The Peoples’ Power In Promoting Good Governance

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By Innocent I. Edemhanria

The term ‘good governance’ has become a popular cliché among Chief executives of various tiers of government just as it has gained prominence in development in recent literatures  but sadly, there is not much on ground to show for the concept.

Various scholars have attempted to define and elaborate on the concept, but their expressions have been influenced largely either by the perspective of their research agenda or their understanding of the actors under scrutiny. It implies the process by which authority is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources in the interest of majority of the citizens. It also reflects the capacity of the government to design, formulate and implement policies and discharge functions in line with the relevant laws that are applicable and for the benefit of the people.

Good Governance is an essential complement to sound economic policies. Efficient and transparent policy framework are critical to the efficiency of market and governments, and hence to economic development.

Over the years, the ambit of good governance has been much more widened than what was originally understood to be associated with efficiency of the market and the government. The involvement of a number of international actors and local actors as well as development agencies such as the UNDP, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Department for International Development (DFID), CIDA, the Netherlands Development Organization, ADB and others as well as a cross section of civil society groups (including the media) facilitated this expansion. Now, the term good governance covers a number of issues such as participatory development, human rights, democratization (encompassing credible electoral process and necessitating smooth transition), the rule of law as guaranteed by the constitution, effective state institutions, transparency, accountability, corruption control and such like.

THE EMERGING ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY AND ORGANIZED LABOUR

In recent times, the emergence of good governance in development debate has brought about a paradigm shift from the old order to a regime of meaningful discussion on how to get the institutions right.  The idea behind this is that, the creation of a regulative environment is a decisive precondition for achieving sustainable development in the effective and purposeful management of our primarily economic resources. The emerging role of civil society groups and organized labour as well as other non state actors in promoting good governance is becoming increasingly critical. Additionally, non-state actors can foster the legitimacy of governance; hold governments accountable and form the base to build a truly democratic political culture.

Thus, the discussions on international and local media now focuses on the specific role of non-governmental organizations (NGO), organized labour as well as other actors to strengthen the instrument of governance. In Edo State for instance, civil society groups have been involved in constructive activities directed at improving the quality of governance. Notable among such activities include, resolution of industrial disputes, election monitoring and civic education, robust policy dialogue, technical assistance, to mention but a few.

To start with, a protracted industrial action embarked upon primary school teachers in relation to issues concerning their welfare and condition of service, the infrastructural decay in the school system and above all the non implementation of Teachers Salary Scale (TSS).  The industrial action was effectively resolved with the intervention of civil society groups in the state. The implication of the resolution of that crisis was full resumption of academic activities in public primary schools across the state and the restoration of confidence in the ability of government to do the wish of the people.

Doctors and other category of health workers went on strike in Edo State, for six weeks government owned health institutions shut down resulting in the death of unconfirmed number of people who could not access medical services from private health institutions. Consequently, a town hall meeting on the strike action was convened by Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), a Benin City based non-governmental organisation in conjunction with Nigerian Labour Congress, Edo State Chapter at Urokpota Hall, Benin City on Monday 9th August, 2010, in order to amicably resolve the crisis. The meeting was attended by representatives of Edo State Government, representatives of the striking workers, civil society groups including the media, market women, students and the general public who saw the need to intervene in the strike action. At the end of the town hall meeting and the extended meeting which took place at the Office of Commissioner for Health, the wish of the people prevailed and the industrial action ended.

Coalition of Civil Society Organizations also successfully monitored series of re-run election in Edo State. The elections include that of Etsako Central Constituency, Akoko Edo Constituency II and Oduna ward in Ovia North East constituency. The aim of the entire monitoring process was to ensure that the elections were relatively free from manipulation with overall result reflecting the true wish of the people who reserve the right to decide who govern them. It is believed that credible electoral process is a major hallmark of democracy and ultimately good governance which are key ingredients for development.

It should be noted that the problems of poverty and governance are inextricably linked. If power is abused, or exercised in weak or improper ways, those with the least power—the poor—are most likely to suffer. Weak governance compromises the delivery of services and benefits to those who need them most; and lack of property rights, police protection, and legal services disadvantage the poor and inhibit them from securing their homes and other assets and operating businesses. Thus, poor governance generates and reinforces poverty and subverts efforts to reduce it. Strengthening governance is an essential precondition to improving the lives of the poor.

It’s on this note that Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) is currently implementing a 3-year strategic project on “Strengthening Revenue Management in Niger Delta”, in a bid to promote good governance in the region.  These feats must be improved upon by all stakeholders.

One thing is clear, Labour and Civil Society alone can not do it alone. Citizens must identify with the noble course of these Civil Society leaders to advance the common good of society.

  • Mr. Innocent Edemhanria is Programme Officer, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), based in Benin City, Edo State. aneejbenin@yahoo.co.uk

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