By; Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
At the same time as Delta state has in the past six to seven years recorded what analysts refer to as ‘flashes of infrastructural developments’ mostly centered on urban and rural road constructions, reconstructions and upgrade, there exists also an accompanying fear in some quarters that right now, the state is in a period of great vulnerability.
This veiled challenge is predicated on a tripod of realities:
For some, the state’s Legislative arm, contrary to the provisions and dictates of the principle of separation of power, have ‘notoriously’ become toothless bull dogs that neither challenge the so called settled public policy related answers or provide answers to the nagging socioeconomic questions in the state. A verity that is largely reputed for serial inabilities to effectively represent their people, provide voice to the voiceless or come up with bills/policies that will improve the live chances of Deltans.
To others, Deltans have in sequence failed to question these lawmakers for their glaring inabilities as demanded by instrumentality of participatory democracy and election of leaders; forgetting that those who make the law and those who question the law perform similar responsibility, for it is in questioning that we discover if we are using power or power is using us. And for the rest, it is the failure of the media in the state to study the various propositions presented in the past by the government – such failure to inform the people accordingly results in situations where the state government persuades Deltans to endorse and applaud policies that are harmful to their interests.
To assist Deltans in ending this sordid narrative which partly explains why the state is currently groping, politically divided and confused, ascertain why our current representaives at the Delta state House of Assembly behave the way they do, uncover the politics that laid the groundwork for these atrocities, how it was designed and insisted upon, and most importantly proffer a roadmap as to how the political and democratic health and vitality of the state could be restored particularly as the nation braces up for the 2023 general election, this author sought conversations with some political stakeholders in the state made up of politicians in both the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the major opposition party in the state, the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Whereas, all the comments remain validly important and appreciated, my conversation with Festus Ofume, lawyer, a two term President of Nigerian/Canadian Association and aspirant for the 2023 Delta state House of Assembly, remains outstanding.
On that day, at that time and in that place, aside from underlining that the office of a lawmaker is primarily and constitutionally meant to project laws that will change policies that affect the lives of the people and not actually to award contracts or pick contracts from the government, I also watched him use analysis and well crafted arguments to demonstrate among other concerns how absence of requisite qualification by representatives and money politics set the stage for the failings/failures that presently dots democratic representation in the state and deprives the people of there democratic dividends.
More than anything else, his antidotes and call for shift in political paradigm, if adopted, will save and serve the interest of not just Delta state but the nation as a whole.
Take as an illustration, the issue of poor representation, he captures it this way; you see the major reason why that happens is that most of the people that have represented Ika are not qualified to be there. In one way or the other, they bought those positions. They bought that office from their political party and having spent so much in getting that position, when they get to the office; the first thing they look into is how to recoup the money that they have used.
He stressed that it is not about what the present representatives in the House are doing wrong.
Rather, it is about the fact that the rudiment of enacting law’s are best understood by those who are trained in that field and not by getting into the legislative arm and then learning from the scratch or learning from the fact you have been there once, second and on. We are looking out for people with very high pedigrees, people that have what it takes to give quality representation.
He therefore, advised the people to elect someone who is going there to serve and not somebody who are going there to act as the conqueror and take the people who have voted for him as the conquered people. They should elect as representatives those who will not be doing constituency project not based on personal conviction but based on the need assessment. Someone who will identify that there are gaps in constituency and those gaps need to be filled. That is a kind of representation that the people must expect.
On how to end the ‘culture’ of money politics, he has this to say; we have started when the money bags are hoping that on the day of the election they will bring out money to share. We have started way before them eating into the minds of the people; eating into the conscience of the people-educating them that for a long time, they have sold their birth rights on the altar of two or three thousand Naira on the Election Day. And I tell you that these people are beginning to see the light. In short, they have seen the light.
Continuing, he said; let me tell you something; if I have spent three years making friends with you, coming from Abuja on every occasion that you call in for, Coming around, being with you, washing plates with you, building tent with you, and on the day of election, I tell you that this is your friend that you have to work and vote for, I don’t think that if a politician comes that day with ten thousand Naira, you will sacrifice what we have built in the past three years on the altar of ten thousand Naira.
This is the kind of politics that we should expect; politics that is devoid of money. Let the people understand that this is where we are going. We are gaining grounds not because we are dishing out money to the people but because we are able to tell them, convince them that we have what it takes to give the representation that will mirror what we have in the developed countries – the western world. We are not looking out for one rich man to come and sponsor us or to come and sponsor me. We are convincing people and we are gaining grounds. We are taking Ika South as a case study, as a pilot project. It will happen and thereafter, there will be a turnaround situation in Nigeria where the issue of money politics will be buried completely He concluded.
Delta and of course the nation as a whole must in my view, not allow Ofume’s suggestions go with political winds.
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via; email@example.com/08032725374.