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Is Democracy Essential for Good Governance?

Info: 12683 words (51 pages) Dissertation
Published: 12th Oct 2021

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Tagged: PoliticsGovernment


This research begins by theorizing good governance and democracy taking into account the basic elements of good governance. The paper goes ahead to explore the United Arab Emirates and its monarchal system of government. The intention here is to have a glimpse of another type of governmental system other than democracy in order to effectively answer the question “is democracy essential for good governance?”

In chapter two, the focus of this work is the assessment of good governance in Nigeria with emphasis on the necessity of improveddemocratic institutions as the panacea for good governance. In doing this, the study relies on Gberevbie’s (2014) “Democracy, Democratic Institutions and Good Governance in Nigeria” argument to buttress her point.

Going further, the paper explores the overall impact of the lack of good governance on Nigeria’s democracy. Through practical illustrations, the study brings to the fore, the frustrations and challenges of good governance and democracy in Nigeria as well as the relationship between democracy and good governance in Nigeria and how this can positively impact the Nigerian State.

The paper concludes by positing that democracy is inextricably linked with good governance, because unlike other forms of government such as monarchy, it is still the only form of government that ensures the realisation of all the elements of good governance such as rule of law, popular participation, transparency, accountability, effective and efficient policy implementation etc. The paper further concludes that if urgent steps such as strengthening Nigeria’s democratic institutions like the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure transparency in the electoral process; ensuring a free press; strict adherence to the doctrine of separation of power; and a strong commitment on the part of the governing class are taken, Nigeria’s present democratic process can produce good governance for the overall benefit of the people.

KEY WORDS: Democracy, Good Governance, Transparency, Rule of Law.



1.1 Background of Study

1.2 Definition of Democracy

1.3 Historical Development of Democracy

1.4 Definition of Good Governance

1.5 Elements of Good Governance

1.6 The Relationship between Democracy and Good Governance

1.7 Appraisal of a Form of Government other than Democracy


2.1 Appraisal of Good Governance in Nigeria

2.2 Assessment of Democratic Institutions as it relates to Good Governance in Nigeria

2.3 Prospects of Good Governance and Democracy in Nigeria


3.1 Effects of Bad Governance on Nigeria’s Socio-economic and Political Development

Conclusion ………………………………………………………………… 38

References ………………………………………………………………… 40


1.1 Background of Study

The symbolic relationship between democracy and good governance is globally acclaimed. This is borne out of the belief that democracy is predicated on the principle of the rule of law which is capable of ensuring good governance. It is equally believed that democracy is in conformity with the principle of justice, equity and fair play as a democratic system is based on consent and popular participation although such consent or political participation may restrict various polity forms (Murphy, 2007). Contemporary debates on democracy and good governance are greatly inspired by the significant political transformations that have taken place in Africa. In countries like Nigeria where democracy is still developing, intellectual engagements have been to reflect critically on how the prevailing political conditions can foster democracy and good governance. After several years of political independence, Nigeria is still struggling with the challenges of democratic transformation and good governance (Ezenyili, 2012). All efforts by successive civilian governments to entrench democracy and foster good governance in the country have met brick walls in which for every gained step: two are lost.

This research work sets out to critically examine democracy and good governance in Nigeria.

1.2 Definition of Democracy

A discourse on democracy is never an easy task. This is because democracy is fluid, nebulous and incapable of any precise definition. Democracy is an ideal concept for so many people all over the world so that the word has great propaganda value and is often being misused or misapplied. It would appear that on a general note democracy is an idea and political system that guarantees a role or participation of citizens in political processes (Gilbert & Allen, 2014). Etymologically, democracy is derived from the words Demos, meaning “the people” and Kratia, meaning “to rule or govern”. Cohen (1971) has posited that democracy is a system of community government in which by and large the members of the community participate or may participate directly or indirectly in making decisions; which affect them. Chafe (1994) on the other hand notes that democracy means the involvement of people in the running of the political, socio-economic and cultural affairs of their polity. For Nwekeaku (2014), democracy is the government put in place by people, which upholds the spirit of social contract between the state and the people, ensures equitable distribution of the state’s resources and equal opportunity for all its citizens among others. Abraham Lincoln simply defined democracy as “government of the people by the people and for the people” (Trefousse, 2004, p. 306). In this regard, democracy is first and foremost people-centered. It also involves mass participation and basic individual freedom as its hallmark.

Ukase (2014) has emphasized that democracy demands that the people should be governed on the basis of their consent and mandate, freely given to establish a government which is elected, responsive and accountable to the people.

