By Innocent Eteng
Ahead of presidential and National Assembly elections on February 16, citizens in Rivers State are preparing with requisite tools to hold leaders that would emerge from the process accountable.
Their target is soon-to-emerge representatives at the Senate and House of Representatives. They maintain that their elected representatives have not been accountable to their constituents, neither do they lead an inclusive representation – contributing to poor living conditions at the local levels.
The tools are communication skills, advocacy and engagement skills, proposal writing skills and how to organize nonviolence activism within constituted laws.
In a dialogue meeting organized by a civil group working on building citizens’ capacity – Citizens Trust Advocacy and Development Centre (CITADEC) – with support from Trust Africa, the preparation for post-election accountability engagement came on Friday, February 8, 2019 at the Khana Local Government council in Bori, Ogoni.
The dialogue was an introduction of a capacity building engagement scheduled to hold on three separate days. The requisite tools would be shared on February 12 and the third meeting would be on constituency dialogue meeting on a later date, says
Lawrence Dube, CITADEC’s director.
He said the objective of the dialogue was to let participants – about three dozen of them present and mostly drawn from across Ogoni – “understand the basis of legislative governance and how they as citizens can engage their legislators because it is the legislators that (should) help them understand what is happening in government by making laws and proposals for good governance based on the resources and opportunities available.”
He says the advocacy for accountability training is not an encouragement of lawlessness, nor chaos or disorder; but to work within what the system (law) permits “because we are the owners of the system”.
“As the training goes on, people should be able to go into the polls with the mindset of evaluating whether their leaders are doing well. It would also dictate how they would relate with their leaders and that would also determine how they would take them to task. After the elections, we are going to write whoever emerges at the House of Representatives and Senate and say, ‘this is what we (the people) want,” Dube said.
He said lack of accountability has amounted to untold economic effects in terms of: “loss of jobs and livelihood, high level of poverty, high level of unemployment and corruption.”
He said these effects have further made the citizens lose confidence in the government and that because government has not been accountable to the people, it has also robbed the government of the needed taxes for development, since it cannot demand taxes from the already impoverished citizens.
Meanwhile, Emmanuel Biira, CITADEC’s Senior Programme Officer, Communication and Strategy, urged participants to be fearless in demanding to know what aspirants who come to them (citizens) for votes intend to do when elected.
He said this “charter of demand” would help them hold their representatives accountable if they fail to keep their promises.
Responding, participants said the introductory dialogue has broadened their understanding about legislative governance and hope to be better equipped at the end of the programme.
“I am happy because they (CITADEC) have made us aware of how development can come to our area and that we need good and accountable representation,” says Fidelis Uebari, one of the participants.
Participants were drawn into four groups of health, environment, security and education to discuss challenges and make solutions-based suggestions within these areas. Dube said such needs and suggestions would be forwarded to elected representatives so they could lobby and make laws that would help solve identified problems.