The Role of the Civil Society in Democratic Sustainance in Nigeria

The role of civil society in democratic sustenance in Nigeria is an indisputable fact of the nation democratic and developmental aspiration must be realized. The installation of democratic governance was largely in part to civil society activities. However, there has been genuine concern as to the continued effectiveness of civil society consolidating democracy in Nigeria. This study is therefore a critical analysis of civil society in Nigeria. Its straights and limitation and how such limitations can be over some. In doing this, we made use of secondary data. Using the group theory our chief recommendation is that civil society can be more effective of they maintain a high degree of indepedence from the government.

Title page
1.1 Background of The Study
1.2 Statement of The Study
1.3 Hypothesis
1.4 Objective of The Study
1.5 Significance of The Study
1.6 Scope of The study
1.7 Limitations of The Study
1.8 Definition of Terms.
2.1 Literature Review
2.2 Theoretical framework
3.1 Evolution of Civil Society in Nigeria
3.2 Civil Society and entrenchment of Democracy in the history of Nigeria.
3.3 Civil society and democratic governance in history.
4.1 The Role of Civil Society in Democratic Goverance
4.2 Problems affecting the effectiveness of Civil Society in Nigeria
4.3 The Way forward.

5.1 Summary
5.2 Conclusion
5.3 Recommendation.


1.1 Background of the study.
Nigeria experience with democracy has been epileptic since 1960 when she got her independence from the British administration, 1999 will be the third attempt,(if the third republic is excluded as it was abolished even before it started) in coming to grasp with democratic ethos.
In each, pratices widely accepted to be at variance with true spirit of democracy was perceived to be the major reason for democratic demise in Nigeria, violence, corruption, political association and very recently, godfatherism has not only undermined her democracy but has gone a long way to threaten it’s very sustainance.
Due to the way it’s been pursued, democracy in Nigeria has come to mean many things to many people. A lot of people have not been able to extrixcate or distinguish it from dictatorial regimesdespite the fact that there are perceived elements of major characteristics of democracy. For instance, it has been alleged that in many quarters that even when elections are conducted, citizens are not allowed to go pass the voting process in having a good share in the elected government of the day (Adele 2001).
The role of civil society is not only strengthening but also ensuring it’s sustenance becomes very imperative. However, civil society roles in consolidating democracy in third world nations has been doubted, this is because why credit must be given to them for ensuring that democratic transitions are successful, they lack what it takes to assure it’s continuation.
According to Boadi, (1995), there are many factors responsible for this, lack of funds, depending on government and of course political polarization are some of the many reasons that has contributed to the effective weakness of civil society in third world nations specifically Nigeria.
Civil society is defined by Diamond (1999), as “The realm of organized social life that is voluntary, self generating (largely), self supporting, autonomous from the state and bound by a large order and a set of shared rules” the need to reexamine their functions in a organized state. This is because according to Diamond (1999), it is distinct from society in general in that it involves citizens acting collectively in the public sphere to express their interests, passion and ideas, exchange information, achieve initial goals and make demands on the state and hold local state officials accountable. Civil society is an intermediary entity standing between the private sphere and the state.
The lack of mutual set goals and exchanged information which has risen due to the politicization of civil society has rendered it so weak to hold state officials accountable. Third world civil society is no longer an intermediary entity standing between the private sphere and the state, rather as earlier asserted, lack of finance (fund) has been by many to have been co-opted by the state in advancing their selfish interest.
A good example is the infamous June 12 1993 election allegedly won by M.K.O. Abiola. Though it was adjudged as the freest of election in Nigeria till date, it was annulled by the military leadership of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. However, according to Chikendu and Kalu (1996), the polarization of civil society especially as it reflects their geographical location (North/East-West dichotomy) especially strengthen the military resolves to be adamant to the peoples wish.
Nevertheless, it is believed that civil society have great role to play in sustaining democracy in Nigeria as indeed all third world nation, if the concept of civil society by Diamond as quoted is true of third world nations, civil society then consolidating democracy in Nigeria for instance will be a reality, but as already shown above, the role played by these civil groups have become questionable, given the constraints that hinders their effective organization.
These research therefore, is very timely in that it will rigorously and systematically look at civil society to be of immense help in consolidating democracy in Nigeria by overcoming their weakness. Many reasons given for these weakness which ranges from co-optation of such associational groups will be looked at.
In other words, the problem bedeviling civil society in Nigeria will be highlighted and prospects of a strong civil society as it helps to consolidate Nigeria nascent democracy.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The lack of a effective and viable civil society has called to question the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria. Therefore, this project work intends to look at the role of civil society can play in effectively ensuring the continuation of democracy in Nigeria, it will also highlight some of the problems that could mitigate against the emergence of a viable civil society and look at how the strength of Nigeria civil society could be enhanced.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The aim and objective of this study is to critically evaluate the role of civil society in third world nations with particular reference to Nigeria and how such role can effect positively or negatively to democratic sustenance in Nigeria. The effectiveness of civil society in easing democratic transition in Nigeria with special reference to it’s consolidating role has been perceived too weak.
It is therefore, timely and pertinent to look into the issues and proposed a way forward despite the outlined weakness; democracy is still largely adjudged as the best form of government because of the freedom (bill of rights) it ensured in any given polity.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The significance of this study will lie in the difference it is capable of making to the enhancement of democratic ethos in the Nigerian political system. It’s premise is that civil society have a great role to play in expanding Nigeria nascent democracy across its territorial boundaries.
It will also contribute to the advancement of knowledge as it relates to this field of enquires.
It is hoped that it will provoke further researchers in the nearest future.
1.5 Hypotheses
The following hypothetical assumption will be of immense importance in researching the above problems,
1. Ho: Multi ethnic composition of Nigeria society has no significant effect on the viability and composition of civil societies in Nigeria.
Hi: Multi ethnic composition of Nigeria society has a significant effect on the viability composition of civil societies in Nigeria.
