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1.1Background of the Study

Globally civil society organizations (CSOs) have become active non-state agents of democratic governance saddled with the multifaceted responsibilities of providing social welfare, economic empowerment, humanitarian services, political participation, human capital development and economic activities (Keane 1989, Ikelegbe 2013:2). Besides those captured roles or activities, the civil society has become important agent for engendering good democratic governance through the promotion of accountability, transparency, rule of law, curtailment of human rights abuses, and capitalist exploitation.

Civil society is seen as the cumulus of voluntary, self-generating, at least partially self-supporting, and autonomous associations which are different from the state, business and family and bound by a legal order or set of shared rules that is open to the public (Woods:1992). It is known as the third sector because it serves as a vibrant social intermediary between the state, business and family.

Civil society in Africa and Nigeria in particular is a recent phenomenon that has characterized the recent ascendancy of neoliberal democratic institution. According to Ikelegbe (2007) civil society provides the oil that lubricates the relationship between the government, business outfits and the people. He observed that emerging democracies especially in Africa and Nigeria cannot be consolidated or sustained without a virile and vibrant civil society.

Democracy is about effective and efficient representation and delivery of the dividends of good governance to the masses. Civil society is sine qua non to democratic governance, which explicitly is about providing social security, expanding and advocating for economic opportunities, rule of law, freedom of press, nipping in the bud ethno-religious violence, provision of basic infrastructural facilities, guarantee of oppositions, and a regular free and fair election. However, because the state represents the interest of the ruling class, whose interest is to perpetually control the apparatus of state power and machinery of government at all cost, the interest of the people especially in emerging democracies in Nigeria tend to be disregarded (Ikelegbe 2007, Hearn 2001). Coupled with this is the poverty of democracy in Nigeria which is manifest in the rising profiles of poverty, human rights abuses, hunger, insecurity, endemic corruption and bribery, environmental degradation, diseases, illiteracy, gender violence and underdevelopment.

The role of civil society organizations in the struggle for civil rule, democratic consolidation and sustainable development in Nigeria cannot be overstated. Indeed, they were at the vanguard for the liberation struggle that culminated in the achievement of independence in 1960. In pre-colonial and post colonial government especially during the military regime, the Nigerian print media was the standard bearer of the civil society organizations as they sought to expose acts of authoritarianism, mismanagement, and corruption in the polity.

During military periods, the civil society organizations (CSOs) and professional organizations such as the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Campaign for Democracy (CD), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), and National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) were at the forefront in the fight against military rule and for the restoration of democracy and democratic governance in Nigeria (Orji, 2004a:41-51).

From the foregoing it is in a cogent premise(s) to argue that a vibrant civil society remains asine qua non for democratic deepening and onwards political, social and economic development. It is against this premise that this study seeks to examine the role of civil society and democratic consolidation in Nigeriafrom 1999-2017. 

1.2    Statement of the Problem

The perennial problem of lack of credible and democratic electoral process has been linked with the phenomenon of “failed, uncaring and unresponsive governance” in Nigeria (Inokoba and Kumokor, 2011:139). No wonder, years of civil rule since 1999 up to 2017 has failed to deliver on good roads, functioning health amenities, quality education, uninterrupted power supply, living wages for workers, effective petroleum sector, genuine electoral reform, equitable distribution of wealth and so on. Hence, Nigeria’s democracy has been described as merely formalistic and devoid of consolidation.

Consolidating democracy in Nigeria through the conduct of credible elections has remained an albatross. The history of Nigeria’s democratic experiments demonstrates that elections and electoral politics have generated so much animosity which has, in some cases, threatened the corporate existence of the country and in other cases instigated military incursion into political governance.

Appraising the roles of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria has been a mixed bag of the good, bad and ugly. The skewed trajectory of democracy in the Sub-Saharan of Africa led to the creation of terms like ‘delegative’ (O’Donell, 1996); ‘illiberal’ (Zakaria, 1997); ‘hybrid’ (Diamond, 2002) and ‘incipient’ (Raker, 2007) democracies. Despite the premium placed on civil society organisations (CSOs) as institutions for strengthening democracy in Nigeria, democracy has not fared well in the country. Put it differently, democracy in Nigeria has refused to take root downwards and bear fruit upwards. Civil society organisations (CSOs) in recent times have criticized the democratization process that Nigeria has experienced, describing it as essentially an exercise in re-stabilization of democratic cartels through improved circulation of elites, to lend legitimacy to economic deregulation. In the same vein, Shin (2009:34) posited that:

Democratic transition in Nigeria has not automatically produced democratic institutions in place of the replaced authoritarian ones. Nor have the newly created democratic institutions performed any more efficiently than the ones they replaced.

Also, leading civil societies groups like Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) among others have in separate times posited that the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria is not yet eureka because issues like unaccountable strong–man leadership, corruption, ethnicity, religious crisis, lack of rule of law and other patrimonial factors are giving democracy a fight for its life. Therefore, the current state of democracy in Nigeria since 1999 to 2017 leaves much to be desired.

It is against this premise that this study seeks to examine the role of civil society and democratic consolidation in Nigeriafrom 1999-2017.

1.3    Objectives of the Study

The general objective of this study is to examine the role of civil society and democratic consolidation in Nigeriafrom 1999-2017. The specific objectives are:

§  To assess the role of civil society organizations in enhancing political development in Nigeria.

§  To investigate the challenges affecting civil society organizations in Nigeria.

§  To provide plausible recommendations on how to strengthen the civil society for democratic consolidation in Nigeria.

1.4    Research Questions

This study will be conducted with the following research questions:

     i.        Does the role of civil society organizations enhance political development in Nigeria?

   ii.        What are the challenges affecting civil society organizations in Nigeria?

  iii.        What is the effect of civil society on democratic consolidation in Nigeriafrom 1999-2017?

1.5    Significance of the Study

This study has both theoretical and practical significance. At the theoretical level, it seeks to contribute to existing body of knowledge on the study of civil society organization and democratic consolidation in Nigeria. It offers a new insight in interrogating both variables by focusing on the nature, character as well as the underlying factor influencing civil society organizations (CSOs)in the process to consolidate democracy in Nigeria.

The outcomes of this study will academically serve as a reference material to future researchers who might be seeking to understand the dynamics of civil society organizations (CSOs) and democratic consolidation in Nigeria. Above all, it seeks to spur research interest in that direction where possible.

Additionally, this study has practical significance, which includes political, social and economic significance. Politically, this study touches on the interest of policy makers, government and donor agencies. The political value of this research is to bring to fore the dynamics and manifestations of CSOs in the process of democratic sustainability and consolidation. The political essence is to trigger national and international discourse on the issues surrounding CSOs and the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria and Africa at large.

Socially, the significance of the study touches on the societal and public interests given the crucial role of civil society organizations (CSOs) to the society. In this context, the study will serve as an eye-opener on the roles, functions, types, structures, strengths and weaknesses of civil society organizations not only in Nigeria but in Africa and beyond.

Economically, the value of this research cannot be underscored because the importance of a consolidated democracy to stable economic development cannot be overstated. In this context, the study will bring to bear the nature and manner of how CSOs influences democratic consolidation which can usher socio-economic and political development in Nigeria.

1.6    Scope of the Study

This study encompasses the role of civil society and democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s fourth republic vis-à-vis political development in Nigeria, national development and the challenges affecting civil society organizations in Nigeria.

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