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Democracy and Election Monitoring (Good Governance) Project of the Justice, Development and Peace Commission (Ijebu-Ode Chapter), Ogun State, Nigeria
Democracy and Election Monitoring (Good Governance) Project of the Justice, Development and Peace Commission (Ijebu-Ode Chapter), Ogun State, Nigeria
Problems and Purpose
The Democracy and Election Monitoring (Good Governance) Project aims to provide a forum for the citizens of Ogun State in Nigeria to express their political opinions, ensure free and fair elections, and hold elected leaders accountable for their campaign promises.
After the conclusion of the 2011 gubernatorial election in Ogun state in Nigeria, there were widespread concerns that the state government’s policies and programmes were not responsive to the needs of the majority, especially the civil servants. Government officials were accused of maladministration, political marginalisation and politics of exclusion. There were also accusations of intimidation and harassment by the members of the ruling political party. Using basic communication tools in town hall meetings as an entry point for commencing democracy monitoring project, the “Justice, Development and Peace Commission” kick-started popular grassroots participation in pro-democracy activities within the capital city, Ijebu-Ode and its environ. Between 2011 and 2015, this democracy monitoring project provided arenas where the people could express themselves politically and hold their respective elected representatives accountable to honour campaign promises. Democratically elected representatives were invited to participate in JDPC’s Peoples’ Parley, where the electorate voiced their opinion on governance in the state and within their respective local council. Through this series of logically planned and linked grassroots participatory dialogue forums in 9 out of the 20 local government councils in Ogun state, JDPC ensured people’s voices are heard by the decision-makers and their interest well-represented and reflected in the outcome of decision-making processes. This has engendered transparency and more responsive governance, particularly at the local level. In addition to the town hall meetings where people are sensitized to their role towards the survival of Nigeria's nascent democracy, the Commission trained volunteered citizens on election monitoring for the 2015 general elections in the state, in order to ensure wise voting, resist rigging and selling of votes, so as to guarantee credible, peaceful, free and fair elections.
The end of military dictatorship and the transition to democracy in Nigeria in 1999 was greeted with high expectations of positive socio-political and economic transformation. Two decades later, it is evident that the promise of democracy has not fully been realized. In particular, elections and electioneering campaigns fall short of national and international standards as they are often marred with violence and rigging. Most importantly, campaign promises go without implementation as manifestoes of the political parties have become pieces of booklets designed to satisfy one of the conditions given by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In Ogun state, like every other state in Nigeria, the popular perception is that political office holders work for themselves and against the electorate after elections, while social amenities, among other dividends of democracy, are not evenly provided. As a corollary, voter turnout in gubernatorial and local government elections is often relatively low, which ultimately indicates citizens’ distrust towards politics and politicians. Evidence for the emergence of a consensus around norms of democratic procedure and good governance in Ogun, like every other Nigerian state, hence becomes less tangible and more difficult to locate.
In the last couple of decades in Africa, civil society organisations have been at the vanguard for the struggle for democratic transformation and popular participation in politics and governance. For instance, in Kenya, the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) and the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) have taken this role. In Ogun state however, the problem was compounded by the fact that Civil Society Organizations as well as faith-based organisations that had been active in the opposition struggles against military rule have not been so quick to react to the excesses of civilian rule. The different Christian churches within Ogun state largely remain passive to politics and do not seem to recognize their prophetic role to speak out in clear language against threats to democracy and good governance. Due to this failure, the civilian government functioned almost unchecked.
Popular desire for political and social change was expressed in the activities of the groups such as the Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) of the Ijebu-Ode Diocese of the Catholic Church. The stated goal of the JDPC is “liberating all people from every oppressive force that keeps them under bondage, and building a society in which all enjoy their human rights irrespective of race, creed, or gender.” The group was specifically established and structured to respond to social challenges in the society. This activist work of the JDPC is informed by the belief that poverty in Ogun state, like in other Nigerian state, is largely the result of the failure of political and social institutions and policies. As such, poverty can be alleviated through the development of a multi-sectoral and multilevel poverty reduction strategies and advance democratisation processes by sensitising citizens on how to non-violently pressurize public officials to honour their electoral promises.
