An ideal democracy thrives with quality representation of the people at all levels of government.
This is reflected through the level of interaction in the representations and the electorate as well as the impact the legislature has on the quality of life of the people.
In countries where democratic government is obtainable, the feelings, desires and needs of the people are trans
mitted to the executive through elected representatives.The representatives are most often men and women with proven integrity and who have the interest of the masses at heart.
In Nigeria there are elected representatives who serve as Councillors at the Local Government level, House of Assembly members at the State level, House of representatives members and Senators at the Federal level.
If these representatives perform like their counterparts in better democratic climes there would be massive development in the country and the people would complain less.
However, this seems not to be the case as some representatives according to a civil servant, Mr. Ikenna Mbelu had always distanced themselves from the people once they got their mandate.
Mr. Mbelu noted that sacrifice and passion to satisfy the needs of the people should be the driving force for anyone seeking elective position.
“I believe the first step and the most important step is coming down to the level of your people. Don’t sit down in Abuja and answer a senator while you’ve not been home in the past maybe two, three months. Now people are becoming more interested in governance, people are becoming more interested in politics. They know what the problems are but the thing is, are these people giving a listening ear to them or are they more interested in their pockets?’’
A Communication expert and Human Rights Activist, Mrs. Blessing
Egodi Igwe confirmed that it was pretty difficult to get the attention of the representative once they were voted into power.
“There is this particular project we carried out, in that project we try to organise what we called a constituency town hall meeting but unfortunately it was difficult to get, in fact we could not even get one legislator to come and sit down and have a dialogue with his people in a town hall. This project was carried out in Enugu, Imo and Abia States”.
Speaking on how the relationship between Legislators and the people could be improved upon, former Speaker, Enugu State House of Assembly, Mr. Eugene Odo emphasized that those seeking representative positions must generally be acceptable to the people.
“True representation, be it in the House of Assembly and the National Assembly spelt in the first instance with building a personal image amongst the people that elected you. There must be obvious trust, there must be transparent election where people will say I want to vote this person and at the end of the day, they are voted and their votes are counted”.
Comparing contemporary lawmakers and those in the early years of Nigeria’s independence, a one- time House of Representatives member for Uzo-Uwani and Igbo-Etiti Federal Constituency of Enugu State, Ambassador Justina Eze pointed out that the closeness that existed between the people and their representatives had long been eroded.
“In my days, we were paid salary just like civil servants, level sixteen. So for us to get everything working well in this country, the legislature should be salaried people. People who have achieved their goals in life and they retire to serve the people, and in any case, how can you be the highest paying legislative house in the whole world, when some people in your country cannot even have up to one dollar for a day’s meal, it is ridiculous”.
Ambassador Eze who advocated a drastic reduction in the pay package of Legislators noted that any government that was sincere in improving the economy of the nation must address the outrageous earnings of few individuals in the country.
In a situation where an elected representative is not carrying out her duties effectively, are there legal machineries put in place for sanction?
Mr. Anene Ojinta who is an Enugu-based Lawyer said the most effective way of checking the excesses of Legislators was through the votes of the people.
“The only way to checkmate a non-performing assembly or house of reps or senator is by waiting for the person at the end of the tunnel. So whatever the person is doing, endure for four years.
Mr. Ojinta who is also the Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association Enugu Branch condemned a situation where the electorate allowed political parties to take away their political power due to ignorance.
The respondents maintained that the electorate had the power to decide who would represent them which they should know how to exercise to better the society.