2. Ho: The politicization of civil society in Nigeria has no significant effect on their perceived weakness in playing their role as intermediary between the state and private sector.
Hi: The politicization of civil society in Nigeria has a significant effect on their perceived weakness in playing their role as intermediary between the state and the private sector.
3. Ho: The economic decentralization and expansion of the private sector have no significant impact on civil society that are fully independent of the state.
Hi: The economic decentralization and expansion of the private sector have a significant impact on civil society that are fully independent of the state.
1.6 Scope of the Study
We will restrict our scope of analysis to the geographical entity known as Nigeria and the various civil society group found in it. These various groups will be used as case studies from time to time as the circumstances demands, however, these does not mean that when the situation demands, references will not be drawn from other countries in as much as it will help to advance our case.
1.7 Limitation of the Study
As the case usually is, there are certain limitations the researcher will be faced with in the cause of this work. One is in the area of finance which might have a direct consequence on the quality of suitable materials. Apart from finance, also considering the fact that research work of this nature are often done within a time frame. The study therefore can not be exhaustive in it’s entirety.
However, it is hoped that these constraints so named, will be checked mated by making the best use of the materials we have and spending more than the necessary time in the research work, therefore, we strongly believe that despite these constraint, it’s effect on this research report will be minimal. Thus making the objective and significance of the study.
1.8 Methodology
Secondary sources of gathering data will be largely employed for our variables. This again will be based on content analysis, what these involves is the critical review of related materials, literatures, journals, magazines and textbooks, it will also involve sourcing or browsing the net for materials. Communication with authorities in the field will also not be overlooked.
1.9 Definition of Terms
Conceptual clarification is a major requirement for any scientific or empirical research. It lay the basis for outright understanding of major concepts that will be used, this is because concepts is the “building block” of any given discipline. The following concepts therefore, needs operational clarification.
1. Civil Society: A whole range of social groups that seek to operate independently of the state such as, private business, enterprises, labour unions, trade association, religious bodies, student organizations, artistic and publications (Gold 1999).
It has also been seen as an intermediary entity standing between the private sphere and the state, it is distinct from society in general in that it involve citizens acting collectively in the public sphere to express their interest, passion and ideas, make demands on the state and hold state officials accountable (Diamond 1995)
2. Democracy: A political system providing for the participation of citizens in political decision making, often by the representatives of governing bodies (Giddens 2001).
3. Sustainable democracy: A state of affairs in which none of the major political actors, parties organized interest, forces or institutions considers that there is any alternative to democratic processes to gain power and no political institution has a claim to veto the action of democratically elected decision makers.


1. Adele,B. (2001), Political Parties and democracy in Nigeria,
Lagos. Ijede Commercial Enterprises.
2. Boadi,G. (1995), “Civil Society in Africa” Journal of democracy, vol xvi no.3
3. Chikendu, and Kalu, V. (1960), The military question, Path to Pan-Nigerian democratic Order Europe, Marydan Publishers.
4. Diamond,L.(1999), Rethinking Civil Society Towards democratic consolidation, cross words, vol 1 no 3,(February), Lagos. United States Information service.
5. Giddens,A. (2001), Sociology , Cambridge, Polity Press.
6. Gold. (1990), “Civil Society and it’s role in a democratic state”, Journal of democracy, vol 1 no 3.
7. Osagae,E. (1991), Existing from the state in Nigeria in Haynes, j.(ed) democracy and civil society in the third world politics and new social movement, Cambridge Polity Press.

2.1 Literature Review
(A) Civil Society: The concept of civil society is not new in Nigeria political lexicon, a lot of scholars, social political and economic has written so much about it and it’s perceived role.
Mutfang (2003) sees civil society as a wide range of association and other organized collectives capable of articulating the interest of their members, moulding and constraining state power. According to him, their demands provides imput for the democratic political process which at times are aggregated by political parties. Their approval or disapproval of what goes on in government contributes to accountability. He further postulates that a country which is well endowed in this respect is well positioned to democratize and ensuring good governance. It is in this same vain that a weak civil society is often used to explained the failure of democratization.
Gold (1990) defines civil society as a “whole range of social groups that seeks to operate independently of the state and the (communist party)such as private business, enterprises, labour unions, trade unions, professional associations, religious bodies, student organizations, artistic and publications. His inference is that civil societies are not only independent of the state but as interest group they push forward their demands which might contract that of the government, he opined that the demand imput be specific or general.
In otherwords, it might be for a particular class interest or the interest of the society as a whole, hence, he differentiate civil society from associational group though, sometimes, these terms are used interchangeably. As sociational groups are more specific in their demands than civil society groups. An associational group are more likely to make demands which relate to their members interest while civil society groups are more interest in overaiding issues. However, he concluded that associational groups are also within the realm of civil society.
Diamond (1995) sees civil society as that realm of organized social life that is voluntary, self generating, largely self supporting autonomous from the state and bound by a legal order and a set of shared rules. He went further to say that it is distinct from society in general and that it involves citizens acting together and collectively in the public sphere to express their interest, passion and ideas, exchange informations, achieve mutual goals, make demands on the state and hold local state officials accountable.
Civil society, he concludes is an intermediary entity standing between the private sphere and the state. Here again, Diamond distinguished civil society from society in general. This distinguishing factor is basically “interest” it is defined interest that makes members to act collectively in actualizing their goals, aims and objectives. These interest in some cases runs contrary to government (state) policies. But, on the other hand, among civil society group,they do try to find a common ground to act, these is especially true in the developed social formation. In doing this, Diamond says they exchanged information.
Diamond (1995), further ascribes certain functions to civil society in a democratic set-up, these includes providing the basis for the limitation of state power. It is supposed to supplement the role of political parties by stimulating political participation, it also promotes the development of political attribute and creating channels other than political parties to articulate, aggregate and represent their interest.
