Participatory democracy: Lagos Assembly as trailblazer
RECENTLY, the print and electronic media came out with advertisements on the first constituency stakeholders meeting of the 8th Lagos State House of Assembly, detailing vital information about the exercise, especially its intent and purpose.
From Badagry to Ikorodu, Lagos Island, Epe, Somolu and the other local governments making up the state constituencies in Lagos State the exercise took place simultaneously on November 10, 2015, which undoubtedly is first of its kind in our legislative history in terms of content and style
It was designed by the Lagos Assembly to obtain the input of Lagosians on their desire in their areas.
This no doubt is big plus for the Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa led the Lagos State of Assembly in view of its timeliness and alignment with the social contract principle more so, the House of Assembly is constitutionally empowered to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the state” by virtue of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” (as amended).
The strategic nature of the stakeholders meeting could be better understood considering the fact that the state legislature performs other functions including representation, oversight, checks and balance on the Executive and the Judiciary and conducting an investigation into matters which it has powers to make laws and more.
The speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa was therefore on point when he told stakeholders at his constituency meeting in Agege that the event was in line with social contract, which the House has with the people. Hear him: “We are collaborating with our constituencies to ensure that the impact of government is felt at all levels and to reinvigorate rapid socio – economic projects, control of traffic, implementation of traffic laws, security and maintenance of law and order.
The spokesman of the House, Hon. Tunde Braimoh stated at his constituency meeting that, “while it is correct that constituency input has always, been sought in formulating budgeting proposal every year, it is also correct that the scale and style on this exercise stand out as novel and new.”
One of the biggest drawbacks of our democracy is the alienation of the people from government, thus sidelining the people for making meaningful inputs into government programs and policies.
Consequently, what we sometimes have are largely projects conceived without the voice of the people who are the reason for government. The end result is huge waste of taxpayers money as some of these projects do not suit the immediate needs of the people.
The Lagos State House of Assembly must therefore be commended for according due recognition to their constituents through the stakeholders meeting.
This no doubt is what participatory government is all about because all elected representatives must as a matter of routine report back to the principle periodically to intimate them about their stewardship.
That those who spoke across the 40 state constituencies included Obas, Chiefs, community development Associations (CDAs), Youths, Artisans, professional bodies, and various unions is highly commendable.
Lagosians would also be glad that speaker Obasa has assured that these inputs will form part of the 2016 budget which is very remarkable. It actualized, it therefore means that Lagos State would have through its lawmakers come up with a truly “people’s budget” next year.
By this giant stride, the Lagos state House of Assembly may have began its journey towards fulfilling its vision “to be the leading light and pathfinder for Nigeria and African legislatures.”
To realize this, it must continue its pursuit of excellence by ensuring it fulfills its promise of a people’s budget in 2016.
It should also continually interface with the people periodically to perfect their position on issues, as it better placed to do this than other arms of government. This would no doubt make the “Change mantra of the APC-dominated House come to fruition as the country is in dire need of true change.
Other legislatures should also take a cue from the precedence set by the Assembly of the “Centre of Excellence” which has opened a new vista in participatory democracy through the constituency stakeholders meeting by organizing similar programs. Just like the former chairman, Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Monday Ubani said during Hon. Tunde Braimoh’s meeting with his constituents, the Lagos Assembly has set precedence for other legislatures with this novel idea.
More so, aside interfacing with the people, across the length and breath of the state, one of the unique things about the event was that it cut across every strata of the society, which makes it inclusive.
The Assembly may have unknowingly assisted the Executive by using the medium to collate issues very dear to the heart of the electorate for onward transmission to the Executive for consideration and implementation.
Also by holding the exercise simultaneously across the state, the lawmakers have saved the state huge resources, which could have been wasted had the exercise been staggered at this time of falling oil prices.
The Lagos State House of Assembly therefore deserves our praises, while hoping it continues to strive to be the flagship of the legislature for the benefit of the people by rising up to its constitutional duties at all times
•Chukwu is the Chairman, Centre for Accountability and Good Governance (CAGG), Lagos