Last week, the Nigerian Guild of Editors held its 10th annual All Nigerian Editors Conference in my home state Katsina. I was humbly asked to be one of the discussants on a paper that was to be delivered by the brilliant and inspiring Barrister Ayo Obe.

Anyone who knows the first thing about me knows that I have an unreasonable phobia for wall geckos. And as fate would have it, in the room that had been allocated to me, a baby wall gecko decided to make an appearance to welcome me. Apart from the fear imparted by the sight of this horrible little reptile I knew that the sight of a baby wall gecko meant only one thing…It’s mother would be somewhere within the vicinity. And as I leaped onto the bed to get away from the little cretin, lo and behold, what looked like his mother together with a companion decided to make their appearance and join in the fiesta of scaring the living day lights out of me.  

Hannatu Musawa Anyone who understands the trepidation of people with phobias can imagine what happened next… Yes all hell broke loose. Jumping up and down the bed and yelling in a manner that would have given Pavarotti a run for his money, a once composed Hannatu Musawa with a strong conviction of the message she had wanted to deliver at the conference became a total and bumbling mess.

Although I made it to the conference, albeit late, and managed to relay a short message, there was a lot in regards to the theme, “Good Governance as Panacea for Sustainable Democracy”, which I had wanted to speak on but wasn’t composed enough to do so. This forum gives me the opportunity to, perhaps, express the message that the fear of those nasty creatures didn’t permit me to.

In spite of our enormous natural resources and huge potential, Nigeria remains grossly and undoubtedly underdeveloped. Regardless of all the social and economic policies that have been implemented by successive administrations, Nigeria still remains laggard in social, economic and political developments. Political instability, abject poverty, severe youth unemployment, heightened crime rate, poor health-care facilities, pervasive malnourishment and, recently, insurgency/terrorism have been the predominant features within the polity. Nigeria certainly defies conventional logic — severe poverty amidst vast mineral riches, agricultural potential and abundant human capital.

This “development anomaly” also fits into the trends and narrative of political instability within the continent, for which Africa has become notoriously infamous and synonymous with. Indeed, governance is one of the major problems in Africa and, by extension, Nigeria. In retrospect, the myriad of the nation’s problems can be attributed to the absence of good governance, democratic growth and development, thus effectively ensuring democratic dividends to be stifled and non-existent.

It is an unassailable fact that democracy as is currently practiced in Nigeria has produced unpalatable results associated with the nature of the Nigerian state and the character of our elites. Our democracy has thus far tended to promote inequality rather than equality. Hence, there can be no genuine democracy in a country where citizens are grossly unequal in wealth and the poor who are invariably the majority are dependent on the wealthy.

Good governance, on its part, is absolutely imperative for social and economic progress. Good governance involves justice, equity, protection of life and property, enhanced participation, preservation of the rule of law and improved living standard of the populace. Governance is termed bad when it fails to achieve these purposes. Good governance is about the performance capacity of a government or as it relates to leadership capability. Failure of governance, therefore, could expressly mean failure of leadership. For good governance to be feasible in Nigeria, sound anti-corruption policies devoid of mere speeches or lip service must be put in place. There have to exist a functional legislature, a viable and independent judiciary, and the attitudinal transformation on the part of our political elite, the absence of which good governance and development will continue to be a mirage.

Also, for good governance to be achieved there is a dire need for the entrenchment of internal democracy and adequate funding of political parties. In Nigeria, our political structure is styled in such a way that political parties are funded by wealthy individuals and wealthy party members, as opposed to political parties being self-funded as is obtainable in other genuinely democratic climes. A situation where political parties are hijacked by a few wealthy individuals who determine those presented as candidates during elections is the reason good governance has been elusive in the nation’s democratic governance. As long as our political parties lack internal democracies and are being funded by government or a group of wealthy party members who dictate the pace of things in the party, good governance would continue to be lacking and sustainable democracy non-existent. In addition, the successful conduct of free, fair and credible general elections is an important foundation of democracy and good governance. Credible elections ensure that the right and capable candidates are elected into office, capable of delivering on campaign promises and good governance, not selected candidates who are only interested in enriching themselves and their “godfathers”, thus advertently putting round pegs in square holes!

Good governance can also be a panacea for conflicts in Nigeria. Since most conflicts stem from extreme poverty, inequality, ethnicity, alienation and bad governance, good governance is certainly indispensable in effectively defusing tensions and preventing conflicts within the polity.

The civil society comprises numerous organizations which cover varied interests and segments of the polity; it should undoubtedly become the major defender of our burgeoning democracy and also sustain it. Being closely involved in the government’s policy-making and implementation, civil society can effectively monitor the democratic process and the performance of these governmental institutions and their programmes. The simplest way to see civil society is as a “third sector”, distinct from government and business. Civil society is a reinforcing mechanism for effective governance in the overall interest of the majority of the people. The civil society has the responsibility in influencing public policy processes and consensus building on societal priorities. They also provide a legal authority for public participation and the enhancement of civil education and expanding opportunities for greater involvement in governmental programmes. In other words, civil society can positively contribute to sustainability of democracy by legitimizing and entrenching institutions and the culture of democracy as well as by contesting, de-legitimizing and opposing authoritarian, undemocratic and uncivil practices and dispositions.

Apparently, democracy transcends the forming and merging of political parties, general elections, grapple for political office and having a civilian government/leadership in power. It is a process that involves the total and effective participation of citizens in determining policies and decisions which affect their day-to-day lives at all levels. It involves the responsiveness of the government to the needs and aspirations of its citizenry. It is based on the ability of a nation to provide channels for discussions, consultations and mobilizations. Nigeria needs to develop her democracy in such a way that it largely empowers the majority of the citizenry and guarantees their survival. Our democracy should be developed, whereby the system of governance advertently and inadvertently develops the masses’ individual and collective potential, which would promote and contribute positively to the overall wellbeing of the nation.

Democracy vis-à-vis good governance involves every stakeholder, particularly in the control of economic and political power in a way that inspires one’s faith and commitment in the corporate reality of the nation. This will certainly guard against the monopoly of state powers by the supposed “political godfathers”. For Nigeria to get her democracy right and ensure the dividends of democracy reaches the majority of her citizenry, she needs to ensure and emphasize good governance in the polity.

The Nigerian Guild of Editors is undoubtedly one of the most well managed and structured organizations in Nigeria. It is a credit to the leadership of the Guild and all the officers who worked so diligently to deliver yet another well organized conference and discuss the very important issue of good governance being a panacea for sustainable democracy.

I have no doubt next years 11th annual All Nigerian Editors Conference will also be a success, no matter where it is held. Congratulations to every member of the Nigerian Editors Guild, all the participants and all the people who worked tirelessly to put another wonderful program together. And a massive thank you to the good people of Katsina state, who showed that Katsina truly is the home of hospitality.

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