Nigeria is a very unique country for so many reasons. It is the most populous black nation in the world with an estimated population of about 180 million people. Nigeria is in 7th position on the list of the world largest populations after China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan. Aside her population, another unique feature of Nigeria is that it has about 250 ethnic groups and about 520 languages.
The Parliament is what we call the Legislature or the National Assembly in Nigeria comprising both the Senate and the Federal House of Representatives. As Nigeria operates under the framework of federal presidential system, with 36 states forming the federating units and the head of government being the president, each of the 36 states is represented by three senators. Please, I want you to underline the word ‘represented’. Each state also has 10 federal representatives at the lower chamber of the National Assembly. The upper and the lower chambers are jointly referred to as the National Assembly. To represent means to stand in place of somebody. What this means is that as a Nigeria, you have 13 representatives from your state in the National Assembly. Their job is to facilitate law making, policy formulations and influence the generality of the good of the people they represent, including you. “Why do they have to represent me?” you may ask. They represent you and other people in your community because everybody cannot be accommodated in the National Assembly. Therefore, you voted for somebody to represent you. Apart from the 13 individuals representing your state at the National Assembly, there is also somebody representing you at the state assembly. Each of the 36 states has a House of Assembly in which each Local Government Area (LGA) has at least two representatives. You also have a representative at the Local Government level.
He is the Councilor representing your ward. That means, there are four individuals who receive huge sums of money as allowances and salaries to represent you at different levels of government. They include:
A member of the Federal House
A member of the State House
A Councilor at the LGA
Now comes the big question. Do you know these people? Your answer like many other Nigerians would probably be ‘no’. That is the issue; that is the problem; majority of them are neither known nor seen in their communities. Once the elections are over, they become celebrities and live large in the state or the federal capital.
Since 1999 when this new democratic dispensation was inaugurated, Nigeria has witnessed a very high level of political apathy occasioned by fear, ignorance, gullibility, laziness and resignation to fate. Many Nigerians who are informed are afraid of getting involved in politics. They are afraid of losing their integrity, their personality or even their lives. As a result of this, they are not interested in who contests and who wins any office, including the parliaments. As a result, they have phantom representatives at various levels of the government.
Those who represent Nigerians take advantage of this level of apathy to exhibit their own, ‘I-don’t-care’ attitude. They claim to represent a people they never met. Many of them are said to be visible during elections and become invisible after the elections but I can say that many don’t even show up anymore during elections. All you see around are just their posters.
Ignorance is just another reason we have a high rate of political apathy. Many people do not know what they ought to know. I am surprised that even many university graduates fall within this group. Before I set out to write this article, I spoke to ten Nigerian graduates and not even one could mention the name of the Senator representing them in Lagos let alone their home states. None of them could tell me any tangible thing about other stake holders in the government. They only have a blanket idea that Nigeria is not good and the President is not doing well.
Because people are ignorant, they are gullible; they accept anything as long as it cuts corners and it’s quick to reward. They accept stipends as gratifications to mortgage their future. But the major problem is that they do not even know that such a future exists and that it is their right. Some of us are too lazy to get up and stand for what we believe in. We are too lazy to learn, too lazy to hold our representatives accountable and too lazy to make the sacrifice of participation. As you read this article, you can be rest assured that many will not, because to them, it is too long and there’s no money attached.
Because we are not interested, those who have no ideas find themselves representing us. A true representative must have series of town hall meetings with all his constituents. He must always be with the people he represents to find out what their needs are and discuss how to liaise with the executive to meet these needs. People who don’t even know the towns and villages that make up their constituencies are those representing us. You represent a people; they don’t know you, and you don’t know them. It is important for Nigerians to understand that we operate under the frame work of representative democracy. We must learn to locate our representatives and hold them accountable for the backwardness in our communities. It is not the responsibility of the members of the legislature to carry out road constructions, electrification projects, security of the community, health and education needs of the people, but it is their responsibility to speak out to those who should do these and ensure these needs are met. But then, it is only when a representative visits a community in his constituency that he can understand their needs. Until this happens, we have phantom representatives in the Nigerian democracy. They are GHOSTS, you don’t know them; I don’t know them but they exist.
As 2019 elections draw closer, you’ll see their posters all over the places. After, the elections, the posters will disappear and you’ll neither hear nor see anything of them again. This situation can only change when you stand up to demand accountability from those you elected to represent you at the parliaments. Add your voice; the social media has made it easy for everybody to contribute. Locate your representatives on social media; give them a chase. Demand a true and an effective representation. It’s not just about frying pans and keke NAPEP. How much does a frying pan cost in relation to the salary and allowances of a senator? The former Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi once said that 25% of the entire budget of the federal government goes to the National Assembly. Recently, one of the senators of the Federal Republic, Senator Shehu Sani said that each senator has a running cost of N13m per month and a salary of N750, 000. And those who bother to remember a few village folks buy them frying pans.
Emancipate yourselves from this slavery.
CIA World Fact Book