1.3 Historical Development of Democracy

The history of democracy can be traced back to the city of Athens in Ancient Greece. The ancient Greeks, especially the Athenians are justly regarded as the founders of the democratic tradition. Around 508 B.C. in ancient Greece, the people of the city-state made decisions that were different from the autocratic ways of the past. Athens was the first city-state to allow ordinary citizens access to government offices and courts. Final authority in the Athenian city-state resided in the assembly which was a large body, composed of all male citizens, which met regularly to debate public issues in the central public square. Accordingly, the executive functions of the city-state were discharged by a council of 500. The judicial functions were exercised by jury courts, and with elected juries. Limited terms and the principle of rotation in office led to wide participation in public affairs and served to check the growth of personal power (Oputa, 1991). In reality, Athens was not a true democracy as women were not included nor were foreigners, slaves or freed slaves. It was however, the closet any country had to establishing a society at the time. England gave the world and the democratic ideal the Magna Carta (The Great Charter) of 1215 and the Bill of Rights of 1869. Both historic and monumental documents imply that democracy requires a necessary prerequisite, a limitation on power – this time royal power – and a transference of that power to the people. The next English contribution to the development of democracy was the Supremacy of Parliament. This alone did not represent a victory for democracy until suffrage was extended by the Reform (Bill) Act of 1832, the Universal Manhood Suffrage Act of 1884; the abolition of the special University Constituencies and Plural Voting in 1948.

Other landmarks in the development of the British democracy were Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 and the Abolition of Slavery Act of 1833. These two later Acts eradicated discrimination on the grounds of religion or status and prepared the ground for real and meaningful participation of all in the democratic process.

The American Revolution played a significant role in the development of democracy in the United States of America. The first and in fact one of the most important contributions made by the United States of America to the idea and concept of democracy is the adoption of a constitution, a single document, expressing the fundamental principles on which democracy itself is based. These principles are reflected in the preamble of their constitution which is anchored on freedom and justice. The next contribution is the adoption of Baron de Montesquieu’s doctrine of Separation of Powers delineating the legislative, executive and judicial powers of the state into three distinct but interrelated and interdependent functions, in order to ensure the restraint of governmental power, without carrying the division to an extreme, incompatible with effective government. The third contribution is that the United States of America also contributed to the evolution of democracy by incorporating the Bill of Rights into its constitution. This was done in the form of the first ten amendments.

The history of Nigeria’s democratization began at independence with the adoption of democratic institution modelled after the British Westminster parliamentary system. However, by the end of 1965, it became obvious that the future of democracy and good governance in the Nigerian state had become bleak. In January 1966, the military aborted the new democratic experiment in a bloody coup d’état.

In 1979, Nigeria adopted the Presidential system of government fashioned after the American system in preference to the British parliamentary system after various regimes and periods of political instabilities. However, since 29th May, 1999, when the Fourth Republic was ushered in, politicians in government have continued to use the phrase ‘dividends of democracy’ which refer to the provisions of material welfare to the people, such as roads, rural electrification, health facilities and housing among others.

1.4 Definition of Good Governance

The concept of good governance defies a precise definition that commands universal acceptability. The World Bank (2003) has noted that governance involves the exercise of authority in the name of the people while good governance is doing so in ways that respect the integrity and needs of everyone within the state. According to Michael Johnston, good governance is a competent management of a country’s resources and affairs in a manner that is open, transparent, accountable, equitable and responsive to people’s needs. Preti (2004) states that good governance is that which applies to the exercise of power in a variety of institutional contexts, the object of which is to direct, control and regulate activities in the interests of the people as citizens, voters and workers. Interestingly, Preti’s definition is in accordance with Chapter II of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which makes provision for fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999). Grindle (2008) opines that good governance refers to a list of admirable characteristics of how government ought to be carried out.

The United Nations Development Programme Report of 1997 defines good governance as the totality of the exercise of authority in the management of a country’s affairs, comprising the complex mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights and mediate their differences. Good governance is epitomized by predictable, open and enlightened policy – making, a bureaucracy imbued with professional ethos acting in furtherance of the public good, the rule of law, transparency, and a strong civil society participating in public affairs.

1.5 Elements of Good Governance

Good governance is defined by its relationship to some key elements which include: –

