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Democracy, good governance and development in Nigeria – Part 2

By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa
12 July 2022   |   2:51 am
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.

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.

Responsiveness:
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.
 
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.
Concluded
Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

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