Citizen Participation in Governance and Inclusive Prosperity in Nigeria



    This presentation is a synthesis of the contents of the books I have written. I have drawn largely from my experience in representation, and legislative processes. As a citizen-participant and observer of real live interactions of human activities, I shared in the common aspirations, and expectations in Nigeria and ‘am affected by the corresponding disappointments which result in inarticulate reactionary despairs, in form of agitations, violence, militancy, and terrorism. Because the causative issues of concern of the citizens as constituents bypass legislators they elected, it is symptomatic of ineffective sovereign representation of the constituents by their respective parliaments which are constitutionally responsible to represent the disaffection of respective constituents as citizens. When citizens are unsatisfied with their life outcomes, they feel trapped in hopelessness, yet within them are deposits of dormant wealth their nation requires for social progress.

    First let us examine The Purpose of government, from Chapter Two, Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria [1999 as amended]. The 14th Clause states as follow:

    (1) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.

    (2) It is hereby, accordingly, declared that –

    (a) Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority;

    (b) The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government; and

    (c) The participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.”

    This is similar to the following quotation from the American Declaration of Independence [1776] to demonstrate democracy as a universal value:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    American Declaration of Independence 1776

    How does this constitutional obligation as the purpose of the government work out? Let us examine the nature and the process of citizens’ participation. This begins with the formation of political parties with the intent to provide the citizens with ideas and methodology for the solutions of constituents issues of concern and provide ideas and directive principles known as ideology which enable the articulation of solutions to the issues of concern to the citizens and how to best respond to those issues. Because it is supposed to be an idea consortium, it provides platform for those who share convergent ideas, to gather around convergent ideas. The gathering is around an ideology not a gathering around a personality. It is a cult of ideas not a personality cult. Moreover, because the democratic system provides the opportunity to form as many platforms as necessary, a democratic community is in essence a multi-party community. These leave no one behind. Indeed, the democratic community goes further to allow independent candidates who have innovative ideas but cannot find those sufficiently committed to form a political party with him. He can come to the citizens of the community and directly sell the ideas. However, political parties remain the most efficient marketers of political and social change ideas. How political parties can ensure good governance are as follow:

    · Understanding the Issues of Concern, to the citizens and presenting the most competitive and innovative solutions to the electorate, if accepted at the polls the solutions presented become the manifesto, the promise. These promises become constituents’ expectation.

    · Candidate selection process through party primaries then becomes idea competition on how best to deliver the political party’s agenda if elected. Through intensive public presentations and debates, the party’s leaders and members decide who has best demonstrated knowledge of the issues of concern and communicated to the public and the party’s general membership a commanding vision that can win at the general elections.

    · If the party wins the election, political organs at the appropriate levels must ensure the delivery of service and policy outcomes congruent to the expectation of the electorate. Those elected must meet the expectations of those who voted, according to the promises made.

    · A defeat at the polls is either a defeat of ideas or a defeat of the personality conveying the political party’s ideas. Either way, the party must do an election postmortem, refine ideas, and strategize for two major activities. [i] Helping the electorate to hold those elected accountable, [ii] Redefine and innovate the party’s central ideas and core ideological principles.

    Next are the electoral campaigns, and as I reflected on the gubernatorial campaigns in Oyo State in 2003 I remembered vividly Late Chief Lamidi Adedibu leading his thousands of supporters to the Government Secretariat to as he framed it ‘eject’ the then incumbent Governor, Late Chief Lamidi Adesina from office, and Chief Peter Fayose also leading his thousand during the recently concluded election in Ekiti State. What came to mind is the story of Mr. Demetrius and the silver smiths of Arthemis of Ephesus also known as Diana as recorded in the the Biblical Book of Acts of the Apostles is a lucid narrative of how the strategy of contemporary politicians works and the motive that drives it. Listen as I quote:

    “A man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines

    of Artemis, brought no little business to the artisans. These he

    gathered together, with the workers of the same trade, and said,

    “Men, you know that we get our wealth this business. You also see

    and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost the whole of Asia

    this Paul has persuaded and drawn away a considerable number

    of people by saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And

    there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into

    disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis

    will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that

    brought all Asia and the world to worship her.” When they heard

    this, they were enraged and shouted, “Great is Artemis of the

    Ephesians!” The city was filled with the confusion; and people

    rushed together to the theater,…..