  1. Transparency: Transparency is the easy and unrestricted access of government information by the citizenry. The processes by which public institutions make and implement policy decisions and the law must be visible and accessible to the public, so that the public can understand how and why decisions are made (Ezenyili, 2012). James Madison, the 4th President of the United States of America, had this to say “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both knowledge will forever govern ignorance and a people who mean to be their own Governors arm themselves with the power knowledge gives” (Madison, 1822, p. 103).
  1. Accountability: Government institutions, elected and appointed officials and the professional bureaucracy must be accountable to the public. The said officials have an obligation to report, explain and be answerable for the consequences of decisions they have made on behalf of the public. In the words of Borowiak (2011, p. 9), “the right actors need to be accountable to the right people for the right reasons and in the right way” as being accountable means being democratic.
  1. Rule of Law: Rule of law is a key tenet of good governance. The rule of law is what constrains arbitrary decision-making and arbitrary enforcement of existing laws and policies. By this, the exercise of power is limited to the constitution, as in the case of the Nigerian state.  The rule of law presupposes fair and just legal frameworks that are enforced impartially, thereby stressing on equality before the law (Bingham, 2010). It also presupposes an independent judiciary and impartial law enforcement officers.
  1. Participation: The participation of all members of society, particularly citizens of a state who have met electoral requirements and obligations as stipulated by law in the governance process is an essential component of good governance. Participation requires an informed and organized citizenry, and necessarily requires electoral laws backed up by the constitution and institutions that protect freedom of expression and association.
  1. Responsiveness: Public institutions and officials must be responsive to the needs of the citizenry in a timely and effective manner. Good governance requires that public institutions and officials are meant to serve the best interest of the citizenry within a reasonable time frame.
  1. Consensus Building: Good governance requires consultation to understand the different interests of the citizenry in order to reach a common goal. This is because every society is composed of individuals who hold different viewpoints and perspectives on issues of public importance. Therefore, consensus building seeks to synergize the divergent interests of the citizenry.
  1. Effectiveness and Efficiency: Good governance implies that public institutions and officials produce policy outcomes that actually meet the needs of the community and do so in an effective manner given the resources available.
  1. Social Inclusion: The citizenry, especially the vulnerable ones must feel that they have a stake in the affairs of their society and do not feel excluded. The governance system must be skewed towards the provision of equal opportunities for the citizenry with the aim of improving their well-being. Deliberate attempts must be made to carry the citizenry along in the polity of the society.

1.6 The Relationship between Democracy and Good Governance

According to widespread belief, democracy has become the most attractive form of governance in the world. In all societies of the world today, the issue is not which political system is appropriate, but rather when will society become democratized or fully democratic (Ogundiya, 2010). The democratization project is therefore regarded as the age of civilisation that every society should strive to affair rather than a political opinion among many others (Owolabi, 2001). Democracy is widely recognized as the only moral and legitimate way through which a society can be administered. Perhaps, this is as a result of the fact that in most cases, it seeks to safeguard individual liberty and ensure majority rule and the rule of law; however, individual liberty has a tendency of being sacrificed by the majority each time in its prospects can be augmented. Thus, the procurement of majority rule lies in liberty being impeded; while on the other, liberty can be obtained by the restriction of majority rule.

Theoretically, scholars have established an inextricable connection between democracy and good governance. Democracy adequately understood, is a theory that sets some basic principles according to which a responsible government, whatever its form, must be run (Oluwole, 2003). Such principles include justice, freedom, liberty, accountability, openness and transparency in government. Indeed, effective democratic forms of governance rely on public participation, accountability and transparency (Ezenyili, 2012). In most countries today, it is these principles that are used as criteria for distinguishing between good and bad governance. The quality of life of a people in a democracy depends on the nature of governance in terms of how political and administrative arrangements accommodate diversity of groups to participate in public decision making. Therefore, good governance forms the philosophical foundation upon which democracy and democratic processes and theories are built.

1.7 Appraisal of a Form of Government other than Democracy

From the discussion so far, this dissertation has established the fact that democracy is an ideal or a form of political system that guarantees a role or participation of citizens in the political process. If properly practiced, democracy has many benefits and advantages, but it is not a magic portion to cure all kinds of social, economic and political ailments. It does not generate jobs, protect the citizenry from recession, guarantee the election of the best candidates, nor prevent war or absolutism (Al Maktown, 2012, p. 192). However, our focus in this section is to undertake an appraisal of any other form of government other than democracy in order to show how good governance can be attained through other systems of government or if it is the preserve of the democratic system alone. Therefore, the examination of a Monarchical system of government, as in the United Arab Emirates will be applied to aid this outcome.

Definition of Monarchy

Monarchy may be defined as a form of government under the rule of a King, Queen or Emperor known as the Monarch. In some countries, the monarch is the sole ruler and has absolute authority. This means that the power of the monarch is unlimited and is both the head of state and head of government. In modern times, some countries operate monarchial form of government in which the monarch has limited power and therefore, performs ceremonial functions. Monarch is a dynastic system of rule in which the monarch is succeeded by one’s heir and power and is transferred from generation to generation.

