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Accepted Paper:

Shall we break down these gates of brass? Constituency service and the substance of national-subnational legislative public engagement in Nigeria  
Temitayo Odeyemi (University of Leeds)

Paper short abstract:

Using constituency service as both a means of facilitating public connection with legislative institutions, and as an end for elite-citizen linkages, the paper explores how legislators shape public knowledge, understanding, and (dis)connection with legislatures in Nigeria.

Paper long abstract:

The question of how legislatures develop and implement public engagement is fast becoming a key element of political representation theory and practice. In Africa, research in this area has focussed largely on individual legislators, interrogating how their constituency engagements - as ends in themselves - are interpreted by constituents; and how these relate to public perceptions, trusts, and expectations. Constituency service, particularly in terms of how it serves as means to influence or mediate citizens’ knowledge, understanding and (dis)connection with legislative institutions, is grossly underexplored. This leaves significant gaps in knowledge of how the institutional representative roles of legislatures have evolved, and how these play out in the milieu of the institutions’ public engagement activities. This paper thus uses a multilevel governance approach to explore the roles of legislators’ constituency service in the institutional dimension of public engagement. It draws on months of doctoral fieldwork about legislative public engagement (LPE) at the national and subnational levels in Nigeria, involving interviews, observations, and surveys. It problematises how elements of constituency service, such as constituency offices, as well as informal and formal interactions with constituents serve as channels of citizens’ connection with the institutions, and what factors influence these. This paper argues that the nature of politics in Africa provides both opportunities and constraints for legislature-public connections. It enlightens theoretical understanding about how constituency service provides a means of facilitating public connections with legislatures, and how peculiarities of legislatures at different levels, in turn, influence constituency service towards advancing democratic development.

Panel Poli15
Lawmakers' constituency service in Africa: fostering accountability, development, and democracy?
  Session 1 Thursday 1 June, 2023, -