The Nigerian Reform Agenda


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The Nigerian Reform Agenda: What Options For Nigerians?




John Moru



May 18, 2005



The National Political Reform Conference (NPRC) is winding down its committee deliberations, and would be reconvening from the 23rd of May for the final lap. Although it has been dogged with controversies especially as regards the “Mysterious Constitution”, six (6) year single term, disagreements as to whether the position of the President should be rotational, the level of engagement by Nigerians have been encouraging – civil society, interest groups, ethnic groupings have utilized different methods – the print and electronic media to sell positions and interests.


When we measure the level of enthusiasm now as against other similar processes in the past – the Constitution Debate Collating Committee headed by Justice Niki Tobi established in November 1998 – we can conclude that if the success of the NPRC is to be based on enthusiasm of Nigerians alone, utilizing the tool of formal engagement – presenting position papers, views, among others, it might go the way past initiatives have gone.


What options for Nigerians therefore? For us this poser can be answered by another look at the political economy of Nigeria.  Our major assumption even within the ambience of the present reform initiative is the belief that transition to civilian rule will create political space for reforms. In other words, since we have a semblance of democracy (the transition paradigm) we will arrive at a point when the poor and excluded would be able to secure and claim rights. Can this be true in the face of some structural constraints to reform in Nigeria? You may want to ask what these constraints are. These constraints are crystallized in a core group that would want business to be as usual - rent seeking, among others. Hence, there are differences between the desires of ordinary citizens and the ruling class. For instance, since independence the political class has so far proved to be incapable of or unwilling to push for the creation of Constitutions that would promote just and equitable societies, and are distracted by a chance to exercise power instead.


If however these constraints are to be surmounted, ordinary Nigerians, sympathetic elements within the political class must coalesce around a single position – A CALL TO ACTION FOR CHANGE. For us such a position is predicated on the levels of poverty across the zones in Nigeria. There is no one community that is not poor, and home to excluded people. We all have a role therefore to educate each and all that the opportune time to act for the needed changes in Nigeria.


While we recognize that the delegates to the conference are government appointed, we also want to note that they either grew up in one community or the other. In other words, they represent constituencies, groups (professional, religious or cartels).  Our suggested option/strategy therefore is that every delegate should be met with the stark realities of the various communities they come from, captured in a petition or written note, stating that history and change be made once and for all.


Groups, networks, coalitions, grassroots people, youth groups, market women associations should stage peaceful protest marches, demonstrations on issues to keep delegates on their toes.


As a follow up to the above is the fact that at the end of the conference the National Assembly has a role to play in the passage into law the various recommendations as regards Constitutional amendments. How are we engaging our various representatives to make sure that aspects inimical to the aspirations of poor Nigerians are expunged from the recommendations? Can we then in our various communities mobilize to visit our councilors, members of state house of assembly, members of the House of Representatives and Senate with a list of demands?


Urban based groups should organize to visit the various state houses of assembly to lend their support to the fact that when delegates reconvene they should act in the interest of the many as against the interest of the few. This can only be achieved by a groundswell of public demand supported by the press in Nigeria.


The point to take home is that Nigerians should be involved in wrestling out of the hands of the power elite whatever hidden agenda that might have informed the national political reform conference.



John Moru

Team Leader


ActionAid International Nigeria





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