Democracy, Good Governance and Development in Nigeria; Professor Attahiru Jega (OFR);
2007; Spectrum Books; N900 only
Attahiru Jega (OFR) is no neophyte in Nigeria’s political milieu. Most people know this erudite Professor of Political Science at the Bayero University, Kano (BUK) from his principled stance as the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) between 1988 and 1994. However, Jega who is currently the Vice Chancellor of BUK is one of the few “unrepentant optimist” that fought and believed that Nigeria will one day be freed from the shackles of the military; and that democracy will not only prevail but will become a way of life.
Democracy, Good Governance and Development in Nigeria is a collection of critical essays; a fruit of the author’s intellectual odyssey in Nigeria’s murky democratic waters. The theme of this book is better expressed using the words of the author, as “a selection of my interventions in debates, seminars and conferences over the last decade…. These have been the dominant themes in intellectual discourse by social scientists on the trials and tribulations of the post-colonial Nigerian state as it grappled with crises of nationalism and nationhood, authoritarian military rule and the challenges of development using a hybrid of a neo-liberal theoretical framework in an intensely unequal world.”
The book is presented in eighteen lucidly written chapters. Issues covered range from a general survey of the evolution of the concept and institutions of democracy, to an assessment of the impact, consequences and legacies of prolonged military, to sustainable strategies for popular empowerment and good governance in Nigeria. They also include: ethno-religious conflicts; ‘resource control’ and its implications for national development; role of civil society organisations in sustainability of democratisation; the role of community-based organisations in poverty eradication and sustainable development; public policy and democratisation; and students and the challenges of democratisation.
The first chapter forms the core of the author’s explanation of the concept of democracy. While he takes readers down memory lane by describing the Historical Context: Classical Origins and Foundations of Democracy, (pages 2-7) one discovers the impact of the Greek civilisation on human thought especially in the area of politics and particularly democracy. I also concur with Prof Jega’s redefinition of democracy. In page 11, he stated that: “all notions of democracy being rule of the people by the people for the people, seems very ambiguous and only relative, if not metaphorical.” With our experiences in the last (s)election that were monumentally flawed despite INEC insistence that we believe otherwise. As seen by the many courts rulings that have sacked or declared a re-election for offices that were hitherto claimed by their occupants to have been elected by the people. The author went ahead to redefine “…western liberal democracy as, at best, a system of elected representation in which the representatives are supposed to be responsible and accountable to the people who elected them to represent them. That is elected representatives, delegates, with mandates, whose mandates can be given or withdrawn during elections; representatives or delegates, so mandated, chosen through periodic election, which are supposed to be free and fair; and elections based on affiliations of political parties on whose platform candidates canvass for support for election into public office.”
Although the essays were not presented chronologically by the dates when they were first presented, they however posses as certain order that are evident when one reads through. One other striking aspect is the fact that Jega’s critical essays provoke a feeling of déjà vu. It seems that things hardly change or better put that our political leaders never learn from history. Otherwise how can one explain the fact the mistakes of the past are nearly always repeated. Jega knowing his turf can be better described as a political prophet. This is because after reading this book, I could only conclude that if our political elites would only listen, Nigeria would be a much better place.
Democracy, Good Governance and Development in Nigeria is a refreshing insight on the travails of democratisation, governance and development in contemporary Nigeria and a valuable material for students, scholars, activists and all those interested in Nigeria, its current problems and its future prospects.