FURORE over the abortion law in Imo State raises many issues about legislative processes that led to the law. The main grouse of the people, according to reports, was that they were not consulted before the law was passed. How could a law have been passed without a public hearing? Can the State Assembly explain this aberration?
The public say the bill was in State Assembly since last year, but Governor Rochas Okorocha assented only last week. The series of denials that followed the existence of the law, as well as its content, generated the controversy.
Yet the defenders of the law said it was meant to cater for women whose pregnancies threatened their lives, and rape victims. Were those to be the purposes of the law, it would not have easily been faulted by pro-life campaigners. Fears that the law could be abused and the secrecy surrounding its passage whittled down whatever benefits it held.
What Imo people, like their compatriots elsewhere are asking for, is involvement in the running of their lives. The scant attention politicians pay the people percolate the entire system as evidenced in the quality of services in government offices.
The more people keep quiet, the more they are taken for granted. The voice of the people is important, it is up to the people to make their voices count. Nigerians have to make their voices heard, more often, on issues that affect them. There are too many other issues where it is important for the people to wield their power.
Using their churches as platform, the people in Imo kicked against a law they believed was against their moral and cultural values. There are other non-violent platforms that can serve the people in this regard. The people must be commended for not resorting to violence, angry as they were.
Governor Okorocha listened to the people. He has asked the legislators to repeal the law. Of course, he should know that there are processes for repealing laws, and they are not verbal “executive orders”.
Elected officials, in particular, have a responsibility to listen to the people. The people would be failing in their part of the contract if they are not making their positions known. Once representatives derail from acting for the people, they erode their position, and become clogs in the people’s involvement in their government.
Democratic governments are people-centred – government of the people, by the people, for the people. The people must find their places in their governments. As has been seen in Imo, it would not come without a shove, yet the bigger point is that matters can be resolved peacefully, away from the pomposity politicians court.