Pragmatic Local Intervention (PLI) is a method pioneered by the Justice, Development and Peace Comission (JDPC) in their efforts to strengthen grassroots participation and government effectiveness at the local level in Nigeria.
Problems and Purpose
PLI was designed as a means of ensuring communication between government and citizens remains regular and meaningful in a state where few officials live near their constituents. Most importantly, JDPC developed PLI as a way of empowering locals to advocate on their own behalf and effect good governance on their own. PLI can thus be described as a method of ‘pro-poor activism’.
The Democratic and Election Monitoring (Good Governance) Project was initiated by the JDPC after the 2011 Ogun state elections. During the campaign period, evidence of widespread government inattentiveness to citizen concerns was brought forward as were charges of harassment, intimidation and exclusionary politics. In response, the JDPC began implementing its Good Governance Project using three interrelated methods: Pragmatic Local Intervention, Strategic Global Intervention, and People’s Parley . All together, these strategies aimed at increasing the amount of civic engagement through grassroots participatory channels as well as providing citizens with the education necessary to hold their official accountable through election monitoring and regular questioning.
Origins and Development
The Pragmatic Local Intervention method is reflective of the wider goals and philosophy of the JDPC. The JDPC Ijebu-Ode chapter specifically states its adherence to the concerns of the church. In 1967, the Justice Development and Peace Commission was established by Pope Paul IV who declared the development of the people to be of utmost importance. As a faith-based organization, the JDPC adheres to certain guiding principles, namely: fundamental human dignity, the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity. PLI is reflective of many, if not all, of these principles. According to Akachi Odoemene, the principle of subsidiary “is an organizing principle that holds that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest, or least centralized competent authority.” PLI was born of JDPC’s recognition that, in order to be effective and self-sustaining, change needs to happen “in partnership with the poor” and directed towards “the social structures and relations that disempower them and imprison them in poverty.”
Officially begun in 2011, PLI is just one strategy used by the JDPC to effect good governance through their Democratic and Election Monitoring Project .
Participant Recruitment and Selection
PLI has two main goals: 1) bringing elected officials out of the confines of their private residences to commune with their constituents, and 2) educate and empower citizens to lead the good governance initiative on their own. PLI is, therefore, a two-pronged approach requiring the participation of government officials and that of the electorate. While a more responsive and responsible government is the objective, this ultimately has to begin with mobilizing the citizens. PLI is, therefore, directed, firstly, at those less fortunate in society and, secondly, through these empowered citizens, at government officials.
How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making
PLI is just one of three strategies employed by the JDPC as a way to effect positive, lasting and self-sustaining political change. While the main activities encompassed under PLI are citizen-directed, they are aided by another model, ‘Strategic Global Intervention’ (SGI) which focusses on networking with various local and global organization to secure the connections and resources necessary to making PLI effective.
Keeping in mind the facilitating efforts of SGI, PLI can be said to encompass several different activities all with the goal of providing locals with “the required knowledge, perspectives and skills and to help them organize themselves into watch-dogs; to hasten their rise to the point where they are themselves able to take on and lead their own struggle for justice, development and peace with the JDPC marching beside them.” To this end, information sharing, civic education and dialogue forums are all engagement techniques used by the JDPC. Held in Ijebu-Ode town, Ijebu-Igbo town, Atan-Ijebu town and Tigbori village, these forums were open to all interested citizens, specifically those less fortunate or suffering from discrimination or other human rights violations. The major focus of these forums is to educate citizens in non-violent means of pressuring public officials to respect the desires of the electorate and to honour their campaign promises. This is achieved through basic education on civic rights and duties as well as more complex training in election observation and budget monitoring. However, it should be noted that the participants chosen for these more involved roles were local employees of the government as well as some learned stakeholders. This is justified on the basis that election and budget monitoring require more advanced levels of education and administrative ability.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Through the use of PLI, as Bonny Ibhawoh puts it, the JDPC “became less visible, while the electorate became more visible as a coalition of community institutions remained at the center of activities.” According to Ibhawoh, between 2011 and 2015, over 500 people were reached through these educational dialogues, informed of their civic rights and obligation, and, therefore, better able to participate in the People’s Parley (townhall meetings) with local officials. As well, the organizing of the People’s Parley in conjunction with an more engaged public has helped to accomplish PLI’s other goal: to ‘draw out’ elected officials from their seclusion and avail themselves to questioning by their constituents. While it is unclear whether or not public officials have moved closer to their constituencies, it can be concluded that PLI has, at least, opened up the possibility for more communication.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Pragmatic Local Intervention is a unique methodology in that it seeks to make the implementing organization ‘less visible’. However, ‘less visible’ does not mean negated from the process completely and, indeed, the JDPC continues to play an important albeit secondary role in the pursuit of good governance. For example, while its trained election monitors were carrying out their duties, the JDPC’s presence “helped to maintain law and order in some parts of the country where there had been high rates of violence resulting in deaths.”
The JDPC also continues to play an important role in organizing civic education especially among youths and in schools. As well, the People’s Parleys are often organized by JDPC staff and the organization acts as a ‘go-between’, collecting stakeholder and citizen concerns and inviting public officials.
It can thus be concluded that, while PLI is, arguably, one of the most effective pro-poor methods of advocacy, it is not possible without the continued support and work of the implementing organization. Furthermore, PLI is unlikely to gain any traction where there is not a concerted effort to make the surrounding political and social environments amenable to its implementation. Without the support of local officials and the networking activity of Strategic Global Intervention, PLI may be less successful at least in effecting policy change.
However, even without a change in policy, it is notable that PLI, as a pro-poor strategy of advocacy, focusses on the ability of the people to lead their own movement of change. This is in stark contrast to many other organizations that pursue a top-down development agenda. Odoemene commends the JDPC for their inclusive approach, empowering citizens irrespective of religious beliefs: “thus unlike most other such groups that constitute a political group in themselves, but not for themselves ... the JDPC challenges the state’s exclusion of any or other religious or sociopolitical groups.”
Speaking to the JDPC’s more targeted selection of election and budget monitors, Ibhawoh argues that the crossing of religious boundaries is more a reflection of the Commission’s close links to other, more ‘Universalist’ orientated aid organizations. Perceiving “faith-centred selection approach [as] negative,” these other organizations “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.” If anything, this highlights the potential trade-offs large-scale development projects have when they must rely on other entities for funding.
 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, no. 2 (2011): 61.
 Adebisi Alade, "JDPC Methods," last modified October 29, 2016, Microsoft Word.
 Bonny Ibhawoh, "Democracy and Election Monitoring (Good Governance) Project of the Justice, Development and Peace Commission (Ijebu-Ode Chapter), Ogun State, Nigeria," Participedia, last modified October 12, 2016, https://participedia.xyz/case/4624
 Odoemene 67.
 Alade, "JDPC Methods."
 Odoemene 68.
 Ibhawoh, "Democracy and Election," Participedia.