Originating Entities and Funding
The Justice, Development and Peace Commission emerged in Ogun state (Nigeria) during the 1990s from an earlier body set up by the Roman Catholic Church, originally in response to the Second Vatican Council, which focused on the Church’s need to attend to issues related to justice, development, peace, and human rights. This innovation was primarily driven by the church’s perceived marginalization of Ogun state citizens by the political office holders vis-a-vis the church social role in engendering good governance and justice in the society.
As specialized agency, JDPC networked with local and international humanitarian and development agencies such as the Catholic Relief Service, Caritas Internationalis, the United Nations Development Programme, the Mennonite Central Committee, Trocaire, etc. For instance, the Commission has been supported by Misereor since 1993 with public funds of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Regular evaluation takes place in the Commission to analyze and asses projects with a focus on the German development cooperation objective: “ensuring the Participation of the poor – strengthening Good Governance." It pays particular attention to projects that facilitate the participation of poor and disadvantaged people through advocacy and social mobilisation.
The internal management of JDPC operated at both practical and abstract levels. The Commission analysed social changes, formulated new visions and transformed lessons learnt into pragmatic and feasible working strategies. While the Commission, as a specialized institution, was coordinated by a director and assisted by programme managers, desk officers and other professional staff, selection and recruitment of JDPC staff was purely based on professional criteria. Religious aspects were not taken into consideration and there was no confessional. The activities of these individuals were in turn coordinated at the state level by a coordinating committee, to whom the director reported.
The Commission’s activities covered the geographical area of the Catholic Diocese of Ijebu-Ode, which embraces nine out of the 20 Local Government Areas in Ogun State and covering 36, 410.56 square kilometres with a population of over 1.8 million people. Posters and handbills were made to inform people ahead about the Peoples’ Parley. Paid radio announcements were also broadcast to reach people in rural communities. Fundamentally, the general public (the poor and those suffering from discrimination as well as human rights violations) on the one hand, were the selected participants for the various information sharing, civic education and dialogue forums staged in Ijebu-Ode town, Ijebu-Igbo town, Atan-Ijebu town and Tigbori village.
On the other hand, selected participants for electoral observation and budget monitoring were strictly local government employees from the nine local governments covered by the Commission and some handful of learned stakeholders outside the local government council. These selected local government employees as well as learned stakeholders participated voluntarily due to their conviction about good governance and even sharing of the country’s commonwealth. Most importantly, these participants were chosen because of their advanced level of education and administrative competence needed in the effective assessment of elections and electioneering campaigns.
JDPC’s selection approach can be explained by the Commission’s close link with international aid agencies that finance the activities of the organisation. These agencies have a Universalist perception on participants’ selection. Consequently, they consider faith-centred selection approach negative and as such, influenced the Commission’s orientation to select directly from the local government councils, where it is believed that poor and marginalised people could be reached easily.
The JDPC’s good governance project in Ijebu-Ode was implemented through two models. First, the Commission used Pragmatic Local Intervention (P.L.I) together with aggressive underground facilitation and mobilization for consistent local assertiveness of the electorate. Thus, the Commission became less visible, while the electorate became more visible as a coalition of community institutions remained at the centre of activities. Secondly, the Commission used Strategic Global Intervention (S.G.I) by visibly engaging relevant stakeholders in thematic discourse that paved the way, while also creating an enabling environment for the Pragmatic Local Intervention (P.L.I). (4)
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
At the quarterly town meetings (Peoples' Parley) held at different local government councils within and outside Ijebu-Ode, political office holders in charge of the local council where the meetings were held, were invited to meet face-to-face with the people of the area. They (political office holders/their representative) presented their plans (and on some occasions, their budgets) to the communities, who then questioned and helped shape these plans/policies to better respond to communities' needs. Subsequent meetings were organized for the public servants and communities to evaluate the progress made on the goals. These meetings were essentially information sharing and dialogue forums between public servants and the electorate.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
In the area of election monitoring, JDPC’s project played the role of a watchdog in supporting legal challenges to political results that had been determined by violence and patrimonial ties. It served as a watchdog in the sense that JDPC election monitors submitted the result of their assessment to the Commission’s secretariat at Ijebu-Ode. The Commission, based on the reports, published strongly-worded election reports which were influential and admissible in judicial circles, particularly after the 2015 general elections. This boosted the morale of the previously marginalised citizens in taking active role in politics and most importantly, it encouraged credible as well as free and fair elections within and outside Ijebu-Ode.
