One of the most daunting problems which have stunted the growth of Nigeria democratically and advance its stability is the lack of adherence to ethos, rule of law and constitutionality. For 57 years since it gained independence, Nigeria has found it difficult to attain democratic stability despite efforts by past administrations to achieve this feat.
Lack of accountability is another challenge being faced in delivering democratic governance in Nigeria. Public officials are not accountable to the general public. In a more viable democratic government, where the rule of law reigns supreme, excess spending of public funds would be curtailed as public officials would be made to understand that inappropriate spending of government fund is tantamount to embezzlement which of course is punishable by law.
Furthermore, the credibility of electoral process in Nigeria remains a challenge as election goes a long way in ensuring viable democratic governance. For a long time, elections in Nigeria have been characterized by fraud. Political parties and their respective candidates employ different forms of oppression in order to secure votes during election. Thus, it is common sight to see thugs being used to intimidate electorates on election day. In addition to this, Nigerian political parties do not have political ideologies unlike political parties in developed nations of the world. Absence of these makes it difficult to provide credible candidates to contest elections.
Institutional capacity of the judicial system in Nigeria is also a challenge to democratic governance. The judiciary which is one of the three (3) arms of government is to be strengthened to be independent in the discharge of its duty in order to ensure adequate checks and balances. Unfortunately today, the legislative and judiciary arms of government seem to be tied to the apron strings of the executive arm which seems to see itself as primus inter pares, making it almost impossible for there to be adequate checks and balance.
Civil societies have a major role to play when it comes to advocating for better governance. For example, as an organization which seeks to promote democratic governance, human rights, accountability and youth participation in politics, Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) has quite a number of programs aimed at addressing some of the issues highlighted above.
Corruption remains a stumbling block to democratic governance in Nigeria and tackling it is the collective responsibility of both government and citizens alike. YIAGA through its #BounceCorruption project is seeking citizen’s participation in the fight against corruption. Government anti-corruption policy has been found to be state centered with less citizen participation. Recently, an educative and informative workshop was held in Lagos where 40 OAPs across the country were trained and capacitated in a bid to enlighten the Nigerian public on citizen’s role in the anti-corruption campaign. YIAGA looks to leverage on the huge followership these OAPs enjoy on social media platforms and also via programs being aired by them on radio to educate and disseminate information on citizen’s participation in the anti-corruption crusade to the general public.
Credible electoral process is vital to having viable democratic governance. Elections represent medium by which citizens choose their leaders in a democracy. Therefore, if an election is found to be shady, the legitimacy of the resulting government is questioned. YIAGA aims to improve and strengthen Nigeria’s electoral process through the #WatchingTheVote project. The primary objective of the project is to help promote free, fair, peaceful, credible, and legitimate elections in Nigeria. #WatchingTheVote also includes the observation of pre-election, Election Day and post-election process. A pre-election observation report on the upcoming Anambra gubernatorial election slated for November 2017 was recently released on 26th October, 2017 to the general public.
Additionally, #WatchingTheVote makes use of the PVT (Parallel Voting Tabulation) to present an accurate and comprehensive assessment of the Election Day processes, such as whether election officials follow proper procedures, the presence and behaviour of party agents, secrecy of the vote, and transparency of the counting process. It is the only observation methodology that can independently verify the accuracy of official Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) election results and has been found to be dependable going by its extensive usage in numerous countries of the world.
For the November 2017 Anambra State Election, #WatchingTheVote will deploy 500 stationary and 27 mobile citizen observers to a representative random sample of 250 polling units across all 21 local government areas (LGAs) of Anambra.
Political participation and inclusion is another feature of democratic governance. The Not Too Young To Run campaign being advocated by YIAGA seeks youth inclusion in politics and ultimately the decision making process of Nigeria. A system whereby youths are excluded from the decision making process is not in line with the principles of democratic governance. The campaign, which has garnered much recognition not just across the country, but around the globe also, seeks a constitutional amendment on the required age in vying for an elective office in Nigeria. It is based on the premise that; if you are old enough to vote, then you are not too young to run for office. Poised for success; the bill shall effectively pave the way for aspiring young Nigerians to run for any political office of choice.
No doubt other civil societies are making effort in different area of governance which needs to be encouraged and supported by the citizens.
Olaniyan and Tumininu, Interns Youth department, Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA)