THE INTERNATIONAL political
and economic order has been impacted
by the rise in civil society organizing.
FromSeattle to Cancun and quite
recently the Make Poverty History
campaign that culminated with the G8
meeting atGleneagles, Scotland indicate
that civic organizing has become a social
force for change. A social force that
seeks to put people before profit, food
on the table before boosting national
reserves. This force of change questions
the rationale for poor people dying of
easily preventable diseases, and does
not understand why poor people cannot
afford life saving treated mosquito nets.
Before the growth of civil society
organizing, the international political
and economic order was analyzed from
the stand point of the role back of the
frontiers of the state or otherwise and the
emphasis of efficient market in catalyzing
development. These perspectives were
shaped by the thinking and writings
of Adam Smith and John Keynes as
development thinking were influenced
by the role of the state or the end or role
back of the state in shaping livelihoods
and creating wealth. This is what is
termed the two dimension analysis.
However, two-dimension analysis has
been reshaped by the increased role of
civil society, civic groups and grassroots
movements in drumming up support for
alternative paradigms that are people
friendly and supportive of home grown
initiatives. Hence, development thinking
in the 21st century cannot be complete
without a robust mention of the impact
of civic organizing and mobilizing in
influencing decisions and choices of the
most powerful men in the world – leaders
of the most industrialized countries.
A casual look at the Make Poverty
History campaigns across the world
particularly the campaign to influence
the 2005 G8 Summit in Gleneagles,
Scotland, would bring to the mind of
some Nigerian government officials an
instance of persons who are interested
in demanding justice based on moral
arguments or rights without a grasp of
the economics of productive forces of
supply and demand, fiscal responsibility,
single digit inflation, among others.
However, the Make Poverty History
campaign in 2005 is shaped by the
following facts: that the average income
per person in the G8 countries is twenty
five thousand, nine hundred and ten
dollars, while the average income
inAfrica is four hundred and fifty.
In Nigeria for instance, average income
comes to three hundred dollars, which
remains one of the lowest in Sub-Saharan
Africa. The campaign is further shaped
by the fact that one child in every six
will die before their fifth birthday, while
in the most industrialized nations the
figure is almost one in two hundred. It
is shaped by the fact that basic education
in Africa received four hundred million
dollars in 2003 from G8 countries, one third
of the cost of production of a single stealth
bomber used in prosecuting the war in Iraq
and elsewhere. Everyday Africaspends
thirty million dollars in servicing its debt –
enough to provide antiretroviral therapy to
every African person who needs it.
It would interest you to know that, the
total cost of organizing the G8 summit
is one hundred million pounds. Enough
to increase funding in the Nigeria’s
health care system from $2 per Nigerian
in 2003 to about $25 in 2005? While
international campaigns targeted at the
most industrialized countries are yielding
results, (the instance ofNigeria’s debt
relief package and drummed up debt
cancellation of some African countries up
to the tune of forty billion dollars), there
are some few worries for us to consider in
our quest to make Nigeria different from
the past.
First is the fact that till date since the
announcement of the debt relief for Nigeria
there has not been a comprehensive
analysis of the implications of the package
for Nigeria in real terms. For instance, what
is the role of the International Financial
Institutions – the World Bank and the
International Monetary Funds (IMF) in
the negotiations that would take about six
months? What do we understand by the
Policy Support Instrument to be approved
by the IMF board?
Second, is the lack of a national framework
of action that would clearly stipulate in
unambiguous terms where such monies if
eventually freed by the Paris Club would
go to – here we mean line by line item. For
us, the statement that such monies would
be utilized to stimulate the comatose
health, education, agriculture, power and
water supply systems in Nigeria is simply
a blanket statement, and to this extent
unacceptable to poor Nigerian who cannot
afford to send their children to school
simply because of PTA and craft levies.
Third is the fact that government has not
recognized civic organizing and the huge
repertoire of knowledge that reside within
the sector as good enough to contribute
to the development of the Nigerian state.
While it has been argued that the shape
of politicking, the north/south dichotomy,
language, and religion are influential
factors against civic organizing, the counter
point that has not been explored -are the
following existential factors: pervasive
poverty, unequal distribution of wealth,
the few rich against the many poor – as
force that should catalyze mass action in
Nigeria.
Furthermore, there have been various
opportunities in Nigeria for civil society to
capitalize on, expand and utilize to create
the much needed sanity in the Nigerian
governance system. The corruption saga
that rocked both the National Assembly
and the education sector some time ago
is one veritable instance of civil society in
Nigeriafailing to capitalize on an arena or
space for change.
What we could have simply done was
to drum up support for the President
while at the same time developing a civic
intelligentsia to dig up corrupt practices or
misdeeds of public officials across the three
tiers of government (past and present) for
investigation with or without the support
of the government. The Nigerian Bar
Association, NBA, or whatever is left of it
could have been utilized to compete with the legal loopholes within our pubic
order laws that the rich continuously
capitalize on to delay justice – the Tafa
Balogun legal battles is a case in point.
However, the debt relief package to be
negotiated for Nigeria is one veritable
ground for civil society and grassroots
movements to seize the moment and
contribute to social change in Nigeria
once more.
The strategy to be utilized is simply
not to be invited by the government
before we constitute an independent
body for the monitoring of monies
freed by the Paris Club to boost both
the social and productive sectors of the
economy. Our role as the watchdog of
the government should be reified by this
recent development.
The first step therefore based on this
recent development, is to constitute a
group of well meaning Nigerians that
should have as its terms of reference
analyzing the nuances and implications
of the debt relief and debt buy back
initiative. This is meant to situate in
proper perspective the meaning of the
policy instrument as couched by the
communiqué from the Paris Club.
The second step is to utilize the various
platforms and groups existent in Nigeria
– professional groups, trade unions,
age grade groups, market women
associations, cooperatives, community
development associations, National
Union of Road Transport Workers,
NURTW, Students groups, women
groups, okada riders associations,
and grassroots associations to create
knowledge and stimulate discussions,
seek answers, to generate debates
around issues in Nigeria. Third is the
strategy of forging a strong alliance
with what is left of the judiciary. For
us this is one avenue with which the
instrument of the law or the force of law
is utilized to keep public office holders
on their toes. This therefore means that
we must cultivate members of the bar
in and outside government to seek their
support for social political change.
Fourth is to target the National
Assembly. It is unfortunate that one of
the strong challenges of the Nigerian
democracy is the undue executive
influence and coercion over processes
of governance within the structure
of the National Assembly. The aim
therefore is to target sympathetic
individuals, groups or caucuses within
this environment to create platforms
for change. Such creative measures as
instituting issue based groups within the
National Assembly should be explored
by various groups engaging with them.
Fifth is collaborating with the media.
The role of the media in socio-political
change cannot be overemphasized. In
fact in Asia, specifically inIndonesia, the
media was a driving force in bringing
to the public domain the deep seated
corrupt activities Suharto and his coterie
of supporters. They can begin same in
Nigeria.
More is of ActionAid International

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