Oyovbare, (2000), conceptualized civil society as consisting basically of non-state and non-governmental groups activity organized to pursue definitive issues and interests. He went on to exhaustively list some of them in the Nigerian context. They include the following among others, tribal and ethnic associations, the various non-governmental groups, professional interest group of numerous occupational practices such as medical doctors, lawyers, Judges and Magistrates, academics at various level of the educational industry, Pharmacists, nurses and dentists, media practitioners, proprietors, Journalists, youth and students groups, churches, mosques and related ecclesiastical organizations, human rights and civil liberties bodies groups in the environment (environmentalist) and similar nature oriented advocacy groups, organizations for the preservation and advancement of traditional institutions and values, labour and trade unions market associations, farmers and gender-based groups, even militant and violence-prone associations in his view, constitute part of civil society in Nigeria.
He, like the others, made a distinction between civil society groups which are democratic inclined and focused, and those which are not so inclined and motivated. This is because there are some civil society groups that are legally registered and many others which operate openly without legal accreditations and are outside the law and norms of society.
Looking at the pluralistic and complex Nigerian society, the activitism of civil society as a collectivity of new social formations has to grapple with the pluralism of the Nigerian corporate society. Therefore, Oyovbare, (2000) contends that civil society contains contradictions among it’s component units as well as within each groups. These are inter-civil society contradictions, he concluded that the full value of civil society in relation to the sustenance of democracy can be related only if civil society has time to grow and develop and is able to transcend it’s own contradiction.
Uchendu, (2000), in his analysis of civil society was more interest in what differentiates a civil society from the polical society or state. According to him, in it’s modern expression, the concept of civil society aids our understanding of the relationship of government to pre-political and extra political associations, it addresses the concept of political space and the consequences that flow when it is differentiated as it is in modern state.
The idea that a public sphere can be distinguished fron a civil sphere and that while both coexist in a polity, each has important roles to play in promoting the welfare of individual and groups are central to the concept of civil society. These ideas in his view, had only gradually evolved in Western Europe and North America and have not been fully integrated into the political culture world-wide.
He went further to stress that the lead of civil society is rooted in the nation of “natural law”. The central hypothesis been that man is not by nature ordered towards society rather he orders himself towards society, promoted by self interest. These could be seen from the view expressed by the social contract theorist Thomas Hobbes, John Locks and Jean Jacques Rousseau (Uchendu 2000)
Despite the divergent views of these scholars as to the origin of the state, a common ground can be noted, the desire of man to live a much more organized life where the common good can be much more assured gravitate them towards reaching an agreement to ensure this. Thus, the philosophical state emerged.
Strauss, (1972), building on this, reminds us that the “desire for self preservation is a passion, a powerful passion that makes itself the basis of civil society”. In other words, Strauss makes natural law a sufficient basis for all rights and duties in society and derives man’s civil duties from the right of self-preservation. Here, we can see that rights are made absolute while duties are conditional.
The state of nature is the state of man without government. In this state of nature, man’s right are perfect and man owe no duties to the state: still according to Hobbles (1946), life is described as solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. One way to get out of this dilemma was to view the state as a partnership in duties.
In Aristotle analogy, justice is inferior to friendship, when men are friends, as they must in a state of nature, they have no need for justice but when men are just, they still have the need for friends (Sabine and Thouson, 1973). The true remedy for the state of nature is the state of civil society. We can infact infer that, from the above, a state advances politically, economically, socially and otherwise only when there is a strong civil society or it can boast of one.
Helin, (1996), in the light of the above, sees civil society as a concept used to describe a dynamic process of constructing and reconstructing political space normatively in order to accommodate new patterns of political participation outside the formal state structure and institutions. The idea of political space suggest that the polity is one of the many sphere of society and of political action. The empirical validity of civil society therefore, rests on the fact that society is a bundle of capacities which functions best when it permits or admits other sectors into the arena of political and social action.
Helin, (1996) also states that the idea of civil society rests on four pillars such as,
i. The concept of a political space which permits multiple power centers and is flexible, divisible and limited by constitution or self limiting in a consideration of moral order.
ii. A plurality of actors, each possessing a self-sustaining actor system.
iii. A public sphere that is capable of expansion and contraction as it’s civil support grows and varies in effort to restrain arbitrary state action.
iv. The capacity to promote governance that is responsible, responsive and eminently accountable with a limited or term tenure.
These pillars could as well be called the basic functions civil society strives to fulfill in any given polity.
Hegal (1967), one of the earliest writers in the concept of civil society, places civil society between the family and the state. Hegal believes the state to be the highest form of human society in which the spirit (God, reason, or a blind cosmic force, Hegel was silent as to what the spirit means) objectifies and actualizes itself. Below the state, we have the family and the civil society, the spirit first objectifies itself in the family, then in the civil society and finally in the state.
Civil society therefore to him, is a state in the development of the state, a state between the family and the state, the state been the synthesis of the unity of the family and the diversity of the civil society.
According to Sarbine and Thouson (1976), Hegal views shows that the state depends upon civil society for the means of accomplishing the moral purposes which it embodies and as such it uses civil society for achievement of it’s own ends. Hegal bore no contempt for civil society, Hegal’s account of civil society was infact a careful one, even an elaborate analysis of the guilds and corporations, the estates and classes, the associations, Hegal regards as indespensible.
From hega’s pointof view therefore, the state is not composed primarily of individual citizens, the individual must be mediated through a series of corporations and associations before he arrives at the final dignity of citizenship in the state. (Omoregbe (1991).
The above review of the various scholarly writings on civil society shows it to be an indespensible tool in the administration of the state so that citizens should be able to actualize their goals. It has been able to show too, that the law of natural right is the precursor to the development of civil society, however, the contention of these research report is that civil society in Nigeria is indeed in other third world nation came up as a result of sdissatisfaction with the state, the inability of the state to provide the good life needed by man necessitated the creation of parallel institution. Secondly, the autocratic nature of leadership in Nigeria especially during the Abacha regime led to various coalitions formed primarily to fight dictatorship. These abnormalities led to numerous civil society been formed (as these wemes shows) has also been the basis for their weakness as these research work intends to show.