    . Meanwhile, some were shouting one thing, some another; for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.’1

    This narrative reveals three strong elements, each sufficiently ennobling for individuals within the crowd to consider a cause important enough to die for. For the crowd the first was religion, this they emphasize by the shout, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”, the second was found in their ethnic pride of being Ephesians, while the third which was the foundation cause – money – in terms of “business” – was completely out of focus, hence the movers and leaders of this campaign would simply be seen as patriots who loved the Ephesians’ City State. What was emphasized in the story is the core of the issue under consideration, that:

    ‘Meanwhile, some were shouting one thing, some another; for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together’.

    This certainly appears like voodoo for how could a people be engaged in processes they do not understand the businesses which drive them, or the purpose for their own engagement and what should be their expectation as reward?

    The next aspect of citizens’ participation is the election of candidates into various offices , and for our purpose under consideration, the legislators. The electoral process may be free and fair and as clearly stated in the Participants’ Statement of the International Conference on Bench –Marking and Self – Assessment for Democratic Parliaments in Paris in March 2010: I quote;

    “ Ensuring the democratic quality of elections is not enough, the representative institutions that emerged from such elections must be both internally democratic and exercise genuine political power to meet citizens’ expectations”

    There is nowhere this is given on a platter of gold nor is it a low hanging fruit. As Mark, S., wrote in “The Riddle of All Constitutions” and I quote; ‘

    “The fact that parliaments are subject to periodic recall is not, of itself, sufficient to justify public power. Democracy demands that state authority be required to justify itself to the citizenry on a continuing basis. To enable this, a democratic polity must include a vigorous “public sphere”…an arena distinct from the institutions of the state in which citizens can come together to define collective goals, shape public policies and evaluate government activity.”

    Mark, S., The Riddle of all Constitutions,

    Therefore people must be organized, and participate with understanding that this political kingdom is for here and now and just as those who believe in God, undergo rigorous spiritual disciplines including belonging and attending regular Church services, Mosques or are devotees of some shrines of deities, those who like Kwame Nkruma stated at the dawn of Ghana’s Independence, that if you seek the Political Kingdom, all other things shall be added. If we consider this advice of and understand inclusive participation in politics and governance, as a necessity for life, we will rigorously ensure we register as members of political parties and participate in the internal democratic processes, such as party primaries,pay your dues, and attend meetings and participate in the decision making processes.

    Now let’s consider the second part of the topic under presentation; Inclusive Prosperity for Nigeria. By inclusiveness I mean no one is left behind including the beggars on the street, the physically challenged. Every citizen being included is the opposite of economic exclusion, but not the concept of inequality. Prosperity in this presentation is not financial affluence, or wealth, but simply what democratic constitutions globally refer to as welfare, wellbeing, happiness, safety and the security of lives and the properties of the citizens. It is a state of wellness, a citizen’s subjective satisfaction with his/her evaluation of life’s outcome. In this respect Inclusive Prosperity is the democratization of wellness, welfare, or wellbeing. It is a state where every citizen are given the opportunity to realize their full potentialities, Agreeing with Albert Einstein ‘All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the Individual.” Thus to democratize wellness, the recognition that sovereignty belongs to the people also means that the content of the Consolidated revenue fund at all levels of government also belongs to the people. To achieve this democratization of wellness, distribution of cash of any part of the funds will not be judicious appropriation. Only one silver bullet is needed: Effective Democratic Representation.

    Effective democratic representation as a silver bullet is a bilateralism of elected legislators performing their constitutional obligations of representations effectively, and citizens performing their social responsibility of inclusive participation in governance as civic duties.

