Is Nigeria becoming an unlikely test case for reclaiming democracy?
Several Nigerian states are exploiting the relative autonomy of the federalist system to construct the essential building blocks of sustainable democracy, writes Northwestern University’s Richard Joseph, referring to the effective state capacity, law-based governance, and public accountability that Frances Fukuyama identifies as the preconditions of democratic governance.
But, he adds, with most Nigerian government bodies mired in corruption, it is falling to ordinary citizens and civil society to drive democratization, using the “liberation technology” of new social media:
The response to this challenge is what Michigan State University’s Michael Bratton and Carolyn Logan…… have described as “claiming democracy.” Armed with innumerable cell phones, conventional and social media, and access to abundant civil society groups, Nigerians are becoming increasingly empowered.
Pre-emptive conflict mapping is just one example of innovation within Nigerian civil society. The Fund for Peace employed a Conflict Assessment System Tool methodology to produce UNLocK Nigeria: Conflict Early Warning and Prevention,* a report that outlines how the government can “kick-start the virtuous cycle” of stability, economic growth and democratization:
President Jonathan’s new government needs to invest more resources in infrastructure and development, particularly in the North which is severely underdeveloped compared to the South. At the same time, the problems underlying militancy in the South need to be resolved in a more sustainable manner than the amnesty program has achieved thus far. ….
Though Nigeria faces a number of economic challenges, including an overwhelming dependence on oil exports and high levels of inequality, it has enormous resources at its disposal, which the federal and state governments must use very aggressively for economic development to the benefit of all Nigerians in furtherance of peace and stability. This will kick-start the virtuous cycle, whereby peace will also enhance economic growth and well-being.
*The project was funded by the National Endowment for Democracy. Several NED grantees, from the Niger Delta to the north central region, participated in the research, including the Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. The institute is headed by former Reagan-Fascell fellow Anyakwee Nsirimovu.