10 Lessons Learned From Shadowing A Nigerian Legislator.

Chilling in the Govt. House waiting room.

August 26, 2015 6:46:52 PM,

an excited me hastily rushed upstairs with my luggage, super-exited at the prospect of participating for the first time in my fairly young life, in Nigerian politics. My aunt had just won the elections into the Imo State House of Representatives and upon receiving the news, I immediately knew within myself, that my holiday would be interesting. I quickly called my mum and lobbied a place into her house for the forth-coming holidays.

You see, I had just completed my final exams as a 400Level Law student and as a young lawyer-in-training, this experience in the Nigerian political scene will probably count for something. Prior to this, as all Nigerians can attest, the Nigerian political scene is know for rampant corruption, which Nigeria’s new president — Muhammad Buhari, had made the focal point of his electioneering campaign (Anti-Corruption) during the March elections which led to his famous victory over the incumbent — Goodluck Jonathan, whose government was widely perceived to be corrupt. My aunt belonged to the newly minted anti-corrupt President’s party — APC, so with bustling excitement, i set out on this new adventure, and here are the 10 things I learned from my sojourn.

  1. Stealing is not corruption (lol. maybe):

Yes. I know this is super controversial but as a prospective lawyer completing his finals, i must tell you its utterly wrong to believe otherwise. Stealing and corruption apart from being defined under different sections in the criminal code, also has substantially different punishments in the code. Most Nigerians don’t get this; Stealing is the biggest bane in the Nigerian society and far worse. Billions of dollars get stolen every year from the state’s coffers and that is more hurtful to our economy than corruption. Corruption usually involves smaller sums of money but the issue is that stealing usually leads to corruption and vice verse, hence the tendency to confuse both. See Criminal Code Act-PartIII-IV. I guess that's what Ameachi meant when he boldly said “ I have never collected bribe in my life”. Folks, bribes are chicken change (lol).

2. Lobbying is Legal but shaddy:

According to Wikipedia,

Lobbying (also lobby) is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in a government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies.

Lobbying most of the time, is legal bribery, but in Nigeria, our politicians make it a point that to lobby them, you must come cap in hand, with bribes. I saw this a lot in the house, where members were alleged to be secretly bribed to allow a bill sail through.

3. Most Politicians are thieves, crooks and not to be trusted (everone knows this):

This is absolutely true. Being a shadow to a legislator, means you probably have to go anywhere and everywhere they go. Doing so, you likely will be privy to lots of information only the political class are privy to. With lots of back-stabbing, conniving and plotting, Nigerian politics is definitely not for the faint of heart. E.g there were stories of people who took a fall for the Governor when the EFCC came calling and was later abandoned by the governor to his travails.

4. Nigerian Politicians must take a pay cut:

I really don’t know why a legislator should earn #650,000 per month as basic salary, with benefits adding up to over #3.5million. When the Governor is credited with recently crying out that “Imo State is broke”.

5. The Governor has the Legislators by their Balls;

Its dangerous for our Democracy, for a single party to produce both the Governor, The Speaker of the House and majority members of the floor. Its open knowledge in Imo State that Rochas controls everything. The Speaker is mostly a tooth-less dog, who is scared shitless of the Governor and will do all his bidding because of his blind ambition to become the next governor of the state, which Rochas works to his advantage. Rochas has a reputation in Imo State of being a crippling giant who can destroy anyone, any-day. But not all legislators are scared of him e.g some known legislators. This is a boast.

6. The ex-gov Ameachi /PDP incident in the Senate is not limited to the Senate:

Everywhere, PDP is gradually becoming a toothless local dog (lol). Remember where I said, the Gov has everyone by the balls? PDP legislators are also included. During my stay in the house, never was there any “opposition” in the house.

7. Stealing = Legislators:

As a student, I had always been taught that Legislators as an arm of govt, make laws. No, they don’t make laws. They run the state and the country. No money can be spent in the state/country without their approval. No dime. Hence, most Governors’/Presidents’ strategies are pretty much — control the legislators, control everything. Hence, for most money to be stolen or mis-appropriated, they usually connive with the respective houses to achieve their aim. Hence its bad for a single party to produce both the Governor and Speaker.

8. Though we hate them, They do Valuable work (sometimes);

Yeah. The state pretty much grinds to a halt without our politicians. While in the House, I was really impressed to see Legislators, passionate about their people, representing them effectively. I had come from a mentality of ALL POLITICIANS = THIEVES. It doesn't have to be that way. We all have a love/hate r/ship with our politicians and that's amazing. I love them. Extremely talented individuals.

9. There is a marked difference between Lawyers and others:

I have never been more proud of my profession. While in the house, it was so easy to tell the difference between a Learned colleague and others. With their smart attires, polished English and mannerisms, smart presentations of bills, you could tell they were born to do this. Also, my legislator aunt always felt proud introducing me as a future Lawyer (sorta). Even the majority leader lit up on hearing my profession. #NiceMoments.

10. Most Politicians are easily accessible but No One Takes advantage of this:

While in the House Complex, I was pretty much amazed by how easy it was to walk into any Legislator’s office and state your grievances. I know we hate them politicos but most are ready to serve you and unfortunately, no one tells them what they want because they are widely perceived to be inaccessible. Shame on you for thinking that. I was privy to seeing doors wide open for many hours and nobody walked in.

How do you want them to represent you when you don't tell them what you want? They even have Liaison offices in their constituents but people hardly visit them. Then latter we scream that we are not being represented. This leaves them most of the time, to the whims and caprices of professional lobbyists, who are only there to serve their own aims not yours.

Bonus Lesson — Rochas the Gov. is a man of God (lol):

I could go on and on and on, including how Rochas is a man of God (lol again). Wow. That dude can minister. During a particular service at the well-decorated Govt. Chapel at Douglas House, he took the microphone after the minister ministered and surprisingly lectured us on the Importance of positive confessions, how it got him to Govt. house, on how he and his lovely wife — Nneoma are the first couple to never fight while in Douglas house, on how he raised his kids to be God-fearing and not arrogant and finally on how he Loves his wife above everything else and could never cheat on her. He then surprised everyone by shouting “Nneoma, I Love You”, thrice.

Douglas House Chapel

Final notes:

All in all, Rochas has good intentions for the state or so I thought.

Imo State House Members.

My learning were in-exhaustible and would probably serve throughout my lifetime. I am uber-greatful for this opportunity afforded me to observe Nigerian Politics firsthand. Without this opportunity I could never have conceived Better Gov — Which is going to use technology to revolutionize the Way we Communicate with our Representatives, enabling us tell our reps What We Want. You can join our waiting list Here — to know when we launch. The future is definitely bright.

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