Department Of Public Administration
Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic,
Unwana, Ebonyi State.
This paper focuses on strategies that can be adopted by Local Government Councilors, who are Ward Representatives in the present day political arrangement in Nigeria, to enable them represent their people effectively. The paper identified the fact that ward representation in Nigerian government and politics is fraught with inefficiency and ineffectiveness perhaps because of inability to adopt enabling strategies. The pa highlights some practical strategies – ranging from organizing various forms of meetings to the establishment of constituency offices which W Representatives (Councilors) can use for effective representation, paper identified the fact that effective ward representation is cap intensive and therefore calls for about 40 percent increase in the allowances payable to Councilors across the country to enable them establish Constituency Offices and engage in constituency projects as is the case v representatives at the national level. A historical research method ‘ adopted for this work and as a result, the library formed the major source of information used for the work.
The beauty of democratic government lies in its representative nature. Representation in this regard, entails that the interests, opinion values, and motives of particular group of people are presented, promo and protected by their representative(s) in government.
To achieve a balanced and sustained political system, there must be a coherent arrangement whereby the vat and interest of the people from the basis of policy formulation and implementation. This intrinsically shapes and guides the political behaviour of people at any given point in time. The degree to which this is attained coupled with the general responsiveness and the adaptation of the system marks the inherent variations in political system (Oji and Okafor, 2003:93)
This is the essence of representation. All citizens cannot be heard at the same time by the authorities, neither can they present themselves individually to be heard and attended to, hence the need for a representative to act on their behalf. A representative therefore, should be able to act and speak on behalf of the people that elected or appointed him. Doing this means ‘feeling the feelings’ of the people and taking steps towards pacifying them.
Unfortunately, however, constituents in Nigeria complain heavily of total abandonment by their representatives in government. The common complaints nation-wide is that after election, representatives at all levels of governance rarely go back to the electorate, unless however during reelection periods. One constituent was once quoted as saying that the only time since 1999 he felt the presence of all his representatives at all levels of governance was during the electioneering campaign that year.
In effect, the people being represented are not adequately informed of how they are being represented: whether their interests are being protected and promoted or not, whether or not they are linked with higher authorities, etc. Thus, the gap between the constituents and their representative is very wide.
A representative may be doing very well. He might be adequately representing his constituency. He might even be portraying their interests, but if they are not made to be aware of this,’ it is the same as not being represented at all. Representation is akin to agency the representative being the agent and the people represented, the principal. One of the main duties an agent owes his principal is constant briefing. Just as agent acts as a middleman between his principal and his clients, a representative should act as a middleman between his constituents and the government. The representative is elected to represent the interest and opinions of his people.
As earlier on pointed out, the gap between the representative and the represented in Nigeria is very wide. The reason could be as a result of poor or no strategies at all on the part of the representatives. This paper therefore, aims at outlining strategies that ward representatives (mainly Councilors) can use to ensure effective representation. The paper first looked at the meaning and nature of the key word in the title strategy. It also highlighted the place of the ward in the present political party structure in Nigeria.
Meaning and Nature of Strategy:
The word strategy originated from the Greek word strategos which literally is used to refer to the role played by a General in the army. It later came to mean “art of the general” or “generalship”, that is, – the skills of any general. Today, strategy is used extensively in the military and business organizations as well as in politics. In the military, it refers to the large-scale planning and directing of operations during wartime as well as peacetime. In business, it refers to broad, overall deployment of a firm’s resources to achieve objectives. As Appleby (1981:49) puts it, “strategies are broad programmes of activity to achieve organization objectives. They are guides as to how resources are to be deployed to achieve the objectives”. Strategy therefore, concerns itself with how objectives can be achieved. It then follows that after objectives have been established or determined; methods on how they are to be achieved are outlined. These methods are the strategies. This is why Mintzberg (1978:934) describes strategy “as a pattern in a stream of decisions”. Weihrich and Koontz (1994:169) define strategy as ‘the determination of purpose (or mission) and the basic long term objectives of an enterprise and the adoption of course of action and allocation of resources to achieve these aims”. They went on to identify the following points that must be put into consideration if strategies are to be
(a) Communicating strategies to all key stakeholders: it does little good to formulate meaningful strategies unless they are communicated to all those who are in a position to make decisions on programmes and plans designed to implement them. Strategies should be communicated in writing and it is important that everybody involved in implementing strategies understood them.
(b) Developing and communicating planning premise: the individual mapping out strategies must develop premise critical to plans and decisions, explain them to all stakeholders.
(c) Ensuring that action plans contribute to and reflect major objectives and strategies. If action plans do not reflect desired objectives and strategies, the result will be vague hopes or useless intention.
