The Impact Of Civil Society In Sustaining Democracy In Nigeria With Reference To NLC

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

The Impact Of Civil Society In Sustaining Democracy In Nigeria With Reference To NLC


This paper examines the role of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in sustaining democracy in Nigeria. The research work focuses on the historical evolution of the NLC in Nigeria from the colonial days to the present democratic dispensation. The NLC is a custodian of nurturing and sustaining democratic process and good governance in Nigeria and its consolidation. It is imperative to recall that inspite of the unhealthy rivalries and power tussles, Nigeria Labour leaders often times sank their differences and came together to fight a common cause when ever there was need for organization labour to come together, fight the cost of living and improve on the welfare and wellbeing of Nigerian Workers. It becomes imperative to offer some suggestions that are helpful to the survival of democracy. This chapter concludes the research work, draws conclusions and provides some recommendations for the effective performance of the Nigeria Labour Union in deepening democracy.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to 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.

Civil Society is that segment of society that is distinct from the state and political society. It consist of civil associations or independent groups formed by people with common interest or aspirations, either politically, economically, socially or culturally, with the view of checking the activities of the state such as exercise of power, civil and human rights and distribution of resources. Civil Society exists as the engine of democratization. It sets the pace to facilitate the democratic process, providing basis for the limitation of state power. It also supplements the roles of political parties by stimulating political participation; promoting the development of democratic attributes and creating channels other than political parties for the articulation; aggregation and representation of interests. It also monitors state activities and disseminates information, which can help the citizens to pursue and defend their interests and values.

Nigeria has spent most of the forty-nine years since independence struggle with political, social and economic failure. Repeated attempts to sustain and consolidate democratic government have faltered. 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 government resolves these challenges will determine whether Nigeria’s fledging 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 becomes imperative to reconsider the concept of Civil Society as a possible antidote for Nigeria’s democratic failure. To think about the concept of Civil Society in the context of Nigeria’s political theatre is an exhilarating task. The question that first comes to mind is; will this theorem hold in an environment so different- in every social and physical sense- from that of the West, the citadel of democracy? The answered requires going beyond a prescriptive approach and to employ an approach that linked the concept of Civil Society inextricable to the social, cultural, and historical institution of a society. Thus, Civil Society becomes a representation of the value of those experiencing it and not that of the West.

In recent years, the concept of “democratic government” has become increasingly prominent in the literature on development and the buzzword “civil society” has become a key element of the post-military zeitgeist in the developing world. An increasing attention is paid to democratization’ human rights, popular participation, regime stability, transparency, accountability, probity, privatization, and reducing the size of the state, the important role of Civil Society can no longer be ignored. The growing universal consensus on the relevance of Civil Society to the survival of democracy can be trance to phenomena ranging from the decline of the West state to the transformation of the former soviet bloc to resistance against authoritarian regimes in the developing world.

Democratization in Nigeria has not benefited from this new consensus on Civil Society- post colonial statism and the protected year of military dictatorship have provide a scant basis for the aggregation of private interests and the attenuation of state authority. Consequently, corruption has become widespread in Nigeria society. When Civil Society functions well, it can champion government reforms, confront corruption, advocate respect for human rights, promote, and defend democratic processes and institutions.

In an attempt to explain why the concept of Civil Society is vital for sustaining Nigeria’s nascent democracy and in seeking to forecast future democratic development. These fundamental question will be ask pertinent to the role of Civil Society in democratic consolidation as stated in the research questions below.

1.2 Statement of Research Problem

It is widely argued that, the development of any democracy depends largely on some supportive institution in the political system. The most -important of these institutions is the Civil Society. This research will look into the role of Civil Society in sustaining democracy in Nigeria.

Over the year, the Civil Society Groups we have in the country have not been performing their specific, primary, and statutory role. This inability to perform their roles has led to a form of deficiency in the kind of democracy we practice in the country. This research work is directed towards looking at these roles and how why they have not been adequately performed.

1.3 Research Questions

This work is designed to provide answers to the following questions:

  1. What is civil society and why is it critical to democratic survival?
  2. What is the relationship between civil society and the state?
  3. Is the consolidation of democracy feasible in Nigeria with reference to the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC)?
  4. Why has the civil society failed to adequately perform and what is the consequences of this failure?

1.4 Objective of the Study

  1. To critically assess how Nigeria Labour Congress has contributed in sustaining democracy in Nigeria between 1999 to 2014
  2. To identify factors that shapes the activities of the Nigeria Labour Congress from 1999 to 2014
  3. To understand the nature of state-civil society relations in Nigeria.

1.5 Significance of the Study

  1. It will look critically into the role of Nigeria Labour congress in sustaining democracy in Nigeria.
  2. It will serve as basis for further research and knowledge production on issue of Nigeria Labour Union in sustaining democracy in Nigeria.

1.6 Scope of the Study

The researcher shall restrict the 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.

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 is often done within a time frame. 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.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

This chapter summarizes the research work, draws conclusions and provides some recommendations for the effective performance of NLC in deepening democracy.

5.2 Summary

In summary, the research consists of four chapters, which are for the sake of good report. Chapter one consists of introduction, statement of research problem, research questions, objective of the study, significance of the study, methodology, literature review and theoretical framework in the research.

