How Professional Bodies, Unions Should Make Nigeria Democracy Work – Oswald Okebata


The atmosphere in the country says it all, campaign and election season is around the corner in Nigeria. Politicians are trying to maneuver how to put themselves in the best position to obtain political power to rule Nigeria.

Since Nigeria operates a democratic system of government, which is defined as a system of government by the whole population or eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives and officials.

The system expect these politicians to be focusing on the people to get power or win election, but what is observed so far during this consultation session by every Presidential aspirant is that they are all focusing on meeting with stakeholders like Edward Clerk, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu to mention a few.

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All these consultations were done as an individuals not with any group or union as it is done in other well advance democracy around the world. Nigerian democracy cannot operate differently and expect to deliver the dividend of democracy to the people of Nigeria.

As someone who have live and participated in western democracy for the past thirty years, and as political consultant in Nigeria for the past Eight years it is very difficult to understand how Nigeria democracy really works. Professional Bodies, Unions Should Make Nigeria Democracy Work

The question now is, does Nigerian democracy base on political ideology like liberal or conservative, economics like capitalism or socialism or just base on interest groups.

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To make matter more difficult none of the multi political parties registered in Nigeria can be identified with any ideology making it easy for its member can switch parties like they change cloths.

Citizens of South Africa can point out what the ANC and EFF stands for, and their differences but can Nigerians point out the difference between APC and PDP the only thing we can point out is who their members are.

One week APC, next week switch to PDP, that does not show commitment to any hold value or ideology this is personality politics not democracy. Democracy offers people choice on how they should be governed by their political parties.

Citizens in advance democracies like USA or UK cast their vote for a party know in advance the type of government they are going to get voting for the Republican Party in USA knows that he or she is voting for less government and more state control of local matters.

While those voting for the Democratic Party want bigger government and more federal control of things. But here Nigeria do you know what voting for APC or PDP will get you other than the personality on the ballot.

Since we have no clear ideology that we can vote for, let our interest like education, health care, housing and good roads and electricity be our guide. Our political parties should be allying themselves with those who provide services in these sectors rather than stakeholders.

In a real democracy all the Presidential aspirants would be meeting with leaders of Nigeria trade Unions like the NUT, NUJ, NBA, ASUU, NMA and NSE and other unions both professional and artisan trade unions because these unions are the fabrics of citizens.

They serve the interest of their members and provide their professional service to Nigerian. They are in better position to understands problems and solutions to them.

When it comes to educational problems in Nigeria the NUT and ASUU are better equipped to handle them, same goes with the medical and health needs of the country Doctors and Nurses that are members of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) will know what is needed and how best to allocate those resources than any politician.

Members of all these professional associations are eligible voters in Nigeria and holds the real steak on real issues facing the country. So why are our politicians not consulting with their leaders if the need their votes to get in power to solve our nations problems.

It is either that our politicians understand that the unions have no influence in the political process, or the union leadership do not understand the amount of power the possess in a democracy or that nobody care to genuinely solves the nation’s problems.

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At this moment in our history our education system is falling apart, our health care system and the conditions of our hospitals are nothing to write home about.

The freedom of press which is paramount in every democracy is under constant treat by the DSS, Journalist are operating in fear, and yet professional unions like Nigerian Union of Teachers, (NUT), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ) have nothing to offer as a solution to all these problems.

Maybe that explains why they are overlook by our politicians, but it should not be that way. While in an advance democracy like the United States the Teachers union over there, wheels such power that when they ask this current democratic party government to jump their respond will be how high, this is the power of organized union in a democracy.

Look at the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which is currently on a month warning strike in Nigeria. This is a union that have embark on sixteen strikes since the current republic which started in 1999, so in the past 23 years and 6 elections they were unable to negotiate a better deal with any of these government for their members.

The issues here are that either they are not engage in the political process of electing a government that can listen to their need or their leadership do not understand how the use the numerical strength as a political power in a democracy.

