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Chapter One: General Introduction

1.1      Background of the Study

The topic “The Impact of Civil Society Organization

on Nigeria‟s Socio-Political Development: An Appraisal of

Civil Liberties Organization”, was induced by the level in

which     the     various     civil     society     organizations      in     the

country have strived to combat those issues that have

continued to undermine the country‟s bid to social and

political development over the years. George Soros, in his book: The Age of Fallibility, Observes that society is suspicious of those who claim to be virtuous and not without justification. The claim of being virtuous is very controversial and is a characteristic of most civil society organizations. Whether they live up to this virtuous claim or not, is open to value judgment, subjectivity and as Soros argues that the burden of proof is certainly that of

the claimant. The implication is that it is misleading to make a sweeping assessment of the civil society organization and their activities. However, it is very necessary to check the extent to which they have made impact to improve public welfare, strengthened cultural, social, economic and political life-wire of the society.

It is also right to say that since the dawn of participatory democracy, the rights of citizens such as the freedoms of expression and of association are seen as sacrosanct. Often, these rights are provided in the constitution and other extart laws of the country. When people outside the corridors of power freely exercise these rights by volunteering to pursue a valued course or by protecting against a government policy, they double and are recognized as civil society group or organization. This tends to lend credence to the assertion of Abbie Hoffman who said many years ago that:

Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat, but its something you do, you participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles (1963:30).

A significant problem in most developing countries

is over centralization of decision making and the lack of

stakeholders      involvement       that      permit       patronage       of

powerful special interests and high levels of corruption.

Scholars     are     agreed     that     lack     of     stakeholder     buy-in

attenuates the policy process, decreases efficiency and

this in-turn affects economic growth. This is where civil

society can play a major role by contributing to greater

transparency and accountability.

Civil     society     is     a     “space”     where     function     is     to

mediate between the individual and the state while there

may not be a clear cut definition of civil society; they

more or less agree that it comprises institutions such as

religious organizations, labour unions, charity organizations, community groups, non profits and the media. In advanced and virile democratic systems, these institutions supplement formal processes such as voting and help citizens shape the culture, politics and economies of their nation. Civil society organization tends to strengthen and raise the capacity of citizens to address social, economic and political developmental challenges.

Hence in this study, we attempt to expose or bring to limelight, the impact of these civil society organizations on the socio-political development of Nigeria, laying emphasis on the civil liberties organization (CLO). The Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) was established in 1987 as one of Nigeria‟s largest human rights organization. Its formation and emergence can be credited to a renowned Nigerian radical lawyer Olisa Agbakoba (SAN). The civil liberties organization investigates human rights abuses and campaigns,

through litigation, publications and communication with the government on behalf of people whose rights have been abused. It has published a number of reports on police brutality, military decrees, government impunity, the death penalty and annual reports on the human rights situation in Nigeria. Its legal aid project has represented over 4,000 indigent victims of human rights abuses. The organization also undertakes human rights education through its empowerment project, conducting clinics and seminars on rights issues. The government is extremely active in lobbying the government through dialogue and public censor and launching campaigns to end specific government abuses, hence providing an avenue for socio-political development in Nigeria.

1.2      Statement of Problem

The Civil Society Organizations play prominent role

as the mouth-piece of the citizens on issues affecting the

people and the society at large, especially in the case of policies and ideas, that might threaten the peaceful co-existence of the citizens and hinder the socio-political development of the society. In Nigeria, the existence of repressive and unpopular governments for more than 20 years serve as impetus for the emergence and proliferation of organizations that seek to challenge the legitimacy of policy, programmes and ultimately the existence of these government. No doubt, the existence of these organizations, assisted considerably to open up space for the expression of dissenting opinions and what could be regarded as alternative voices. Unfortunately this very character and attribute has come to serve as a shield for some opportunistic and self-centered civil society organizations.

Key assumptions that connotes legitimacy to the existence of civil society organizations is that they are expected to be knowledge driven, which means that

actors, or at least members have requisite skills to investigate problems of society, proffer solutions and develop plans to facilitate buy on, by other segment of society and government. To this effect, some questions were raised in the course of this study, questions as; what is the problem prompting the study? Which ends up seeking to find the solution to the questions below:

i.            Is there any relationship between civil society organizations and democracy?

ii.          Is bad governance the driving force of civil society organizations in Nigeria?

iii.        To what extent has the civil liberties organization influenced the socio-economic and political development in Nigeria?

