For several weeks, many of us have been keenly following the live screening of ministerial nominees in the Senate. Now the ministerial screening is over, what do we the citizens do next?
The answer is simple – it is time for citizens to engage them. In my recent blog post titled ‘Do you know your legislative representatives?’, I sought to enable increased engagement by highlighting to us the various functions of the National Assembly and how they affect us.
We at the Nation-builders Movement seek to close the gap between the legislature and the constituents, so we launched the ‘Know Your Legislative Representative’ campaign on our website and on social media.
What is the campaign about?
Firstly, we produced a leaflet explaining the functions of the National and State Assemblies, explaining their areas of focus and also highlighting why we have two chambers (Senate and House of Representatives) at the federal level. To download the leaflet, click here.
Secondly, we publicised the website link that would enable citizens know who their representatives are in the National Assembly. It was interesting to see many citizens discover for the first time who their representatives are and for some, they voted for these people without really identifying their names (just their party name and logo was enough on voting day).
The third and most important phase of our campaign is what we are launching now and it is to write to these representatives to demand the following:
- Their agenda for the 4-year term.
- Regular interaction with their true constituents through monthly town hall meetings.
- A commitment to disclose their constituency allowance and projects.
- An established means of regular communication with their constituents (especially via e-newsletter).
Why this campaign?
Democracy is primarily about the people in government governing out of the mandate given them by the people. This means that it is our responsibility to demand accountability from those we’ve given our mandate to.
This campaign will:
- Remind OUR representatives that they are there to REPRESENT US and not represent their interest and that of their godfathers. Imagine with me a scenario where 5,000+ constituents wrote their representatives. Would such a representative not recognize the power of these citizens to recall him or her or vote them out at the next elections? Such recognition will remind them who they are accountable to.
- Ensure citizen participation in governance. We will bring problems in the area to the attention of our representatives and demand they take action; make input into the next year’s budget of the Federal and State Governments; research, document and lobby our representatives to present a bill that can be turned into a law to address a societal challenge; make petitions against MDAs and lobby to have the petition addressed, etc.
- Increase our understanding of democracy thereby enabling us exploit the many opportunities it offers. It will include the improvement of the quality of candidates and representatives in future elections; the shifting of our ‘kingly’ mindset that abandons governance into the hands of those in government with no accountability; ensure a proper check and balance between the executive and legislative arm of government; make our general elections more people-oriented, ensuring our votes count and the demands of the masses influencing electoral outcomes, etc.
- Improve the quality of their legislative activities in the chambers. With more citizen engagement, our representatives will undertake assignments such as ministerial screening, MDA oversight function, budget approval, approval into boards of government parastatals, etc., with better focus, integrity and with national (instead of personal) interest in view.
How can you participate?
We seek that every Nigerian citizen at home and abroad participates in this campaign and after we engage the National Assembly, we will then add our State House of Assembly into the campaign.
However, we recognize the challenge in developing a new culture is getting people to act. To address this challenge, we have simplified their process:
– Go to www.nassnig.org/constituency and note the names of your Senator and House of Representatives member in your area of residence and place of origin (if different). Also note the name of your senatorial district and federal constituency.
– Send us your name (first and last name), address, telephone number, email address and the names of your Senator and House of Representatives member by e-mail – email@example.com.
– We will attach your details to the draft letter, print them out and deliver to your representatives in the National Assembly. You can view the sample letter here.
We are currently in our longest duration of a civil rule (almost 17 years) and only our participation will enable us convert it into a thriving democratic dispensation with the attendant benefits for us the citizens and for the development of Nigeria.
Would you join many other citizens to participate this campaign?