By: Ibrahim Sheriff (Gold)
While ruminating over various comments and arguments in various quarters on legislative idealism, which basically concerns law making, checks on the Executives and representative functions, I found it interesting matching the Kwara reality with the much talked about ‘ideal legislation’.
The thought struck my mind sharply on Ilesha Baruba – Bode path (I don’t want to call that road) and later, from Gwanara to Bwen in Baruten local government on a constituency tour with the Hon. Speaker; Bode is under Ilesha district, while Bwen falls under Gwanara district of Ilesha/Gwanara constituency which Rt. Hon. Danladi – Salihu represents.
Ilesha Baruba – Bode road
In all of my political journey across Baruten, it was my first time of going to Bode and Bwen, and the paths are literally terrible and horrifying that you begin to imagine if any government was ever privy of their existence. It was over an hour of torture enrouting Ilesha – Baruba to Bode and later Gwanara – Bwen, it takes only a representative that cares to take it as a responsibility to reach, hear from and show concerns for his people resident in such remote parts of the State regardless of the odds. It was gathered that Danladi’s appearance in these terrains at intervals is a total breakaway from the norms of their political representation, more so that he occupies the number three position.
The people of Bode and villages along its route are predominantly farmers who cultivate yam. Because Bode is bordered by Igboho, Kisi (Oyo state) and Kaiama (Kwara) communities, Bode is a major supplier of yams to their markets, consequently positioning it as a commercial agriculture nerve with great economic potential, but unfortunately impeded by laxity in any form of social amenity or infrastructure. Many thanks to Rt. Hon. Danladi-Salihu for helping them solve their water problem in the past legislative year with provision of boreholes, however it is not yet uhuru, especially for neighboring villages to Bode.
Bwen on the other end, is located along Gwanara – Bukuro axis. Pitched closely to Parakou in Benin republic, their major preoccupation is also farming. The people of Bwen cultivate yam, soya bean, grains among other cash crops. Neither Bode nor Bwen is connected to national electricity grid, or mobile networks. They are both disconnected by all measures.
Bode and Bwen communities are just a prototype of over fifty (50) villages under Gwanara district and ten (10) others in Ilesha district of Baruten local government. This is the reality of the people of Baruten and several other communities spread across the North, South and Central senatorial district of Kwara state. The developmental challenges are overwhelming and requires dauntless efforts to address them, considering the very limited resources available to meet our public ends.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle averred that State exists for public goods and continues to exist for the greater good of humanity, while Democracy on the other hand give people the power to decide who governs them, and how he or she does that. Aristotle’s postulation is considered as the theoretical underpinning for which this opinion is based.
Aristotle’s view implies an ideal Democracy should serve the purpose of the people, electing those to lead them in whatever capacity or level of government, to pursue the ultimate goal of fulfilling the essence of the State’s existence; for public goods and greater good of humanity.
It then holds that the three arms and tiers of government in Nigeria exists for the delivery of public goods and greater goods of humanity. Because public goods delivery by the Judiciary is limited to interpretation of the law and because of the nature and mode of appointment into the arm, my discussion will be limited to the Executive and Legislative arms of government whose appointment are subject to direct participation of the people, with emphasis on the latter.
While the role of Executive and Judicial arms of government are unambiguous, there are lots of misconception of the roles of legislature in a democracy, especially in a society like Kwara, where literacy rate is below 50% (49.3 according to UNESCO 2012). Even sizeable number of the literates who understands the essence of legislature still rate legislative performances on same scale as Executives, not minding the fact that they serve clearly distinctive purposes.
But because both seekers of Executive and Legislative offices usually woo electorates and try hard to speak in the language of the people; physical development, the legislature will continue to be rated on same scale as the Executive arms of government until we attain that level of equilibrium between physical, technological and intellectual development.
Aristotle never goofed for positing State exists for public goods and greater good of humanity, it is only expedient for the public to understand the kind of public goods different arms of government is responsible to provide and demand for them as appropriate.
