Democracy and Good Governance: Nigeria's Dilemma

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Ilufoye Sarafa Ogundiya

Department of Political Science Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Nigeria


Abstract Despite its enormous resources and huge potentialities, Nigeria remains grossly undeveloped. Consequently, political instability, abject poverty, acute youth unemployment, heightened crime rate, poor health prospects and widespread malnourishment have been the main features of Nigeria’s political economy. The development tragedy in Nigeria fits into the trends of political instability for which Africa has become infamous in the past three decades and lends credence to the arguments by some students of African politics that governance is one of the major problems in Africa. This chapter argues that the problem of development in Nigeria is a problem of governance; define in term of the proper, fair and equitable allocation of resources for the achievement of the end or purposes of the state, which is the promotion of the common good. The paper submits that for good governance to be feasible in Nigeria, sound anticorruption policies devoid of mere speechifying must be put in place. Furthermore, the paper recommends a functional legislature and viable and independent judiciary, and the attitudinal transformation on the part of the political elite, the absence of which good governance and development will continue to be a mirage.

Keywords: Corruption, instability, underdevelopment, democracy, good governance.


Despite all social and economic policies that have been implemented by the successive administrations, Nigeria has remained a laggard in social, economic and political developments. Subsequently, political instability, abject poverty, acute youth unemployment, heightened crime rate, poor health prospects, widespread malnourishment have been the main features of Nigeria’s political economy. One of the major explanations for the failure of all development programmes in Nigeria has been the absence of democracy and intermittent military intervention in politics. However, with the benefit of hindsight and as demonstrated by the current experience, even the periods of civil rule (1960-66, 1979-83and 1999 till now) has failed to produce any positive or better results. This assertion is vindicated by the report of a survey conducted by Simbine (2000) which showed that, in term of performance, respondents in her study gave higher ranks to three military regimes (Gen Murtala Muhammed 1975-76, Gen Muhammad Buhari 1983-85 and Gen Yakubu Gowon in that order) even though the two civilian administrations of Sir Tafawa Balewa, 1960-66 and Alhaji Shehu Shagari, 1979-83 were included. This shows that there is no automatic connection between democracy and development. Secondly, though discussable, the result implies, in the context of the Nigerian experience, that the record of the military is a bit better than that of the civilian counterpart. Nevertheless, over generalisation may be dangerous in this regard, every indicators pointed to the fact that Nigerians were worse off during Shagari administrations. Even, it is not an overstatement to contend that the return of the country to electoral democracy in 1999 has not made significant impact on the economic and social well-being of the people.

Several other factors explain the development tragedy in Nigeria. These are: the colonial legacy, bureaucratic and political corruption, poor labour disciplines, globalisation and unfavourable international environment, unpatriotic followers and bad leadership to mention a few. This paper examines the nexus of democracy and good governance. It also provides explanations on why democracy has not engendered good governance in Nigeria. It is argued that democracy cannot engender good governance in a state where it is yet to make sense, most especially among the contending political elites. Therefore, the major...
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