Civil Society And It’s Impact On Democracy In Nigeria From 2003-2013

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Civil Society And It’s Impact On Democracy In Nigeria From 2003-2013


The role of civil society in democratic consolidation in Nigeria is an indisputable fact of the nation democratic and developmental aspiration must be realized. The installation of democratic governance was largely in part to civil society activities. However, there has been genuine concern as to the continued effectiveness of civil society consolidating democracy in Nigeria. This study is therefore a critical analysis of civil society in Nigeria. Its straights and limitation and how such limitations can be over some. In doing this, we made use of secondary data. Using the group theory our chief recommendation is that civil society can be more effective of they maintain a high degree of independence from the government.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Nigeria experience with democracy has been epileptic since 1960 when she got her independence from the British administration, 1999 will be the third attempt,(if the third republic is excluded as it was abolished even before it started) in coming to grasp with democratic ethos.

In each, practices widely accepted to be at variance with true spirit of democracy was perceived to be the major reason for democratic demise in Nigeria, violence, corruption, political association and very recently, godfatherism has not only undermined her democracy but has gone a long way to threaten it’s very sustenance.

Due to the way its been pursued, democracy in Nigeria has come to mean many things to many people. A lot of people have not been able to extricate or distinguish it from dictatorial regimes despite the fact that there are perceived elements of major characteristics of democracy. For instance, it has been alleged that in many quarters that even when elections are conducted, citizens are not allowed to go pass the voting process in having a good share in the elected government of the day (Adele 2001).

The role of civil society is not only strengthening but also ensuring its sustenance becomes very imperative. However, civil society roles in consolidating democracy in third world nations has been doubted, this is because why credit must be given to them for ensuring that democratic transitions are successful, they lack what it takes to assure it’s continuation.

According to Boadi, (1995), there are many factors responsible for this, lack of funds, depending on government and of course political polarization are some of the many reasons that has contributed to the effective weakness of civil society in third world nations specifically Nigeria.

Civil society is defined by Diamond (1999), as “The realm of organized social life that is voluntary, self-generating (largely), self-supporting, autonomous from the state and bound by a large order and a set of shared rules” the need to reexamine their functions in an organized state. This is because according to Diamond (1999), it is distinct from society in general in that it involves citizens acting collectively in the public sphere to express their interests, passion and ideas, exchange information, achieve initial goals and make demands on the state and hold local state officials accountable. Civil society is an intermediary entity standing between the private sphere and the state.

The lack of mutual set goals and exchanged information which has risen due to the politicization of civil society has rendered it so weak to hold state officials accountable. Third world civil society is no longer an intermediary entity standing between the private sphere and the state, rather as earlier asserted, lack of finance (fund) has been by many to have been co-opted by the state in advancing their selfish interest.

A good example is the infamous June 12 1993 election allegedly won by M.K.O. Abiola. Though it was adjudged as the freest of election in Nigeria till date, it was annulled by the military leadership of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. However, according to Chikendu and Kalu (1996), the polarization of civil society especially as it reflects their geographical location (North/East-West dichotomy) especially strengthen the military resolves to be adamant to the peoples wish.

Nevertheless, it is believed that civil society have great role to play in sustaining democracy in Nigeria as indeed all third world nation, if the concept of civil society by Diamond as quoted is true of third world nations, civil society then consolidating democracy in Nigeria for instance will be a reality, but as already shown above, the role played by these civil groups have become questionable, given the constraints that hinders their effective organization.

The concept of civil society in Nigeria and the struggle for political independence dated back to the colonial era, though repeated attempts to sustain and consolidate democratic government faltered. However, the 1980s witnessed the activation of their operations in the quest for democratic governance. Governments, hitherto unaccountable and despotic, became even more authoritarian as they embarked upon unpopular, belt-tightening programs. The abuse of office, executive lawlessness and reckless political decisions became the order of the day, as the state became the property of the ruling class. This activated a civil society, determined to check the erosion of rights, freedom and civic values. The conjecture was characterized by intense restlessness among citizens and civic groups, which demanded for democracy, participation and justice.

