Tuesday, February 27, 2024

A Critical Look At Senator Tokunbo Abiru’s First Year In Office.

When Senator Tokunbo Abiru was campaigning to represent Lagos East Senatorial District at the National Assembly, he promised to fight for a special status for Lagos, guarantee high-quality representation, and promote the tourism potential of Ibeju-Lekki. After a year in office, there is no evidence that the former bank executive is committed to his most important campaign promises.


In a piece commemorating Senator Abiru’s one year in office, his media adviser, Mr. Enitan Olukotun, reeled out a series of ongoing projects, from primary health care facilities to classrooms. These projects were either beginning or nearing completion but were noted as significant achievements of the Senator.


While some of the interventions are worth commending, it is crucial to properly define the role of a federal legislator, how Nigerians should access their performance and what role constituency projects play.


For starters, it is essential to demystify constituency projects because politicians have continuously used them to hoodwink their constituents, deceiving them into believing that local challenges are being addressed. It is for this reason that Mr. Oluwadare Kolawole, Deputy Director of SERAP, argued that “constituency projects should be scrapped for being unlawful and an avenue for corruption.”


He further noted that “experience has shown that huge allocations to constituency projects have not positively impacted the grassroots.” Explaining why constituency projects have had minimal impact in the grassroots, Kolawale, in an interview with The Guardian, said, “constituency projects is a product of executive largesse to legislators, though packed in the guise of legislative contribution to development. It is, therefore, no surprise that these funds are diverted, mismanaged, and misapplied for personal gain.”


Therefore, praising any legislator for projects funded by taxpayers and are often poorly implemented is incredibly myopic. Nigerians should instead be asking how they should adequately assess their legislators. Indeed, it cannot be by constituency projects but by the statutory roles in a constitutional democracy. Okoosi Simbine defined the legislature as the institution body responsible for making laws for a nation and one through which the collective will of the people or part of it is articulated, expressed, and implemented. Consequently, the legislature controls, according to, all economic, social, and political activities of the nation through legislation.


So, now that we know, Nigerians should assess legislators based on quality lawmaking, oversight, and effective representation (which Simbe describes as the process through which the people’s collective will are articulated, expressed, and implemented). We can take a more critical look at Senator Abiru’s first year in office. Recall that when Senator Abiru’s media aide listed out all of his achievements, he failed to mention anything related to lawmaking. At the heart of his campaign promise was the fight to ensure that the Federal Government conferred a special status on Lagos. But when the debate on Value Added Taxes arose between the states and the federal government, it was embarrassing that the Governor of Rivers state was doing more to fight for Lagos than the Senator who promised to do so.


Even more worrying is that when there was a National Debate on the electronic transmission of votes, several Senators across the country debated the subject passionately and dared to vote based on their conviction. Unfortunately, in the case of Senator Abiru, not one of his constituents knows where he stands on the issue. Neither did he take his legislative duties seriously enough to present on the day a vote was to be cast.


What is his position on police reforms, a matter that overwhelmingly affects his constituents? What is his position on the Electoral Act and other issues that reflect the people’s collective will he claims to represent? Senator Abiru can say all he wants about the constituency projects in his community. Still, as far as the business of lawmaking, oversight, and effective representation is concerned, he has performed poorly. Hopefully, having gained a little experience in the red chambers, he would improve this vital scorecard moving forward.

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