#OfficeOfTheCitizen: Holding Your Legislators Accountable! – Ishola Adebayo

May 10, 2019

The beginning of good governance which is the responsibility of all the tiers of government is openness, engagement and transparency. It does not matter what else we try to do as long as one arm of government shrouds its activities, administration and management in opaqueness and practices rife with corruption. Only very little, if anything at all, can be achieved in pulling Nigeria on the path of sustainable and enduring democratic system, development and progress if Nigerian politicians continue with this trend.

More so, accountability is one of the bedrocks of representative Government, as it provides a check on individuals, once elected, betraying the promises they made during the campaign. An accountable political system is one where both the government and the elected members of parliament are responsible to the citizens and their constituents to the highest degree possible.

On the broader perspective, citizens must be able to influence the shape of the government, either by altering the coalition of parties in power or by throwing out of office a single dominant party, which has failed to deliver on campaign promises.

Accountability involves far more than the mere holding of regular national elections; it also depends on the degree of national accountability, which is largely dependent on the size and nature of constituents will-power to continually demand, as well as the freedom of choice for voters to choose between candidates as opposed to one or two parties predominantly occupying positions all along.

Governance without engagement they say will be a mockery of democracy. But accountability itself is a tricky thing. People react to being held accountable in different ways in different situations. One would think that having to answer to someone for your actions or your decisions would make you think more carefully about whether you’re doing the right thing. And according to research, it sometimes does make people engage in more “exploratory thought” before making a decision but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it just inspires people to defend more stridently what they already believe. Sometimes it motivates people to conform to the views of the audience to which they are accountable.

In addition, there may be supplementary methods of accountability which can be utilized: Citizens can also recall their legislators if dissatisfied with their conduct and performance and if enough voters in their district demand it.

Visit bit.ly/recallguide to understand how to recall your legislator. Other jurisdictions make use of 'direct democracy' mechanisms such as referendums and more recently the restructuring agenda. Active Citizens’ can identify and engage with their representatives by texting ‘SYE’ & your ‘Polling Unit Number (top left corner of your voters card) to 20050. Example: Send SYE 24/10/07/03 to 20050.

Rather than result to unrest and heating up the polity, Active Citizens’ should begin to organize themselves in a more civil manner and not agonize. Engage with your elected representatives through Phone Call, SMS, Email or Town Hall Meetings. Ask questions anywhere and everywhere!

The office of the citizen is the HIGHEST office in the land!