Absolute Monarchy: The United Arab Emirates

Absolute monarchy is a type of monarchy in which the monarch has unlimited powers. The monarch does not derive this power from the constitution but rules by divine right. King Salman Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia and King Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan of United Arab Emirates are good examples of absolute monarchs.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven Gulf Shekdoms: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Ummal Qaiman. The State is governed by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan of Abu Dhabi, who heads the supreme council of rulers, the United Arab Emirates highest authority. Expectedly, the Supreme Council of rulers is responsible for policy formulation, election of the federal president and his deputy, admitting new members to the federation, ratifying federal laws and appointing the judges of the federal Supreme Court. A formal meeting is held once every year, but informal meetings are held more frequently. The two main emirates, Abu Dhabi and Dubai and at least three other emirates must approve the decisions of the council. Moreover, members of the supreme council of rulers comprise the ruling sheiks of the seven emirates. The president of the United Arab Emirates is elected from amongst the members of the supreme council of rulers. The head of state is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The supreme council appoints the council of ministers and the prime minister. The incumbent ruler of Dubai, Sheik Mohammed bin Rahid Al Maktoum has served and serves in various political capacities including Minister of Defence; and currently as Vice-President office and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. Accordingly, the council of ministers refers legislation to the Federal National Council (FNC) for renew. The forty members Federal National Council (FNC) acts as an advisory and consultative body and scrutinizes proposed legislations. The Federal National Council (FNC) comprises eight members from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, six from Sharjah and Ras al – Khaimah and four from Fujawah, Ajman and Umm al – Qaiwain.

Similarly, the judiciary is serviced by a Federal Supreme Court, which is made up of five judges, who at the formal request of the individual emirates, preside and adjudicate over issues arising between the individual emirates and the federal government. The Federal Supreme Court also decides on the constitutionality of federal law. It is pertinent to state that despite of the separation of powers amongst the legislative, executive and judiciary, the ruling families of the Emirates, especially Abu Dhabi, preside over the decision-making process of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Despite this seeming shortcoming of the Emirates in ensuring the strict operation of this doctrine, a situation which limits its application of the rule of law, guarantees it a place as an absolute monarchy. However, there are other areas in which the UAE through the practice of absolute monarchy has made tremendous success as it pertains to good governance. These areas include transparency, accountability, participation and effective and efficient policy implementation.

Transparency / Accountability

Transparency is at the heart of the United Arab Emirates (Al Maktoum, 2012). Programmes like the Dubai Government Excellence Programme aimed at management reforms has revolutionised the operation of both the private and public sectors in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Although transparency was traditionally one of the features of the private sector, the public sector is continuously increasing its transparency. Again, corruption and bribery are dealt with ruthlessly with extra controls added to sections dealing with projects, financial and administrative affairs (Al Maktoum, 2012, p. 132).

Furthermore, the public sector is also implementing cost effectiveness and resource management principles to achieve optimum performances, which in turn have a positive spin-off on the economy of the UAE.


Amongst the assets of all nations, the citizenry should be considered salient and referred as a vital factor in the progress and advancement of countries. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) considers human resources as a gauge for the development of their country. To underscore the importance of citizens engagement in the affairs of United Arab Emirates (UAE), Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of United Arab Emirates (UAE), in his book My Vision; Challenges in the Race for Excellence, has stated, “we must therefore undertake field surveys in the streets, in company offices and in shopping malls, and expand the scope of the dialogue and consultation to the point where it covers the largest possible number of people from every walk of life, whether they are  involved in trade, manufacturing, services, management, education or anything else”. From the above statement, it can be seen that participation is an integral part of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) socio-political development.

Effective and Efficient Policy Implementation

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) remains one of the best countries in terms of effective and efficient policy implementation. Programmes like the Dubai government excellence programme and Dubai Quality Award Programme have enhanced effectiveness and efficiency in policy implementation. The success of these programmes has resulted in the successful implementation of many world class projects like the Dubai Internet City, Dubai Industrial City, Dubai Healthcare City, Dubai Media City, Dubai International Financial Centre and the Emirate group amongst others (Al Maktoum, 2012, p. 135). This is why the United Arab Emirates is a formidable force in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), a body made up of the Gulf countries of Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain which was established in May 1981 in Dubai and principally designed to protect the stability, security and progress of the gulf region.

So far, an appraisal of monarchy as a system of government has been undertaken. In doing this, this work has demonstrated that monarchy when practiced with dedication and loyalty to the people can enhance good governance. Although, the rule of law is impeded in the practice of this system of government as seen in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) example, however, it does not obliterate the fact that it is a form of government than can guarantee good governance.


