By Nwanneka Okorocha
Our subject matter concerns the role and place of the legislative arm of government in the scheme of things. We know what legislators do, or think we do. They are supposed to make laws for the good governance of the nation and exercise the much touted ‘oversight functions,’ that allows them to be powerful checks on the executive arm. On paper, that is.
However, the majority of Nigerians will score our legislators a very poor pass in the discharge of their constitutional duties. This assessment is without prejudice to federal or state, but all the 38 legislative houses in the country. The counter submission might well be that, “all pots and kettles may be black, but some are blacker than others.”
This is the import of a political drama playing out currently in Ideato Federal Constituency, Imo State. Community leaders there are up in anger at the non- performance of their elected representative in the Lower Chambers of the National Assembly. Announcing themselves as the Ideato Democratic Alliance (IDA), they released a well-publicized press statement calling for a review of the process by which their chosen representatives to the House of Representatives have emerged since 1999.
As 2019 draws nearer, the IDA action is sure to be replicated in several other constituencies around the country. That is not to say that their claims can be easily dismissed as empty political posturing.
Ideato has produced notable political personalities in the past. They include Mbonu Ojike of the Eastern Regional Government, whose slogan, “boycott all boycottables,” was a rallying cry of the struggle for independence. Dr K O Mbadiwe, “man of timbre and calibre,” and towering politician of the First and Second Republic was a scion of Ideato. So also was Collins Obi, who gave Sam Mbakwe a run for his money in the race for Government House Owerri in 1979 and 1983.
Since 1999, five persons have gone to the Federal House of Representatives on behalf of the good people of Ideato FC. They are, ThankGod Ezeani, Patricia Udeogu, Rufus Omeire, Eddie Mbadiwe and the current legislator, Austin Chukwukere. Looking back with deserving pride on their political history, the IDA wondered in their statement why, “there has not been any bill credited to any of our representatives” since 1999.
Five legislators in eighteen years and not one bill from any of them? Verily, this is admissible evidence of poor representation. In anger and disillusionment, the authors of the press release posted a poignant query: “Are we then cursed, or does the problem lie with the process of the emergence of those lawmakers?”
The IDA has hit the nail on its stiff head, albeit in an oblique fashion. The argument has been widely canvassed since the return of civil rule in 1999, that the process for the election of candidates within the various political parties is replete with anomalies. The time is overdue for a revered process by which the best candidates emerge who will represent their people and the nation in a qualitative manner and not those who will merely make up the numbers.
In retrospect, Hon Chukwukere kicked off his tenure at the House of Representatives in a remarkable style. Like most legislators, his people held a grand civic reception for him which was attended by Speaker Dogara and other prominent members of the House. He gained some popularity in the South East, for putting up a valiant protest against the unequal distribution of committee appointments in the House. His party, the APC, had shared out principal offices without any slot to the South East. When the House leadership relented in its vindictive policy of exclusion, Hon Chukwukere was appointed to the vice chairmanship of the finance committee. Thereafter, his constituents have heard and seen less of him.
The following constituency projects were approved for Ideato Federal Constituency in the 2016 Budget: procurement of empowerment materials for the youth and training of youth and women on skill development and self- help projects. Whatever became of the projects, since the IDA attests that “no single federal presence has been attracted by lawmakers from the area since 1999”?
In 2015, the representative from Ideato was quoted as saying that, “Most times, lawmakers are seen as people who don’t do anything. They just sit down and at the end of the month they take salaries.”
Ironically, Hon Chukwukere is yet to hold any constituency briefings to acquaint the voters of Ideato with the workings of the 8th House to which he proudly belongs. His critics say he has nothing on his scorecard to brief them about.
Little wonder then that the IDA is calling for a change.