According to Ojo (2011), many of these groups like the Campaign for Democracy (CD), Civil Liberties Organizations, (CLO), Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR), Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), etc, were instrumental in the restoration of civil rule. It would be recalled that between 1993 and 1999, in collaboration with the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), these groups fought the Nigerian military to a standstill. They mobilized students and workers for civil disobedience, strikes and protest marches across the country. Many in their ranks were killed and maimed, while some lucky few were able to make good their escape into exile In recent times in Nigeria, CSOs executed diverse programs such as voter education, election observation, campaign finance monitoring, election tribunal monitoring, electoral reform advocacy, conflict mitigation, access to justice, public interest litigation, budget tracking, constituency outreaches as well as research and documentation in thematic areas of democracy and governance. These initiatives have made some impact on Nigeria’s nascent democracy, as reports of activities carried out by CSOs have become the barometer through which international organizations and governments assess the democratic temperature of the country. (Ojo,2011)

The resurgence of ethnic and religious conflict all over the country has once again fueled pessimism concerning not only the future of democracy in Nigeria, but also the existence of Nigeria as a political entity. The way the Nigerian government resolves these challenges will determine whether Nigeria’s fledgling democracy is transient or sustainable and, more importantly, whether Nigeria disintegrates or reconfigures itself as a nation-state. In the light of these concerns, it has become imperative to reconsider the concept of civil society as a possible catalyst to Nigeria’s democratic consolidation.

These research therefore, is very timely in that it will rigorously and systematically look at civil society to be of immense help in consolidating democracy in Nigeria by overcoming their weakness. Many reasons given for these weakness which ranges from co-optation of such associational groups will be looked at.

In other words, the problem bedeviling civil society in Nigeria will be highlighted and prospects of a strong civil society as it helps to consolidate Nigeria nascent democracy.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The lack of an effective and viable civil society has called to question the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria. Therefore, this project work intends to look at the role of civil society can play in effectively ensuring the continuation of democracy in Nigeria, it will also highlight some of the problems that could mitigate against the emergence of a viable civil society and look at how the strength of Nigeria civil society could be enhanced.

1.3 Objective of the Study

The main objective of this study is to examine the Civil society and its impact on democracy in Nigeria from 2003 to 2013.

The study also sort to critically evaluate the role of civil society in third world nations with particular reference to Nigeria and how such role can effect positively or negatively to democratic sustenance in Nigeria. The effectiveness of civil society in easing democratic transition in Nigeria with special reference to its consolidating role has been perceived too weak.

It is therefore, timely and pertinent to look into the issues and proposed a way forward despite the outlined weakness; democracy is still largely adjudged as the best form of government because of the freedom (bill of rights) it ensured in any given polity.

1.4 Hypotheses

The following hypothetical assumption will be of immense importance in researching the above problems,

  1. Ho: Multi ethnic composition of Nigeria society has no significant effect on the viability and composition of civil societies in Nigeria.
    Hi: Multi ethnic composition of Nigeria society has a significant effect on the viability composition of civil societies in Nigeria.
  2. Ho: The politicization of civil society in Nigeria has no significant effect on their perceived weakness in playing their role as intermediary between the state and private sector.
    Hi: The politicization of civil society in Nigeria has a significant effect on their perceived weakness in playing their role as intermediary between the state and the private sector.
  3. Ho: The economic decentralization and expansion of the private sector have no significant impact on civil society that are fully independent of the state.
    Hi: The economic decentralization and expansion of the private sector have a significant impact on civil society that are fully independent of the state.

1.5 Significance of the Study

The significance of this study will lie in the difference it is capable of making to the enhancement of democratic ethos in the Nigerian political system. Its premise is that civil society have a great role to play in expanding Nigeria nascent democracy across its territorial boundaries.

