How to be a local government chairman

Do you fancy being the Chairman of your Local Government Area (LGA)? Well, the general administrative and operational setup of LGAs in Nigeria has changed. Conceptually, LGAs are supposed to be separate entities from the State government. Not anymore. That original model lasted only until around 2003 when Obasanjo changed things. They also began getting their operational funds from the Federation Accounts directly from their State governors through the structure of the Joint State and Local Government Account. That precipitated the birth of an entirely different ball game.

So, are you currently living abroad (say the UK, USA, Canada, etc), or you are an enterprising middle/upper class Nigerian professional domiciled in Nigeria and thinking about being a Local Government Chairman? Ok, this is how to go about it:

  • LGA terms are now all of two years. Elections are conducted by State Electoral Commissions (not INEC) strictly at the governor’s pleasure
  • From Abia to Zamfara, there is a proper Rotational system (rotation with a capital ‘R’) in place at this level. Generally, only one term is served. It is strictly a turn by turn, town by town, ward by ward, clan by clan event. First find out when it is your area’s turn. Please do so at least 2 years in advance
  • From your base abroad or any of the major Nigerian cities, begin to cultivate your LGA stakeholders
  • Your State governor + traditional rulers + political warlords = stakeholders
  • Being a Governor is the loneliest job in the world. The man has a short attention span an even shorter memory. But a few folks has his ears: his wife, his ADC, his orderly, his driver, his cook and his kitchen cabinet which, in the main, is made up of his Personal Assistants (PAs) – particularly those that were directly appointed by him and no more than 3 or 4 traditional rulers
  • Find out when any of them or their spouses would be coming into your neck of the woods. When they do, pick them up from the airport, pay for their hotel bills or better yet, accommodate them in your home. Tell them that your wife’s cooking is better than the hotel’s. They return home and say wonderful things about you. But don’t be cheap; one bad word from these people and your still-born project goes up in smoke
  • Remortgage/refinance your houses (or sell one of them), plus get other loans. On average, £150,000 / $244,000 / N37.5million should suffice. Remember, Primaries week alone would cost you about N10m
  • Send ahead a 4-wheel drive jeep to your hometown for later use
  • Then begin frequent visits home. Stock up on bags of rice and salt, posh mobile phones and recharge cards
  • Stock up on expensive alcoholic drinks
  • Sink a borehole or two
  • Start attending funerals, chieftaincy parties, church/mosque dedications
  • Pay some school fees – but only at the Primary and Secondary school levels
  • While you’re doing this, do not let it cross your lips that you are interested in any political office oh
  • After about a year of this, step up the frequency of your visits home
  • Find out who in your LGA is in sweet with your governor. This is when and where you begin to distribute your fancy mobile phones
  • Get what the Italians call a Consigliere. In Nigeria, he is called an Agent – a trusted foot soldier. He should cost you no more than N1m at the end of the day
  • Take your expensive drinks and your GMGs (Ghana-must-go) and begin to visit the stakeholders
  • Visit all the Ward chairmen, Ward secretaries, Women leaders and Youth leaders and do the needful
  • This is called ‘Entry Behaviour’
  • Become friends with the controller of the NURTW in your area. These fine gentlemen do more than just the control of road transport workers you will find
  • If you can, get a small government contract to build a small road or a small public building in your LGA. The people will think you are doing that in a private capacity. Do not correct that misconception
  • Then you make your formal announcement
  • Present yourself at a function where your State governor is in attendance. Grab the microphone, make a sizable donation after you have lavished His Excellency with much praise for his socio-infrastructural achievements in your area even if you yourself can’t see any. Don’t stop there, lustily pour invectives on the heads of His Excellency’s political enemies
  • The 419 boys will outspend you. Some of them will even turn up at local palaces and community events with a troupe of dancers, but don’t let that trouble you unduly. Play up your professionalism, ideals and gentlemanliness
  • If you’re coming from abroad, your ‘greenness’ is actually an advantage. It is perceived as refreshing as you won’t be seen as too negatively clever, hard nosed or cynical like some of your home based competitors. You’ll also come across as more believable
  • Play possum; allow a local idiot to be your oga
  • Get your good deeds in the local media. Make sure your Agent at every opportunity is telling your governor, “My man did this and that.” And the governor should delightfully respond, “Ah, so and so from London/US/Lagos is still on the ground?” Your Consigliere would say, “Your Excellency, that transformer that we commissioned the other day, that was him oh!”
  • All these should get you in
  • Now, you’re in, let’s say your LGA is due N98m every month. Your State Finance Commissioner will diligently go to Abuja and collect that N98m
  • Your fine supportive governor will only give you – on a good month – about N48m
  • On assuming office, you discover that LGA workers have not been paid for 2 months
  • There are about 14 wards in your LGA. Councillors earn about N232,000 every month in salary and allowances. Supervising Counsellors earn more
  • Recurrent costs, teachers, secretariat staff, sanitation people, technicians, clerks, etc, etc have to be paid promptly every month
  • Traditional rulers and political warlords have to be paid even more promptly every month or you are out and the governor would appoint a caretaker LGA chairperson in your stead
  • When all that is done, you barely have N3m left
  • But that is not all. You are frequently called at short notice to host and entertain State and Federal visitors to your LGA. That means lodging, food, drinks and gifts
  • You cannot directly source for this of course. You have to contract it out to one of the stakeholders’ wives – possibly the wife/girlfriend of the governor or one of the traditional rulers for about N1.5m
  • Remember the 4X4 you shipped home? Vulcanisers keep planting nails at strategic junctions in town, how many times can you patch one tire. Moreover, your roads are tough and have told on the poor jeep. You have to replace it
  • You have laid out close to N40m to be elected and have creditors to settle, plus your wife won’t stop shinning
  • Halfway through your tenure, you realise that the financial arithmetic don’t add up so you become a philosopher-politician and begin to think very deeply
  • You cannot possibly go back to your old life and old work after your tenure. You would need a moderate modern house in Abuja, Lagos or Kaduna as you plan your future and, hopefully, bigger political adventures like, for instance, being one of the many PAs or Advisers to your governor
  • Meantime, on one of your trips abroad, you talk your town’s people in the Diaspora into promising to build a community hall back home
  • You’ve come to rightly understand that in Nigeria, loyalty is bought so you begin to cultivate the very special friendship of the Finance man
  • With the help of your new special friend, the Finance man, you don’t pay worker’s

    salary for the last 2 or 3 months of your chairmanship. You simply keep those

  • Now, there’s just the one remaining matter – the elephant in the room: You have done bugger-all for your LGA in 2 years. Don’t worry; you simply didn’t have enough time or money for that.

Change is of course, the only constant in life. So this will change too for the better at some point in Nigeria, but for now, that is how it’s done.

Speak later, your Honourable.

Written by
Michael Egbejumi-David
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