DEMOCRACY AND CONFLICTS IN NIGERIA. IMPLICATIONS FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

0
441

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Democracy has become a very important phenomenon in the world. Although it is necessary for the development of a country, some countries of the world are yet to introduce it in their development policies. Nigeria, like other countries of the world still struggling to develop, is yet to embrace democratic values. It is noteworthy that it is one of the countries in Africa still having difficulties in achieving sustainable development. After more than fifty years of independence, the scenario in the country remains disappointing. In Nigeria, democracy is totally misinterpreted, and it is wrongly practiced. I am a Nigerian, and I chose Nigeria as a case study for this investigation, because there is an urgent need to enlighten its teeming population about democratic values and proper practices, which could possibly facilitate rapid development in the country.

Right from childhood, I have been hearing about democracy. Consequently, I have witnessed a chequered history of conflict and violence as a result of social deprivation, inequality and underdevelopment in Nigeria. I was told by my parents and elders that we were in democracy and that democracy means ‘people say.’ Although I did not understand what this meant, when I was a little child, I observed civil disobedience, like people demonstrating on the streets for change of the status quo; workers refusing to go to work (strike) as a result of poor salaries, withheld payment of workers’ salaries, poor infrastructure, and so on.

Over the years, I have waited for the desired change to come. However, this is delayed. People, especially, the poor keep suffering; nothing seems to have changed to ameliorate the sufferings of the vast majority of Nigeria’s teeming population. This led me to think about possible solutions to the underdevelopment and crises that exist in Nigeria. I have come to realize that when people who need positive change, participate in charting the change they desire, the result is often better than when the change or strategy to bring about the change is imposed on them without their consent and active participation in the whole process. In this study, I propose a participatory national development approach for Nigeria, which could be a better alternative to the development method Nigeria has had in the past.

Democracy ought to enhance citizens’ participation in the development of a nation, which I equally refer to as ‘democratic development.’ Most importantly, democracy should be able to facilitate the provision and equal distribution of resources and basic human needs, and as well, enable a fragile State to manage its divides peacefully. This study also seeks to establish a working relationship between deliberative democracy, which I also refer to as participatory democracy and development in the context of national development, with particular reference to Nigeria. For the purpose of this work, I shall be using the words, ‘participatory’ and ‘deliberative’ interchangeably. ‘Participatory democracy’, as I have termed it here, could be equated with deliberative democracy.

Participatory or deliberative democracy drives deeper into not just the theory and or delivery of democracy, but into the proper practice of democracy. It promotes civil involvement in the workings of the government. Deliberative (Participatory) democracy, in this context, denotes the processes of consultation and debate among citizens and groups (in the rural and urban areas, regardless of gender, age, religion, ethnicity, class and social status), and the process of policy formulation and implementation involving State officials in consultation and partnership with community-based actors, like community-based organizations, women’s groups, youth groups, farmers, trade unions, religious organizations, etc.

1.1 STATE OF THE ART

Despite the spread of democracy globally, it faces challenges. Badmus, Mutiu Aderemi (2014:259) observes that “it is not universally accepted and practiced,” given the contradictions surrounding it. According to Badmus, “there still exist difficulties in adopting and translating its holistic values into the framework of sustainable development in most parts of the world.” He attributes factors hindering the proper translation of the values of democracy to poor development of democratic institutions, ideological confusion and misconceptions, (Badmus, Mutiu Aderemi (2014:259).