Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Do You Know Why 'Save Nigeria Group' and 'Occupy Nigeria' have Voices In Nigeria?

As a young democracy striving to move away from the culture of military dictatorship, Nigeria’s civic space was quite narrow at the dawn of the Jonathan administration. Civil societies were only starting to develop, hence still learning the ways of democratic environment. Previous administrations have struggled, and in some cases failed, to tolerate the demands for popular participation by civil society organisations. However, given the centrality of civil liberty in the development of democracy, the Jonathan administration remains committed to expanding the civic space in a number of ways.

Specific Reforms

Democracy and Civic Participation: Since the advent of the Jonathan administration, the civic space has been expanded for democracy and civic participation. This administration is convinced that civic consciousness is a lubricant to democracy. This has given rise to unprecedented growth in the number of civil society groups in Nigeria. These groups are not only active in advocating for civil rights, but also sometimes engage themselves in political activism. Such examples include the Save Nigeria Group, Occupy Nigeria, Corruption Watch and others who take on government at the slightest opportunity. An example is the involvement of Save Nigeria Group in the fuel subsidy removal protests that was initially a labour-led protest.

Presidential Retreat for Civil Society Organisations: On 6 September 2012, Mr President hosted civil society organisations at a presidential retreat. It was an open forum for members to express their views before Mr President on the ongoing constitutional review and other matters of interest. More than 300 groups attended the inaugural retreat and voted on a number of national issues. It created a sense of civic participation in the constitutional review process, and it was a pleasant experience for federal government to engage civil society in a prime role.

Between 2010 -2013, the federal government has conceded to the demands of the people in a manner previously unprecedented. Not only that, it has reversed some decisions based on the complaints and suggestions of the people. Remarkably, trade disputes are now, more than ever before, resolved through dialogue. Pro-poor and gender empowerment issues now take centre stage. Within the period, more than ever before, Nigeria has witnessed more opportunities for both men and women. There are presently 13 female ministers and 26 female Special Advisers/SSAPs/SAPs playing critical, unprecedented and uncommon roles in the government.

National Dialogue Conference: During Mr President’s Independence Day Speech in 2013, he announced the need to organise a national dialogue on the future of Nigeria. This is in cognisance of well-meaning Nigerians’ suggestions over the years for a national dialogue. The government inaugurated a 13-man National Advisory Committee to work out the modalities for a national dialogue. The national dialogue aims to realistically examine and resolve longstanding impediments to the country’s growth and development. The Committee have completed its assignment and have submitted its report to government for further action.

Specific Outcomes and Results
Flowing from the above, the Jonathan administration have recorded the following successes:
-           Citizens enjoy a high sense of freedom.
-           Citizens are now bolder and more assertive.
-           Citizens have a high sense of participation in issues of governance.
-           Governance issues are now more freely and openly discussed without any fear.
-           Opposition parties and groups enjoy total liberty, and as a result they are now more confident and strong, thereby making the political space more competitive, democratic, and reflective of every shade of opinion.
-           Citizens are more confident and freely resort to court in defence of their rights, etc.

-           Press freedom has been entrenched and greatly expanded, with the Nigeria press being regarded by most people as the freest in Africa.

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