It will also contribute to the advancement of knowledge as it relates to this field of enquires.

It is hoped that it will provoke further researchers in the nearest future.

1.6 Scope of the Study

We will restrict our scope of analysis to the geographical entity known as Nigeria and the various civil society group found in it. These various groups will be used as case studies from time to time as the circumstances demands, however, these does not mean that when the situation demands, references will not be drawn from other countries in as much as it will help to advance our case. This study will also focus on the time frame of 2003 – 2013.

1.7 Limitation of the Study

As the case usually is, there are certain limitations the researcher will be faced with in the cause of this work. One is in the area of finance which might have a direct consequence on the quality of suitable materials. Apart from finance, also considering the fact that research work of this nature are often done within a timeframe. The study therefore can not be exhaustive in its entirety.

However, it is hoped that these constraints so named, will be checked mated by making the best use of the materials we have and spending more than the necessary time in the research work, therefore, we strongly believe that despite these constraint, its effect on this research report will be minimal. Thus making the objective and significance of the study.

1.8 Methodology

Secondary sources of gathering data will be largely employed for our variables. This again will be based on content analysis, what these involves is the critical review of related materials, literatures, journals, magazines and textbooks, it will also involve sourcing or browsing the net for materials. Communication with authorities in the field will also not be overlooked.

1.9 Definition of Terms

Conceptual clarification is a major requirement for any scientific or empirical research. It lay the basis for outright understanding of major concepts that will be used, this is because concepts is the “building block” of any given discipline. The following concepts therefore, needs operational clarification.

1. Civil Society:

A whole range of social groups that seek to operate independently of the state such as, private business, enterprises, labour unions, trade association, religious bodies, student organizations, artistic and publications (Gold 1999).
It has also been seen as an intermediary entity standing between the private sphere and the state, it is distinct from society in general in that it involve citizens acting collectively in the public sphere to express their interest, passion and ideas, make demands on the state and hold state officials accountable (Diamond 1995)

2. Democracy:

A political system providing for the participation of citizens in political decision making, often by the representatives of governing bodies (Giddens 2001).

3. Sustainable Democracy:

A state of affairs in which none of the major political actors, parties organized interest, forces or institutions considers that there is any alternative to democratic processes to gain power and no political institution has a claim to veto the action of democratically elected decision makers.

Chapter Five


It must be realized that a civilian government does not necessary equate to a democratic government. Thus, the need for CSOs to become more actively involved in the democratic project has become a political demand. It is also pertinent that these CSOs become virile, articulate, cohesive and focused to engage the state, mobilize the people and provide a credible platform that will aid the quest for the establishment of a durable and dependable democratic order. CSOs in Nigeria need to become more national in their spread and membership in the range of issues that they tackle, taking on broad rural as well as urban concerns across the length and breadth of Nigeria.

This will transform the CSOs to credible and popular political force that will be difficult for the politicians to ignore or brush aside. It is important that the civil society organizations ensure that their internal procedures and organizational structures conform to the highest ethical standards. Probity, accountability, transparency and a culture of binding commitment to good corporate governance should be their watchword.

These organizations must also fine-tune their method of advocacy such that their messages would be well received by the political elites and well appreciated by the populace. Operationally, civil society organizations should seek alternative funding sources outside the state. This way, they will be able to maintain their autonomy. They must include the creation of autonomous programs as opposed to donor-driven programs; cultivating democratic practices and values, intensifying networking and sharing of information within CSOs as well as improving internal governance mechanisms.

Lastly, the revolution in digital technology has transformed both the Nigerian media and civil society groups. Internet analysis of ongoing political events has opened a new channel for public advocacy. Televisions stations have began to broadcast live, the National Assembly hearings and that has increased public awareness and transparency. Media outlets, which were hitherto hounded by the political actors, have found some protection through the Internet, both for publishing sensitive stories and reprinting Internet-based content for which the government cannot prosecute them.

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