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Role of Local Government in Controlling Political Instability in Nigeria: A Study of Ohaukwu Local Government Area


This study investigates the role of Local government in controlling political instability in Nigeria, and has Ohaukwu Local Government Area in Ebonyi State as its study. Many decades ago, political instability has been seen as a big log in the wheel of political and economic progress and has caused much under-development in Nigeria. This is because investors from within and outside the country are dissuaded from investing their resources in an unstable political set-up. Political instability destroys a polity. It has rendered local government inefficient and ineffective in carrying out the functions for which it was created to perform. Development is retarded and the welfare of the people ignored. This research work made use of three hypotheses with the use survey research design. The study made use of sampling to get 150 selected for the study. Hence the simple random sampling method was used to ensure an equal representation of the respondents. Interviews were also carried out with some staff of different departments in Ohaukwu Local government. From the findings, it was discovered that endemic corruption has gone deep into the fabrics of Ohaukwu Local Government and that Nigeria local government administration has served as an instrument for the dominant classes at the federal/state levels to perpetuate their exploitative tendencies. Finally, this study recommended that there is a need to allow the local government exercise considerable freedom and discretion to act as it sees fit. This would help the local government perform satisfactorily and be able to achieve the objectives of even and rapid development for which it is created; and that Constant conflict amongst and between the elected officials on the other hand and between the elected officials and the permanent administrative personnel on the other hand.



1.1   Background of Study

          Local government administration is not a new concept in Nigeria, neither is it a practice exclusive in Nigeria. Hence, has come of age, not so much because of its efficiency and effectiveness, but primarily because of its longevity and resilience of its relevance in the administration of the country (Akhakpe, Fatile and Igbokwe-Ibeto, 2012). However, one of dominant and unique issue in local government administration and political systems is the efficient and effective provision of basic amenities and social infrastructures. The whole world, administering grass root communities and meeting the needs of peripheral interest are accorded high priority. Therefore, the present local government administration in Nigeria dates back to 1976 when the then military government discovered that the local government system in place before 1976 was inefficient, ineffective and yielded no meaningful benefit to the citizenry. To this effect, the government put in place the present uniform system of local government in this country. Since then, a number of reforms have been affected to strengthen the political and financial autonomy of the local government in order to serve the needs of her establishment as one of the three tiers of government.

          Scholars have described Nigeria, as an “unfinished state”, (Joseph et al., 1996), and as “a truculent African tragedy” (Ayittey, 2006) in the midst of abundant human and material resources, which are propelled in the vicious cycle of poverty and autocracy. Efforts at building a democratic polity further entrapped it at the “political crossroads” (Kew, 2006). With enormous wealth from oil resources, and economic, social and political strength, Nigeria is qualified to be called the giant of Africa. As (Kew, 2006), has noted:

“The giant was brought to its knees by 20 years of brutal and corrupt military rule, which left a legacy of executive dominance and a political corruption in the hands of Nigeria’s so-called “godfathers”-powerful political bosses sitting atop vast patronage networks who view the government primarily through the lens of their own personal enrichment”.

          Because of this instability, the focus of the leadership became parochial with the overriding consideration for personal survival rather than national development.

          It is an established fact that the local government administration in Nigeria are meant for effective and efficient mobilization of the people at the grass root level for political and socio-economic development of the nation. For the scholars of this system of administration, local government is nearest to the populace and ensures that the citizens or people benefit directly from the different programmes implemented by the federal, state and local government itself.

          Needless to say that local government administration in Nigeria is not a new field of study; it has been an existing research question by different intellectuals, scholars, authorities and commentators on the contemporary issues; this is because every citizen of a state has a local loyalty as well as a national one. However, the central government cannot possibly attend to every need of local government administration. Consequently on the above, the central government makes use of its citizens, loyalty by delegating local functions or responsibilities to local administrative bodies. These local administrative bodies have not been able to perform their functions, duties and responsibilities effectively and efficiently as a result of political instability occasioned by frequent changes in government at the central level which always lead to discontinuity in policies and programmes implementation.

          Political instability has become a permanent phenomenon in the nation’s body politic. According to the available statistics, it is on record that from 1st January, 1914 when Fredrick Lord Lugard, a colonial administrator who ruled or governed Nigeria then amalgamated the northern and southern protectorates, a total number of twenty-three governments have come both colonial and post-colonial. Based on this, one can from the available information adduce that political instability in Nigeria cannot be over-emphasized as this continual changes at that federal or central level of administration affect the performances and service delivery of the local government administration both socio-economically and politically.

          The Nigerian State is a victim of high-level corruption, bad governance, political instability and a cyclical legitimacy crisis. Consequently, national development is retarded, and the political environment uncertain. The country’s authoritarian leadership faced a legitimacy crisis, political intrigues, in an ethnically-differentiated polity, where ethnic competition for resources drove much of the pervasive corruption and profligacy. While the political gladiators constantly manipulated the people and the political processes to advance their own selfish agenda, the society remained pauperized, and the people wallowed in abject poverty. This invariably led to weak legitimacy, as the citizens lacked faith in their political leaders and by extension, the political system. Participation in government was low because citizens perceived it as irrelevant to their lives. In the absence of support from civil society, the effective power of government was eroded. Patron – client relationships took a prime role over the formal aspects of politics, such as the rule of law, well-functioning political parties, and a credible electoral system. In order to break this cycle and ensure good governance, accountability and transparency must be guaranteed.

