.

In discussing the matter of good governance, veiled reference is usually made to the evaluation of the performance of the local government. Whereas, the national picture of governance ought to be a cumulative performance of all the tiers of the government in the country. It is in recognition of this fact that this paper has chosen to examine good governance at local level with emphasis on the constraining factors that have impeded or imposed the present level of development and quality of governance at the local level under the nascent democratic dispensation which was instituted in 1999.

1. CONCEPTUALIZING GOOD GOVERNANCE

In order to bring the term "good governance" into proper perspective, it is apposite to first examine the meaning of governance. Governance has been defined as the exercise of political, economic and social authority to regulate human interactions for the well being of society. In this sense, governance can be seen as an attempt by the state machinery (government or constituted authority) to translate into concrete realities, the objectives for which a political society is established which in the main consists of maintenance of law and order and the promotion of the welfare of the members of the political society in all ramifications. Human history has however revealed that the performances of the people charged with the responsibility of governance have, in term of satisfying the yearnings of the members of their states and fulfilling the traditional and primary aim of governance - maintenance of law and order - have varied. While some succeeded in fulfilling the traditional aims of governance, others have indeed engaged in the perversion of the core aims of governance. It is this perversion that brought about the concept of "bad governance", which has in turn generated the desire to remove bad governance and thus the emergence of the term "good governance". …