Direct Citizens, Local Government Engagement will Promote Democracy at the Grassroots - Yiaga Africa
As part of efforts to promote democracy at the Grassroots level, Yiaga Africa is facilitating direct engagement between interest groups and Local Government Officials in selected Local Government Areas in Sokoto State through the Peoples’ Assembly.
The People's Assembly, which was established in March 2022 in Sokoto and Lagos States by Yiaga Africa under its Turn Up Democracy project, hosted a two-day retreat with members of the Assembly and representatives from three local government areas - Sokoto South, Bodinga, and Wamakko - in Sokoto state.
The People's Assembly is an organized group of people who can engage with their local government areas on different issues in order to effect positive change in their communities. This is part of efforts to support and promote democratic governance at the Local Government level while facilitating engagement with representatives from the government in the people's assembly.
Speaking during the event, Yiaga Africa’s Program Manager for Governance and Development, Ibrahim Faruk reiterated the importance of consistent and direct engagement between Local Government officials and interest groups in the state, especially within the local community. This, according to him, will foster collaborations and can inform policy decisions that respond to the yearnings and aspirations of citizens at the grassroots level.
He explained that the goal is to promote legitimacy in policy decisions and citizens' trust in public leadership at the Local Government level.
“Democracy is about citizens giving authority to a few others to represent and make decisions on issues that affect them. Therefore, it is important to be deliberate in the practice of our civic rights as well as political participation, as our elected leaders are there to make decisions for us,” he said.
During the experience sharing by the participants, Abdulhakeem Kabir from Sokoto South LGA stated that “lack of local government autonomy, incompetent political candidates, and unfair bureaucracy in the political sector truncates the progress of our democracy.” He recommended that local government politicians should close the communication gaps between them and their constituents. According to Kabir, this grassroots level of government must be ready at all times to listen to and work for the good of their people.
Also commenting on the issues raised by the People's Assembly groups in each LGA, Shittu Goronyo blamed poverty as the root of all the issues. He added that banditry, unfinished education which causes ‘Area boy-ism,’ and illiteracy are all a result of poverty faced by many communities.
“If we empower our youths and our women, then they will better make a living for themselves and avoid all these issues that affect our society,” he recommended.
Speaking on sustainability plans for the Peoples’ Assembly, Yiaga Africa’s Program Officer, Olaniyan Sanusi advised the members of the executive council of the People's Assembly to establish formal and cordial relationships with their local government representatives.
“This way, you bridge the communication gap between the people and the decision-makers,” he advised.
He also emphasized the importance of collaboration by encouraging the groups to always seek out and partner with interest groups in their communities, as this makes their work easier and improves their information needs.
The People's Assembly commenced in March in 3 local government areas each in Lagos and Sokoto states in order to promote equal participation of diverse groups through debates and consensus-building on issues affecting respective communities, so as to inform governmental actions and policies in selected local governments.
The People's Assembly is implemented under the TurnUpDemocracy project supported by the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) and is part of efforts to bridge the gap between citizens and the government. The aim of the TurnUpDemocracy project is to find areas of improvement in the practice of our democracy, especially as it relates to grassroots citizens' engagement.