Lets now turn to our other concepts.
Democratic governance is a very recent practice, this democratic practice varies in different places and historical periods. The current position is that democracy like human right should go beyond voting, it should encompass the rights to make economic decisions in governments chosen by the citizens.
However, many associate democracy at first thought with one true United States President, Abraham Lincolm (1861-1865) when during the Gettysburg address, which was made to mourn those who have fallen during the great battle of Geltysburg and for which a national secretary of the battlefield was elected, gave a speech which has been considered as one of the most eloquent statement of the democratic fight ever made. He said “it is for the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have”. Thus, so far nobly advanced that from these honored dead we take increase devotion to, for which they give the last measure of devotion, that these nations under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that “GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE SHALL NOT PERISH FROM THE EARTH” Kelvin, (1990).
However, the theory of democracy is immensely complicated, this is because of difficulties in understanding who the people are and which acts of government are truly there rather than those of some dominant group.
Agi (2000) writing on the conceptual problematique of democracy firstly, made a distinction between direct and representative democracy. In direct democracy, all citizens participate directly the laws and take turns in carrying them out. Thius form of democracy practiced in ancient Greece and in decentralized pre-colonial Africa societies gave way to representative democracy due to size in population and territory. In representative democracy, the people do not generally make the laws or administer them but choose those who do, these latter type characterized modern type.
Apart from these distinction, there is little agreement as to what constitute a regime as democratic. This is because of two conflicting criteria that might be employed in the assessment of ant political decision, by whom was it taken -which raises the problem of collective choice and whose interest does it serve-which raises the problem of social welfare and social choice.
According to Cunts (1990), it is normal in the so-called western countries to use the first criterion above and to call a state democratic if there is some way of attributing every major political decision to the people either because they take part in making it. While in the communist states, the second criterion is often employed, decisions are regarded as democratic if they further the interest of the people eve4n though taken by a ruling party which forbids popular membership of it’s ranks.
Adopting the chambers twentieth century dictionary (1972 edition) which defines democracy as “a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people collectively and is administered by them or by officers appointed by them, the common people, a state of society characterized by recognition of equality of right and privileges, political, social or legal equality.
Toyo, (2000), saw that there are certain elements that catches the eye, one is the supreme power and the vesting of power in the people collectively, for the people to have supreme power, it is not enough to hold elections. Democracy goes beyond elections hence, the people should be seen to be involved in the decision making process of government.
Another is the term “the common people” democracy is class recognizing terms and the term the people refers to the common people as distinguished from kings and so on.
Equality too should be noted. The equality of rights and privileges (political, social and legal) among citizens is crucial for the true definition of democracy. To have a genuine democracy, there must be first and foremost a real equality of citizenship.
Uwfsky (2006), noted eleven (11) root principles of a faulty democratic government, these are,
1. Constitutionalism
2. Democratic election
3. federalism
4. Creation of law
5. An Independent Judiciary
6. Powers of the Presidency
7. Role of a free media
8. Role of civil society group
9. Public right to knowledge
10. protecting minority right
11. Civilian control of the military
One will quickly note that an indispensable existence of civil society is a precursor to a truly democratic state.

The theoretical thrust which these work will be based is the group theory of the state. The advocate of the group theory contend that every society includes within it a large number of groups which remained engaged in a perpetual struggle for power and domination over each other. These groups were engaged in a process of balancing and limiting each other, through which harmony between the various interests in society of which groups were the exponents could be maintained.
The intellectual root of the group theory lies in the doctrines of pluralism which was developed in the early twentieth century by a number of scholars, why the pluralist had produced some brilliant insight in to the group basis of society and recognized a multiple pattern of group affiliations and loyalties, the group theorists saw in this pattern functional basis of government. Bentley (1908), to whom the origin of the group theory in it’s present form can be traced introduced the concept of “interest” in trying to answer the question as to what gives direction to group activity. According to him, it is this interest that differentiates a genuine group from a coincidental collection of people or what he refers to as “castigational group”.
However, this interest which is a shared attitude concerning a claim or to be made by one group upon certain other group in a social system sometimes are in conflict (Vanna 1975). The ability or capability of the state therefore to absorb these various interest which are later expanded on the state as demanded could go a long way to ensure stability for the entire system as a whole.
Truman (1951), another group theorist contribution of concepts like access and other related concepts such as resources, organization, leadership and so on would include that a group ability to influence government decisions as a function of the group access is dependent upon the group resources, leadership, organizationand so on. On the other hand, these means that a group’s inability to influence government decision, could be adduced to lack of resources, influence, access which can hinder their effectiveness.
Civil society group ineffectiveness in Nigeria political system which some of these groups gravitate towards these states (co-opted) can explain in terms of lacking the necessary pre-requiste to stand independently from the state. As a group therefore, there is need not only to define their interest but also to have access to decision making or influence decision making in the party.
Therefore, as a guide, the group theory, will help us to look at civil society and how they can play an effective role in Nigeria.

1. Agi, S.P.I. (2000), Religion and the Consolidation of democracy in Nigeria in Okon E.U. (ed),Op cit.
2. Bentley,A. (1902), The process of Government San Antonid, Princyna press.
3. Cunts, M.(1990), Comparative Government and Politics, an Introduction Essay, New York, Harper and Row Publishers.
4. Diamond,L. (1990), Rethinking Civil Society towards democratic consolidation crossword, vol 1 No 3. (February),Lagos, United State Information Service.
