Between the Representatives and Represented

April 12, 2018 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

Reuters photo

 

By

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid

 

 

It is universally acknowledged that, especially in developing countries where there is a nerve-shattering drought of democrats, policymaking process, which the constitution bestows upon the legislature, is marginal at best; one can even claim the legislators to be “inexperienced and unaccustomed to their roles and responsibilities”. The same can be applied to other arms of government when one decides to speak of the power and authority particularly the executive, which Sebastian M. Saiegh opined “are often weak or not clearly defined.” Perhaps due to the intricate nature of that bundle of laws called constitution.

 

To pass judgment on whether the legislators are conscious of their responsibilities or not, we have to consider the “cross-legislature factors”: the extent of their power, the capacity of the legislative structure, amount of political space, the goals of the members and leadership of the legislature itself. Are the political space, capacity, power and goals of the members favourable to Nigerians?

 

In this political theatre staged by Nigeria’s democracy, other African countries too, both the electorates and the legislature, especially, are pursuing different goals and each camp with its own karma lay in wait for it. While the former are victims of bad governance resulting in the disconnection between legislators and their constituents, the latter, so to speak, are an embodiment of misrepresentation.

 

The noble Chambers – that should have been preoccupied with good representation: authoring motions on the fragile security situation in this country, supporting policies that will, undoubtedly, better the living condition of the citizens and quench the hunger and thirst that prevent Nigerians from both physical and mental growth – the true meaning of representation is bastardized and replaced with self-serving motives – consider the different trials awaiting some principal officers of the both Chambers and how this dominates most of the discussions and motions the legislators are always there to defend.

 

From the Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s 13-count corruption charge posed by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, to his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, – who has allegedly failed to declare his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau leading to the discovery of some unaccounted for properties, from Dino Malaye’s certificate saga and arms case that has led to arrest of three suspects and their sudden escape; and their re-arrest to the rejection of Kaduna State’s $35 million loan by the Senate based on the recommendation of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts and supported by three senators from the state – not in the interest of good citizens of Kaduna State, but for this same self-serving motives, or worse, because they bear some political grudges against the governor of the state, Malam Nasir El-Rufai – one has clear examples of such an impolitic feeling that “We are the people, the only persons the citizens have entrusted with their lives and properties. Therefore we speak for them and in the process we speak for ourselves too”.

 

The legislators have either gone against the three primary roles the USAID’s handbook identifies as their functions, namely, representation (is there mutual understanding between the two?), lawmaking (for most of the laws they make are against their employers), and oversight (for they monitor only, one may suspect, their gain or a loop in law to escape the anti-graft commission) or they are not aware of them either.

 

For another, the electorates, the largest percentage of them, are not aware of their responsibilities. They hardly differentiate between, squarely, the branches of government; neither do they know what will fetch them good governance. Their karma is the ladder they make of their backs for the crook politicians to ride on to power. This can be seen in the subsequent administrations Nigerians have witnessed and the enormity of the sufferings they have been afflicted with. There are many causalities to this:

 

Money politics which the masses glorify is the bane of good governance. Politicians in most cases bribe the masses for good manifestoes and the integrity of the candidates vying for political offices are, often, not good enough. Both governmental instability and bad policy implementation are direct result of this outright vote-buying. Although vote-buying may have different connotations in different contexts, it has been practiced in Nigeria several times. I do not want to drag Senator Ibrahim Mantu’s recent confession into this discussion. This has persisted, perhaps, because the citizens are looking forward to the dividends of democracy, as O. O. Lucky put it, to transform their present pitiful condition.

 

One of the principle upon which democracy is built is active not passive participation. Although democracy is believed to be the best form of government today and the debate on its success which depends on the relationship between the led and the leaders, political apathy slows the wheel, if not throwing a spanner in the wheel, of service delivery. This comes before responsiveness and free and fair election; but today the citizens cannot make sense of the value of participation in politics. Why? Because of some dubious reasons: the use of security forces before, during or after election, to intimidate the voters, lack of service delivery and human right abuses.

 

Despite all these, political decisions, with participation in the process or not, affect many changes in the lives of the masses and it should not be encouraged at all; for this determines the prices of goods and services in the market, the hospital bills and improvement in education, and offer or deny the right to life, etc.

 

Way forward? The agreed ways to bring solution to the divide that leads to bad governance are: (i) unapologetic participation in socio-political life. (ii) Electoral disconnection should be done away with to make the citizens more participative in the democratic process. This way the legislators may have sufficient time to meet with constituents, hence the end of bad governance. Ultimately, the final solution is to be God-fearing and emphatic in our disposition.

 

It may seem easier said than done; but at least I possess no authority to override the executive’s veto.

 

 

 

 

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid, Kano based, is graduate of B.A English from Bayero University, Kano. He is a budding writer, social analyst, freelancer at Sunrise Language Practitioner (SLP) and regular contributor to Nigerian dailies. 
His writings have appeared in The Communicator, a magazine published by Kano State Polytechnic and in Dailytrust, The Triumph and The cable newspapers. He has a strong interest in literary theory.

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