Thursday, January 9, 2014

Good Governance And Democratic Development As Trajectories For Socio-Economic Growth In Nigeria By Kayode Oladele


The Nigerian democracy is gasping for breath not only because of the poor performance by the political leaders but also because the people have been compromised! I would explain. While those that have been considered leaders have fallen short of our expectations and many cannot in good conscience be regarded as such, the ordinary man, common man or the people have also malfunctioned in a number of ways often justified by poverty, illiteracy or ethnicity.
First is the Monetization of politics and economy. The Nigerian politics is very lucrative and has therefore become a business activity. To contest for positions such as those of the president, governor, legislator, local government chairman or even a councillor, you must either be loaded or have a “godfather”. You either need to borrow massively from the bank or rely on someone, to bankroll your campaigns. Whatever the case, the money must be returned to the source. In Nigeria, we know that godfathers don’t bankroll a candidate for nothing, there is always a string attached. The tragedy is that some of the people are willing to sell their votes which represent their future for as low as  =N=5,000,($31) =N=2,000 ($12), or even =N=1,000 ($6). It is no news that votes are bought for as low as =N=500 ($3) or even with a pint-size portion of rice! With the buying of mandate, political office holders have no social contract with the people to improve their economic well-being. Who suffers? The people! Also, because of what has been termed “representational corruption”, Nigerian politicians earn far more than their colleagues in more developed societies like the UK and India. All this means that the funds that ordinarily should have been available for catering for the economic well-being of the people are reduced.

Second is the tragedy of avoidance of politics by some of the best brains in Nigeria. Nigeria does not have a dearth of thinking individuals who truly have the interest of the country at heart. The problem is that most of these people avoid politics. Where are the intellectuals? You hear them say, “It’s a dirty game” and that they don’t want to stain their hard earned reputations. This has not been helpful as can be seen in the crop of leaders that rule the country today. Nigeria indeed has and can produce better leaders. Again, good governance can only be championed by a ruling class that is developmental in every sense of the word. Therefore, our good materials must be encouraged to come out to salvage the country in every stratum of government the lack of which at the moment injures the prospects for good governance while also contributing to the impoverishment of Nigerians.

Third, good governance is again harmed by the ease at which people resort to violence. Political violence is becoming a habit in Nigeria. With violence, good governance becomes a secondary consideration in political chess game. A leading scholar simply captures it as “violence against democracy”. Today, violence (including the use of bombs) is now an instrument that is deployed for group and individual interest. For the political class, the habit of violence is one where political competition amounts to what Claude Ake referred to as “warfare” to the extent that almost all the politically motivated murders in Nigeria are still unresolved!

At the level of the people, violence is also becoming rampant as buttressed by mob actions and violent ethno-religious conflicts. This was the case in Jos and Niger. Today, the Boko Haram violence has made the worth of the Nigerian life trivial to a point that people are no longer moved with news headlines of tens of deaths. Violence thus diminishes good governance and also undermines human development.

Four is the absence of issue-based politics. With the massive developmental challenges facing the country, it is pathetic that issues of zoning and clandestine term agreements are enjoying the attention of contenders and their followers. What sense is in zoning in the midst of poverty, hunger and disease? Does poverty have an ethnic name that makes it only Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo? Good governance is driven by minds that are less concerned with petty issues of state of origin and other sectarian considerations.

Five is the issue of corruption. Along with the Boko Haram crisis, the fight against corruption is the most important fight in today’s Nigeria even though, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and sister organizations are doing their bit and could do more with the support of the judiciary, the people and the civil society. Corruption, if left unchallenged will destabilize a country’s efforts at fighting poverty and hinder economic growth and development.  According to Mahmoud Moustafa of the World Bank fame, “empirical studies show that countries with better redistribution of wealth enjoy longer periods of economic development ... and countries suffering from corruption cannot implement sound redistribution policies and thus are not expected to take benefit from sustainable economic development despite embarking upon economic growth from time to time for some reason or the other”.
Thus countries that have low corruption index enjoy positive growth and development by providing greatest happiness for the greatest number of the people while harmful consequence is the case in a country with high corruption index.  In addition, countries with high corruption index also experiences dysfunctional institutions, unfair and unequal treatments and constant encroachment of the rule of law.

Six is the problem of ethnicity. I must say that ethnicity in its self is not a bad thing if it promotes healthy competition among the groups that make up the Nigerian state. But it has historically been a justification for violence, promotion of redundancy and bad governance. People have been killed for no other reason than by the fact that they are from another ethnic group. Mediocre and run of the mills individuals have been retained in public offices for no other reason than the ethnic group that they represent all in the name of satisfying the federal character thereby depriving the country of quality leadership based on merits.

Conclusion: What Role for the People and their Leaders?
I would conclude by stating that while good governance aid the economic well-being of the people, it is critical for both the people and their leaders to take certain actions. The leaders by now know what they should do as represented in the need to prioritise the economic well-being of the people, promote the democratisation of the polity through the strengthening of institutions and embracing transparency and accountability. Leaders should commit themselves to ensuring good governance at all levels. The legislature must strive to gain the support of the people by becoming proactive in its   promotion of good governance. The legislators in the performance of their oversights functions should watch the executive and ensure that good policies are implemented for the benefit of the people.

For the people, they must also become proactive. Civil society Organizations and community based organizations as representatives of the people should strengthen good governance from below by providing the people with the tools they need to question and take charge of their future.  The media must also continue to hold the government accountable to the people while Traditional rulers should avoid confirming chieftaincy titles on corrupt politicians or their cronies who don’t have any feasible means of livelihood other than being friends of political office holders or their spouses. The intellectual class should also take up the challenge of providing a critical intellectual opposition to government. Specifically, they should constantly engage the government on policies and actions that will boost the socio-economic well being of the people and thereby enhance our democratic development.
Being the excerpts of a paper delivered in Lagos recently

Source: Sahara  Reporters