5. Gold, M. (1990), “Civil Society and it’s role in a democratic state” Journal of democracy Vol iv No 3.
6. Hegel, G.W.F. (1967), Philosophy of Rights Oxford O.U.P.
7. Helin, J.Ital. (1996), The development of Civil Society in a democratic State, The Botswana model Africa Studies Review Vol 39, No 2.
8. Hobbes,T. (1946), Levianthan Oxford, O.U.P.
9. Mutfang, P. (2003), “The State Civil Society and Governance in Nigeria: A Post 1960 Synopsis” in Aboh, O.S.(ed), Geographies of Citizenship in Nigeria, Zaria, Tanga Publishers.
10. Omoregbe, J. (1991), A Siplified History of Western Philosophy, Lagos, Joja Educational Research and Publishers.
11. Oyovbare, S. (2000) “Civil Society and democracy in Nigeria, A key note address” in Okon, E.U.(ed) Ibid.
12. Sabine, G and Thorson, T. (1972), A History of Political Theory, New Deltil Nohan Primland and IBH Publishing Co.
13. Strauss, L. (1972), “Natural Law” International Encylopaedia of Social Sciences.
14. Toyo,E. (200), “The labour movement and the advance to democracy” in Okon E.U.OP Cit.
15. Truman, D. (1951), The Government Process, Political Interests and Public Opinion, New York, Alfred Knoff.
16. Uchendu, V.(2000), Civil Society and democracy Theoritical Perspective” in Okon E.U.(ed), Civil Society and the Consolidation of Democracy in Nigeria, Calabar, Cats Publishers.
17. Urofsky, M. (2006), “The root Principles of Democracy”, Journal of Democracy Vol xvi, No 2.
18. Varma,S.P. (1975), Modern Political Theory, New Dellu, Vikas Publishers.

Evolution Of Civil Society In Nigeria
Civil society in Nigeria as in other third world nations differs sharply in terms of it’s evolution from that of the Western world. This has tended to shape it’s actions, objectives or goals.
While in the Western society, civil society grew out of necessities, that is to say, they grew out of the expansion of states which was occasioned by the complexities of governmental role in everyday affairs, third world civil society came about as a result of dissatisfaction with state policies. Infact, most persons (scholars and political commentators alike) have tended to trace the evolution and subsequent proliferation of civil society groups to the high-handedness witnessed during military dictatorship in Nigeria as in other third world nations.
However, one concept that can best be used to analyse the above point is the concept of “Exit” from the state. According to Multfang (2000), it has been observed that the study of political development in Africa and the third world in general is resphete with accounts of the rise of mostly anti-system, grass root involvement with a variety of political, social and economic goals which are often beyond the control of the state.
Bayart (1991) also made reference to “groups which interact with the state by by-passing it……by defining themselves in relation to economic, political or cultural system which transcends the state by submerging the state with it’s spectacular claims and mobilization”.
These individuals found out that their goals are often incompatable with state goals most times, it is the inability of the state to transcend ethnic sentiments on other to achieve national integration among it’s citizens that actually gives room for these individuals to form a group with particular and same interest.
Exit therefore, refers to a disengagement or retreat from the state by disaffected or marginalized segments of the citizenry and in the vain, the creation of parallel social, cultural, economic and political system which compete with state structures. The reciprocal rights normally associated with state-citizen relations are therefore absent (Bayart 1991).
In the Nigeria state, we can identify various forms of exit especially in the creation of parallel and self-governing economic structures and socio-cultural and judicial activities, for instance, as a result of the failure of the state to provide for the lives and properties of the citizens, the 1990s witnessed an upsurge in the creation of vigilante groups, such as the Bacassi boys in the Eastern part of the country. These groups engaged in security duties with the open support of the state. Infact, it has been observed that citizens more often not report cases to these outfits, *cases* that were originally the preserve of the police.
Similarly, the O’ odudua People Congress (OPC) although leaving an openly stated political programme of protecting the political interest of the Yoruba ethnic group and that of negotiating a better deal for the Omo-oduduwa in the Nigerian Federation (Ejiofor 2002) would also engage in police duties by melting out instant justice to suspected criminals.
Some other failures of the state that resulted in the emergence of such groups include the inability of the state to provide goods and services to the general populace. This was also compounded by the authoritarian dictatorship of the military that further alienated the citizenry. All these prepared the ground for various segments of the country to alternatives and very often parallel sites-fundamentalist religious movement, ethnic self-help unions, black market networks and so on for support. Sometimes some citizens or groups choose outright exile from the state to define alternative life systems. The phenomena that would seem to establish a linkage between the proliferation and vibrancy of associational life or civil societies parallel to state structure on the one hand and the exit from the state on the other hand is the concept of the “collapse state” (Osaghae, 1997).
Uchendu (2000) postulates that the foundation of Nigeria civil society lies in it’s ethnic pluralism of the country. The character of the civil society in Nigeria today reflects the uneven socio-cultural development of the country. The various levels of socio-cultural differentiation achieved by the various population. The Nigerian civil society tends to ignore the state when it felt that it’s interest (the state interest) did not inform public policy choices, civil society groups emerged and protested when they felt that relative balance of power between the state and civil society assumed a redirection of policy.
If we say that during the military era, there was an upsurge rise of civil society, we are infact condescending to the view or better still inferring that civil society could not have started during the military period: true, during the military era the growth of civil society reached it’s peak but however, the emergence of civil society in Nigeria goes beyond the military era or the failure of the Post-Colonial state to attend to the desires and aspirations of the citizens. Infact Nigeria civil society can be traced to the colonial period.
This is so because if the theory that post-colonial politics is largely a carryover of colonial politics, is anything to go by.
Toure-Kajah (2000) wrote that colonialism was principally a violent imposition, enslavement of the people and economic subjugation to economic exploitation, political repression and cultural oppression. Military might was used by the colonialist to co-opt the people into submission. Apart from the rise of various oppositions (associational groups standing in opposition of the colonialist contest), the violent imposition of the colonialist was the basis of non-inclusive citizenship. Foure Kazan (2000).