2.1 Appraisal of Good Governance in Nigeria

Nigeria became an independent nation on 1st October, 1960. At independence, a key objective of the Nigerian government was to enhance the living standard of the people through good governance. Since its independence in 1960, successive governments have attempted to ensure the practice of good governance. However, these efforts have yielded little results. According to the 2016 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), Nigeria was sadly ranked 36th out of 54 African countries in comparison to a 2013 ranking of 41st out of 52 African nation-states (The Sun, 2016). Although to some this may be considered a progress, this dissertation however examines the poor demonstration of good governance in Nigeria as evident in:

  1. Poor Leadership: A nation-state devoid of innovative and visionary leaders, as it is widely acknowledged, risks not only peace and stability but sustainable development. This is because citizens draw inspiration and key into nation-building when they are governed by leaders who plan strategically on how to achieve developmental strides. Mangu (2008) notes that in order for human development, social change and economic growth to exist, good leadership must be matched with good governance. Since Nigeria’s political independence in 1960 and its transition to democratic rule in 1999, the country has struggled to address the challenge of leadership which it still faces, and this can be attributed to bad leadership (Rotberg, 2009). Most Nigerian leaders have shown lack of patriotism and allowed personal ambitions and ethnic or regional, as well as religious affiliations override national considerations. Chimee (2009) opines that the three major strands that account for poor leadership in Nigeria are lack of ideology, ethnicity and corruption. Nigeria today runs a democratic system of government that is expected to bring about good governance; however, there is poor leadership to ensure good governance.
  1. Corruption: Corruption manifesting in fraud, embezzlement and diversion of public funds alongside the insincerity of most Nigerian leaders have become a cankerworm that militates against the success of the Nigerian state (Lawal & Owolabi, 2012, p. 10; Tignor, 1993). In 2005, Nigeria was ranked the 6th most corrupt nation in the world in the estimation of Transparency International (TI) (Babawale and Odukoya, 2005). Various policies have been formulated over the years to address one developmental project or the other in Nigeria, and there is evidence of diversion of funds for such projects into private pockets thereby defeating the good intentions of such projects. After all, a very good plan supervised by a thoroughly corrupt state can hardly do a thorough and good job (Lawal & Owolabi, 2012; Mimiko, 1998).
  1. Electoral Process: A free and credible electoral system is one of the life wires of any society in search of good governance. In Nigeria, electoral processes are typically manipulated by ‘money bags’ and incumbents, who deploy all state’s apparatus of power and resources to ensure their election and re-election respectively. This is often times against the wishes of the populace; as a result, this has degraded the quality of electoral processes in Nigeria, and challenged the integrity of Nigeria’s electoral body (Amundsen, 2010). The recurring incidences of electoral rigging and violence have undermined the existence of good governance in Nigeria (Odo, 2015). Thus, these notorious acts have not afforded Nigerians the opportunity to get rid of a government that has failed them.
  1. Absence of Welfare of Citizens: The issue of welfare of citizens is one of the focal points of good governance. Successive federal and state governments in Nigeria have either made little attempts or neglected the welfare of its citizens (Imhonopi & Ugochukwu, 2013). The absence of welfare for citizens, for which Nigeria elites have relegated to the background, is a deficit in Nigeria’s polity. Although Section 16(1) (b) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) provides for the welfare of citizens, the said section of the constitution has been declared by the courts of the land to be unenforceable on grounds of non-justifiability (Imhonopi & Ugochukwu, 2013). This affirms the high level of insensitivity that most governments in Nigeria display towards the welfare of its citizens. The failure of successive governments in Nigeria to take into consideration issues of welfare of its citizens have resulted in the high level of poverty, unemployment, crime and other negative tendencies in the country (Imhonopi & Ugochukwu, 2013).  Generally, the profile of Nigeria despite its adoption of democracy and democratic values, past and present is a testimony of a country in search of good governance.

2.2 Assessment of Democratic Institutions as it relates to Good Governance in Nigeria

Democratic institutions are established by law to ensure the smooth running of government with the ultimate goal of ensuring good governance. Democratic institutions are catalysts for good governance and development of any nation. Therefore, the importance of democratic institutions towards the attainment of good governance in any society cannot be overemphasized.

The above sated position is the ideal situation that should be experienced in any developed clime. In Nigeria, the constitution and other extant laws have created democratic institutions like the executive, legislature, judiciary, Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC), the police amongst others to ensure the practice of good governance in the country. However, these democratic institutions lack the capacity to perform well due to the prevailing circumstances of the environment in which they are situated (Majekodunmi, 2012; Gberevbie, 2014).

Studies have shown that the various democratic institutions in Nigeria by their actions on several occasions have failed to ensure good governance. Since the nation’s independence, Nigerians have been denied the opportunity to enjoy the benefits derivable from good governance. These have resulted in political decay, military takeover of political power, undemocratic behaviour amongst politicians and citizens, underdevelopment and lack of democratic ethos in Nigeria (Ikelegbe, 2005).