(d) Reviewing strategies regularly: even carefully developed strategies may cease to be suitable if conditions change. Therefore, they should be reviewed from time to time, at least quarterly.
(e) Developing contingency strategies and programmes: if considerable change in competitive factors or in other elements in the environment may occur, strategies for such contingencies should be formulated.
Thus, strategy is the link between means and ends. Quin (1988:13) suggests five angles from which strategy can be seen. These include strategy as plan, ploy, pattern, position, and perspective (5ps).
As a plan, strategy is seen as a consciously constructed course of action or guideline to achieve an end. This entails planning in advance and a purposeful action.
As a ploy, strategy refers to a maneuver intended to outwit an opponent or competitor.
As a pattern, strategy is taken to mean consistency in behaviour.
As a position, strategy indicates where an organization locates itself in terms of its environment. Here, strategy conveys the idea that the person marking out strategies seeks to maintain a sustainable advantage.
As a perspective, strategy is inward looking in its environment. Every strategy is an invention, conceived as intentions to regulate behaviour before it takes place.
Nigerian Political Structure: The Place of the Ward
Nigeria, at present practices the executive presidential system of (democratic) government, with three levels or tiers of government at the federal, state and local. The structure of representation in the country is arranged in the following manner
The Entire Country
The Senatorial Zones
The entire country as a political entity has am elected President as its representative. Each of the 36 States forms a constituency from which a governor emerges. Each State is divided into three zones, each forming a senatorial district, with a Senator representing each of the Zones. Local Governments are either merged or left as a whole, based on certain criteria, to form Federal Constituencies, with a Member of Parliament representing each constituency. The State constituencies are made up of local governments, either divided or left as a whole, depending again on a criterion. State Legislators represent each of the state constituencies: State Houses of Assembly. Elected councilors are the representatives’ wards, which are carved from the local governments.
Structurally speaking, the ward is an administrative district town or local government area. According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, a ward is “a division of a city, etc. that elects; represented by a councilor in local government”. In Nigeria, each produces a councilor. As it is well known, councilors from the vi wards in a Local Government Area form the legislative arm of the Government
The ward is the smallest constituency in the political arrangement in Nigeria. The ward is very important in Nigerian government and (because it is the closest to the electorate. Thus, if the about 3,000 wards in Nigeria are effectively represented, it will not only ensure development, but will also make sure that all the nooks and crannies country have a say in government.
Suggested Strategies for Effective Ward Representation
The political Head of a ward is the Councilor representing ward in the Local Government Council. The strategies suggested he meant to be adopted by the councilors. For effective ward represent the following strategies are recommended:
a. Regular Meetings with Stakeholders in the Ward
Meeting, as we know, involves the sharing of opinions, views, and among the persons attending such meeting. For effective representation is imperative that the councilors should be in constant consultation w following identified groups in their constituencies:
(i) Town Union Executives: The Town Union is a very imp institution in a given town or village. It articulates and promote interests of the people for the overall development of the area. The Union is the mouthpiece of the town. If the councilor meets on regular basis with the executive members of the Town Union, it will afford hi opportunity to know the pressing needs of his people, articulate san take necessary steps towards meeting the needs either by present]] demands to the Council and the State Government or by meeting the directly. Such a meeting with the town Union Executives should quarterly basis.
(ii) Ward Party Executive: Ordinarily, the political party ward level is responsible for the selection and/or election ward representatives. The Councilor therefore, owes his party in the ward the obligation of feedback. The Councilor must prove himself that he is representing the party very well. The Councilor should always, bear at the back of his mind that the party at the ward level can champion his removal, through the process of recall. Such regular meeting will also afford the party at the ward level the opportunity of reminding the Councilor the need to always be in tune win the manifesto of the party. It is suggested that the meeting with the party ward executive should be monthly
(iii)Ward Party Congress: The Congress at the ward level is the highest decision-making body of the t and is made up of the party members in the ward. It is the Ward Congress that nominates and elects party representative for elections at the ward level The Councilors being a product of the ward congress is bound by law and nature to always consult the Ward Congress, and regularly five account of his stewardship to members of the ward. Such a meeting will afford the councilor the opportunity to tell the Congress how he has fared, the challenges and prospects it will also afford the congress members the chance to let their representative know what they expect from him/her. Meeting with Ward Congress should be an annual affair.
(iv) Traditional Rulers-in council. Traditional rulers are the custodians of the people’s culture in some cases, a ward has two or more autonomous communities and in others just one.
In whichever cases, the important point is that the Councilors should be, on regular basis, consulting with the traditional ruler(s)-in-council so as to work hand-in-grove with the Council for the social, economic and cultural enlistment of the ward.
