Challenges to Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria

Challenges to Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria

Nigeria is faced with the challenges of democratic change and good governance. In this post, we take a look at some of the challenges to democracy and good governance in Nigeria. Some of these challenges include leadership failure, corruption, electoral fraud, insecurity/insurgency, and impunity. Furthermore, we make suggestions towards the realization of true democracy and good governance in the country.

Democracy

Democracy is “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Democracy entails full and direct participation of the people. However, it is important to note that democracy in practice can never be inclusive in the absolute sense.  For instance, Athenian democracy excluded women and slaves who lived in Athens.

In a true democratic political system; leaders are chosen through free, fair, and regular elections in which virtually all the adult population is eligible to vote.

In a democratic political system, the government is elected, responsive and accountable to the people.

Although the practice of democracy differs in various countries, democratic political system shares one feature, i.e. a system of government where power, actually belongs to the people.

Good Governance

The term ‘governance’ refers to the exercise of authority in the name of the people while good governance is doing so in ways that respect the integrity and needs of everyone within the state. From the foregoing, good governance, rests on two major core values, viz: accountability and inclusiveness.

Governance can be seen as the manner in which the politics of a nation is carried out. Hence, governance can be good or bad depending on whether or not it creates a conducive environment for the development of the people.

When good governance is in practice, the state’s affairs are managed effectively in the areas of public accountability, financial accountability, administrative and political accountability, responsiveness and transparency, all of which must show in the interest of both the governed and the leaders.

Thus, the defining elements of good governance include participation, accountability, the rule of law, transparency, and predictability.

Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria

On May, 29 1999 the country restored civil democratic rule after an extended military rule that lasted for more than three decades.

Since then, the democratic system including the structures meant to consolidate it have experienced some stress mainly due to the hang-over effect of the prolonged military rule whose common denominator was the lack of democracy, accountability and good governance.

During military rule, there was lack of democracy, and the abuse of accountability and good governance was legendary and its negative impact on Nigeria’s politics is felt till today.

Democracy in Nigeria is struggling to survive because institutions needed to sustain democracy such as credible electoral system; independent judiciary; rule of law; etc are yet to take root in the country due to widespread corruption.

Consequently, bad governance in Nigeria has created widespread poverty and underdevelopment; corruption; insecurity; mass illiteracy; unemployment; etc.

In reality, Nigeria operates a nominal democracy in by maintaining the outward appearance of democracy through elections but without the rights and institutions necessary for a functioning democratic system.

Good governance translates into the provision of basic infrastructures; access to healthcare and education; industrial, and agricultural development of the society, and above all, the institutionalization of the rule of law.

Challenges to Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria

The quest for democracy and good governance in Nigeria has remained elusive due to many challenges, which continues to undermine the democratization process in the country.

These challenges include failure of leadership; corruption; insecurity/insurgency; insincerity of purpose; lack of political will; lack of proper vision by the political leadership; lack of accountability in governance; etc.

1. Leadership Failure:

Nigeria’s developmental challenges are rooted in lack of sound, visionary and goal-oriented leadership. The issue of leadership accounts for the problem of Nigeria since independence more than all other problems put together.

Most Nigerian leaders have shown lack of commitment for true nationhood and allowed personal ambitions and ethnic, regional as well as religious interests to override national considerations.

The three major reasons that account for leadership failure in Nigeria are lack of ideology; ethnicity; and corruption.

Nigeria, today, runs a democracy that ought to promote democratic values of transparency, public accountability; fiscal discipline; due process; amongst others. However, the political leadership has been unable to enforce these characteristics of democracy and good governance. This explains why the Nigerian nation is still crawling at 60 years of political independence.

2. Corruption:

This is another major challenge to democracy and good governance in Nigeria. In view of the harmful effect of widespread corruption on governance, successive administrations in the country have embarked on anti-corruption campaigns.

One of such is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC) established by the Obasanjo administration to champion the war against corruption.

Though the EFCC has received commendation from within and outside Nigeria, it has been selective in focus and alleged to have been occasionally used as an instrument of silencing political opponents.

3. Electoral Fraud:

Though elections are gradually becoming part of the political culture in Nigeria, the elections in Nigeria are neither free, nor credible.

Free, fair, and credible elections confer legitimacy on the electoral process.

The wide spread electoral fraud, which often characterize elections in Nigeria are inimical to the consolidation of democracy and good governance.

In 2003, 2007, and 2011, the outcome of the general elections in Nigeria was followed by the eruption of violence and destruction of lives and property for alleged election rigging.

4. Insecurity/Insurgency:

Boko Haram insurgency has become a disaster to Nigeria.

The terrorist activities of the group pose a major challenge to democracy and good governance because it has retarded socio-economic and political development of the country, especially in the north eastern region.

Hence, the need for the Nigerian state to muster the political will to pursue and fight Boko Haram to a standstill. Nevertheless, the military approach must be backed by a political solution, which will address the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment of northern Nigeria.

5. Impunity:

Another major challenge to democracy and good governance in Nigeria is the lack of the rule of law.

There is the need to expunge the immunity clause from Nigeria’s constitution in order to domesticate the equality of every Nigerian before the law.

This way, we will achieve a true democratic culture and ensure good governance.

Recommendations

As Nigerians demand the enthronement of democracy and good governance for the socio-economic and political development of the country, it becomes necessary to adopt the following measures aimed at deepening democracy and the enthroning good governance in the country:

  1. There is the need for deliberate government policies to strengthen democratic institutions such as the Judiciary, political parties, the National Assembly; the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); Civil Society; anti-graft agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); etc.
  2. When these institutions are strengthened, they would operate freely and effectively to ensure the growth and sustenance of democracy and good governance.
  3. There is the need to intensify the fight against corruption devoid of lip-service.
  4. There is the need to reduce poverty to ensure people have access to basic needs of life such as food, housing, healthcare, electricity, safe drinking water, education, employment, amongst others;
  5. There is the need for political leadership in Nigeria to imbibe the culture of leadership anchored on selfless service to the people rather than seeing political office as a means of self-enrichment.
  6. There is the need for free, fair, and credible elections since this is one of the foundation principles of democracy.
  7. There is the need to expunge the immunity clause for certain categories of political leaders to make them accountable to the electorate while in office.

Implementation of these suggestions will give hope for democracy and good governance in Nigeria.

 

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