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Being an effective legislator

By Sunday Iduh

The individual activities of legislators in parliament, which have often been ignored in the literature on parliamentary democracies is very vital in the building of strong leadership which is one of the pillars of democracy

Individual legislators are extensively involved in parliamentary activities such as drafting private members’ bills and posing questions, even though these activities have only been considered to play marginal roles in parliamentary democracies.

Their engagement varies significantly. Studies have shown that the personal attributes of legislators affect their choice of parliamentary activities. Under electoral systems with intra-party and inter-party competitions, legislators use parliamentary activities as an important means to inform their constituents about what they can do for them and how they differ from other legislators.

In elections, candidates cultivate personal votes by exploiting the image drawn from their personal attributes and, once elected, they behave in accordance with their attributes in order to maintain their electoral ground. Thus, they devote themselves to different activities in parliament.

Legislators with local-level political experience engage in particularistic pork-barrel activities that will benefit their local interests, while legislators with legal-work experience allocate their time and energy to general policy-making activities that will enhance their public image and visibility as legal experts.

An effective legislator works both within the party and across the aisle, being honest with colleagues, and being trustworthy for the overall benefit of humanity. He does what is right for the people in their state. This include taking tough votes that may go against caucus or leadership, sticking to core values, and being motivated by positive outcomes for constituents rather than person

He or she passes good legislation, stops bad legislation, and makes incremental change toward longer-term goals. The emphasis is not on the number of bills passed, but how meaningful they are. They need to know the “pulse” of their district, being responsive to constituent needs, and representing their district through voting in its best interest

When you take a critical look at the activities of the legislators in Nigeria from 1999 to date, how many of them have these attributes? The electorate in Nigeria are not helping democracy to grow as they usually cast their votes for the highest money bags who disappear after winning, only to appear again during another election period

If this line of reasoning is correct, how many of the legislators will stand the test of time? But who will stop those that are ineffective? And who should be the judge? The effective and the ineffective must like, good and evil generally, go on together, and man must make his choice.

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