Chapter two [2] consists of historical evolution of the Nigerian labour congress [NLC], labour movement in Nigeria: an historical overview, restructuring of the unions, the birth of Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress[TUC], Organ of Nigeria Labour Congress and the membership of the Nigeria Labour Congress.

Chapter three [3] focuses on the activities of NLC in consolidating democracy in Nigeria. The chapter notes how NLC in Nigeria [from 1999-2007] operates freely and openly. Some of the activities of NLC in deepening democratic process observed included NLC and the sustainability of democracy in Nigeria, the struggle for democracy, good governance and human rights, democratic dividends and the NLC and Trade Union Unity. However, the chapter highlights some areas that Civil Society has failed in deepening democratic process and its consolidation. These include lack of fund, corruption, excessive dependence on foreign aid among others.

5.3 Conclusion

The role of Civil Society (NLC) should be defined beyond its engagement of the state in order to prevent it from overwhelming society and trampling on individuals’ rights. This is because democracy is not just about rights. It is equally about participation, interest representation and contestation. If this is the case, NLC role and performance must properly be viewed in the context of state-civil society relations. This means that society-civil society relations become the other side of state-civil society relations. The strength of civil society relations will then be in its ability to improve on the interaction between state and society. This perspective also calls for more attention to the relation between Civil Society Groups and the communities or people [the poor, the voiceless] that they often claim to represent. This call is important because as we have noted in the Nigerian context, the pro-democracy [civil society] groups not only find it difficult to muster and sustain credibility, they have also not been able to break away from geographical divide and are elitist in character. Other form of associational life especially at the grassroots is often isolated and is not usually aggregated at the national level. These have several implications for democratic consolidation. More so, the democratic challenges for NLC under a brutal dictatorship differ from those under an elected government because of their peculiarities. Thus, the methods and strategies of civic engagement under a military dictatorship should differ significantly from those under democratically elected representatives. That is why after the introduction of democratic government, NLC itself may have to pass through a process of renewal in which organizational structures and operations have to be redefined in the light of the new challenges under a democratic dispensation. This necessary redefinition of organizational structures and operations is not an easy task. Their success in achieving this redefining and transformation will influence their relevance and effectiveness in the consolidated democracy. To reach ideological independence, financial independence is also needed. There is no future for the human rights movement in Nigeria unless it can secure domestic ideological, financial and moral support from interest constituencies. It is crucial that the movement be part of the people; its leadership and aspirations must reflect the needs and perspectives of ordinary citizens… the movement should not be complacent, as it is today, with external support.

5.4 Recommendations

Our experience of democracy since May 29, 1999, has thrown up many challenges in the course of deepening democratic process and its consolidation in the country [Nigeria]. It becomes imperative to offer some suggestions that are helpful to the survival of democracy in Nigeria. The following are therefore recommended:

  1. For NLC to be truly a “watch dog” of democracy in Nigeria, it must develop democratic attributes such as tolerance, respect, willingness to compromise and respect for opposing viewpoints, commitment to democratic ethics, loyalty to leaders, peace making and many more. It is through this role that the NLC can be said to be a custodian of nurturing and sustaining democratic process and good governance in Nigeria.
  2. For NLC to perform the role of deepening and sustaining democratic process in Nigeria and its consolidation there is the need for them to raise funds internally instead of relying solely on the grant from foreign donor agencies.
  3. NLC should educate and enlighten people through enlightenment campaign that would focus on drawing attention of people to governmental institutions that guarantee fundamental human rights so that those who have been denied justice would be liberated.
  4. Good governance: political elites should imbibe the tenets of good governance; it is an effective means for eradicating poverty and illiteracy. If poverty and illiteracy is eradicated, the capacity of NLC to mobilize and enlighten masses will be enhanced.
  5. Civil Society Groups should be ideological in approach: NLC should be guided by ideas and ideologies in their activities and should be capable of bringing good ideas to the government and make civil education a continuous exercise as against being inconsistent and intermittent that is, closing shops whenever their objectives are realized. They should play the role of civic schools.
  6. Strike moderation: The rate at which NLC embarks on strike should be reduced because; excessive strikes are detrimental to both the workers and economic growth and development of the nation generally. Negotiation and dialogue should be embraced.
  7. Constitutional amendment: Constitutional provisions of NLC that prohibit them from soliciting for funds from individuals and groups should be amended.
  8. Curtailing the rate of multiplication, proliferation and duplication of workers union: Government should set up special commission to checkmate the rate of workers unions with the same functions and objectives and merge them together to avoid duplication of functions and duties.
  9. NLC should engage in greater popular participation in both economic and political affairs, the expansion of the democratic space, and the formation of regional linkages between states and Civil Society in Nigeria will go a long way in solving the crisis in Nigeria and ensure genuine and self-sustaining democracy.
  10. Establishment of special body: NLC should establish special body that will be able to extend the impacts and civil activities in the areas of monitoring legislative process, budget allocation and implementation in order to ensure transparency and accountability in governance.
  11. NLC should spearheaded to develop a mechanism for measuring government performance from local government level to the national levels provides the best context for checking government’s corruption and abuse of power.
  12. NLC should become an intermediate agent between the government and people by striking a balance between what the people want from the government and what the government delivers to the people, which will go a long way to consolidating democratic process in Nigeria.

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