    While the collective expectation of constituents as the electorate is usually nebulous in transitioning democracies, policy outcomes are not. Policy outcomes are fixed around the contribution of the elected representatives in debates which produces passed motions into parliamentary Resolutions. Contribution debates into Bills passed into Acts of the parliament and the presentation of the constituents’ needs through debates with statistics of conditions of his constituents and his constituency which secures budgetary allocations into the passed Appropriation Acts of the parliament.

    The necessity for achieving clarity in constituents’ expectation to assist the elected representatives is the main purpose of writing Effective Representation manual. The content of the manual revolves around twelve major issues of concern in representation inclusiveness and effectiveness.

    The Twelve Silver Bullets For Inclusive Prosperity For Nigeria

    1. Operative Covenantof Democratic Representation

    This enables constituents and stakeholders to monitor and evaluate performance and hold accountable those who have the constitutional obligations to perform functions and leadership roles which determine the quality of life and safety of their constituents.

    Part I: Effective Democratic Representation is the Constitutional Obligation of Elected Legislators. Twelve key functions are identified in the publications am presenting here.

    Part II: It is the Social Responsibility of Citizens to Organize for Inclusive Participation in the Democratic Governance Process, and Demand Policy Outcomes Alignment to Their Issues of Concern. Also twelve key activities are identified in the publications.

    2. Electing Councilors As Resident Representatives With The Mandate To Help Electoralward Communities

    Part I: To Ensure The Integration Of All Levels Of Democratic Representation And Hold All Levels Of Representation Accountable.

    Part II: Helping Ward Communities to ensure they fulfill their social responsibilities for Inclusive Participation as civic duties.

    Part III: To Assist to Identify Constituents Issues of Concern through disaggregation of SDG Monitoring Indicators in the Ward Electoral Constituency and define the context of a Goal and Target in the ward community.

    3. Constituents Must Commit To Essential Social And Political Activism And Participate In Their Representatives’ Constituency Outreach Engagements

    To Participate in Social and Political Activism: A Constituent Should Do One of the Following: I. Join a Political Party, II Join a Non-Partisan Accountability Committee in Your Local Government Area, III. Join or Form a Pressure Group around the Theme of Your Interest or Sustainable Development Goal Club 1-17

    4. Access To Education As A Human Development Driver Which Ensures Inclusive Economic Growth And Social Progress

    Education For All From Early Childhood To The University Education Provision For All: The Three Tier Responsibility Of The Federal, State, And Local Government Education Provision For All

    5. Youth Full Employment Should Be Enforced As A Human Development Driver: which ensures inclusive economic growth and social progress.

    6. Access To Health: Care must be made accessible to all from the Womb to the Grave as a human development driver which ensures inclusive economic growth and social progress.

    7. Infrastructure Master Planning For Implementation By Business: It is absolutely impossible for governments to provide adequate infrastructure in the quality and quantity that the present economy and population require to function optimally. However the politicians would promise they can do the magic and the public has not being questioning the otherwise obvious impracticality. All the State governments that have not being able to pay salaries of their state civil servants have prioritized the payment of their contractors who have paid upfront to secure the contracts and further funded the contracts through bank loans.

    There is insane corruption in the provision processes: it is the first line of political office holders elected or appointee’s rent collection. It is also the main reason most civil servants aspire to directorate cadres in spite of the extremely non-challenging and non-rewarding professional and intellectual ambience of service. The contracts are distributed as patronages and they may not be performed, when performed the quality is usually very poor because in all cases the Contractor has paid up-front to obtain the contract or shared the Mobilization percentage payment with the Public servants and elected Officials.

    After provision, maintenance over a long period is problematic for lack of fund for consistent maintenance regime, and the facility reverts to non-serviceable state – a reconstruction contract is needed again and the cycle continues.

    8. Inclusive Implementation Of The Sustainable Development Goals: Through Effective Representation And Inclusive Participation By All Citizens Through The Formation Of 17 Goal Clubs At The Ward, State, Federal And Senatorial Electoral Constituencies, Each Club Having A Committee For Each Of The Targets Under Its Goal Utilizing The Sustainable Development Goals Implementation Blueprint.