But since Democracy is about the people, no matter what the constitution says, the constituents are just like examiners whose marking guide must be religiously followed (as far as it is not unlawful) to earn a pass mark and consequent promotion in the political realm. Regardless of how we feel about their conceptions, there is a common consensus that legislation being the heart of democracy is about the people and must have human face with a dot that connects lawmaking with better living standards and developmental aspirations of the people.
This is more reason why legislature at Federal level muted idea of constituency projects, which today, is what many Federal Legislator lay claim to their facilitation as major achievements, because the people rarely understand or appreciate the essence of lawmaking and representative functions they perform, which should ordinarily form the basis of their performance evaluation. However, it should be noted that there is no constituency projects at State parliaments.
Because the language of physical development is what our people speak and comprehend, we must understand it in turn and tailor legislation towards quenching their developmental thirst. Perhaps, that would be the foundation we must lay to elevate our democracy to the touted ideal state some elites desire. They are not wrong after all, but we must not shy away from the realities on ground, unfolding events in the touted saner climes have shown the world no system is perfect.
For instance, attainment of significant level of literacy across the 16 local governments, if not 193 wards of the State is a precursor to enhanced political enlightenment and thus, if we must strengthen our democracy, there must be concerted efforts to strengthen the mind of the people through human capital development. Of course, human capital development cannot come without some level of physical and technological development; its a chain reaction.
The man in Kpada of Patigi, Igbonla of Irepodun, Tabera of Baruten and Onire of Asa local governments respectively will never, at this moment, appreciate whatever ‘turenchi’ his representative speaks on the floor of the House or legislative exercise he preformed, if after four (4) years, it does not translate to visible change in their developmental narratives.
This dictates the focus of Rt. Hon. Danladi on critical issues bothering on aggressive physical development. Besides Gwanara township road, ongoing Ilesha/Gwanara road facilitated by Rt. Hon. Danladi-Salihu; concerted efforts is being made to ensure Ilesha – Bode – Babanne – Gwasoro road is captured in the 2021 budget. That notwithstanding the huge personal sacrifice of Rt. Hon. Danladi-Salihu which has brought water scarcity in his constituency to the barest minimum and his facilitation of reconnection of several Baruten communities to national grid; from Ilesha Baruba through Gobo and Ningurme axis. He has also continued to commit personal earnings to provide more public goods,which for now, is under wrap.
How the 9th Assembly have used the instrumentality of checks and balances to investigate and recover misappropriated public funds and properties is public knowledge; from recovery of assets, to local government probe, to Light Up Kwara investigation that has brought the project back to life and saved public funds among several others.
Some people have continued to fault personal intervention of Rt. Hon. Danladi – Salihu on physical infrastructure and water provision in his constituency under the guise that it does not form part of his primary responsibilities as a lawmaker, but I will continue to hold that his primary responsibility is to protect the interest of his people in whatever way permissible within the ambit of the law. Hence, if these personal interventions is in alignment with his people’s interest, then its perfect regardless of anyone else’s perception. Perhaps, he was elected to offer a representation that betters his people’s lot.
In statecraft, there is usually divergence in opinions, interest and sociopolitical alignments but the objective must not derail from serving the people whose interest public officials ultimately represents and by all standard, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Danladi Salihu has faired so well as a parliamentarian guided by the aspirations of his people, without jettisoning effective coordination and leadership of the House.
So far the State exist for the public goods and greater good of humanity, and the ideal of democracy being supremacy of the people’s will in state crafting, it is safe to define legislative idealism by our own peculiarities and realities which dictates people’s interest, that every representative must strive to project and protect.
This however does not nullify my agreement that our local democracy is still emerging and we must nurture it to suit our people’s developmental purpose.
Ibrahim Sheriff (Gold) is the Special Assistant, Media to the Hon. Speaker, Kwara state House of Assembly.