Attached is an article written by Jaye Gaskia on the type of governance reform that Nigeria needs, and making the case for the establishment of formal Democratic self-government at community levels as the foundation of any successful governance reform process for our country.
The original article was written in 2003, and it is now being republished with a cover note to update it.
COMMUNITY GOVERNMENT AS BASIS FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN NIGERIA; AN ALTERNATIVE REFORM AGENDA 23RD AUGUST 2003
Only today, 3rd of March 2017, nearly 13 and a half years after this article was written I stumbled on it while sanitizing my folders.
A few comments are necessary at this point; first and most obvious to me is the startling revelation to me as to just how much my writing style has changed, but also how much consistency has been retained with regards to my views on what I called community self-government 13 years ago, and my views on what 13 years later I now call Community Governance.
Second, since a consistency remains between the views I held then and the views I now hold about this same subject, I have chosen mere to republish this article in full in its original with only the addition of this explanatory Cover Note.
For the avoidance of doubts, over this past decade, I have become even more convinced on the urgent necessity for the return of our communities to the path of formal self-governance, but one that is now built on the foundation of democratic self-government.
In the period between August 2003 when the original paper was written, and March 2017 when this cover note is being written, I have become more deeply engaged with, developed a professional career around, and acquired expertise, skills, experience and competence around issues of Democratic Governance, Participatory Development, Peace And Security, and Conflict Transformation;
And all through this period my experiences, engagement with and evolving expertise around the issue of unrealized and or stagnating social development in general;
And the constant breakdown of social cohesion within and between communities in our country in particular, have further convinced me that a major factor driving the phenomenon above is the absence of formal governance institutions at the community level, and the attendant inability to mobilise community resources for human and community development purposes in a sustainable and structured manner.
For all intents and purposes, as argued in this article our communities are ungoverned spaces, because they are not integrated in any direct and structured way into the formal governance processes and institutions which terminate at the Local Government level, meaning actually the local government headquarters, or said in differently, which terminates at the community hoisting the local government headquarters.
The impact of this anomaly is not only deleterious on the communities which are transformed into ungoverned spaces condemned to perpetual ruralness, impoverishment, and underdevelopment; the impact is also equally, if not more devastating on governance processes as whole in the country and catastrophically hampers the capacity and ability of this unrooted formal governance edifice to deliver effective dividends for the people, and enable citizens living in communities to be able to effectively hold public officials and public institutions and processes accountable to the people.
It is why for instance with respect to social cohesion it was possible for communities in the past to mediate disputes, enforce agreements, wage wars, but also enforce and build peace.
Unfortunately, with communities hollowed of their formal institutional authorities, and left with informal structures self-help structures existing alongside traditional institutions who are now called custodians of culture; we still saddle communities with the same, if not even more responsibilities from their past.
To be sure one is not calling for a return to the structures of the past; but certainly we can envisage a situation where a formal democratic governance structure, constitutionally and legally provided for is established on the basis of the framework of the now existing Community Development Associations [CDAs]; with the traditional institutions playing a formal but ceremonial role in this governments.
Such a a democratic community government will resemble an elected government that governs, but with a traditional institution that plays a limited moderating, and largely formal ceremonial role.
So we can have traditional rulers playing formal roles in inaugurating and or dissolving Community Governments.
This urgently needed reform of community government, seems to me to be the core, and the central component of the thorough going Governance Reform that is needed as one of the ways to ensure democratic consolidation, and assure popular control over the national and human development processes.
Of course next to this important piece of reform, is the reform that guarantees the existence and viability of the Local Government as an administrative coordination mechanism to ensure governance across a number of communities that make up the local government.
Again, a constitutional reform that guarantees existence of democratically elected Local Government Councils, and that penalizes the undermining of this democratic basis is urgently necessary.
With this few updates, I now invite you to engage with the original article and paper in its unaltered form.