 1.2   Statement of the Problem

          One of the major factors responsible for political instability is the failure of the political class to sufficiently adhere to the basic tenets of democracy and constitutionalism. This contradicts the tenet of governance, which presupposes “the process of social engagement between the rulers and the ruled in a political community” (Adejumobi, 2004). Good governance could be accomplished when the operation of government is in line with the prevailing legal and ethical principles of the political community. Hence, frequent or incessant changes in government have always derailed the existing development programmes of the nation. It has dealt a deadly blow to the developmental efforts of the nation in general and Ohaukwu Local Government Area in particular. These incessant changes of government at the federal level, as a matter of necessity, culminate in changes of the local government administration. A very debilitating effect of changes is the discontinuity it generates both among the functionaries and in the functions performed, that have resulted into widespread existence of unfinished and abandoned projects in our local government areas. Notwithstanding, the negative effects of political instability in the nation’s body politic including the local government administration in Nigeria, seems to have become a dangerous political culture in the country. Hence, this work is set to find out the role of the local government in controlling political instability in Nigeria using Ohaukwu Local Government Area as a case study.

          Local governments as the third tiers of government within the federal system of government in Nigeria have some powers at its disposal to take control as well as to curb certain anomalies in the society. This goes a long way to show that local government areas have direct relationship with the federal government. It is against this that the following research questions were drawn:

  • Can political instability bring about meaningful development in the country?
  • To what extent has the federal government policies and reforms hindered the administrative machinery of Ohaukwu local government area?
  • What are the possible ways local government can reduce the negative effects of political instability in Nigeria?


1.3 Objective of the Study

The broad objective of this study is to examine the role of local government in controlling political instability in Nigeria with specific focus on Ohaukwu Local Government Area. Also, the research will be guided by the following specific objective.

  1. To understand local government governance and political instability in Nigeria.
  2. To critically examine and assess the unstable government policies and their implications on local governrnent administration in Nigeria and Ohaukwu Local Government Area in particular.
  3. To suggest ways local government can reduce the negative effects of political instability in Nigeria.

1.4 Research Hypothesis

H01:        Political instability does not bring about meaningful development in the country.

HA1:        Political instability brings about meaningful development in the country.

H02:   The federal government policies and reforms do not hinder the administrative machinery of Ohaukwu Local Government Area

HA2:  The federal government policies and reforms hinder the administrative machinery of Ohaukwu Local Government Area.

H03:   Local Government Area in Ohaukwu cannot reduce the negative effects of political instability in Nigeria.

HA3Local Government Area in Ohaukwu can reduce the negative effects of political instability in Nigeria.

 1.5 Significance of the Study

          Although this study was initially designed for an academic fulfillment, the results of its findings move beyond the school environment. It will be of immense benefits to the public administrators, undergraduates, students of social sciences and managements as well as the local government practitioners. It will serve as a veritable instrument to scholars of public and local government administrations and the society at large. Finally, it will contribute to existing literature in the field as it will provoke further research in the area of study.

1.6 Scope of the Study

          This research study on the role of the local government in controlling political instability in Nigeria has its scope as Ohaukwu Local Government Area in Ebonyi State. Although reference will be made to the colonial era, but the major concern of the study will be on the post­ colonial period in Nigeria. It is expected that this study on Ohaukwu will make a good representation of all the local governments in Nigeria.

1.7 Limitations of the Study

The researcher in the cause of gathering information relevant to the study encountered both natural and man-made (artificial) constraints which include:

  1. Lack of finance: the researcher as a student will depend mostly on the parents and sponsor for support. As a result of this, the resources available at its disposal was insufficient, hence, deterred access to other enriched materials for the study.
  2. Time constraint: the time at the period of this research was inadequate, given the fact that the researcher had to combine it with other academic works.
  3. Human element: the human element contained in the work cannot be said to be perfect, hence, it was based on the concept of reasonable assurance, despite the existing limitation of the study; the researcher assures that all the information obtained was to the best of his knowledge.

1.8 Theoretical Framework

In order to achieve the objective of this study, the systems theory shall be used: Systems theory according to Adamolekun (1974) is made up of inter-dependent parts, permeable boundaries, interaction with its environment by importing inputs and exporting outputs in order to maintain itself in a permanent state of equilibrium.

          Also Russel (1974) in his own observation regarded a corporation as a system which is not evaluated by how well it performed relative to its objectives but to the objective of the society for which it is part. Systems theory therefore, is chosen because of its features and suitability in the administration of local government due to its application as a third-tier system of government as well as autonomous unit of both federal and state governments.

          From the above backdrop, therefore, there is indeed lack of precision in the use of the terms “local administration and government”. These terms are interchangeably used by scholars with careless disregard to their meaning and input. Local administration is the administration of a community by a body which is not responsible to local people but to those who appointed them to govern the community while local government is a government that is restricted to specific area within a large government.

          Man is a political animal and this makes it inevitable that every existing community in any: place operates a form of government. This means that they operate in order to provide for themselves those goods or services that cannot be provided individually.

            The present day system of local government therefore is often associated with the establishment of British colonial administration in Nigeria. According to Gladden (1972), government exists when there is need to exercise power and functions between the central and the local government level. Emezi (1984) also argued that local government is government of a particular place, part of government of a nation or state that deals mainly with matters of concern to the people of a particular place or as a system of “local administration under which local communities are organized to maintain law and order, provide some limited range of social services and public amenities and encourage the cooperation and participation of the inhabitants towards the improvement of their condition of living”.

            All these arguments, definitions and assertions, refute the view that local governments in Nigeria were established with the introduction of British colonial rule but that local, village and communal forms of government had existed before the colonial era with its political administration.

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