An attempt to correct the abnormalities of the colonial policies led to the emergence of various associational groups that later became political in nature. First among these various groups was a trans-national organization known as the National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA) led by some intellectuals under the leadership of a Ghanaian lawyer, Casely Itayford. It has the main objective of uniting the four British West African countries-Gambia, Sierra Leone, Gold Coast now Ghana and Nigeria in their demand for self determination.
Some scholars believes that despite the colonialist opposite reaction to the demands of this groups, they were successful in their bid, because in 1922, the establishment of a new legislature with the elective principle was made by the then Governor Sir Huge Clifford in Nigeria. A major request of the group.
The NCBWA was to serve as a catalyst for the emergence of other similar groups in the country. Subsequently, there was the Lagos Youth Movement that was formed in 1934by four Nigerians .D.J.C. Vanghar, Samuel Abirsanya, Ernest Ikoli and H.O. Davies to oppose the colonial educational policy with regards to the differences which these people alleged existed in the Yaba Higher College (an educational institution). In 1936 the name was later changed to the Nigerian Youth Movement in an effort to make it a national movement. The movement later became political when it successfully challenge the Nigerian National Democratic Party of Herbert Marcauley in 1958 by winning elections for the Lagos town council and the Lagos seats in the legislative council.
The major political parties that later exact profound influence in the Nigerian political landscape stated off as cultural organization for instance, the Action Congress, the Northern Peoples Congress and the National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons, that had it’s root from previous movement like the NYC and the Nigerian Union of Students (NUS).
However, if the pre-colonial civil society came into existence mainly to fight off what they perceived to be an unprecedented oppression of the black race and more specifically against the Nigerian masses by the colonial masters, the post independence civil society existed mainly as a result of the authoritarian nature of military rule in the country. As Osaghae (1997) puts it “the combination of foreign debts, structural adjustment and general economic decline have further emasculated the capacity of the state to provide jobs, subsidize education, health care, social services, protect lives and property. This has forced the people to device various strategies of coping outside the formal structure of the stat”.
Also, the unprecedented levels of repression and personal dictatorship destroyed or made ineffective, potential sites of opposition and counter-hegemony like the independent media, grass roots organization and so on. This worsened crisis of confidence and credibility as provoked by the decomposition of the state has encouraged and accelerated the construction of parallel economic systems. Hence the post independent era witnessed the upsurge rise of various religious bodies, anti-military association like NADECO (National Democratic Coalition), ethnic association and so on. These and many too numerous to mention has escaped to the fourth republic that began in 1999 with their parochial and ad hoc stand.
Civil society and entrenchment of democracy in the history of Nigeria
Among the forces that helped to dislodge the military from power in Nigeria politics, the civil societies were in the forefront. In the Nigerian case under an entrenched authoritarianism, the civil society group operated from “Diaspora”. This was because of the high handedness of the military class who were opposed to any form of opposition. Students union association, media groups, religious bodies, professional bodies, inter and intra ethnic association were virtually reduced to nothing and attempt to speak against the unjust manner the country was equally met with stiff sanctions.
However, paradoxically, such persecution only serves to heighten the resolves to break down the existence of militarianism. One which have actually stood out in the fight against the military is NADECO (National Democratic Coalition) whose members were mostly of the Yoruba-but also home members drawn from across the nation, actually stop at nothing to speak against the excessiveness of military dictatorship. Personalities like Pa Micheal Ajasin, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Anthony Enahoro, Wole Soyinka, Beko Ransom-Kuti and so on. Others operated from “Exile” and were a pain in the “ass” of the military.
Although, the proliferation of new types of non-governmental organization (NGOs) in recent times has raised expectation that democratic governance might thrive in Nigeria. While their growing presence largely reflects the waking developmental capacity of the state, they contributes directly or indirectly to the creation of a socio-economic and political setting conducive to democracy.
Some of these NGOs together with labour unions have fought decisively for the entrenchment of democracy. Nigeria democracy today could be said to a fight that started in the 1980s certainly passed as the beginning of a completely new approach in the world political economy and governance. The proliferation of civil society groups cannot be disassociated from the happenings of this period.
The vibrancy of civil society was especially noticeable during this period. It was this vibrancy that eventually saw Babangida “stepping aside” in 1993 after the unceremonious annulment of June 12 Presidential election that was adjudged by both local and international observers as the fairest election till date.
Civil Society And Democratic Governance in History
As expressed above, civil society has played a great role in dislodging authoritarian regime and consolidating democratic ethos in world history.
In the advance countries like the United State of America, Great Britain, Netherlands, Germany, Australia and so on, civil society groups have emerged as a result of complexities in governmental functions. As the day to day running of the governmental affairs expands beyond the original or traditional scope of formal governance, civil society groups naturally emerged to act as the balance sheet of governance (Urosky 2004).
However, in third world nations not only in some places have civil society effectively played that notable role but, they have also helped in bringing about democratic change. According to Oche (1999) civil society have played a crucial role in compelling a recalcitrant military administration to disengage from governance. The wave of democratic change that engulfed the world in the late 90s that saw countries in Latin America, Eastern Europe, the middle East and Africa embracing liberal and open market policies coupled with democratic ethos can be adduced largely to the role played by civil society groups.
In Eastern Europe for instance, where the world has witnessed transitions after transitions, civil society group has played a major role in ensuring democratic continuity.
The successes of such civil society groups have challenged civil society in Africa to be proactive in their approach to correct societal ills and help in entrenching democratic values in their countries. The ideal of civil society is not a new phenomenon. Infact, according to Uchendu (2000) civil society is seeded in pre history. It addresses the concept of political space and the consequences that flows when it is differentiated.