Consequently, it is imperative to critically assess the roles various democratic institutions have played in ensuring good governance in Nigeria.

  1. The Legislature: The legislature is the most distinctive feature of democracy. It can be defined as the arm of government composed of elected representatives or constituent assembly of people vested with the power to make, review and repeal laws for the good and well-being of the society, as well as serve as a watch-dog over the activities of the executive government. Section 4(1) and (3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) empowers the National Assembly to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the Federation. The said section underscores the importance of the legislature in achieving good governance. Okoosi-Simbine (2007) asserts that if Nigeria is to sustain democratic rule, one of the most important institutions to pay attention to at all levels of government is the legislature, the organization through which citizen’s opinion, through their representatives, acquire political significance in a democratic government. However, as important as the role of the legislature in the attainment of good governance is, the Nigerian legislature is yet to live up to its billing towards attaining good governance. Nigerian legislators have dissipated so much energy in securing better conditions for themselves to the detriment of the people who elected them into office. It is pertinent to note that the cost of maintaining each senator for four years is estimated at N3 Billion (Three Billion Naira) or USD 19.35 Million and each member of the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives receives N128.4 Million or USD 8.23 Million as annual salary. Their fringe benefits include: wardrobe allowance: 25 percent of annual basic salary; recess allowance: 10 percent of annual basic salary; accommodation allowance: 200 percent of basic salary; utilities allowance: 30 percent of basic salary and domestic staff allowance: 75 percent annual basic salary (Mokwugwo, 2011). These excessive allowances show the high level of lack of fiscal discipline on the part of the legislators.

Nigeria’s legislature is not only expected to make laws but also to prudently manage the financial resources for the interest of the citizenry, but this has not been the case so far. This ugly trend has deprived the people of the benefits of good governance. Another problem is that the legislature in Nigeria is regarded and generally believed to be seen as a rubber stamp legislature by the executive arm and majority of Nigerians, as the executive arm may sometimes coerce or influence the legislature into doing its bidding. This practice thus challenges the notion of checks and balances, as the effectiveness of this notion may be affected.

  1. The Executive: The executive is the arm of government responsible for the implementation of laws, policies and directives made and given by the legislative arm of government. Section 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) makes provision for the “executive to implement the laws made by the legislature”. The executive arm of government has not lived up to its responsibilities since the advent of democracy in Nigeria. In principle, the executive after the end of military rule in 1999 led by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo claimed the observance of the rule of law, but steadily the administration in question contrived the political space and usurped both powers of the legislature and the judiciary thereby posing a grave danger to democracy and good governance in Nigeria. Although some institutional and administrative principles and agencies were upheld and established like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to check embezzlement and other acts of corruption, and the principle of dueprocess was adopted to safeguard public trust and accountability, as well as consistent and persistent proclamation on the independence of the judiciary, the score card of the first four years of Nigeria’s democracy was spotted with executive arbitrariness. The mass killings of innocent civilians in what has become popularly known as the Zaki Biam (North Central Nigeria) and Udi (South South Nigeria) Massacres were sore points of human rights abuses during that period. The failure of the federal government to enforce the judgment of the Supreme Court in respect of the statutory allocation of funds dueto Local Government Councils in Lagos State was a clear example of disregard for the doctrine of the rule of law (Adegboye, 2016).
  1. The Judiciary: The judiciary is the arm of government responsible for the interpretation and application of the laws made by the legislature. Ideally, the judiciary should be independent in order to adjudicate matters before it in conformity with the rule of law which is an element of good governance. Section 6 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) vests judicial powers in the courts. Often times, the judiciary is referred to as the ‘last hope of the common man’. This is predicated on the premise that it is the courts that can dispassionately adjudicate on a matter brought by individuals or groups for redress. The judiciary at the federal level has been singled out in Nigeria for its growing autonomy and role as a watch dog on executive impunity. However, this is against a rather dismal backdrop of systematic marginalization of the judiciary under the preceding military rule. This is in view of the fact that during the brutal regime of General Sani Abacha, the judiciary’s authority and independence was undermined as a result of the regimes disregard for the rule of law.

Furthermore, the judiciary is to a large extent, subject to the whims and caprices of the executive arm (Ogundiya, 2010). This is so because the judiciary is financially dependent on the executive even when the law has provided for the financial autonomy of the judiciary. The net result of these is pervasive corruption among judicial officers. Therefore, the Nigerian judiciary has not really delivered on its constitutional mandate of interpreting laws in accordance with the principle of the rule of law which is an element of good governance.

