Importance of Popular Participation in Nigeria 

Popular participation puts the citizens in the position to share their opinions and aspirations, express dissent, and make demands of the government and other institutions. With a united front, citizens can influence the decision-making of policymakers on policies, laws, or projects by being actively involved in the participatory process, to prevent social exclusion and discrimination, and promote accountability. This article will discuss the importance of popular participation in Nigeria.

Importance of Popular Participation in Nigeria 

Below is the importance of popular participation in Nigeria:

  • Promotes the Involvement of Marginalised Citizenry in Participatory Process

 When citizens become involved in decision-making processes, they have the platform to voice their unique needs and aspirations. To ensure that the loudest voice or the strongest opinion does not influence the decision-making process, a diverse perspective on a policy or project will allow for overlooked voices or the marginalized to be heard, too. When initiatives and needs of the citizens are gathered from a diverse sample pool, policymakers can make better decisions – without being swayed by the loudest voice in the room.  The final decision on policies or projects is enhanced when a diverse representation of the needs and aspirations of the citizens is gathered.

  • Fosters Social Change through Demonstrations

 In Nigeria, right from the colonial dispensation, demonstrations by individuals against constituted authorities due to unfavourable policies or laws have existed. Demonstrations from citizens such as boycotts, sit-ins, and other forms of protests have been recorded to facilitate social change in Nigeria. In 1929, the Aba women’s riot was the earliest recorded history of public demonstration in Nigeria. The riot was against imposed tax levies on women by colonial administrators. In 1947, 18 years after the Aba Women’s Riot, Madame Olunfunmilayo Ransome-Kuti led 10,000 women to protest against the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Sir Ladapo Ademola II, after their group’s demands for the abolition of tax imposed on women, among other issues, were ignored. For days, these women occupied the grounds around the palace until the colonial governments were pressured into abolishing the tax laws. The Alake of Egbaland abdicated the throne for this same reason, on January 3, 1949.

In 1978, Nigerian tertiary students nationwide, led by Segun Okeowo, then National President of the Nigerian Union of Students, carried out an ‘Ali Must Go’ protest against the increase of students’ meal tickets. Anti-SAP Riots, June 12 Protest, Occupy Nigeria, and End SARS are other notable demonstrations where Nigerians come out en masse to express their dissent against unfavourable government decisions, laws, policies, and actions. The protests brought about adjustment or abolition of the unfavourable policies and actions of the governments and other actors. But, it is unfortunate that most of these protests led to the death of many at the hands of the Police and military forces.

  • Promotes Accountability of Policy Makers

Popular participation promotes the accountability of state actors in matters concerning the citizens. With an organized front, citizens can demand accountability from public institutions. So, popular participation stimulates answerability from public agencies, ensures that action is taken for the common good of the citizens, and makes access to redress mechanisms easy for the citizens. Citizens can partake in claiming accountability of other actors and stakeholders through public expenditure tracking surveys, citizen report cards, social audits, and community monitoring. Also, when citizens are involved in the designing, implementing, and supporting processes, such as participatory budgeting, specific-budget monitoring and participatory audits, the management of public finances is strengthened.

  • Selection of Elective Officials

As a country practicing democracy, popular participation is essential in choosing the people who occupy electable positions in Nigeria. This is actualized by voting, which has been recognized as the most common kind of popular participation. As the principle of popular participation upholds that citizens should be able to influence decisions that concern them individually and collectively, voting provides a perfect opportunity for citizens to choose candidates who are deemed accountable. And if the elected officials do not perform well, the citizens also have the power to replace them at the next polls – by not voting for them. As citizens of the voting age, it is imperative to actively participate in electoral democracy to avoid voting in questionable state actors because of low voter turnout. An election year is around the corner, get involved in campaigning for a candidate of your choice, donating money to a campaign, and voting. If you think you can be more effective in effecting the desired change as a policymaker, you can run for office. When more citizens are involved in the electoral process, it will greatly reduce violence, ballot snatching, vote-buying and suppression being perpetrated by bad actors.

For popular participation to deliver maximum results, certain requirements must be in place. These include an organizational base; autonomy of citizen initiation in local decision-making; an efficient information network and; material and technical support. Popular participation will not be effective without an organized structure. Citizens will be susceptible to manipulation from unscrupulous elements if there’s no organized base for popular participation. The existence of organizational structure can serve as a motive force, as well as provide the citizens with the right information and skills to effectively engage in the participatory process.

Also,  a comprehensive and efficient information network is crucial in improving the efficacy of popular participation. When there is a lack of information concerning happenings in the country, the citizens will not have the right motivation to effectively participate in popular participation. And if they engage in the participatory process in the absence of information, it is doubtful for such an exercise to be meaningful and rational. The information needed to drive effective popular participation comprises technical information which encourages the citizens to acquire the needed skills and competence vital to handling development programmes; normative information which summons citizens to commit to policies of change and development; and administrative information which enable the citizens to collectively plan their community engagement exercises.

The third requirement for effective popular participation is local autonomy which ensures that the citizens work towards goals that concerns their unique needs. Finally, material and technical support are fundamental to encourage the citizens who do not have the wherewithal to sustain community engagement activities.


error: Content is Read-Only!!