Members of the National Assembly said on Saturday that many Nigerians do not appreciate legislators’ primary role, which is to make laws.
The legislators spoke at Open Square, a town hall meeting organized by Daria Media and sponsored by Channels Television and the MacArthur Foundation.
“Legislators are not judged by their performance as to how they advocate for their constituents,” Kogi senator, Smart Adeyemi said.
“They want to see you provide those things that are exclusively the responsibility of the executive. As a legislator, people assume that you should be able to construct roads for them, build houses.”
Dachung Bagos, a member of the House of Representatives, reiterated Senator Adeyemi’s position, saying Legislators’ false perceptions of their roles may be linked to the kinds of promises they make during election campaigns.
“What constituents usually want to see is that you bring infrastructure, you bring empowerment, you pay school fees, you pay hospital bills, and things that are directly beneficial to the constituents,” he said.
“But 70 percent of the role of a lawmaker, which is lawmaking – as long as it doesn’t translate to food on the table – the constituents don’t understand it.”
“You find yourself during campaigns actually making promises and unfortunately because politicians are looking for the votes, they say yes,” Rep. Bagos said. “The Nigerian political space has made politicians overpromise and when you overpromise, you find yourself not meeting up to the demands.
“There are things that you might even say during elections, and they will remind you; they will even play videotapes of the campaign.”
The lawmaker encourages Nigerians to be fair to the National Assembly, claiming that its members have been doing their duties.
He believes it is absurd to expect parliamentarians with a population of less than 500 to tackle the problems of a country with a population of more than 200 million people.
Bagos also believes Nigeria’s political system has exacerbated the situation, lamenting the country’s partisanship.
He argued that this was one of the key reasons why the National Assembly failed in certain of its tasks, particularly holding the executive accountable.
“In fairness to Nigerians and in fairness to the true nature of what democracy needs to stand for, the Nigerian political space has caged democracy to the democracy of partisanship – you have to be a party man before you get something; to religious and ethnic democracy that you have to belong to a certain religious group to be able to get something for your people,” the lawmaker lamented.
“We have been able to make resolutions upon resolutions to the executive that do it this way, do it this way; with 200 million people, you don’t expect about 400 people to solve the problem … the National Assembly today cannot boldly say – because of politics of party, because of politics of ethnicity; that the executive has not done well.”