In the area of civic education and dialogue forums, the various political officer holders that previously withdrew from the electorate after elections (since the marginalised electorates had no access to their offices) became closer and attentive to the electorates’ yearnings. The people were able to know better and even ask questions about issues that they feel strongly about as over 500 people were trained on their civic rights and obligations. Moreover, exceptional local government council chairmen were awarded by JDPC for their transparency in the handling of the affairs of their local government.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
On the part of the government, some of the challenges experienced during the project implementation include the uncooperative attitudes of some elected officers in the local government during the Commission’s visits. In addition to this, some of the local government council Chairmen sent representatives who know little to nothing about their policies and positions on fundamental issues of their area. The vacillating attitude of some of these Chairmen who totally ignore the invitation of the Commission to attend the JDPC's Peoples' Parley in their respective local government areas was also discouraging. Moreover, the Commission experienced difficulty in assessing the true allocation received from the state government by the local governments as federal allocations.
On the side of the masses, JDPC's programme coordinator had to plead with the participants at the rural level to attend programmes designed for their benefit. In some cases, the programme coordinator was faced with unnecessary demand for money as a criteria for attending the Commission's trainings and sensitization programmes that were designed for their direct benefit.
However, some of the lessons learnt in the course of the project include the fact most of the local governments in Ogun state do not have budgets and development plan of actions. Most importantly, the general public are becoming more and more aware of the various antics of the government towards enslaving the people.
Finally, the Justice, Development and Peace Commission of the Ijebu-Ode dioceses refused, completely and consistently, all manner of political patronage from the state and its agents. This was made possible as a result of its financial independence.
Charles Coffie Gyamfi, “Amosun, Critics Trade Words Over Achievements.” The Guardian: 8th September, 2015, available on http://guardian.ng/features/policy-a-politics/amosun-critics-trade-words...
Olusesan Laoye, “Opposition Mounts against Amosun’s Policies.” Hallmark News: 26th August, 2015, available on http://hallmarknews.com/opposition-mounts-against-amosuns-policies/
Duncan Okello, “Tensions in Civil Society Participation in Governance and Politics in Africa”. In: Heidi Moksnes and Mia Melin, Power to the People? (Con-)Tested Civil Society in Search of Democracy. (Uppsala: Uppsala Centre for Sustainable Development, 2010), p. 97.
Website of Ijebu-Ode Justice Development and Peace Commission: http://www.jdpcijebuode.org/
Akachi Odoemene, “Oiling the Frictions in Sociopolitical Conflicts: Faith-based Institutional Leadership of the JDPC in Grassroots Peacemaking in Nigeria.” African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review: 2 (2), 2012, pp. 54-58.
Evaluation Division, Summary of the Evaluation: “Diocesan Development Programmes and Administration” (Human Rights Programme, Diocesan Agricultural Development Programme, Women Empowerment Programme) - Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria. (Bonn: Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2005), p. 2.
Interview with: Omorodion Jacob Lucky, 41 years, JDPC (Ijebu-Ode) Resource Centre Coordinator, on 22nd September, 2016.
1. Website of Ijebu-Ode Justice Development and Peace Commission: http://www.jdpcijebuode.org/
2. Video Clips and photos of JDPC’s Peoples' Parley for democratically elected leaders in the state to meet with their people: http://www.jdpcijebuode.org/video-gallery/
3. Video clip of Fr. John Patrick Ngoyi on the activities of JDPC in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WRPYmXdxJs
Authors: Bonny Ibhawoh and Adebisi Alade (McMaster University, Canada)