Popular Struggles for Democracy: Civil Society and Democratisation in Nigeria

Topics: Democracy, Civil society, Sociology Pages: 13 (3867 words) Published: November 26, 2008



Research Proposal

Popular struggles for Democracy: Civil Society and Democratisation in Nigeria

Usman Alhaji Tar

Peace Studies

Dr Janet Bujra

I certify that this essay is my own work and that it respects the ethical conventions of research and the due acknowledgement of the ideas and writings of others. The essay is written in my own words except for direct quotations that are acknowledged in the References.

Signed___________________________________Date_______________ __
The oscillation between military authoritarianism and democratic rule has been one of the dominant features of many post-colonial states (Dare, 1989). In the context of Nigeria, years of military dictatorship have led to the struggle for its disengagement from the political domain leading to variety of transition-to-civil-rule programmes (Ihonvbere, 1996). The study of democratic transition in Nigeria became of particular interest since 1983 when numerous attempts at military disengagement could not yield the desired result (Mustapha, 1999:227). One of the interesting topics of research that emerged from Nigeria’s recent experience in military rule, especially after the cold war, is the role of domestic forces seeking to unseat dictatorship and install democratic rule (Ikelegbe, 2001a, 2001b,).

This research proposal owes its influence to two broad factors. The first factor has bearing with the theoretic incentive for further enquiry borne by my previous research and reading of the literature on the topic. I did my masters degree research on democratisation and military disengagement in West Africa which revealed, among other things, that two causal factors -namely: internal and external- underpin the process of recent democratic transition in the region. The former involve the rise of domestic forces seeking to establish democracy while the latter involve external input from the West seeking to “roll back the state”, that is, de-emphasise the central and counterproductive role of the state (Beckman, 1993) and strengthen domestic groups and non-governmental organisations all in an effort to facilitate “good governance” itself a means of meeting goals of development (Hearn, 1999). Beyond identifying these causal factors in sweeping terms and surbordinating the former to the latter, my earlier research could not explore in detail their causal dynamics. My subsequent reading of the literature underscores the fact that internal pressure for political and economic reform spearheaded by organised associational entities representing civil society in Africa constitute a major formidable force complementary to, if not independent from, the western agenda for democratisation (Beckman and Jega, 1995; Harrison, 2001; Barchiessi, 1996). Conversely however, the literature often makes loose generalisations and there are a host of ideological and institutional values that surround the history and role of civil society in recent times (Howell and Pearce, 2000, 2001). These assumptions from the literature regarding the democratising potentials of the civil society are a research challenge that needs to be further explored.

The second factor influencing the choice of this research is associated with my experience in political and associational life in Nigeria, which constitutes the unit of analysis of this proposed study. I have been involved as a participant observer over the years in Nigeria’s transition to civil rule programmes while serving on electoral and related bodies. In 1987 and 1990, I served as a polling clerk and presiding officer for Local Government and Gubernatorial elections respectively and, in the controversial 1993 presidential election, I served as a volunteer for the then Nigerian Election Monitoring Group, a...
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