2.3 Prospects of Good Governance and Democracy in Nigeria  

Although democracy and good governance have been married by myriads of challenges as earlier noted in this research, there are still prospects for democracy and good governance in Nigeria. However, today, Nigeria has recorded seventeen straight years of unbroken democracy. This feat is significant to the extent that it provides opportunity to reflect on the prospects of democracy and good governance in Nigeria (Suleiman, 2016). Equally significant is the fact that within the period under review, a predictable two dominant multiparty system have emerged, where for the first time in 2015 an opposition party won the ruling party in a keenly contested general election.

The growing recognition of government – civil society partnership has led to the establishment of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President on Civil Society (Suleiman, 2016). In the last couple of years, the office has organized series of interactive session and retreats to promote government – civil society dialogues on the good governance project. For example, in recent time, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) have lent their voices to the good governance campaign (they are constantly engaging the government on topical governance issues). Similarly, the labour movement and civil societies have made concerted efforts to engage the government to ensure good governance in the nation’s polity. Moreover, a variety of women are also engaging the government on gender issues with the aim of including women in governance processes. Also, youth movement is also gaining momentum in the nation. There is already in place a Youth Parliament to inspire good leadership, involve youths in the State’s national discourse, and awaken a renewed spirit of patriotism in the Nigerian youth.

Government’s effort to promote transparency is acknowledged as a critical response to the demands of good governance. To this end, two significant developments are worth mentioning. These are; the establishment of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparent Initiative (NEITI) in 2004, and the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act in 2011. The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) was established to promote transparency and accountability in the payment, receipt and application of revenues from the extractive industries. The Freedom of Information Act was enacted to provide the legal framework for access by citizens to public records and the disclosure of information of such records. These two developments if properly implemented have the potentials to ensure transparency and accountability, and consequently advance the governance processes of the Nigerian state. In addition, reforms are ongoing in the civil service and public private partnership is gaining momentum. These reforms are to a great extent expected to be consistent with the collective hopes and aspirations of Nigerians.


3.1 Effects of Bad Governance on Nigeria’s Socio-economic and Political Development

Bad governance has been understood to reflect a general tendency of a public institution not being able to manage public affairs and public resources (Coker and George–Genyi, 2014). Bad governance also includes a government that is ineffective and inefficient, not transparent, not responsive, to the people, not accountable for their actions, inequitable and exclusive to the elites, non-participatory, non-adherence to the rule of law and lacking policies that are consensus. According to Akpa (2011), bad governance is the exact opposite of good governance. It is a complete absence of good leadership and good governance. It means lack of respect for fundamental human rights of citizens, lack of judicious use of natural resources, fraud and corrupt practices. The existence of bad governance in any society does not make provision for commitment to the public good. The consequences of bad governance on Nigeria’s socio-economic and political development are enormous. Bad governance has adversely affected all aspects of development in the county. Bad governance in Nigeria has resulted in:

  1. Corruption

As stated earlier, corruption among Nigerian leaders and bureaucrats is one of the consequences of bad governance in the Nigerian state (Iheneacho, 2001; Ogbeidi, 2012). Misuse of privileges in public and private sectors for personal aggrandizement particularly by those in positions of authority is a recurring decimal in Nigeria. Both military and civilian government have plundered the national treasury making the economy unattractive to both local and foreign investors (Ologbenla, 2007). It could be recalled that in September 2005, a former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Almieyeseigha was arrested for money laundering by British law enforcement in London with one million pounds after he was to disguise himself with a woman’s dress to beat security intelligence in both the United Kingdom and Nigeria. As expected, he was charged to court and convicted for money laundering (Murtala & Usman, 2010). The same Alamieyeseigha returned to Nigeria and was granted presidential pardon by the government of President Goodluck Jonathan in March, 2013. This action which was largely condemned by majority of Nigerians clearly shows that in Nigeria, key leaders who are supposed to be law upholders condone and promote corruption instead of fighting same. Corruption has threatened the very survival of the country as it has prevented the adequate provision of basic social amenities for the citizenry. In fact, this has undermined the national integrity of the country in the comity of nations.

  1. Poverty

Poverty is one of the resultant effects of bad governance. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the eight in the world with a population of over 170 million people. With a nominal Gross Domestic Product of $207.11 billion and per capita income of $1,401, it has the second largest economy in Africa (Salami, 2011). As impressive as the above figures may appear, the poverty situation in Nigeria is quite disturbing. It is even more disturbing given the huge human and material resources that have been devoted to poverty reduction by successive governments. Bad governance has had negative effects on the image of the nation in the international arena. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its 2015 Human Development report estimated the proportion of Nigerians livings in absolute poverty to be 62.6 percent of its population, while the Human Development Index was put at 0.527 and ranked 152 out of 188 countries surveyed. Poverty in the face of abundance has relegated citizens to the background in Nigeria. Bad governance as conspicuously seen in successive governments has fanned the embers of poverty and no pragmatic effort has been made to address this problem.

