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Chapter one


1.1 Background of the Study

Globally, civil society organisations (CSOs) have emerged as active non-state agents of democratic governance, tasked with providing social welfare, economic empowerment, humanitarian services, political participation, human capital development, and economic activities (Keane 1989, Ikelegbe 2013:2).

Aside from those captured duties or activities, civil society has emerged as a major actor for promoting strong democratic governance through the promotion of accountability, transparency, the rule of law, the reduction of human rights violations, and capitalist exploitation.

Civil society is defined as the collection of voluntary, self-generating, at least partially self-supporting, and autonomous associations that are distinct from the state, business, and family and are governed by a legal system or set of agreed rules that is accessible to the public (Woods:1992). It is characterised as the third sector because it acts as a vital social bridge between the state, business, and the family.

Civil society in Africa, particularly in Nigeria, is a relatively new concept that has accompanied the rise of neoliberal democratic institutions. According to Ikelegbe (2007), civil society serves as the lubricant for the relationship between the government,

businesses, and the general public. He stated that rising democracies, particularly in Africa and Nigeria, cannot be maintained or sustained without a strong and active civil society.

Democracy is about effective and efficient representation and the distribution of the benefits of good government to the people. Civil society is inextricably linked to democratic governance, which explicitly entails providing social security,

expanding and advocating for economic opportunities, the rule of law, press freedom, preventing ethno-religious violence, providing basic infrastructure, ensuring oppositions, and holding regular and fair elections.

However, because the state represents the interests of the ruling class, whose interest is to maintain perpetual control over the apparatus of state power and government machinery at all costs, the interests of the people, particularly in Nigeria’s emerging democracies, are often ignored (Ikelegbe 2007, Hearn 2001).

Coupled with this is Nigeria’s democratic poverty, as seen by rising rates of poverty, human rights violations, hunger, insecurity, widespread corruption and bribery, environmental degradation, diseases, illiteracy, gender violence, and underdevelopment.

Civil society organisations play a critical role in Nigeria’s quest for civil rule, democratic consolidation, and long-term prosperity. Indeed, they led the liberation movement that culminated in independence in 1960.

In pre-colonial and post-colonial governments, particularly during the military dictatorship, Nigerian print media served as the standard bearer for civil society organisations seeking to expose acts of authoritarianism, mismanagement, and corruption in the polity.

During military regimes, civil society organisations (CSOs) and professional organisations such as the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Campaign for Democracy (CD), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), and National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) were at the forefront of the fight against military rule and the restoration of democracy and democratic governance in Nigeria (Orji, 2004a:41-51).

Based on the foregoing, it is reasonable to claim that a dynamic civil society remains the sine qua non for democratic deepening and subsequent political, social, and economic progress. This study examines the influence of civil society and democratic consolidation in Nigeria from 1999 to 2017.

1.2 Statement of Problem

The persistent problem of a lack of credible and democratic electoral processes has been linked to Nigeria’s “failed, uncaring, and unresponsive governance” (Inokoba and Kumokor, 2011:139). No wonder that the years of civil government from 1999 to 2017 failed to deliver on adequate roads, functional health facilities, quality education, uninterrupted electricity supply,

living salaries for workers, an effective petroleum industry, meaningful electoral reform, equitable wealth distribution, and so on. As a result, Nigeria’s democracy has been characterised as purely formalistic and lacking of consolidation.

Consolidating democracy in Nigeria by holding fair elections has remained an albatross. The history of Nigeria’s democratic attempts shows that elections and electoral politics have sparked widespread hostility, threatening the country’s corporate survival in some situations and inciting military intervention in political governance in others.

The evaluation of the contributions of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the establishment of democracy in Nigeria has been a mixed bag of good, bad, and ugly.

The uneven trajectory of democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa gave rise to phrases such as ‘delegative’ (O’Donell, 1996), ‘illiberal’ (Zakaria, 1997), ‘hybrid’ (Diamond, 2002), and ‘incipient’ (Raker, 2007) democracies.

Despite the importance put on civil society organisations (CSOs) as institutions for advancing democracy in Nigeria, democracy has not fared well in that country. To put it another way, Nigerian democracy has refused to take root and grow upward.

Civil society groups (CSOs) have recently criticised Nigeria’s democratisation process, portraying it as mostly an exercise in re-stabilizing democratic cartels through improved elite circulation in order to legitimise economic deregulation. In the same vein, Shin (2009:34) proposed that:

Nigeria’s democratic transition has not always resulted in democratic institutions replacing authoritarian ones. Nor have the newly established democratic institutions fared any better than the ones they replaced.

Furthermore, leading civil society organisations such as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC), among others, have stated on multiple occasions that the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria is not yet a eureka moment because issues such as unaccountable strong-man leadership, corruption, ethnicity,

religious crisis, lack of rule of law, and other patrimonial factors are putting democracy in danger. Therefore, the current level of democracy in Nigeria from 1999 to 2017 leaves much to be desired.

This study examines the influence of civil society and democratic consolidation in Nigeria from 1999 to 2017.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The overarching goal of this research is to investigate the role of civil society and democratic consolidation in Nigeria between 1999 and 2017. The precise aims include:

§ Evaluate the impact of civil society organisations on political growth in Nigeria.

§ Investigate difficulties facing civil society organisations in Nigeria.

§ Offer practical proposals for strengthening civil society in Nigeria to promote democratic consolidation.

1.4 Research Questions.

This study will be done with the following research questions:

i. Does the function of civil society organisations promote political growth in Nigeria?

ii. What are the problems confronting civil society organisations in Nigeria?

iii. How has civil society influenced democratic consolidation in Nigeria from 1999 to 2017?

1.5 Significance of the Study

This study has theoretical and practical implications. At the theoretical level, it aims to add to the current body of knowledge about civil society organisation and democratic consolidation in Nigeria.

It provides new insights into both variables by focusing on the nature, character, and underlying factors driving civil society organisations (CSOs) in the process of consolidating democracy in Nigeria.

The study’s findings will serve as academic reference material for future academics interested in the dynamics of civil society organisations (CSOs) and democratic consolidation in Nigeria. Above all, it aims to increase research interest in that area wherever possible.

Furthermore, this study has practical implications, including political, social, and economic ones. Politically, this study is of relevance to policymakers, governments, and aid agencies.

The political value of this research is to highlight the dynamics and expressions of civil society organisations in the process of democratic sustainability and consolidation.

The political goal is to spark national and international debate on issues concerning CSOs and the development of democracy in Nigeria and across Africa.

The study’s social significance touches on societal and public interests, considering the critical role that civil society organisations (CSOs) play in society.

In this context, the study will provide insight into the roles, functions, types, structures, strengths, and weaknesses of civil society organisations not only in Nigeria but throughout Africa and beyond.

Economically, the significance of this study cannot be emphasised because a cohesive democracy is critical to stable economic progress. In this context, the study will examine the kind and way in which CSOs impact democratic consolidation, hence promoting socioeconomic and political growth in Nigeria.

1.6 Scope of Study

This study examines the role of civil society and democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s fourth republic in relation to political development, national development, and the issues faced by civil society organisations in Nigeria.

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