By Chioma Okwudiafor
They say everything that has a beginning must have an end: I beg to disagree. In some cases, the end is just the beginning. So to those who say the 2011 Batch A Legislative Internship Programme has ended, I say it is beginning of long lasting friendships and shared ideals!
Still, I have to admit it was hard to say goodbye after the debriefing session held in Ota from 16th to 18th October, 2011. When I signed up for the programme, I had no idea it would come to mean so much to me. Orientation was cool but I guess we were just getting to know one another so parting ways for our various assemblies didn’t really hurt.
Internship at the Lagos House of Assembly was super cool.
Six of us, interns, were posted to the Assembly. Picture this: Six bright young minds eager to discover the world of legislative matters, or so we thought until the stench of bureaucracy hit us hard in the face on the first day. “Come back tomorrow” gave birth to “Come back tomorrow, Oga cannot see you”… Two days of frustrated efforts! We decided to act smart and attend our first plenary session. We got lucky as one of us met with the legislator from his constituency who announced our presence on the floor of the House.
We were later assigned to the six units in the legislative matters directorate: Admin/Research, Chamber, Committee, Parliamentary Education, Bills, and Vetting. A time table was drawn up as well as a rotation plan. Did we learn? Of course, but the truth is that most of the time we had to find our way around, otherwise we were left to our own devices. Our stay comprised mostly of attendance of plenary sessions during which we witnessed at least four major bills become laws in the state, albeit they were executive bills.
One of the things I found interesting about the Lagos Assembly was the presence of very active female legislators. Nothing could have impressed and encouraged a young lady like me more. It would seem that the Assembly has a tradition of encouraging young people to participate in parliamentary processes. Every Tuesday, students from institutions around the state are invited to observe sittings and given general lectures on the workings of the parliament. They are also given a copy of “Lagos State House of Assembly at a glance”. These are very commendable initiatives.
Fast forward to the debriefing in Ota.
I am seated in my study, one bright afternoon and a phone call comes in from ALF. “As part of your debriefing activities, an intern is to be hosted to a live interview on Channels Television. Would you be available to talk about your LIP experience?” I confirm my availability amidst a flurry of emotions-excitement, pensiveness, elation, worry. It is my first time on a live TV programme. I could hardly afford to flop. I was expected to share my experience and I wondered what I would say. Well, the interview turned out alright. I got “5 minutes of fame” as I recounted my experience and encouraged young Nigerians to apply for the LIP next year (ALF should expect a huge leap in applications next year!)
During the debriefing session, the lectures on “Leadership and Development” by Mr Ayo Aderinwale and “Politics, Issues and Values” by Hon. Farouk Aliyu, literally set the hall on fire. We became fierce change makers committed to playing our individual roles in the evolution of a new Nigeria. Looking back, I can only hope that more Nigerian youths will take advantage of the LIP and learn a thing or two about our parliamentary processes.
Chioma Okwudiafor is a 2007 Law graduate of the University of London and a student member of The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations. An avid reader and writer, she is widely travelled, adventurous and has a passion for learning new languages in her spare time. She is involved in community initiatives geared towards youth development. Chioma is currently an intern at the Lagos State House of Assembly under the ALF’s Legislative Internship Programme