    People see all development obligations and the delivery of constituency services as rightly belonging to the government. But citizens’ responsibilities and social, educational, research and professional institutions’ responsibilities are completely obscured by a pervasive lack of proper democratic governance education which can empower all stakeholders not only to hold government accountable to its obligation but also stimulate citizens and social, educational research and professional institutions to perform roles and responsibilities they are socially designed to PERFORM in the development process providing requisite innovations for business and public service.

    9. The Necessity to Engage Professional, Educational and Research Institutions to Fulfill their Social Responsibility to Innovate for Business and Public Service.

    After over half a century of Indigenous University education, departments of agricultural engineering famous in studying traditional implements of poor farmers and designing simple mechanized implements to improve productivity and farmer livelihood. Educational and Research Institutions need to engage Industry more proactively for collective impact.

    10. The Necessity of Engaging Non-Governmental Organizations as Development Catalysts that can Enlarge Capacity for International Development Partnership and Assistance.

    There are categories of foreign assistance which only NGOs can access and there are also certain development activities best suited for NGOs. Representatives should build coalitions with them and possibly recommend those working in their constituencies for domestic and foreign funding.

    11. Constituents Must Establish Non-Partisan Accountability Committees in Their Local Government Area:

    As the citizens’ empowerment for open and inclusive governance, non-partisan public scrutiny is essential for a healthy democracy. Transparency and accountability is never given on a platter of gold; it is usually rigorously contested and fought for. The reality of state capture in many democracies should not be treated with kid gloves; the legitimacy conferred by periodic elections on authoritarian elected autocrats makes engagement with them very difficult. Each of them has a well-oiled base with the stolen wealth of the nation as a war chest exceedingly effective in poverty-ridden transitioning democracies, which is the reason for their poverty. Lack of accountability and transparency discourages participation, and lack of participation in turn encourages lack of accountability and transparency, and a vicious circle is thus constructed. Non-Partisan Accountability Committees therefore become essential for: social auditing and an open, transparent, and participatory budget process, and representation satisfaction.

    These Committees at Local Government Area levels of the Federation networking together can ensure the following democratic processes are undertaken:

    i. The budgetary process to be SDG focused and measurable,

    ii. A natural resources watch, taxes and other internally generated resources, import and export monitoring and evaluation,

    iii. Open Governance Monitoring of Open Budget, Open Data, and Open Contract,

    iv. Executing the recall process of legislators who are not effective in representation of their constituents.

    12. Security of Lives and Property must be guaranteed by the provision of a three-tier Policing system

    Citizens’ inclusiveness must become the culture of governance. Inclusive participation of citizens in social, political, and economic development processes must be embedded in governance as the operational culture, a way of life. Just the way things are done – together. All is seen, everyone considered important in the process as well as in the outcome. Autocracy, dependence on an imaginary messianic political figure should not be mainstreamed into the political culture and breed passive do nothing citizens. A political figure that will fulfill government obligations and shoulder citizens’ social, political, and economic responsibilities, does not exist, it is utopian. Citizens social responsibility is to be organized, political responsibility is to participate in democratic governance process. Economic responsibility is to be educated, acquire marketable skill, be the best he/she can, work and pay taxes mandated by law. Democracy and development requires vision and what we make of the vision depends on our commitment as a democratic community to work hard and reject cynicism as Senator Paul Wellstone wrote in his book, – The Conscience of A Liberal, Reclaiming The Compassionate Agenda, “Robert Kennedy once said, ‘The future will not belong to those who are content with the present’, I think the future will not belong to those who are cynical or those who stand on the sidelines. The future will belong to those who have passion and are willing to work hard to make our country better.”

    *Being a paper presented by Senator Peter Adeyemo on Sustainable Development Policy Platform at the Centre for Sustainable Development (CESDEV) University of Ibadan recently.