Nigerian democracy will benefit most if union leader fully mobilizes their member to participate in the process because professional interest usually cut across tribal and religious interest which one of the obstacles in Nigeria politics.

A teacher in Abia state and a teacher in Sokoto state share a common interest in Nigerian educational system despite their tribal or religious differences so under the direction of their union if they help elect a political party to power that party is obligated to listen to on how best to deliver the educational standard that the NUT wants.

Their members will benefit in terms of good salary and good working condition and the entire country will also benefit from the quality of their service.

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The main objective of political parties and politicians is to win power and stay in government so if Nigerian unions can show how they can help them in achieving this objective, they will never ignore them again, and that will be the end of personality politics in the country.

Nigerians will be amazed how responsive to their needs our politicians will be when will step away from the current personality politics and allow more citizens participation through their various professional organizations.

Majority of Nigerian belongs to one union or the other and serving the interest of these union is also serving the interest of Nigerian. Imagine a government that pays its worker salaries on time because if they do not that may be voted out in the next election.

A government that makes sure that our doctors have all the necessary equipment’s in our hospitals not just because it is the right thing to do, but also understand that there is a political cost to pay for not providing that equipment.

I am not calling for unions to take the place of our political parties because union as group represent the interest of their members only while every political party should represent the interest of every Nigerian. Politics of stakeholders and personality cult is not serving Nigerian interest.

The best efficient way to make our democracy works for everyone is the build it around our common professional interest since we are yet to understand what ideology politics is about.

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Importance Of Town Union To Democracy In IgboLand –

Every Government sovereignty of the individual in Igbo land, we have always respected the rights of the individuals.

These individuals are responsible for the creation of the family which is the first organizational structure of Igbo government.

The Family

The family which is made of the man, wife and children is responsible for the education and cultural development of it’s members. Every Igbo man gets his first sense of belonging through the family. Every family in Igbo land provides the welfare benefits for its members and for one another, the collection of families make up a kindred.

The Village

Village are made of kindreds, most of them are related through ancestry or by sharing common boundaries. This level of Government is where the Igbos experience the first indrect Democracy. Most village meetings are made up of delegates or representatives of the kindred

Igbo Town are made up of villages, most of these village that made up the towns share common ancestry heritage, believe, eligious and cultural. Every Igbo Man use his town as part of his identity “I wu onye Olee” This spirit of Patriotism is why Democracy is part of our Igbo culture and hence the important of town union in Igbo land.

Cross section of participants at the seminar
Second Lecture Series : The Importance Of

The emergence of town union and their involvement in rural community development have remained as old as Igbo nation.

Town Unions are the real agents of development which all levels of government should partner with for the welfare of the people.

There is no doubt that town unions have fast tracked development of their respective communities. Nobody can ignorance of the fact that town unions in many areas of Igbo land establish primary and secondary schools, community markets, institutions of scholarships schemes for indigent students, maintaince of roads law and order within their jurisdiction.

In fact, at the end of civil war in 1970, town union gave hope to the Igbos. So, town unions are synonyms with development in Igbo land.

These developments includes:

– Good road constructions
– Electricity
– Available of social amenities
– Good health facilities
– Educational development
– Bring about schemes for skills acquisition which are very beneficial
– Adequate water supply and provision of pipe borne water (potable) water for drinking,

The inception of democratic governance in 1999 and its sustenance till 2015 in Nigeria has stimulated increased contributions of town unions to the provisions of Basic education in rural communities unions to rural development.

Participants at the seminar, listening as lectures are going on
It is clear that community participation in project development is an important element and a sure way to the speed up development of the rural areas in Nigeria.

Hence, with the contribution and involvement of the town unions in Igbo land, the people oriented nature of democratic governance has brought the town unions executive closer than ever to the people and such increased the synergy between the people and members of the town unions in many rural communities in execution of development projects.


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