EXPECTATIONS CONFRONTING ELECTED LEGISLATORS FROM LERE LGA
The legislature is the most important arm of government, not only due to the mandate of lawmaking, but because they represent the closest connect between the government and the people. They also provide checks and balance in curtailing the excesses of the executive arm of government. While in the Nigerian context, they are expected to deliver welfare and execute projects in their various constituencies. Presently, in Nigeria we have one hundred and nine (109) senators in the upper chambers, while there are three hundred and sixty (360) representative members in the lower chambers of the National Assembly.
In the various State Houses of Assemblies, members represent their various constituencies at the local governments. One of the local government which is politically advantaged in Kaduna State is Lere, where we have a Federal House of Representative member and two State Assembly members.
Indeed, the expectations on the elected legislators from Lere Local Government are enormous and justified; because of the massive votes they garnered in their various constituencies from the constituents. Also, Lere Local Government is the sixth largest in the state, with a population of three hundred and thirty one thousand, one hundred and sixty one (331,161) according to the 2006 census, and has an area of 2,158 km2 . It is home to agricultural activities and contributes to the economic growth of the state. In fact, it is said to be the largest corn market in the whole of the West African region. It is a host to diverse ethnic groups such as Akurmi (Kurama), Hausa-Fulani, Agbiri (Gure), Niragu (Kahugu), among many others.
Furthermore and importantly, the local government is requiring federal and state presence in terms of functional institutions, factories and industries. Critical infrastructures and other social amenities are not equitably distributed, non-functional or non-existent. A large percentage of the population, especially the youth, are unemployment; leading to increased poverty rate, high rural-urban migration, criminality and immorality.
It is then normal for the constituents to expect the elected legislators to; first, present bills and support laws that address these challenges; secondly, lobby for intervention projects and government presence in the area; third, maximize utilization of constituency allowances and equitable distribution of constituency projects. The question is, are the present representatives from Lere Local Government meeting the expectations of their constituents? Do they regularly consult and give feedback to their constituents? How many bills have they initiated or supported in favor of their constituents? How many constituency projects have they earmarked or executed in their various constituency? The answers to these questions are obvious.
The task of ensuring effective representation in Lere Local Government; if it is to be successful cannot be left in the hands of the elected representatives solely, but the constituents must actively and constructively participate. This we must do through vigilance, consistent accountability and transparency-check, incisive-advocacy and pressure, generating and forwarding relevant bills and policies, avail ourselves during public hearings, monitor and evaluate legislative performance and constituency projects by our representatives.
As a result of the aforementioned, we expect that all of the elected legislators would begin to operate functional constituency offices in all the wards of the local government. Unlike what is obtainable now whereby the constituency offices, if available, are always comatose or closed, with their party flag and portraits on the wall as the only sign of an office. These offices must have human and material resources that would serve as center for collecting correspondences and generating activities that would serve as interventions for the needs of each ward.
As a major activity, we expect the legislators, through their constituency offices to organize consistent, periodic and interactive town-hall meetings; to bridge the gap between they the leaders and the led, access first-hand information (expectations and needs assessment) from their constituents through opinion-sourcing rather than from their loyalist and aids (who focus only on their personal interest), report back and account to their constituents on their legislative activities and progress, and seek the buy-in of their constituents on future legislative activities or projects.
In fulfilling some of the objectives of the engagements with the constituents, we expect nothing less than optimal utilization of quarterly allowances allocated for constituency projects towards result-oriented human capacity and inclusive infrastructural development in the area. They must allocate these funds strategically strictly base on needs, and not white-elephant projects that are propagandist and have no long time benefit to the constituents.
Furthermore, they must sharpen their lobbying skills to attract both federal and state government projects to the area. As it is, we deserve to host an educational institution or industry or factory in Lere Local Government. We need more feeder roads to create access to remote community and the transportation of agricultural products. We also need increased funding for the agricultural sector, which is our mainstay.
Some communities are still without portable drinking water, so, the need to ensure the expansion and completion of the Saminaka Water Project and sinking of boreholes. More schools need to be built and equipped; while the dilapidated ones need to be refurbished and made conducive for learning. There is the urgent need for vocational skills acquisition centers to cater for the large army of the unemployed especially the youth, majority of who are unskilled and uneducated formally.
These and many more we would expect from our elected legislators to sponsor bills or lobby or execute projects in ensuring that the dividends of democracy reaches the doorstep of ordinary people within the local government. As for the various stakeholders and groups in Lere Local Government, we should be ready to keep our elected legislators on their toes. This we must be determined to achieve through active vigilance and participation by serving as pressure groups, accountability-watchdogs through the instrument of the Freedom of Information Act, advocacy engagements, petitions, lobbying, forwarding proposed bills to the Members, and create massive awareness on the activities of the legislators-elect.
Both our representatives and we the constituents must wake up to our responsibilities.
Written by Yusuf Goje