JDPC JUNE 12TH DEMOCRACY DAY

The JDPC usually marks the Democracy Day – June 12th. For 2017, a Press Release on the State of the Nation was sent to the Media Houses.

The Press Release centers on the voice of the Church being heard in critical issues on the state of the Nigerian Nation. This year’s June 12th Democracy day addressed a very contentious issue; the state of the Union. It was covered by both print and electronic media.

Read the full paper below –

PRESS RELEASE BY THE JUSTICE, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE CENTRE (JDPC), ARCHDIOCESE OF LAGOS, IN COMMEMORATION OF JUNE 12 DEMOCRACY DAY – JUNE 12, 2017.

PREAMBLE: The Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) is the structure through which the Church responds to social issues affecting all men and women created in the image and likeness of God. The manner of this response is based on the Social Teachings of the Church (STC).  The State/Government is not a society. It is only part of society and exists to serve the society. The Church too is also part of the society and cannot isolate herself from it. Therefore, the activities of the Church cannot be confined solely to the sanctuary, Parish rectories, convents and mission fields. Hence, the JDPC, which started in the Archdiocese of Lagos in the early 90’s, is the development agency of the Church in partnership and cooperation with relevant Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), Community-Based Organizations (CBO), Community Development Associations (CDA), other Civil Society Organizations (CSO), individuals, and governmental agencies.

The Church cannot remain silent in the face of brazen injustice in the society. Such silence could be misconstrued to be tacit consent or support for the oppressor. As the saying goes, neutrality does not favour the oppressed but the oppressor. Hence, for the Church to remain silent would mean a political decision by the Church in favour of the oppressors. Inter alia the many social works and community development projects/programmes, the Lagos Archdiocesan JDPC is actively engaged in promoting human rights, good governance, transparency and accountability, alternative dispute resolution, and peace building.

As we commemorate June 12 we intend to address a very contentious issue; the state of the Union (The Nigerian Federation: A Trojan Fuit) and offer our own thoughts to the leadership of the country for a better Democratic Nation.

Troy was, Troy is no more— a common Latin phraseology captures the state of the Nigerian wobbling Federation. Since 1954 when London declared Nigeria a federation, there has been no agreement amongst the nations and peoples of the territory as to the nature and desirability of the lopsided Union. In the words of a foremost federal scholar (Daniel Elazar), “the maintenance of federalism involves “thinking federal”, that is being oriented towards the ideals and norms of republicanism, constitutionalism and power sharing that are essential to the federal way” (2006:192). And that is the reason many African countries that attempted federal system failed, such that the continent is regarded as recording the highest morbidity of federal experiments in the modern epoch.

From 1954 to date, one nation or the other in the mosaic of nations in Nigeria had kicked against the federal system or the structure of federal arrangement and opted either to be allowed to be eased off or suggested an alternative political arrangement: confederation, unitary, etc. Speaking for the West, Chief Awolowo opined that “Nigeria is not a nation, it is a mere geographic expression…”: for the North, PM Tafawa Balewa averred that “…Nigeria has existed as a federation only on paper”; after the Aburi conference in 1967, the North represented by Gen Gowon and Gen Murtala Muhammed attempted, but for the intervention of London and the super Perm Secs to pull to out of Nigeria; in 1967, the Eastern Region declared the Republic of Biafra; in 1990, Major G. Orkar excised the core Muslim North out of Nigeria. But the Nigerian federation has withered all these storms, meaning that it is not ululation or dirge song all the way. The list of agitation is long but is vintage most federal arrangements.

All federal entities had gone through periods of doubts and discomfitures when centrifugal forces clash with centripetal forces, because no matter the extent of striving to pull together, the mutiny of nations see themselves from the narrow prism of religion, ethnic and class cleavages and identities. This is more visible in federations with weak and uncoordinated economic base. In the particular case of Nigeria, R. D. Parker might have had us in mind when he stated that “All politics is identity politics. Political activity is…animated by efforts to define and defend who I am, or you are, or hope to be, or hope to be seen to be. By extension, it is motivated by our imagination of what is, ought to be mine or ours or yours” (2006:53).

