By Kabiru Danladi Lawanti
In a liberal democracy, political representation is a straightforward concept. In Nigeria, every four years, there are elections where citizens pause and turn back to see what their political representatives did to them during their four-year tenure. In a defined geographic area or constituencies, the citizens choose from a range of candidates—themselves citizens living in (or near) that same area—and elect a few to sit in the national assembly as representatives of the people of these constituencies. Yet both theoretically and in practice, it is far more complicated.
While representative democracy is often poetically described as government ‘of the people, by the people, for the people,’ it is not only the people who are represented: political parties, ideologies (in this sense religious and ethnic), business, urban and rural people — to name but a few—are also represented. Furthermore, even the very notion of ‘the people’ is amorphous as a representative cannot possibly represent the full diversity of ‘the people’ and all their divergent and conflicting interests.
Since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, many representatives have been sent to Abuja to represent their constituency at the national level. These constituencies comprise a group of local government areas in a particular state. In some states, the constituencies are formed of a single local government area. For example, in Gombe State, there are six federal constituencies: Akko, which covers the Akko LGA, Balanga/Billiri that covers Balanga and Billiri LGAs, Dukku/Nafada that comprises Dukku and Nafada LGAs. Others are Gombe/Kwami/Funakaye, which contains Gombe, Kwami and Funakaye LGAs; Kaltungo/Shongom, which covers Kaltungo and Shongom LGAs and lastly, the Yamaltu/Deba federal constituency that covers Yamaltu/Deba LGA. These constituencies have sent representatives since 1999. Of particular interest to me is the Akko Federal Constituency, where I came from.
Politics, they said, is a network of no permanent foes but only connected interests. In the last 22 years, the constituency has had six representatives. Of this six, two remained the longest-serving representatives – Bello Suleiman and Usman Bello Kumo. Bello Mohammed spent only one tenure in the National Assembly, from 199-2003. In contrast, Umaru Barambu and Samaila Mu’azu Kashere spent two years each in the hallowed chamber after a court sacked Umaru Barambu in 2017.
To be fair to the reps mentioned above, each tried to develop the area in his way. However, a careful analysis of what came to the constituency in the last three and a half years cannot be compared to any in the previous 22 years. The level of human and capital development witnessed is unprecedented in the entire northeast. The only representative that can match the level of human and capital development brought to the constituency by Usman Bello Kumo (UBK) is Mukhtar Betara. This is obvious, knowing that Betara is Chairman House Committee on Appropriation.
A consummate and highly experienced politician, Usman Bello Kumo has a deep commitment and unrivalled passion for grassroots development. For instance, in his second coming alone, 2019 to date in the National Assembly, he has attracted infrastructural development in many areas of human development like education, health, water, roads, electricity, youth and women empowerment all over the constituency for the betterment of their economy and improved standard of living.
As Chairman, House Committee on Police, Hon UBK was able to also send more than 100 youth into the Nigeria Police Force. One thing is clear, UBK has always stood out among other politicians of his calibre. He has never allowed the trappings and grandeur of office to stand between him and his avowed goals of lifting his people from the shackles of poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness and mass unemployment.
As 2023 approaches, we shall soon be inundated with a mix of the serious, the incredible and sprinkles of the comical as political parties jostle to promote candidates of varying capabilities. These include those who appear to have genuine intentions for service to the people and aspirants who seem pretty content with no more than having their faces splashed around on party banners. Already, we have seen some campaigns of calumny against his person when some rabble-rousers, fighting for recognition, working under the instruction of politicians are sponsoring political jobbers to say many things against the man. This, they do discredit him in the eyes of his teeming supporters. One thing is clear; it seems UBK is not even distracted with these political mudslingers.
Holding onto his mission – an intense zeal for total political, economic and social liberation of his people, Hon UBK has always seen his primary vocation in the political arena as being one of service, duty, benevolence and charity towards his constituents. In this regard, he has abided by his campaign promises of using elective office to improve a lot of his people. This is the direct opposite of what his detractors are doing. His opponent definition of representation is that of trying to use political office to feather their nest, irrespective of the economic fortunes of the electorate that voted for them in the first place.
Notwithstanding these outstanding credentials and track record of success, we must remind Hon UBK, as stakeholders and indigenes of this area, that rural areas need his attention. Most of us in the rural regions of Akko, especially villages like Lawanti, Malam Jamo, Gamadadi, Akko and surrounding towns, are currently facing an acute shortage of water never seen in more than thirty years. My last visit in December 2021 to my home town made me pity the dwellers of these areas. Most have to travel many kilometres to get drinking water. Others use water from streams, competing with their animals. It is a pitiful scenario.
There are also allegations that his empowerment programmes are not all-inclusive. Recently, some communities in Gona District have a cause to go to press to complain that his empowerment programmes were only targeted at Kumo, his hometown.
As a political maestro, who can be taken literally for his words, Hon UBK needs to pause and turn his attention to these people and listen to their complaints, even if they come from a minority voice. We have no doubt, considering the excellent job he did to his constituency in his first coming 2011-2015 and now, his words, as the proverbial saying goes, can be taken to the bank.
As we approach 2023, politicians, including Hon UBK, understand the importance of an alliance. There is no better time to do this than now. And I am sure he needs the rural areas to launch his return to the National Assembly.
Kabiru Danladi Lawanti wrote from the Department of Mass Communication, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, via email@example.com.