Ex-Kwara Commissioner , Aisha Pategi Hails Tinubu’s Move to Empower Local Governments, Says Autonomy will Transform Nigeria



Mahalia Aisha Ahman Pategi, the former Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy Affairs, and Community Development in Kwara State, has thrown her weight behind President Bola Tinubu’s call for local government autonomy.

She asserts that it should not be perceived as a diminishment of state power but rather as a vital enhancement of the governance structure.

Recalled in 2020, Pategi was the first commissioner to resign from her position due to dissatisfaction with certain government policies and the governor’s stance on local government autonomy.

In a recent conversation with Mansur Aramide, a correspondent for TheGuardian, Pategi discussed various topics, including President Bola Tinubu’s policies, government operations, and the push for autonomy for the third tier of government.

What is your general assessment of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration?

Local government autonomy is what will hit the nail. This approach indeed has the potential to address fundamental issues at the grassroots level, fostering a bottom-up development strategy. Empowering local governments can lead to more efficient governance, enhanced service delivery, and stronger community engagement. This method can significantly contribute to economic growth and societal transformation, leading to a renewed sense of hope and a change in mindset across the nation.

Honestly, LG autonomy done and implemented properly will give us the domino effect. For me, PBAT is doing exceptionally great. We all need to keep in mind that sustainable change doesn’t happen overnight. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and I tell you for free, this local government autonomy, if implemented properly, will transform our lives and the nation.

There are agitations in some quarters for the establishment of state police, what is your take?

The establishment of state police is a contentious issue. While it could enhance localised security and ensure that policing is more in tune with community needs, its effectiveness is contingent upon the successful implementation of local government autonomy. Without a solid foundation for accountable local governance, state police might not achieve the desired outcomes and could even exacerbate existing issues of power and resource misuse.

How do you rate your boss Governor Abdul Rahman Abdul Razaq in the last five years?

I supported Governor Abdulrazaq for his second bid for office for certain reasons. First is his key attribute: he’s got listening ears. Honestly, his humility is top-notch; he is a man who can strike up a friendship with asuva man. According to Abraham Maslow’s third hierarchy of human needs, giving one a sense of belonging is crucial. When one is given a listening ear and action is taken as a result, it can definitely inspire and ignite hope in a person that the future is bright.

Aside from this, he has just unveiled the Horin City Master Plan 2042, which shows he is a great planner and a strategist. Keep in mind that he is also an achiever. Nothing meaningful can be achieved without proper planning. So I believe his years as an administrator will be unprecedented. Again, he is giving the average child hope in Kwara State. He has raised the hope that a child of nobody can become somebody. For me, these are huge achievements we most times ignore and tend to focus too much attention on roads, renovations of schools, social investments, and all. But I can tell you for free that these aren’t our challenges, because to be fair to all other past governments, they all did their fair share of infrastructure projects. Hut what’s truly sustainable is the feeling of hope you inspire in people that will motivate them to believe in themselves. Remember that a nation’s greatest capital is its human capacity. Once we’re able to get it right by inspiring and equipping our citizens by harnessing their full potential, then we shall be sure that the nation will rebuild itself. Together, we can go far. As quoted by Maya Angelou. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but peoplepeople will never forget how you made them feel.”

Governor Abdul Razaq has underscored his commitment to strategic development and inclusive governance. These attributes, coupled with his focus on giving hope to the youth and women, are significant achievements. While infrastructure projects are essential, the inspiration and sense of belonging he provides to the citizens are vital for the future of Kwara, Nigeria, and humanity. According to Abraham Maslow, the third hierarchy of human needs is love and a sense of belonging, which is very crucial to our human potential.

What will you say about women in politics? Are they well represented in the political calculations of the country?

Hmmm!!! Permit me to be blunt, my brother. We women are the architects of our underrepresentation. You may wish to ask me why.

Take a cursory look at our democracy; take the recent Edu Gate situation for example. Instead of women collaborating and working together as a team, what happened? Many women have sabotaged each other in the history of women in politics. So I honestly feel it’s time we stop playing the victim mentality and ensure we women team up and stand united. We should put aside our unhealthy competitiveness and differences and be our sister’s keeper.

