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Beginning from the early 1950s, various models have been used in the government of Local Communities in our country. Among the models which have at one time been adopted for all or some parts of the Country include:
The Lugardian native authority system, the American Council manager model and divisional administrative system. These various systems were however abolished following the 1976 nation-wide local government by General Murtala Mohammed (The then Head of State). This reform for the first time introduced a Uniform, one tier, all purpose Local government system across the country. It was meant to correct the well known defects of the previous system such as; Lack of autonomy, encroachment upon local government function by the state Governments, inadequate funding and lack of adequate qualified man power, how staffing morale and decreasing productivity.
The local government institution is perhaps the oldest formal institution nearest to the ordinary Nigeria, especially since the official colonial imposition of 1900. In historical discourse, local government connotes formal institution which perform primary public functions closest to the people. It is therefore a primary channel through which the citizens participate in the governance of the society.
Essentially, the essence at political participation in Nigeria is therefore to give the broad mass of Nigerian people the opportunity to get involved in duties and privileges of the democratic process and thereby establishing a new political order capable of ensuring following:
B Creates orientation awareness and political mobilization
C Opportunity for the people to participate in the decision making process and
D A new social and on equitable distribution of national resources and opportunities.
All these require that people select and control their political authority created at the local community level to serve the needs and interests of the Local people. It is designed to bring government nearer to the people government in the process of government, thus Oyediran view local government as “government in which popular participation, both in choice of decision makes and in the decision making process is conducted by local bodies which while recognizing the supremacy of the central government is able and willing to accept responsibility for its decision”.
Local government posses characteristics which put it in an appropriate position to serve as a means for social mobilization.
In the first, it is government that is nearest to the people and has face-to face relationship with the people, it possesses the first hand knowledge, and feels the most impact, of the people’s needs and aspirations. Accordingly, the Political Bureau Report correctly observed that “a government operating at the local governments level is more likely to be attuned to the needs of the people”
Secondly, since local Government is generally community based, there is a greater sense of we feeling among the people of the local area. This sense of “we feeling fosters commitment to common cause that makes the mobilization of the people to participate in politics possible.
Thirdly, since local government is based on small units of local needs, it engenders greater participation of local people in the management of their affairs. This principle of mass participation is central in the objectives of the local Government reforms of 1976 which among its objectives are to our society and to mobiles of the members of the public in their development activities.
Fourthly, the local government, as a creative of the central (State) government, can be employed to achieve the ideological purpose of the state system at the grassroots level. It was argued that since local government is located in areas of local isolation and traditionalism requiring a high level of political socialization, it’s role in social mobilization is considered to be crucial and pivotal.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM:
Statistically stated, it is an established fact that about 70 percent of the Nigeria population live in the rural areas hence the grassroots. Given the scope of this study, this percentage of our population have under a measure of neglect which today is a source of concern. Over the years, tiers of government have be emerged as a consequence of the evolution of the political process in Nigeria. This can be traced through the colonial, independence era and the post independence era. The evolution of these tiers of government has engendered political participation with both positives and negative consequence. Some scholars view political participation as an outgrowth of the evolution of local government in Nigeria, others view it as a consequence of government actions or policies on the trends of the political system.
Others view political participation as an outgrowth of military involvement and civil life. These over the nature of local government with regards to the character of political participation. The impact of the local government on grassroots’ democracy has not been facilitated and given greater emphasis; the local government according to John Stuart Mill is justified as an integral part of democracy.
This paper is therefore, an attempt to access the roles played by local government in the democratization process aimed at re-adjusting the organizational structure and institutions and then making the ordinary man at local governments to participation more in political processes. It is also an attempt to access the collective role expected of the people at the local government in the democratic government as a means of achieving this adjustment.
For a more critical analysis of this research problems since research questions shall be deduced so as to keep out though abreast with the topic. These research problem therefore, necessitated the following research questions:
a. To what extent does the activities of local government affect the peoples’ political participation.
b. How has the role played by local government in integrating the rural population into the political process engendered political participation ?
c. What possible alternatives exist to ensuring political participation in the political system ?
d. To what extent has the application of local government democracy
influenced peoples’ participation in democratic process ?
e. To what extent has the application of grassroots democracy influenced p people participation in democratic process ?
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY:
Our aim in this paper is to discover why it is important to strive to achieve a high degree of grassroots democracy in Nigeria. My explanation will start by stating that the concept of “grassroots” very of my establishment is the bases upon which is stands. If the root remains the ultimate condition for the survival of the grass.
Analytically, social organization have roots upon which their life more or less depends. In the Nigeria Situation, the roots are simply the local government where about 70 percent of the population live. Therefore grassroots democracy refers to the active involvement and participation of the rural dwellers or the common folks in the determination and implementation of public politics It is not their participation in politics by voting during election, but reflections of public polices. Since no political system can be useful unless it is efficient enough to provide the services which the people require, therefore, grassroots democracy will not representative unless it is close to the people.
Efficiency representation and popular participation and popular participation are therefore what everybody concerned with grassroots democratic process must aim at since every democratic process is meant to reach decisions through discussions, arguments and persuasion. It does not depend on the suppression of thought, for unfavorable conditions. It encourages democratic freedom, self reliance, initiative and social sense of the free man by placing the ultimate responsibility for the control of government on the Citizens themselves.
In this research, study the aims is also to show that this conception if “grassroots” as the basis for political life and the bedrock of a true democratic process has informed much of social and institutional engineering that has taken place since 1976, especially with respect to the returns and innovations in the local government.
1.4 SIGNIFCANCE OF THE STUDY
With the world contending towards democratic process, if therefore becomes very imperative to give greater concern to local government in Nigeria as a mere pragmatic means achieving a viable political order. Following from this premise, the research study is designed to serve as an exposure to the mass of Nigeria on the imperative of local government democracy. It is expected that this study will go a big way in making local government participation in politics heritage of the rural common folk. The research work is going to be a compendium of useful information to both students and any person who might have a need for it.
Ultimately, it is my cherished desire to contribute to the growth of intellectual and material deposit of this schools library considering its peculiar nature.
1.5 THEORITICAL PERSPECTIVE
The adopted frame work or tool of analysis for this research is the “system approach” as enunciated by David Easton. The central idea of this Estonian theory of system is that it is a set of elements standing interaction, and a whole which is compounded of many parts - an assemble of authorities. However, the use of Easterian approach is due to the fact that this research topic involves an international process between the political system and the rural dwellers who constitute the local government. Local Government political Participation process in Nigeria has been adjusting itself to the changing trends of the people. It comprises patterns of behavior are generally at inclusive in character.
Using Eastorian approach it can be represented diagrammatically:
Thus appendix 1.1
With this graphic representation of Easton’s Systems model, it is operational sequence could be explained in relation to the topic, “ Local government, A platform for political participation. However, the Local governments population.
1.6 RESEARCH QUESTION:
1. Does the activities of the Local government affect the Citizens continued interest on politics.
2. Does the activities of the Local government brings the government closer to the people?
3. Should local government be banned in political participation?
4. Do local government effect any positive change in political participation?
5. Are there gainful reasons involving local government in politics?
6. Is there any adverse effects or danger on the Citizens of local government in political participation?