Governance: The legislative perspective

American political scene is always full of notable and frequent scolding of the congress and its members. Renowned writer, Mark Twain bequeathed so many unpalatable quotes about the congress in the late 1800s. Though the US Congress was founded 231 years ago, within the US system of governance, the Congress still receives more scrutiny and more scolding. There are so many reasons all over the democratic world, the legislature is perhaps the most open and most accessible to the people, and that is clearly the reason the scrutiny is more intense.

Since Nigeria’s return to democracy, no arm of government has received as frequent bashing as the legislature. Often, with fury, some even say the country can do without the legislature. Of course, some of the criticisms have merit. But clearly, the open nature of the legislature through legislative sittings, public hearings and oversight visits, people know more about what is going on in the legislature compared to other arms of government.

Just like in the US, so it is in Nigeria. The legislature appears to be the ‘fall guy’ of governance. Some may say, although public fury at legislators in both the US and Nigeria is almost at equal scale, an average US Congress man is more productive than his Nigerian counterpart. This line argument can be right and wrong.

In the first place, how can a lawmaker’s performance be appraised? What will be the yardsticks? In finding answers to these questions Hegel comes in handy, in terms of “rational objectivity about reality.” Simply put, there is a context. What works as good performance of a lawmaker in the US Congress may not be relevant in Nigeria; though both countries run the same presidential system of government. Some assess lawmakers based on the number of bills they sponsor. Good as it is, the lawmaker is much more than the number of bills he sponsors – because of the context. The reality a senator faces in the US, is not the same as the reality a senator faces in Nigeria. In the US, attending wedding ceremonies, naming ceremonies and turbaning ceremonies are not part of the yardsticks a voter uses to determine whether a lawmaker is good or bad.

In Nigeria because of the context, it is not the number of bills that matters; it is the impact on people’s lives that makes a good legislature.

The senator representing my Yobe North senatorial zone comprising Bade, Karasuwa, Nguru, Jakusko, Machina and Yusufari, has been at the National Assembly since 1999 – and is currently President of the Senate. He sponsored dozens of high-impact bills and motions. But at home, people hardly mention these legislative achievements. People always attribute his being a good lawmaker and voting for him again and again because of projects he attracted to their communities.

At home, Senator Ahmad Lawan is considered a good representative of his people because he helped secure employment for youths from across the six local governments he represents in the upper chamber. He recently sponsored the training of over 1000 youths in the area of hardware, software and entrepreneurship development. Participants in the training were drawn from the three senatorial zones of Yobe State.

Senator Ahmad Lawan was instrumental to the location of the Federal University, Gashua, where it is now – in Gashua. Locating the university in Gashua puts it in a strategically accessible location for all the people of Yobe north senatorial zone. He also followed this up with ensuring that the act establishing the university has been signed by President Muhammadu Buhari. Through his efforts, hostels that can accommodate 2000 students are taking off at the university. Already, work is ongoing for the establishment of a 10-bed clinic in the university. The world class ICT centre the university now has was a result of the commitment of Senator Ahmad Lawan to the educational development of the zone. Our senatorial zone is one of the parts of Nigeria referred to as ‘educationally disadvantaged.’

It is to the credit of Senator Ahmad Lawan that he facilitated the reconstruction of Nguru-Gashua-Baymari road which is nearing completion. For us the people of Yobe north and some parts of Yobe east, this road is the most important. Only those of us with an idea of the state of this road before the reconstruction can appreciate how it can transform our communities

On another social front, Senator Ahmad Lawan has built Islamiyya model schools in all the local governments in his senatorial zone. He also sponsored the mass wedding of women from indigent families, which eased the social obligation burden on many families. Each year from 2017 to date, he has sponsored medical outreaches in which people received critical medical treatment free. Herders benefitted from cattle vaccination he sponsors annually. He also influenced many Tertiary Education Trust Fund interventions for tertiary institutions in his zone and scholarship opportunities for many aspiring scholars teaching at these institutions.

For a lawmaker who has been in National Assembly for over 20-years, these are only recent projects he attracted to his people. The reason why people ensure he keeps winning elections is because of these development projects he attracted to the area he is representing.

Again, we go back to Hegel’s importance of being ‘rational.’ In Nigeria, of course, lawmakers have to do more to deliver development but clearly people never judge lawmakers by the number of bills they sponsor, but by the number of projects they attracted to their people, the number of jobs they secured for youths and other key performance indicators that can be out of place – and will never be the yardsticks of determining a good legislator the in the US.

In Nigeria, no lawmaker goes to polls flaunting the number of bills he/she sponsored. People judge lawmakers by their projects, by their social interventions and concrete development impact.

Nguru sent this piece from Yobe State.




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