Democracy: Role Of Civil Society Groups

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On September 15, Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark the International Day of Democracy. The day, like others before it was set aside by the United Nations to promote and advance the cause of democracy everywhere in the world.
Worthy of note is the theme of this year’s International Day of Democracy, “Space For Civil Society.” It is a reminder to governments across the world that stable and successful democracies must of necessity draw from the activities of vibrant civil society groups, whose work with government must promote accountability.
Succinctly put by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, civil society is the oxygen of democracy. It acts as catalyst for social progress and economic growth and helps represent the diverse interests of the population, most especially, its most vulnerable groups.
In Nigeria, the history of democratic rule will be incomplete without reference to the struggle and critical roles played by the civil society groups in enthroning and nurturing democratic ideals.
The Tide commends the civil society groups for the roles they played in strengthening the Electoral Law, as well as  actualising the Freedom of Information (FOI) Law in Nigeria. We also note their passion for the sanctity of human lives as seen in the “Bring Back Our Girls,” campaign.
While we commend civil society organisations for their effort at deepening democracy in Nigeria, we cannot fail to note with, great concern, that the space for civil society groups is gradually shrinking. It is becoming too obvious that some civil society organisations and activists cannot operate effectively due to poor funding or government’s interference or both.
It is in view of this that The Tide calls on the Federal Government to provide the enabling environment for the smooth operation of civil society groups. Government must avoid actions capable of inhibiting the activities of these groups if the people must draw the benefits of democracy.
As the most preferred system of government all over the world, democracy requires certain essential ingredients to survive. These include freedom of speech, association and information, respect for law and human rights, provision of basic social amenities and free, fair and credible elections. All these can be achieved when there is vibrant, credible and non-partisan civil society activities.
But we observe that in recent times some civil society groups have lost focus, credibility and relevance due to their involvement in partisan politics. This has diminished their neutrality and dependability in many quarters.
More worrisome is the tendency of some civil society organisations to advance the interest of their foreign sponsors at the detriment of Nigeria’s national interest. This is unpatriotic and unacceptable. Some have also allowed themselves to do dirty jobs for governments.
We expect that as the world prepares to implement a new development agenda agreed to by the world’s governments recently, the Federal Government and the civil society groups will need to key into the agenda by working together to strengthen democratic governance in Nigeria.