That seems to summarise the present dilemma of our country where the East suddenly recalled the sorry state of allocation of federal Concerns and alleged marginalisation of her people in things federal; and where the North, suddenly remembers, not the pogrom of July,1966 but the elimination of their leaders by coupists in January, 1966; resulting in their youths handing down a quit notice to the Igbo nationals in the North, an act which many leaders from different nations had decried; but which has also interestingly received accolades from some of the leaders of the Biafran agitation and some others from other nations who have lost out from the present political arrangements. These few but powerful Nigerians stoke the fire of retaliation by making vitriolic statements.

The present sorry pass can be located on the following infractions among others: the Nigerian Federation continues on the part of organic system where the Centre controls so much power; unending search for a proper revenue sharing principles and formulae and adequate compensation to the Niger Delta region; an agreeable electoral system where the ballot instead of the courts decides electoral outcome; the challenge of lopsided federalism; leadership recruitment; lack of political will and commitment by governments; accommodation of the minorities; rancour-free census; stealing from the common tile; etc

The position of the JDPC is that, since most federal nation-states had gone through the road of containing fissures through constant dialogue, discussions and remapping, and since all federal systems, irrespective of their outside posturing are still striving to contain cleavages, the Nigerian authorities should rise up to the challenges that tend to emphasize  ethnicity and religion.

The JDPC continues to emphasize the need for decentralization of the government, which according to Ladipo Adamolekun, is a process whereby “the organization of government activity outside the headquarters of the central government either as an administrative measure involving the transfer of resources and responsibilities to agents of the central government located outside the headquarters or as a political arrangement involving the devolution of specific powers, functions and resources by  the central government to subnational level government units.” (1990) The benefits of decentralization are very immense and can significantly improve the nation’s potential for an enhanced political stability and national integration, which had obviously been threatened today, because it implies giving each group a stake in the political system.

The Buhari administration has an agenda on some main issues which include the holistic war against official corruption and opacity in governance, and the war against the spread of the Third World War which is now on, but, in the language of Pope Francis, “is being fought by instalment”.  No thanks to the activities of Muslim fundamentalists all over the world. But the government seems to face external and internal enemies from the start: the price of oil that fell from over $100/barrel to $25, and a combined force of the political and judicial class that work assiduously against the anti-corruption crusade. Added to this, the citizenry and the non-state actors view the corruption war from a tinted spectacle resulting in their staying aloof when they should buy into the war program.

Try as the anti-corruption agencies may do, there are no high profile convictions due to lack of in-depth and thorough investigations of persons and/or alleged corruption cases and of unnecessary and needless clutch on the rule of law—a buzzword used by the Nigerian elite class to hang on to their illegal control of the common patrimony. We are in no way suggesting that the government should jettison the rule of law, nonetheless, the JDPC believes that the government might be approaching some level of frustration because even in the face of glaring evidence of fraud, the cases go on either due to lack of diligent prosecutions or smart moves by the perpetrators to blackmail the government. Worse still, for the sake of the operators of the war, some citizens turn the other side even as their tiles are robbed. We therefore question the position and pronouncements of the leadership of the NASS on this crusade since most of their recent statements seem in contradistinction with the expectations of Nigerians.

There is always a difference between striving to gain power and governing. It does appear from the beginning of this administration that the APC government never prepared well to rule. Otherwise why will it take years to fill up important positions? France may be an advanced democracy looking at the ways a 39year old independent candidate won an election and went swiftly within 48hrs to feel key positions; but we should copy the best and not behave like the Central African Cabinet Ministers who were given two hours by the World Bank Economist (Paul Collier) to decide which country they would want their country to be like in 10yrs, and after a long deliberation, with a every sense of modesty and decorum, their answer was Burkina Faso. We must grow above pedantic and not slide into a pariah state.

In a capitalist State like Nigeria, the State promotes the interest of the bourgeoisie (the ruling class) which controls it, and experience has shown that the State plays this role through legislation (Okodudu and Girigiri, 1998:34). Therefore, the laws and policies that emanate from the State reflects the interest of the dominant cum ruling class, to the detriment of the teaming masses. This implies that, State policies are always detrimental to the people it purportedly exist to serve.