(v) Religious Leaders: These are the important members of ward.
A councilor should be able to initiate the’ formation of a Religious Leaders Forum the ward so that he can regularly meet with the member such meetings, the Councilor should be able to let the leaders know what he has done and what he plans to do should also be able to listen to the leaders and hear what they expect from him. This meeting is very important because religious leaders are shapers of behaviours and opinion If religious leaders are convinced that the councilor is Performing up to expectation the idea is sold to the members of their congregation. In the same vein, if by their own assessment, the councilor is not performing well the congregation is also made to know. The meeting of religious leaders should be on quarterly basis.
(vi) The Youth: The youths are the leaders of tomorrow and mm recognized by any level of administrative arrangement councilor owes the youths in his ward, the obligation of told how their interests are being promoted and protects the council and other levels of government. It is against background that it is suggested here that councilors should at least on quarterly basis, organize meetings with the youth in their constituencies.
(b) Establishing Constituency Office:
Constituency Office is a bureau established by a represents from where he provides information and facts on his activities and w information on how he can be reached is obtained. It is usually situated location in the constituency. Constituency Office is not new in Nigeria government and politics, what is new however, is that it is not practicing at the ward levels. Senators, House of Representative members, and State legislators have constituency offices. A constituency office should be well equipped and staffed. It should have equipment such as computers, photocopiers, telephone services (where applicable) and newspaper magazines and other relevant materials.
A Constituency Office will serve the following functions toward representative:
(a) Since it is not possible to reach everybody at the same time, facts information on how the people are being represented can be got from office by anybody who wishes to know. Such facts like what is going the Council, the plans of the Councilor, etc. can be collected from such office. Persons who are not able to attend meetings to hear directly from councilor can always visit the constituency office for facts. Again, the meetings suggested in this paper can also take place in the constitute office of the Councilor.
(b) Appointments and interviews with the councilor can be arranged i constituency office.
(c) The Councilor should be able to have a fixed day in a week when hi always be available in the office to attend to his constituents and their questions.
Feedback is a control measure that ensures that administrator politicians alike do not derail from their focus. According to the Encarta Dictionary, feedback refers to comments in the form of opinions about, and reaction to something intended to provide useful information for future decisions and development. In this case, it is information given in a response to a councilor’s performance, used as a framework for improvement. In business organizations, inputs are allocated to operations that is functional activities to be performed. Based on these functional activities, standards are established and supervision is undertaken. The net result is the desired outputs products or services for the organization’s customers and departments. In the process of providing the desired outputs, the feedback from ongoing operations compares actual results against standards set earlier in the control process. If the feedback discloses that operations conform to standards set previously, no problem. However, if the feedback shows significant deviations from the established standards, some form of corrective measures is needed to improve the situations, not only for ongoing but also for future operations.
In the same vein, ward representatives can employ some feedback mechanism. In fact, this is the essence of the Constituency Office and the various meetings suggested in this paper. From the various meetings, consultations, opinions, etc. the Councilor would be able to know if he is representing to expectation of his constituents or not. If he is, no problem, but where he is not, he takes corrective measures. Thus feedback supplies the representative with the information needed to improve performance.
(d) Ensuring the Physical Development of the Ward:
To ensure effective ward representation, councilors should ensure a broad base reorganization and mobilization of the people in their wards so as to enhance the capacity to cope effectively with the daily task of rural or local lives. Secondly, councilors should ensure a real and sustained development of their areas by sponsoring by-laws that will positively affect the lives of their people. If this is done, it will lead to the identifying and exploring of natural resources in their wards, creating job opportunities and developing rural roads. This will invariably lead to the development of larger markets and other incidental social amenities.
In addition, ward representatives should attempt to entice business firms and encourage rural enterprises to invest in diverse spheres of rural development, while they should as well lobby local and state governments to provide good quality and well distributed access roads, water, electricity, etc.
This paper has been able to identify that ward constituents complain heavily of not being adequately represented by their Councilors, hence the paper highlighted some strategies if adopted by the Councilors will ensure effective representation. The writer is not unaware of the heavy financial burden these strategies if adopted will have on the representatives. In order to take care of this, the State Governments should map out an additional amount, about 40 percent of monthly allowances of Councilors, to be used by the councilors for the execution of constituency projects, as it is obtainable with the representatives in the National Assembly. With this added amount, councilors will be able to establish, equip and staff their Constituency Offices, liaise effectively with Local Government Councils and other levels of government, organize various meetings, provide certain limited amenities all to ensure effective representation. The representatives themselves should be responsive and responsible as well as accountable to avoid been recalled by their constituents. It is the belief of this paper that if these steps are taken, the era of ineffective ward representation will be a thing of the past.
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