By Obeten Godfrey
The Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Honorable John Gaul Lebo has said that he will not support the ongoing legislative activity in the National Assembly which tends to empower the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct local government elections.
Mr. Lebo stated his position Monday in Calabar while speaking at the 3rd Edition of the Dialogue With Agba Jalingo Town Hall Meeting with Legor Idagbo which had the theme: “Amendment of the Nigerian Constitution: The Roles of Youths and Benefits.”
He announced his reservation for some items in the ongoing constitutional amendment saying he could not see any reason why INEC should conduct local government elections; a situation he described as ‘relationship by ambush,” since devolution of powers is also being discussed.
He said that the same way INEC has failed in its constitutional responsibility to conduct free and fair elections from the National to the state level, it is incompetent to conduct free and fair elections in the local level as well.
“INEC is incompetent to conduct elections in the country, from the National to the local government. All the government has to do is to create local domiciliary institutions that can protect democratic growth.”
He however voiced support for Local Government autonomy and the ‘Not Too Young To Run Bill’.
He said this will give Local Governments and their legislatures powers to hold the chairmen responsible and accountable for anomalies, misappropriation and other issues that may arise.
Mr. Lebo argued that the bill will also help decentralize and devolve powers from the center, giving the local governments their constitutional mandate but added that it will not be long before the mistake is realized as some local governments cannot sustain themselves.
Also, the Speaker said that he supports Autonomy of the State Houses of Assembly.
He maintained that if this was achieved, the state legislatures will be more empowered to enact laws that will help strengthen the State Electoral Commission; and that the appointment of the chairman of the Commission, including its funding and salaries should be fully enshrined in the first line charge.
The Abi born lawmaker said that the inclusion of the “Not Too Young To Run Bill” on the ongoing constitution amendment is a good one as it will accord young people an opportunity to delve into government at tender age, giving the younger generation a sense of belonging.
However, he said youths must work on themselves, enlarge their intellectual capacity and also live ready in order to lay hold of this opportunity; as public office is not easily gotten as perceived.
“The Not Too Young To Lead Bill will not totally empower you to occupy public office, there is more to it, public office is not donated, you have to force yourself into it.”, he said.
Furthermore, Mr. Lebo posited that Nigeria’s practice of “political democracy” where the country is dependent on the structures of political parties has been one of the country’s biggest challenges.
“The danger of political democracy is that it gets you to think within the box. The constitution is our biggest investment as a Nation, therefore we must do everything to put it on the right direction.”
He charged youths to engage leaders via policy dialogue and desist from meting out abuses on social media.
He also lamented that the Nigerian state is an expert in thinking very well and proffering solutions after an incident has occurred.
“We Nigerians are reactive in nature, rather than being proactive, we must talk about solutions and not waste time on our past problems,” he said.