Democracy dividend is beyond ‘Stomach Infrastructure’ – Prof. Sam Egwu

Democracy dividend is beyond ‘Stomach Infrastructure’ – Prof. Sam Egwu

Samuel Egwu, professor of political science, with specialty in political economy and development studies, University of Jos, in this interview, faults growing perception suggesting ‘stomach infrastructure’ as a selling point of democratic dividend. According to him, the core of social development is putting in mechanism to ameliorate poverty and not just merely sharing of food

Prof. Samuel Egwu

Prof. Samuel Egwu

Samuel Egwu, professor of political science, with specialty in political economy and development studies, University of Jos, in this interview, faults growing perception suggesting ‘stomach infrastructure’ as a selling point of democratic dividend. According to him, the core of social development is putting in mechanism to ameliorate poverty and not just merely sharing of food stuffs.

Prof. Egwu, who was formerly the Governance Adviser for the United Nations Development Programme in Nigeria, and now a consultant for ACTIONAIDS’ project on Strengthening Citizens’ Engagement in the Electoral Process (SCEEP), also urge citizens to brace up to the challenge of active participation in elections, and using the process to chose desired leaders. Excerpts.

 

ON 2015 ELECTIONS AND CITIZENS’ PARTICIPATION
I think it is important to emphasise that people or citizens’ engaging the democratic or electoral process draws from the whole meaning of citizenship. The fact that citizenship is an entitlement implies that you have to make it your civic contribution to the building of the political community in terms of selecting who your leaders would be and not only in selecting leaders, but also in holding leaders accountable. From that point of view, elections offer one mechanism for people to exercise their civic rights.

 

ON WHAT TO CONSIDER IN CHOOSING WHO TO VOTE FOR

There are many important issues in elections. The whole idea is that in a representative democracy, election is an important mechanism for determining who the leaders should be and what is important in determining the choice that people make is that they have the right to choose from the menu offered by politicians. In making a choice, the key determinant is that the political party that you want to vote for represents your interest in terms of their programmes and manifesto. Secondly, having exercised your power to bring them to office, you are also in the position to hold them accountable and they are answerable to you in terms of service delivery and meeting the daily needs of the political community. Finally, democracy is with the assumption that it has what is called a promissory note. It does have a value that if you elect a leader who fail to deliver on the basis of your expectations, you should use your power of the vote to vote him or her out or recall that person and this is where elections become a key factor in the right of citizens to demand political accountability. This is clear in the notions of social contract that government are set up by people to promote and advance their collective interest and if a particular government fails to do so, the people have the obligation to ask the government to go using the power of the ballot.

 

ON ‘STOMACH INFRASTRUCTURE’ AS A KIND OF DEMOCRACY DIVIDEND
I do have problems with that because what it simply translates to is the ability of a sitting governor or president not to commit resource to long term development, but to meet the immediate short term needs for survival and I believe this is not the way to conduct democracy in Africa as stomach infrastructure may not translate to represent expectations of democratic governance.

 

ON WHY ELECTORATES ARE PASSIVE IN ENGAGING POLITICAL LEADERS

The electorate in Nigeria suffers a major deficit which is a structural one. There are lots of social infrastructural decay. And so the citizens have become so traumatized by these challenges that they cannot understand the long term interests and how to defend that interest.

 

… THE WAY OUT!

The only key to change is persistent struggle. Citizens need to go out and exercise their power and create platforms to ensure the integrity and sanctity of their votes during elections. If we can punish political parties that bring out bad candidates by not voting for them, political parties would learn their lessons that the electorates are so politically conscious on the way they vote and that will compel them to behave themselves and also to do their internal work of selecting the candidate that is naturally thrown up by that process. In the absence of a political party to self regulate, citizens would be in position to regulate the process by rejecting candidates that are not acceptable. We also need to have a culture of elections, where children in schools will exercise democracy in choosing their leaders, and this being represented in all sectors of life, such that voting will not only be a culture during elections, but be a part of our way of life.

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