Ours is supposed to be a representative democracy, but it is either we do not understand what it truly means or we have been forced to accept this Nigerian version of craze demonstration (apologies to Fela Anikulapo Kuti) as the true meaning of democracy. One of the hallmarks of a democracy is the constant review of the performance of representatives to determine if they are truly serving the people on whose trust they hold whatever offices they hold.
Also known as psephocracy, representative democracy is the only form of democracy possible in a mass society like ours, because unlike the direct form of democracy where all citizens of a country are expected to come together in a town hall meeting kind of gatherings to regularly debate issues of State, take and uphold majority decisions on issues, representative democracy allows for a small group of people to be elected into office by the people, whereas this small group will in turn own their loyalty to the people to whom they should be accountable. On paper, Nigeria practices this kind of democracy.
Imo prides itself as one of the most politically exposed States in Nigeria with an avalanche of national political shakers. We have contributed our own to the development of the Nigerian political culture, and times there were when the State was unrivaled as the State that produces some of the best and most productive legislators in the country. From the most controversial Senator Arthur Nzeribe to one of the most resourceful, Evan Enwerem who emerged the Senate President in 1999, to Emeka Ihedioha who rose from becoming the Chief Whip to the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, to Bethel Amadi who was at a time the Chief Whip of the House and the President of the Pan African Parliament, national legislators from Imo State have always shone like the proverbial golden fish which has no hiding place.
But how is a legislator’s efficiency supposed to be rated? Do you rate a legislator by how well he speaks or juggles with words, like Patrick Obahiagbon of Edo? Or do you rate them by how well they are able to maneuver their way into holding principal positions in the congress? Or do you rate them by the number of controversies they have their names on? I do not know if you should also rate them by the number of people they are able to smuggle into good positions in their Party or on boards of the Federal government?
You may decide to create your own parameter for rating your legislators, but for me, I think that by the definition of what a representative democracy is, a legislator should be rated primarily by how responsible and responsive he or she is to his or her constituents especially and the entire people of Nigeria in general. There is no better way to determine this than finding out how well such a legislator has stood up for his people to fight for them on issues that have to do with them and how he has tried to properly monitor the activities of other arms of government towards ensuring that the ordinary people get the best deal possible.
In deciding to write this essay, I had to carry out my personal research on the activities of our legislators at the National Assembly. That is; members of the Senate and members of the National House of Representatives from Imo State. This study is restricted to the activities of these members in the last one year of this present administration. So, for those who may be in their second or even third term in the National Assembly, whatever they did or failed to do in their earlier term is not considered in arriving at this rating. I interacted with people from the various constituencies of the State and also put up a Facebook article on the matter, in which people responded and made their observations on the 12 members of the National Assembly whose performance is under discussion. This rating shall be on a scale of 1-10 for 12 National Assembly members. The period under scrutiny is June 2015 till date.
The people of Imo North Senatorial District also known as Okigwe zone have not had a Senator since December, 2015. The recently concluded rerun election also produced a Senator-elect who is yet to be inaugurated as a Senator of the Federal Republic.
1. SENATOR SAMDADDY ANYANWU: He is arguably Imo’s best man in the National Assembly within the period under review. Representing Imo East, alias Owerri Senatorial District, the first term Senator of the Federal Republic has through his undisputable political savviness become one of the most influential Senators in the 8th Senate. However, his position as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics and Public Petitions and his general influence in the Senate are not part of the benchmarks for rating his performance.
He has sponsored a good number of people oriented bills, including the Bill that seeks to establish the Southeast Development Commission and also has his name and signature on almost all bills and motions that seek to serve the interest of the masses. He is also the lawmaker who has the closest touch with the grassroots. He is always on the lookout for opportunities that may benefit the people. His office and home are meccas of sorts as he grants regular audience to both his constituents and non-constituents alike to see ways his office held in trust for the people could be best put into use for the benefit of the people. He is also noted for his job creation and youth empowerment credentials, as he ensures that his constituents do no miss any opportunity for them to take up positions in Federal Ministries and Agencies. During the last Nigerian Armed Forces recruitment exercise, he helped a good number of youths both from his Owerri Constituency and outside to get the application forms and also followed up to ensure that a good number of those who qualified were shortlisted and eventually recruited into the Army, the ongoing Police recruitment, Navy and the Armed Forces. Apart from his legislative strides, he is also arguably, one of the most popular politicians in Imo State today, maybe after the immediate past Governor of the State, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim. Samdaddy gets the Number one spot with a rating of 9/10.
2. HON. HENRY NWAWUBA: This is undoubtedly one of the best times for the people of Mbaitolu/Ikeduru Federal Constituency as they have produced the finest legislators presently. The soft-spoken Henry Nwawuba understands that legislation is nothing without the people; hence, he is steadily associated with programs and causes that best serve the interests of the people. While some of his colleagues in the National Assembly were still finding their feet on the job and possibly negotiating for some personal gains, Nwawuba had swung into action as a representative of the people and is notable for his involvement in people oriented programs. Long before the Imo State Government saw the need to invest in Agriculture, Nwawuba had provided good assistance to small scale farmers in his constituency and gave hundreds of them good starts in their farming businesses. Most of these people are already reaping from their different farming endeavors, thereby contributing to the growth of our economy. He also has his name to a good number of bills and motions that are beneficial to the masses. He won the hearts of many of his constituents and more than a good number of Nigerians when he took the initiative to travel to Kano long before man other politicians thought about it to identify with the family of the Late Bridget who was beheaded by some Kano Muslims for what they tagged blasphemy against their religion. Through that action, he showed that he is could take a bullet for his people. His intervention helped in no small way in ensuring that the case got the attention it needed and some culprits have since being arrested in relation to that incident. He responds fast to issues that have to do with his people and supports noble ideas and startups. He is one of the most active legislators in Nigeria, with about four bills to his name in just one year of being in the National Assembly. In the House of Representatives, he is the most active member from Imo State, if not the entire Southeast. Rating: 8/10.
3. HON. GOODLUCK OPIAH: A former Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly and a respected peoples’ representative, he has shown himself to be efficient and committed in the representation of his people. Responsive, responsible and grassroots sensitive, Opiah has availed himself well as a representative of the oil rich area of Ohaji-Egbema and Oguta and has sponsored bills targeted at extracting the best deals for his people. He has also shown himself to be youth friendly and proactive, when a foremost youth leader in the country, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere was unlawfully detained by the DSS, Opiah was the legislator who called his colleagues’ attention to that illegality and galvanized them to send a strong message of condemnation against the DSS for intimidating an innocent Nigerian over what was suspected to be spurious allegations. Opiah, is always speaking out for his people on issues that affect them. He is also seen as a homebred politician who is always in touch with the people. Rating: 7/10.