The complex nature of government activities in modern times has made it imperative that bodies outside governmental circles assist in bringing public goods and services to the rest majority of the people. A democratic government should have an opening for the activities of civil society group in the state, if we define civil society as those realm of organized social life that is voluntary, self generalizing and autonomous from the state and as such we effectively identify them in labour movement, student associations, university lecturers, professional organizations down to human rights organizations and religious organizations, then one can easily see how they have contributed in the entrenchment and even the consolidation of democracy over the years.
In complex and well advanced democracies like U.S.A, Germany, Great Britain and so on, civil society forms the bedrock of development in such societies (Oyovbaire 2000).
From the beginning of the 20th century down to the present time, the over bearing presence of civil society group cannot be over emphasized, lobby groups, NGOs have been formed to assist citizens in their strive to influence government policies, especially in the advance nations.
1. Bayart, A. (1991), “Finishing with the idea of the third world: The concept of the Political Trajectory” in J,(ed) Rethinking third world politics London, longinan Publishers.
2. Mutfang, P. (2000), “The state civil society and Governance in Nigeria. A post 1960 synopsis” in Oga S.A. (ed) Geographies of Citizenship in Nigeria. Tamaja Publishers.
3. Oche,O. (1999), “Patters of military disengagement from Politics in Africa”in Wale S.B (ed) Themes in African politics, Lagos. Afreb Publishers.
4. Osaghae, E.E. (1997), “Existing from the state in Nigeria” in Haynes J (ed), Democracy and civil society in the Third World Politics and new Social Movement. Cambridge Polity Press.
5. Oyovbare,S. (2000) “Civil Society and Democracy in Nigeria, A key note address” In Okon E.U.(ed) Ibid.
6. Toure-Kajan, T. (2000), “Inclusive Citizenship and Democratic Governance in Nigeria” in Oyo S.A. (ed) OP Cit.
7. Uchendu, V.C. (2000), “Civil Society and Democracy. Theoretical foundation” in Okon E.U.(ed) Civil Society and the Consolidation of Democracy in Nigeria. Calabar. Cats Publishers.
8. Urofsky, M. (2003), “The root Principles of Democracy” Journal of democracy, Vol xvi, No 2.

4.1 The Role Of Civil Society In Democratic Goverance
The struggle in Nigeria to advance the frontiers of democratization and sustain democratic statecraft has not been an easy task. It should be noted here that Nigeria is in her fourth republic. This in simpler terms means that our effort at democratization has failed three times. The reason for this failures are too numerous which is largely considered as the same of Nigeria’s development effort to inter and intra party struggle.
According to Oyovbaire (1992) there is the difficulty of interposing democracy upon the multiplicity of our pre-colonial societies and state systems. The collapse of Nigeria democracy which was due to the lack of sound foundation in 1966 led to several military regimes.
It was the period when the crimes or highhandedness of the dictatorship has reached it’s ultimate in 1987 during the General Ibrahim Babangida regime that the first Human Right Organization (Civil Liberties Organization) came on stream (Aduba, 1995).
Many others have followed, for instance we have the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADL); Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR); Constitutional Rights Project (CRP); Universal Defenders of Democracy (UDD); Committee for Advancement of Rights Africa (CARL); Human Rights Africa (HRA); Gani Fawehiemi Solidarity Association (GFSA); Movement For the Survival of Ogoni People (MSOP); Citizens For Righteousness and Social Justice (CRSJ) and the Citizens Forum for Constitutional Reform (CFCR).
Again, it should be noted here that the prolonged stay of the military dictatorship has contributed in no small way to the growth of the above civil society groups in Nigeria.
According to Onagoruwa, (1995), he said that “the growth of these non governmental organizations could be traced to consciousness and a concern for the preservation of liberty which they conceived was gradually being eroded in similar vain”. Ubani .F. traced the growth to subversion of the social, economic and political rights of the people.
Most of these civil society group therefore has their role defined or occasioned by the environment factor that created them. However, in nine specific terms, the role of civil society groups can be enumerated as such, according to (Emime 2000).
I. They serve as watchdog to check the excesses of government and expose, curtail violations of human rights, abuse of the constitution. They thus exercise control over democratic political institutions.
II. They supported the role of political parties in stimulating political participation, increasing political efficacy and skills and promoting appreciations of the obligations of democratic citizens. In a democratic setting, the more important role of political parties stimulating political participation will be much more visible if such roles are complemented by the various civil society groups that we have in the society. In the case of Nigeria, it has been observed that an average Nigerian is skeptical about the various political parties and profess membership of it because of selfish interest (Adele 2001).
III. They provide a crucial arena for the development of such democratic attributes as tolerance, willingness to compromise and respect for opposing view points.
IV. They help traditionally excluded groups such as women, the handicapped and ethnic minorities to gain access to the political process through the articulation, approximation and representation of their interest.
V. By cutting across and weakening long-standing regional, ethnic and partisence cleavages, they help create a new type of citizenship in which individuals relate on the basis of non-primodial interests. They thus widen the political space by generating a more expansive and sophisticated political outlook and tolerance.
VI. Civil society organizations help in the recruitment and training of new political leaders in technical administrative skills and normative standards of public accountability, transparency, responsiveness and inclusiveness.
VII. They are important channels of information dissemination and thus help citizens to collectively pursue and defend their interests and values.
VIII. Civil society organization when engaged in election monitoring enhance voters confidence and affirm credibility by exposing electoral fraud and other undemocratic activities.
According to Schutittler (1997) these are the roles that civil societies has played historically in all societies which have succeeded in becoming “mature democracies” as well as all societies which are striving to consolidate their fledging transition to democracies.
Hence the role of civil society is indispensable to the goals of attainment of sustainable democracy, although as generally recognized, such a role is not a sufficient condition for democratic sustainability and consolidation. Therefore, having the right mental attitude and machineries to meet enormous challenges if not obstacles, should be the aim and objective of Nigerian civil society.
