RECENTLY, I was at a function which held at the events hall of the Government House Annex, Warri, on the invitation of a friend Mr. Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, son of the renowned Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh family and chairman Itsekiri Development Congress, IDC.

Among the dignitaries at the occasion was Senator James Manager, senator representing Delta South Constituency in the Senate, comprising of eight local government councils. He spoke about the burden of representation, the way he sees it, our elected representatives needed to be properly appreciated. To him, they carry a lot of burdens.

For example, that weekend alone he had contributed to nine burial ceremonies which amounted to about a million naira, while his emolument for the month is just five hundred thousand naira. This burden excludes others such as school fees, extended families and the likes, not excluding settlements of the ever present  area boys and social miscreants. The way he sees it, we should empathise with their situation rather than otherwise. I have no problem with that. If it is the way our other elected representatives see the burden of representation, that is, how they see the roles that we have assigned to them, then we are in a bigger mess than I thought. We must first see political assignments as  a call for service, a sacrifice, an opportunity to offer all that the Almighty God has endowed you with towards building a much better society.

The burden of representation does not make you become Father Christmas by doling out your hard earned money to area boys and indigent families, through  contributions to their marriages, burials and other ceremonies. By so doing, they are expanding the cycle of poverty and only making things get worse. The burden of representation requires that you do more to change your people’s status, from beggars to very active and productive workforce. To create the necessary environment for building wealth, developing human capital through education, enable the necessary infrastructure that will make business to thrive and to institute a true democratic culture, where the people’s voice will be heard and only who they choose become their representatives. That is the burden of representation. As long as people throng to your office as a representative, to beg for money, not to confer on the way forward for the constituents, you have not done your job as one that is representing the people.

The culture here is for our representatives to grab as much as they can, because they have expended much money in the course of the elections and must have to recoup their loses, no wonder many of them fade into oblivion immediately they leave the system. There is a common saying that: “give a man a fish, you have  fed him for a while, but teach him how to fish, you have fed him for life”.

Our representatives must think in that direction, when you give the area boys money that they have assumed you stole from government coffer, they will surely come back again for more. But, give them a legal source of income by providing jobs and creating the enabling environment for their talents to thrive, they will not forget you. I have never read anywhere in history that Chief Obafemi Awolowo, of blessed memory, was very generous with his cash but, he used the instruments of the state and his privileged position to change the status of millions of people.

Free education, rural development agriculture and basic infrastructure were instituted in his time and today the people are still singing his praise decades after. Our politician of today do not know what the challenge of representation means and because of their selfish tendencies, they cannot go out without surrounding themselves with area boys and official mobile policemen. They give hand outs to the people and they think that is all. As vilified as our politicians of the sixties were, they  performed better than present crop of politicians.

We grew up to meet shoe factories in Sapele and juice manufacturing plant in Koko set up by the late Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, coupled with his influence in bringing the then Gulf company, now Chevron to Excravos. What have present politicians done to build on this legacy? Instead of engaging in productive politics, they encourage conflicts within and between ethnic groups for their own selfish end.

That is the situation in Delta state today, especially the southern part. It is the burden of our representatives to ensure peace in the land, through perfect conflict resolution techniques and in partnership with our security agencies. It is the burden of representation to ensure that the people get their fair share of their God given resources. It is the burden of representation to ensure that the people enjoy basic human rights in education, health care, freedom of speech and association and infrastructure.

Our representatives must re focus their objectives in line with the needs of the people, that is the burden of representation.

By Sunny Ikhioya  www. southsouthecho.com Twitter: @SunnyIkhioya

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