Ineffective Representation: The bane of our Democracy?

by Rev. Uche Dr. Obodoechina

Democracy as we all know is that government of the people by representation. Here a group of men and women through the party structures and the electoral systems are chosen and or are selected for representation of the people. There are several channels of representation as there are several tier of government.

Each tier of government needs a retinue of representatives for effective top-down relationship of the government with the people for whose purpose the government was established. Hence democracy is that government of the people and by the people.

Democracy thrives therefore only where representations are effective. In other words, there can be no democracy if people for whose purposes the government was established do not reap the fruits of proper and effective representation. And this is the snag by our own form of democracy in Nigeria.

If there is any problem with our democracy, it is the poor and ineffective type of representation of our elected men and women in the higher and lower chambers of parliaments. By poor and ineffective representation, we mean the situation where the people who constitute the essence of government and the focal point of representation are treated as no-bodies in the scheme of democratic representation.

Here they are neither consulted through Town Hall Meetings for matters that affect their lives, nor make any reference to their charter of needs, which ordinarily constitutes the raw matter for legislation and discussions in the chambers of parliaments.

Otherwise what could preoccupy the members of the parliaments in their day to day discharge of their legislative duties apart from the legitimate needs of the people? It is the people who formed the government and whose interests are to be served by such a government.

Unfortunately, the reverse is the case here. Most of our Nigerian representatives at different levels of government are not conscious of the fact that they are representatives. They are no longer aware of the fact, that they are men and women sent on an errand. As a result, a good number have lost sight of their mission.

In fact, some have forgotten that messengers are not greater than their masters. And this is the bane of our democratic representation in Nigeria. Let us take for instance the number of Bills that are being sponsored in the houses. How does a bill come up? And what is likely to be the content of a bill? Who sponsors a bill? And of what essence are bills in the parliaments? The truth is that a good number of them do not know what bills are, neither have they ever initiated one.

For such timid men and women bills are thrown down from heaven for discussion. And even for such discussions, a good number of these charlatans will not be there. They have never been there. Their pockets and their business set ups are their preoccupations. They are at the houses of parliament to make some money for themselves and their families but not to make policies for the common good.

Is it anything surprising that some representatives in the houses of parliaments do not attend obligatory sitting sessions of the houses? They have never learnt to sit down and contribute to the on-going debates for the common good.

But effective representation must include the awareness that representatives are messengers of the people. They have to be doubly conscious of the messages of the people couched in their charter of needs. The charter of needs of the people constitute the raw materials for discussions at the parliaments sitting sessions.

In fact the aggregate needs of the people of different districts and constituencies within the sovereign nation constitute the needs of the nation. And these form the bedrock of government policies and administrative frameworks.

Let our representatives know therefore that to whom much is given, much would be expected. And much of trust and public confidence have been reposed on them. They can make or be marred by this mandate!

... go back to the You and Politics page.


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