I also want to use your medium to encourage professional women, women of virtue, to bring their chairs to the table. Don’t forget that when it comes to voting, women are the ones who line up in numbers. So, I’m advocating that women across the board kindly vote and support women vying for elective positions. We hold the dice, so let’s stand united and say “otoge,” enough is enough. We need to remember no one will hand over power to us, and when it comes to policy and crucial decision-making, nature has gifted us with stronger intuitions. We are the bedrock of our family. Honestly, the underrepresentation of women in politics is often exacerbated by internal divisions. It is essential for women to unite, support each other, and overcome the victim mentality. By collaborating and backing women candidates, we can significantly increase our representation and influence in political spheres.

As the saying goes, “You build a woman, you build the nation.” Therefore, it is imperative for women to stand united and claim their rightful place in political decision-making.

What is the importance of local government autonomy in Nigeria such that you threw in the towel over the issue? Could you share your thoughts on this?

Let’s think of government structure as a family. The federal government is the father, the state government is the mother, and the local governments are the children. In this analogy, there’s even a fourth tier, which is the traditional rulers. Focusing on the third tier-the local government-its autonomy is crucial for a thriving society.

Can you still elaborate on why localg government autonomy is so essential?

Alright, take the United States as an example. They have counties, states, and a federal government. Their system works efficiently because of this structured autonomy. Citizens can address issues directly with their local government officials, ensuring swift resolution. This model allows state governors to focus on broader developmental goals rather than being bogged down with local issues that don’t necessarily need their direct intervention. It’s about empowering each level of government to perform optimally, which ultimately benefits the community from the bottom up.

How does this relate to the recent actions of President Tinubu taking the 36 states to court over local government autonomy?

The president’s decision is commendable. It shows commitment to constitutional provisions for local government autonomy. This move is crucial for Nigeria’s progress as it aims to clarify and enforce the distribution of power among federal, state, and local governments.

How do you envision this legal action impacting local governance in Nigeria?

If successful, it would reinforce the autonomy of local governments, leading to better resource control, management, and eventual service delivery. It will allow community leaders to address their needs more effectively and allow governors to focus on large-scale development projects. This approach can lead to a more efficient and responsive overall government.

You’ve had personal experience as a commissioner for local government in Kwara State. Could you share some insights during your tenure?

My appointment as commissioner for local government should be credited to Governor Abdul Rahman AbdulRazaq for his foresight. Being a woman, it came with scepticism; I’ll always be grateful.

When I was appointed, it was seen as a less significant role. I was the laughingstock that night, and I remember vividly responding on a WhatsApp platform that when the universe throws stones, you ensure you build a bridge. Anyway, that’s what you get with the right kind of women facing challenges that look impossible, but we deliver once we take on our roles as the delivery species. However, I saw the potential and hit the ground running. For example, when I took over, the ministry only had one Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) source struggling to generate a million Naira yearly. In a few months, we increased annual revenue from under N1 million to N10 million in three months by addressing leakages. You can now imagine how much to make in a year with optimised opportunities. Remember this is just one of many of the LGA’s IGR. The opportunities in local government are enormous. Honestly, the average LG can generate IGRs in billions of naira. Local governments can stand independently without federal allocation if we have the political will to implement the needful. This experience showed that with proper management, local governments can significantly contribute to the state’s development.

Any message for the state governments and the general public on this issue?

Supporting local government autonomy should not be seen as a loss of power by the state governments but as an enhancement of governance structure. Strong local governments mean a more balanced and effective overall system. To the public, I urge the public to support this cause because it secures better services and accountability at the local level. It’s about creating a government that is truly by the people and for the people.

What are your hopes for the future of local governance in Nigeria?

The only way out of the hole for Nigeria isbottom-up approach. I honestly can’t stop lauding our president for this bold moves. I hope to see a Nigeria where local governments are fully autonomous and capable of driving sustainable development. This means empowered local leaders, improved service delivery, and a vibrant, responsive democratic system that benefits all Nigerians.

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