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Democracy, Good Governance And Development In Nigeria (2) By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

According to the United Nations Development Programme Office, there are nine (9) core characteristics of democratic rule, to wit:

The Parameters of Democratic Rule in Nigeria: How Well Has Nigeria Ticked the Boxes?
According to the United Nations Development Programme Office, there are nine (9) core characteristics of democratic rule, to wit:
(i)      Participation                   (ii)     Rule of Law                   (iii)    Transparency
(iv)    Responsiveness     (v)     Consensus            (vi)    Orientation
(vii)   Equity                   (viii)  Effectiveness; and (ix)   Efficiency.
1.1           PARTICIPATION:
The idea of popular participation is crucial to both democratization and development. It can be considered as one of the determinants of democratic practice. Popular participation is the empowerment of the people to involve themselves in the regulating structures and designing policies and programmes that serve the interest of all and contribute optimally to the development process. How well has Nigeria ticked this box of popular participation since the inception of democratic rule in 1999? The starting point would be empowerment of the masses in terms of qualitative basic needs. Food, shelter, clothing, education and secured access to health care are important for participation in the democratization process, as you cannot pauperize a citizen and turn round to preach democracy and human righs to him. This was the reason the June 12, 1993 General Elections recorded high participation as the electorate saw the prospects of a better life with the election of Chief M.K.O Abiola as president. In the absence of food, shelter and other basic needs, the electorates will sell their votes on the day of election and make mincemeat of quality participation in the democratization process, as happened in Ekiti State recently. In that kind of process, democracy has lost its value.


3.2     RULE OF LAW:
The difference between tyranny, dictatorship and democracy in my view is the regulatory effect of law on society. The rule of law is the legal principle that law should govern a nation as opposed to the State being subject to the caprices of a few powerful individuals. The rule of law refers to the supremacy of the law particularly as a constraint upon the behaviour including the behaviour of government officials. In this sense, the rule of law stands as a contrast to autocracy, dictatorship or oligarchy where the rulers are held high above the law. It is in this wise that the learned jurist, Obaseki JSC (as he then was), in the case of Governor of Lagos State v Ojukwu(1986) NWLR (part 18) 621, made the following remarks:
‘The Nigerian constitution is founded on the rule of law the primary meaning of which is that everything must be done according to law. It also means that government should be conducted within the framework of recognised rules and principles which restrict discretionary power which Coke colourfully spoke of as ‘golden and straight wand of law as opposed to the uncertain and crooked cord of discretion.’
How good does Nigeria tick this box of the rule of law in Nigeria’s democratization process? The starting point would be that the government of the day acquired power by law and as such should respect the laws of the land. Afortiori, it should also govern according to law, in order to instill a sense of lawfulness in the citizens. A situation where the executive arm of government intimidates and muscles the judiciary does not stand well with the rule of law. Nobody is above the law and it falls back on the citizens of this country to ensure that the people whom they elect to power are accountable or kicked out at the next elections. This indeed is the power of democracy as, if the votes count, election should be a weapon in the hands of the masses to hold leaders to account.
The United Nations General Assembly High level Meeting on the Rule of Law, held on September 24, 2010, remarked as follows:
‘Human rights, the rule of law and democracy are interlinked and mutually reinforcing and that they belong to the universal and indivisible core values and principles of the United Nations.’ Indeed, government responsiveness to the interests and needs of the greatest number of citizens is strictly associated with the capacity of democratic institutions and processes to bolster the dimensions of rights, equality and accountability.’
 We make bold to say that nobody wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of tyranny, brutality and flagrant contravention of human rights. This is why we speak loudly and fight against executive lawlessness, contravention of the right to life, dignity of the person, the right to personal liberty, right to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and expression, the right not to be discriminated against by reason of tribe and religion, etc.
According to the IMF, transparency in government includes the following:
i.                                Clarity of the structures and functions of government, responsibilities within government and relations within government and the rest of the economy.
ii.                             Public availability of comprehensive information on the public sector, financial stocks and flows published at specified times.
iii.                           Public availability of information on how budgets are prepared and executed, and minimum content of budget and financial reports.
iv.                           Financial data, meeting and accepted quality standards and subjected to independent audit scrutiny.
As a core value of democratic rule, therefore, transparency means unfettered access by the public to timely and reliable information on decisions and performance in the public sector. Where such information is regarded as ‘classified’ or ‘top secrets’ and freedom of the press or freedom of expression is censored as was the case with the recent Twitter ban in Nigeria, there is little transparency which is a core value of democratic rule. Thankfully, advances in information and communication technology have provided a revolution that is facilitating debate and timely access to information on governance in Nigeria. In this area, the courts are urged to adopt a more liberal approach in the determination of cases premised upon the Freedom of Information Act, in order to remove governance from the realm of secrecy. In the present dispensation, it is not acceptable that the Independent National Electoral Commission and the political parties have made nonsense of the Electoral Act by hoarding information concerning candidates of the political parties and activities relating to the primary elections and the main elections.
A key characteristic of democratic rule is the continuing responsiveness of the government to the preferences of its citizens. Robert Dahl, in his book, Polyarchy, stated that: ‘the ability of citizens to influence public policy is the bottom line of democratic government. While a few would expect or even desire a perfect correspondence between majority preference and government policy, the nature of the connection between what the citizens want and what government does is a central consideration in evaluating the quality of democratic governance.’
The question to ask therefore, is whether there is synergy between what Nigerians want and what the government does? The present shut down of the campuses following the breakdown of entente between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities shows little responsiveness on the part of the Federal government. As we commemorate this democracy day, I hereby call on the Federal Government to deploy her best resources to ensure that our children on whom the burden of leading this country will rest return to the campuses.
3.5     CONSENSUS:
The social contract theorist, Thomas Hobbes, in his book, Leviathan, remarked as follows:
‘A common wealth is said to be instituted when a multitude of men do agree and covenant, everyone with everyone, that to whatsoever man or assembly of men, shall be given by the  major part, the right to present the present of them all, that is to say to be their representative; everyone as well as he that voted for it, shall authorize all the actions and judgment of that man, or assembly of men in the same manner as if they were his own, to the end to live peaceably among themselves and be protected against other men.’
Flowing from the above, there is no doubt that pluralism but consensus is a core element of democratic rule. And it is not the type of consensus being adopted by the political parties, which involves totalitarianism and authoritarian leadership, where a godfather sits in his house to dictate to the rest members of the party. Nothing highlights this better than the present crisis rocking the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, which set up a special committee to choose the running mate for its presidential candidate. It has since been reported that the committee voted by an overwhelming majority for a particular candidate but the presidential candidate decided to pick a different person apart from the one picked through popular vote. And this has led to some kind of rancor in the party capable of scattering the little gains it had made in the smooth organization of its presidential primary election as compared to the ruling party.
Once democracy is devoid of the input of the people to reflect their will one way or the other, it cannot be said to be democratic practice to be compared with the June 12 election.