The legislative institution of contemporary Imo state should under normal circumstances perform all the basic functions of a representative assembly legislation, oversight and representation. Specifically, their functions include law making, approval of executive policies, confirmation of appointments, budgets and appropriation, oversight over government agencies, representation and education of the people, removal of erring public office holders at the highest level, etc. They are, however, bedevilled by a number of problems that have continued to limit their role as effective instruments of participatory democracy and limited government.
There are other problems that are fall outs of the peculiarities of our legislative institutions on the one hand and the dynamics of government and politics of the state on the other hand that require close scrutiny for a better appreciation of their conditions of powerlessness, helplessness and hopelessness.
The viability of any legislature is a function of its position and relevance, within the institutional architecture of the state in relation to other arms of the government, notably the executive. The relevance of the legislature in any political system, is therefore, a function of the dynamics of its relationships to other arms of government. It is in the examination of such patterns of relations, both mutual and acrimonious, between these two (political) organs of government that the strengths and weaknesses of the legislature become obvious.
The twin-legacy of incumbent party in power politics and corruption have weakened the Imo state legislature vis-a-vis the executive arm of the government. Personalised one-party rule in Imo has negatively impacted on the institutional capacity of the legislature vis-à-vis the executive arm of government which has remained strong, corrupting and absolutely controlling. The ‘many failings’ of the legislature in its inability to serve as an effective counterweight to the executive have been identified by legislators themselves.
An assessment of the Imo legislature found a positive correlation between the low academic and professional qualifications of its members and the houses performance. The Imo Assembly has been variously viewed by successive incumbent governors as an ‘irrelevant talking shop’, the ‘weakest link in the making of public policy’, and ‘an unnecessary luggage that has to be grudgingly carried along’ in the business of ‘absolute’ governance. Generally, they are mostly denied effective participation in financial and public policy. Attempts by the legislature to assert their relevance are often viewed as indications of serious intra governmental conflicts with the attendant stress on the entire state political system.
Manipulation of parliament by Governors is not a peculiarity to Imo alone, what makes the situation precarious in Imo is the members induced lack of proper capacity for effective discharge of their constitutional functions. In most cases, they lack independence, adequate resources and effective procedures for scrutinizing the executive through debates, parliamentary questions, investigations, etc. Severe resource scarcity and lack of financial autonomy, and moral crisis of public administration generally have reinforced the ‘relative institutional dwarfing’ of the state legislature compared to the almighty power of the Government house.
Because they are not self-accounting, they are starved of needed funds by the executive and individual legislators are forced to depend on the executive for patronage in contracts/consultancy and for key appointments in government for themselves and their cronies, which invariably compromise their oversight duties.
The Imo legislature has been weakened by successive governments and further weakened by the legacy of legislative subservience to executive control which has remained entrenched. Their effectiveness as mechanisms for popular control of governments have been threatened by patrimonial one-party or one party dominance rule.
Despite the enormous powers they possess under the constitution, they, in reality, exercise little authority. A combination of the ever growing power of the executive, political parties with effective machinery of control and discipline, intra-legislature crises, and a hostile external environment have further reinforced the institutional weakness.
Na so we see am.
Duruebube Uzii na Abosi