A KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY OTUNBA LANRE IPINMISHO, MFR ON THE OCCASION OF THE 2019 NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LECTURE

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THEME: ENGENDERING GOOD GOVERNANCE

AND RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

August 15, 2019

ENGENDERING GOOD GOVERNANCE & RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Introduction:

Governance is described as the system, act or arts of exercising authority. It is a process in which decisions are made and implemented or not implemented. Governance implies processes of dynamic interaction between people, structures, processes that support exercise of legitimate authority in the provision of sound leadership, direction and control of an entity in order to achieve its purpose.

Governance in effective democratic setting comes with proper accountability, efficient management of resources, and transparent results of its activities leading to the realization of the aspirations of all strata of the citizens. Whether governance is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ has great implications for societal growth and development.

Good Governance and Human Right

“Good Governance as a concept gain prominence in political and economic discourses in the 1980s” (Jaga, 2009) when there was economic crises in most parts of the world with African countries being the worst hit. Consequently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank floated Structural Adjustment and Economic Recovery Programmes (SAP and ERP) as solutions to the crises. The governance crisis in the affected countries was identified as a major factor to be tackled first in order to get their economic crisis resolved. To get that done “effectively”, according to the two world economic bodies, good governance was made a conditionality for the SAPs and ERPs. It was defined in terms of efficiency and effectiveness in policy formulation and delivery of goods and services in compliance with their (IMF and World Bank) directives.

Away from the perspectives of these two world economic bodies, ‘good governance’ means competent management of a countries’ resources and affairs in a transparent, accountable, justiciable and justifiable conducts and responsive to the needs of the people. It is derived from a ‘democratic government’ and requires pluralistic and honest civil society where there is freedom of expression and association. It gives priority to massive investment in masses and infrastructure which translate to high quality education, health, road and housing infrastructures, energy, agriculture and other services that relates to the needs of the people.

Characteristics of Good Democratic Governance

Essentially, good democratic governance has eight (8) characteristics. It is:

1.    Participatory

2.    Consensus oriented

3.    Accountable

4.    Transparent

5.    Responsive

6.    Equitable and inclusive

7.    Effective and efficient

8.    Follows the Rule of Law

‘Good governance’ though accepted as a necessary condition for development, it is not enough for a holistic development. So-called ‘good governance’, in systems that are not democratic, hardly satisfies popular needs and aspirations in a holistic manner. It may provide material benefits but in a very oppressive political context which undermines human dignity (e.g. Housing estate everywhere in Abuja and Nigeria’s major cities but not affordable to many citizens). Where ‘good governance’ provides services that do not serve the generality of its citizens but selected few (elites and the wealthy), that to me is not good democratic governance. This is the crux of my earlier statement that good democratic governance is better desired for all citizens than just good governance. A good democratic governance practices all the 8 characteristics listed earlier. It is popularly driven by grass-root programs as well as elite policies combined.

The world has witnessed severally in recent years, how stronger governments roll their tanks on weaker nations in the name of instituting ‘good governance’. Such interventions have resulted into regime changes, provisions of ‘infrastructures’ and enforced new democratic norms alien to the people of those weaker countries. However, such good governance has also destroyed a lot of lives and properties of the people it claims to help. And the processes of rebuilding such societies only favours the elites while the masses take years to recover (some never recovered). The operators of such ‘good governance’ are not accountable to the citizens, the rule of law is brushed aside, it does not have the consensus of the people they claim to help and they are also far from being democratic.

Therefore, a democratic governance as it’s in place in Nigeria today is what we should encourage to take greater footing; correcting its mistakes along its build up. It is still by far the better model to provide happiness to the people in an holistic manner at the long run. We should encourage the democratic contents of governance process rather than good authoritarian governance. Nigeria does not need just good governance but ‘good democratic governance’.

Good democratic governance is structured by strong institutions that engender the people’s interests which drive the daily activities of an administration. On the contrary, good governance without democratic content can become authoritarian, dictatorship and corrupt. It can easily fall into the hands and manipulations of neo-colonialists or imperialists who are always ears-to-the-ground waiting to hear the cry of a needy country where they can pour their aids that are full of globalization which is more of globalism for the stronger nations, and stunted growth to the weaker nations.

Human Rights

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world from birth to death. They apply regardless of where you from, what you believe or how you live your life.

In Nigeria, the rights of citizens include:

1. Rights to Life

2. Right to Dignity

3. Right to Personal Liberty

4. Right to Fair Hearing

5. Right to Privacy

6. Right to Freedom of thought, conscience and Religion

7. Right to Freedom of Expression

8. Right to Freedom of Assembly and Association

9. Right to Freedom of Movement

10. Right to Freedom from Discrimination

11. Right to Own Property

Human right can never be taken away but can be restricted  sometimes. They are based on shared values like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and independence defined by law. Human rights in Nigeria are protected under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Conclusion

With good democratic governance, Nigeria can be assured of democratic stability which can nurture and sustain the rights of its citizens. That will bring about desirable human development.  This is essential because good democratic governance ensures that leaders are responsible and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people in line with the rule of law. And that guarantees the realization of human rights of the citizens.

On the above premise I hereby submit and recommend that:

Recommendations

1. Nigerians should always call public office holders to account for their actions.  The officials are holding public positions in trust for the citizens thus the people have the right to know how they are fairing. However, this must be done constructively.

2. Democratic government like ours should have designed policy in which leaders should periodically give account of their achievements to the citizens. That will give clearer picture of how far and towards what direction the nation is heading.

3. The Federal Government should establish a commission which shall monitor the implementation of our budget. If there is such body already, it should be more alert to its responsibilities.

4. Challenges of our nationhood should be tackled from the root and not from its surface. In other words, root causes of hindrances to good democratic governance such as corruption, violent crimes, ethnic chauvinism, religious bigotry and the like should be nicked in the bud from their root causes.

5. Our judiciary should be purged from all its inadequacies so as to remain the hope of all the citizens who may seek redress of the violation of their rights from time to time.

Thank you all as I wish you successful discussions.

Otunba Lanre Ipinmisho, MFR

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