However, according to Jega (2006) “the extent to which civil society contributes to the sustainability or consolidation of democracy is related to the extent to which it’s members have a democratic political culture, and it’s activities are characterized by democratic conduct and practices. These is in recognition of the fact that there are a wide range of all types of civil society groups, and in particular, there are many ostensibly non-governmental civil society groups which are either manipulated by public or private vested interests or are not inclined towards democracy in any fundamental respect.
Consequently, such groups cannot in any meaningful way contribute in the transition to democracy let alone to democratic consolidation and sustainability. (Jega, 2006).
Infact, their roles can facilitate authoritarian reversals or even obstruct the evolution of a desirable political culture in the context of striving for democratic sustainability. Complementing the role elucidated above, Joga (2006) says that a democratically inclined civil society groups has the following roles to play,
i. The promotion and the defence of the constitution and rule of law.
ii. The enhancement of the integrity and efficacy of the democratic institutions and processes.
iii. The development of a viable democratic culture in the polity.
In other words, civil society can positively contribute to the sustainability of democracy by legitimizing and entrenching institutions, processes and the culture of democracy as well as by contesting, delegating and opposing authoritarian, undemocratic and uncivil practices and dispositions these roles can be effectively discharged.
According to Seong (2000.) though various efforts from below such as, practicing democracy internally or by ensuring that it’s formal institutions and processes operate optimally in accordance with the established rules and best practices.

4.2 Problems Affecting The Effectiveness of Civil Society In Nigeria
Despite the stated historical roles played by civil society in mature democracies and even in consolidating fledging democracies, civil society groups in Nigeria faces major constraints and have been found deficient in carrying out the above stated roles.
There are many observable reasons for this. One major reason that has reduced the power of civil society in underdeveloped social formation like Nigeria is the issue of fund. (Boadi: 1995).
Most civil Society groups had to rely on the respective government where they play host for funds to run their organization. In the long run, their policies are largely dictated by the government. Given state dominance in most of the formal sector of investment and employment-key social groups and their organizations are ultimately dependent on government. (Ibid).
Secondly, groups such as unions whose members came substantially from the public sector are always vulnerable to government arm. In Nigeria for instance, during the late 80s and early 90s intermittent prescription of the Nigerian Labour Congress and the academie staff union of universities (ASUU) as well as co-optation of their inducement has hampered the popular movement against military dictators.
Although, things have considerably changed during the current democratic dispensation, the future of civil society in democratic consolidation is not really bright, for instance, privatization of state owned enterprises (SOEs) has not really empowered civil society groups economically as expected hence today we still see crisis and co-optation taking place. This is because many civil associations of all kinds have seen their materials bases of support eroded first by protracted economic crisis and by stringent new-liberal adjustment measures imposed with a view of resolving it.
The poor economic conditions of the Nigerian state has also led to the emergence of civil society that are state inclined because members of such groups believe strongly that by showing loyalty to the incumbent government, material resources is assured (Osaghae 1998).
While the proliferation of new types of NGO’s has raised expectations that democratic governance might thrive in Nigeria, it has become clear that these sorts of NGO’s also labour under structural, material and legal constraints that hinders their effectiveness as agents of democracy. Local NGO’s in general are poorly funded and have weak organizational capacities. As stated above, they often turned to government for support and external donors; a compromising strategy that distorts the accountability owed to members.
Also many NGO’s and especially the “Civil subspecies that are mostlylikel6y to be involved in democratic activitism, suffer from low levels of institutional development. Many have withered or changed their characters as key leaders have taken posts in the new post-authoritarian governments or plunged into party politics.
Infact to use the exact words of Boadi (1995) “Many of Africa (Nigeria)new democracy civil associations turned out to be nothing more than political actions committees and proto parties that have more in common with political than civil society”.
The heterogeneous nature of most African society, Nigeria not excluded, has also acted as a debilitating factor necessitating against a meaningful and well organized civil society group in the country Jega (2006) have aptly coined it “lack of sensitivity to the plural nature of Nigeria”. In such multi-religious and multi-ethnic societies, democratic happenings are often associated with heightened sectarian conflict and communal violence. The end product been that civil societies are more likely to fight against themselves than against an oppressive regime.
This is the case during oppressive rule in Nigeria especially during the era of General Babangida and Abacha. The fight for the enthronement of democracy was largely perceived to be a Yoruba affair despite the wide distaste for military rule (Boadi 1995). This was because of the frontline role played by NADECO. A civil group largely composed of Yoruba people.
4.3 The Way Forward
The need for a vibrant civil society cannot be overestimated especially in a democratic setting, the continued entrenchment of democratic ethos, values and attitudes owes much to different factors but most especially to a strong and well organized civil associations.
Despite the short comings of civil society in Nigeria, it’s impact on social and political life has been enormous. Hence according to Chukwuma (1992), noted that “civil society has made it possible for a lot of persons to be abreast with the political happenings in their society”. It has also exposed the citizenry to varieties of issues which hitherto were the preserve of the political activities.
Secondly it is heartwarming that there is a frail recognition of the various constraints by many groups and a spirited effort is been made to address them (Jega 2006). However, a lot needs to be done, for it is absolutely necessary to do so in other to strengthen the capacity of these categories of civil society groups for a positive intervention in the democratization process.
Jega (2006) have enumerated some as follows :
i. Acquisition of basic facilities and equipment which are necessary for organizational efficiency, effectiveness and measurable output.
ii. Promotion of increased and focused network among civil society groups.
iii. Training of cadres in grassroots mobilization and advocacy.
iv. Training of cadres for acquisition of leadership and good governance skills.
v. Promotion of collaborative joint programmes of advocacy and mobilization.
vi. Diversification of sources of funding through creative revenue generation activities.
vii. The need to coordinate and control the NGO phenomena in order to reduce excessive reliance on foreign grants.
A critical assessment of these seven (7) points shows that if adopted, it will be a precursor to a democratically-inclined civil society that is strong enough to be independent.

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