1.3      Objectives of the Study

The major objectives of this research is to assess the

impact  of  the  civil  society  organizations,  on  Nigeria‟s

development. The specific objectives of the study are:

i.            To establish the relationship between civil society organizations and democracy.

ii.          To ascertain if bad governance is the driving force of civil society organizations in Nigeria.

iii.        To determine the extent the civil liberties organization has influenced the socio-economic and political development of Nigeria.

1.4      Literature Review

The activities of civil society organizations have over

the years engineered several forms of development in Nigeria. Activities ranging from protecting against certain government policies to the organization of seminars, conferences and enlightenment programmes to educate the masses or citizens on the various human rights and

how to kick against abuse on such rights. Civil society organizations, through protest and campaigns have over the years worked to bring about accountability in government, in the sense that the government has become more accountable and responsible as a result of the eye cast on it by the civil society organizations, hence bringing about people oriented policies that further bring about development in the country.

Furthermore, civil society organizations as it relates to their impact on socio-political development have been subjected to different scholarly views in an attempt to ascertain the level of relationship or disparity that exist between the activities of civil society organization and

Nigeria‟s socio-political development. On a plain or level ground or better still in a layman‟s term, socio-political development can be seen or comprises of two factors; social development and political development, otherwise known as socio-political development. Social development

on the one hand refers to a broad term that describes actions that are taken to build positive outcomes and prevent negative social outcomes that can adversely affect a community. These outcomes includes issues ranging from crime, poverty, gang activity, school disengagement, teen pregnancy, addictions and substance abuse, obesity, poor health, environmental degradation etc. The aim of social development is to improve the availability of support systems in the community that prevent negative outcomes before they occur or buffer (lessen) their impact. For example rather than reacting to crime after it has already happened, measures are taken within the community that prevent crime from ever occurring.

Good prevention starts with parents before they have children and very directly once conception has occurred. Evidence suggested that negative environments not only affect pregnant mothers but can very directly

alter the architecture of the brain of the unborn child. Social development is about creating environment that enable children and youth to thrive and not merely survive. In other words, social development refers to the ability to create an enabling environment or building a conducive environment for man to survive, while political development on the other hand refers to a durable shift in ideas or institutions that alters the feasible set of options open to solving political problems. The study of political development can also be understood as the study of the evolution of the structures of the state, in correspondence with the changes occurring in the economic and social dimensions of group life. Political development has been defined in many ways that reflect the passage of societies and analysts preoccupations. One formulation dwells on the emergence of national sovereignty and the integrity of the state, demanding respect and upholding commitments in the international

system. Others identify the domestic attributes of constitutional order and political stability, attained through the formation of a settled framework of government, reliable procedures for leadership succession and a consolidation of the territorial administrative reach of government.

Political development enhances the states capacity to mobilize and allocate values or resources to process policy inputs into implementable outputs. This assists with problem – solving and adaptation to environmental changes and goals realization. The concemporary notion of good governance also dwells on efficient, effective and non-corrupt administration. Social and political development seems to work hand-in-hand, hence this research topic seeks to find out the impact of civil society organization in the socio-political development of Nigeria, using the civil liberties organizations as an appraisal.

Bratton (1994:5) has warned of the dangers in appropriating a venerable concept such as civil society when trying to explain contemporary African politics. The dangers arise not only from the fact that the concept evolve on a distinctly European historical and cultural Milliuex, but also because its usage by political philosophers has changed dramatically overtime.

This point was undermined by Pelcynske (1984:3) when he opined that “few social and political concepts have traveled so far in their life and changed their meaning so much”. The practical dimensions of the dangers are evident on the work of analysts such as Mersha (1990:2) and Gold (1990:20) who tried to apply the concept to non-western politics (Ethiopia and China) and found it “unwieldy” and “complex” respectively.

Although there is some degree of elusiveness and fugitility in the nature and meaning of civil society, the difficulty in application experienced by some scholars

may  not  be  unconnected  to  the  tendency  to  adopt  a

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