Elections are among the characteristic features of any liberal democracy. By 507 B C, the Athenian Leader; Cleisthenes, had introduced a system of political reforms he called ‘demokratia’, which meant rule by the people. Demokratia ,when translated, implied rule of the people through their chosen representatives.
In Nigeria, through various constitutional conferences and delegations, ‘demokratia’ got berthed on 1st October, 1960, when the British Union Jack was lowered and in its place the Nigerian Green-White-Green Flag was hoisted.
One major sustainable source of assurance democracy draws from is the inalienable rights of the people, that is the electorate, to judge and determine if their elected representatives are worth their confidence or otherwise.
Expectations of the electorate from their representatives may vary from one political clime to another. The projections would, however, be contingent upon such factors as; intellectual development of the electorate, level of industrialization of the society, the strength of the rule of law, security and gross domestic product.
Here in Nigeria, owing to their unique experiences, it seems to appear that a good number of the electorate has lost confidence in representative leadership.
A society that is embedded in abject penury will hardly have confidence in its elected leadership. In the first instance, for one to be elected a leader, one must not only appreciate the predicaments of one’s society but must have the capacity to pull one’s people from poverty to prosperity.
This is why the electorate must, of necessity, be able to know and appreciate , at any given time, the pedigree and quality of aspirants who seek their mandate. An electorate that mistakenly gives it’s mandate to a pipsqueak should not complain later of having weak and ineffective representative.
Apart from general incapacity on the part of many representatives, many of them develop wings and fly away from the electorate no sooner than they had been elected. All the promises made by many elected representatives during electioneering campaigns are forgotten as soon as they are elected and sworn-in.
It is this scenario that has avoidably led to loss of confidence among the electorate. No doubt, this loss is a major threat to democracy in Nigeria.
As a Governor in Abia State, it is well known that Senator T A Orji rolled out a variety of empowerment programmes. Because of trust he, ordinarily, should have in his close aides, he released most of the empowerment materials by proxy.
Unfortunately, many of those who had been trusted with the responsibility of making sure the empowerment items reached their targeted destinations, allowed selfishness to overshadow their mission. It was not a good experience.
In Umuahia-Central State Constituency, there is a dynamic young politician that, out of studied experience of what happened to his father and immediate past Governor of Abia State; Senator T A Orji, has successfully introduced a paradigm shift in the relationship between a representative and the electorate.
The politician under review is the Member representing the good people of Umuahia-Central State Constituency and the Majority Leader in Abia State House of Assembly, Engr Chinedu Orji.
Relying on the wisdom that once beaten, twice shy, Engr Orji introduced what he calls ‘Direct Touch’.
By this Direct Touch approach in dealing with the electorate in his constituency, Engr Chinedu Orji now relates directly with any or every member of Umuahia-Central State Constituency.
He has completely jettisoned the idea of reaching any member of his constituency by proxy or delegation. Whoever has a need for his attention now gets it straight from Engr Orji.
Through this systematic pragmatic approach, Engr Orji has been able to assist not only several individual members of his constituency but equally the Various communities, groups and organizations in the constituency.
Engr Orji has succeeded in establishing many life-touching projects for his constituents.
His scholarship programme for students from the constituency has directly affected in the most positive manner such students.
His vision for the youths of Umuahia-Central State Constituency has translated to the youths being trained and empowered in various skills.
Engr Orji does not leave any sector of his constituency’s economy unattended. He spreads his Direct Touch approach to the health, trade and investment and even churches.
Yet, Engr Orji gives maximum attention to his primary duties of representation, law making and oversight functions.
Engr Chinedu Orji has brought an innovation into the relationship between the ruler and the ruled. He has, therefore, bridged the dangerous communication gap between the representative and the electorate.
A random poll on Umuahia-Central State Constituency today shows that the collective confidence of the electorate has been rekindled and come 2019 election, their vibrant youthful representative will have their overwhelming support for his re-election into the State House of Assembly.
Politicians from other constituencies in Abia State and even beyond are advised to take a cue from Engr Orji’s Direct Touch approach and, by so doing, enhance their relationship with the electorate and, therefore, deepen our ‘demokratia’.
Okwubunka of Asa.