One of the widely quoted but simple definitions of public policy is that by Thomas Dye, where he defines public policy as “what government chooses to do or not to do”. He went further to explain that: Governments do many things. They regulate conflicts within society, they organize society to carry on conflicts with other societies, they distribute a great variety of symbolic rewards and material services to members of the society and extracts money form the society, most times in the form of taxes. Thus policies may regulate behavior, organize bureaucracies, distribute benefits, extract taxes or all of these things at once…” (1975:1)

One crucial point to note from the above conceptualization is the concepts of “non-decisions”. The reason is that, a decision by government to ignore a problem or make changes is in a sense a policy decision because it tends to favour the perpetuation of the status quo. Secondly, there may be a divergence between what governments decide to do and what they actually do which captures in concrete terms the reality in the Nigerian context.

It has been identified that the Nigerian state is privatized dependent, weak and lacks autonomy. Therefore, despite the availability of public policies that stand to better the lot of the average Nigerian, the State unfortunately lacks the political will to positively realize such policy objectives. The argument is that, even though the set objectives of government policies stand to benefit the public, the cabal that holds the top echelon of government hostage will jeopardize or frustrate the implementation of public policies. We call on government at all levels, Federal, State and Local Government, to own up to their responsibility of delivering the dividends of democracy.

We appreciate the whistle blower policy initiated by the government. However, we make bold to say that while most public policies are formulated and funds appropriated for, corruption like an octopus has continued to entangle, ruin and make impossible the implementation process of the best of policies. Due to corruption, the masses are still under the yolk of excruciating poverty despite the several efforts made to alleviate poverty. The anti-corruption crusade must be fought headlong and all hands must be on deck to support the government. Nonetheless, the government must not speak about fighting corruption only but must be seen sincerely fighting corruption where no one is a sacred cow.

Corruption, if left unchallenged will destabilize a country’s efforts at fighting poverty and hinder economic growth and development. According to Mahmoud Moustafa of the World Bank fame, “empirical studies show that countries with better redistribution of wealth enjoy longer periods of economic development…..and countries suffering from corruption cannot implement sound redistribution policies and thus are not expected to take benefit from sustainable economic development despite embarking upon economic growth from time to time for some reason or the other”. A word is enough for the wise!!!

Ethnic and tribal sentiments continue to rock the very foundation of our national identity. We think first not as Nigerian but as Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Efik, Ijaw, etc. I must say that ethnicity in its self is not a bad thing if it promotes healthy competition among the groups that make up the Nigerian state. But it has historically been and is still, a justification for violence, promotion of redundancy and bad governance. People have been killed for no other reason than for the fact that they are from another ethnic group. The recent call for Igbos to leave the North, the various indigenous groups calling out for supposedly “self-determination”, and the mudsling from various sections of the nation, especially found on the social media space is just a snippet into the deep sore that has bedeviled our psyche as a people, and the unwillingness and frustration of almost all persons in the marriage called Nigeria. Mediocre and run of the mills individuals have been retained in public offices for no other reason than the ethnic group that they represent all in the name of satisfying the federal character thereby depriving the country of quality leadership based on merits. Sacred Scripture is clear when it opines that a nation divided against itself cannot stand.

We will conclude by stating that government needs to insist on practicing Federalism, and not this confusing system. Also, while good governance aid the economic well-being of the people, it is critical for both the people and their leaders to take certain actions. The leaders at all levels need to prioritize the economic well-being of the people, promote the democratization of the polity through the strengthening of institutions and embracing transparency and accountability. The various arms of government must conscientiously carry out their legitimate roles and functions so as to effectively promote our collective gains for the benefit of the people.

Civil Society Organizations, Community Based Organizations, Faith Based Organizations, the Media, the Intellectual class and all other such groups must be proactive in requesting the government to fulfill their pact with the citizenry. Traditional rulers should avoid confirming chieftaincy titles on corrupt politicians or their cronies who don’t have any feasible means of livelihood other than being friends of political office holders or their spouses. As a people we should shun the penchant for ethnic and tribal vitriolic that are bound to overheat the polity and stifle growth and development. Let us insist and emphasize what unites us more than what divides us as this will enhance our democratic development.

Rev. Fr. Raymond Anoliefo

Executive Director

JDPC, Lagos.

Mr. Joe Nkamuke

Deputy Director

JDPC, Lagos.

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By | 2018-03-08T12:38:24+00:00 June 12th, 2017|Democracy and Good Governance|0 Comments

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