iii) Insecurity:

Nigeria from time immemorial has witnessed unprecedented levels of insecurity as a result of bad governance. Nigeria is confronted with daunting security challenges which include armed robbery, insurgency, militancy, kidnapping, assassination, political violence and ethnic crisis (Gabriel & Joseph, 2016). Security challenges confronting Nigeria is as a result of bad governance exercised through incompetent leaders (Ezenyili, 2012). Similarly, Igbuzor (2011) observed that the state of insecurity in Nigeria is greatly a function of government failure, or can be linked to government failure. This is evident in the lack of capacity on the part of the government to provide the basic necessities of life to its citizens. The lack of basic necessities by the people in Nigeria has created a pool of frustrated people who are ignited easily by any event to be violent. Citizens can hardly go about their daily activities as a result of threat and harmful disruption of their lives and property. The current and most disturbing security problem in Nigeria is the terror unleashed by the dreaded Boko Haram Sect (Ogege, 2013). Deadly attacks orchestrated by this terrorist group are often experienced in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states (all in the North-Eastern part of the nation). Since July, 2009, when the Boko Haram insurgency escalated, at least 11,100 people have died on all sides of the conflict (Allen, Lewis & Matfess, 2014). Local and foreign investors have turned their backs on the Nigeria state partly due to its security challenges. Therefore, it is pertinent to state that development can only thrive in a country where security of lives and property are guaranteed.

iv) Lack of National Integration

Nigeria is experiencing a fundamental crisis in governance because of a lack of integration. Theoretically, section 14(3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides for national integration as it relates to the composition of government. However, in practice, there is little to show for national integration in governance. This is because government at the federal level is mostly dominated by the Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba and a tiny fraction of the Igbos, while other ethnic groups are relegated to the background. Additionally, the idea of a shared identity in Nigeria does not characterise any concerned stratagem of a Nigerian as such is regarded simply in terms of geographic entities within a state in the global system. However, this does not disregard the collective identity of the citizenry of the Nigerian state as Nigerians, neither does it change the fact that their views of Nigeria vary depending on their geographic entity (Iheanacho, 2013). However, this can be attributed to the vast diversity and size of the Nigerian state which makes managing Nigeria’s political and economic sphere complex (Mathews, 2002).

v) Poor Infrastructure

Bad governance in Nigeria is evident in the poor infrastructure across the nation. Infrastructural development has not been given adequate attention by successive governments in Nigeria (Olufemi et al., 2013). Despite its vision of becoming a top 20 economy by the year 2020, the country’s infrastructural facilities have been in a state of decay and needs urgent intervention. The neglect of the government as it relates to infrastructural development has resulted in the existence of poor roads, epileptic power supply, poor aviation network, poor railway services, poor healthcare facilities, abandoned building projects all over the country in education, health, housing and transport infrastructure among others. Successive governments have failed to address the infrastructural deficit across the nation. This is largely because of the absence of good governance.

vi) Agitation for Secession

The lack of national integration in Nigeria as a result of bad governance has fueled the agitation for secession, especially by the South-East indigenes of Nigeria. With the country struggling socially to unite its citizens beyond ethnic, religious lines, politically lines; to improve governance, and to disengage itself financially from its over-reliance on oil revenue, there is now a growing call for the political and economic autonomy of states of the federation. The way and manner in which government is being run in Nigeria, especially by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari (a Northern Fulani) has made Southern indigenes of Nigeria (especially the Igbos) to question the stake they have in the affairs of the country. For instance, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a sequel to the Biafran agitation led Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu in 1967 which resulted to a 30-month war by, currently agitates for its “restoration” and is led by Nnamdi Kanu (This Day, 2016); although their actions and words still imply seceding from Nigeria. From the foregoing, it is evident that bad governance has adversely affected all aspects of development in the country. Therefore, good governance is the panacea for the socio-economic and political development of Nigeria.

3.2 The Challenges of Democratic Experiments in Nigeria

Democracy and the process of democratic experiment is one that arouse pity and that has challenged the essentiality of democracy for good governance. Therefore, it is imperative to critically examine the attempts to experiments democracy in Nigeria.

i) Democratic Experimentation in the First Republic (1960 – 1966)

After its political independence in 1960, Nigeria attempted to experiment democracy in its national polity in the first republic (1960 – 1966). Democratic experiment failed in the first republic when the country fashioned its democracy towards the west minister model of parliamentary democracy as obtainable in Britain, where there were two political leaders (the head of government who is in charge of the day-to-day running of the government on one hand and the head of state who performs ceremonial functions on the other hand).

In the era under review, the country’s political system was plagued with tribalism and ethnicity which threatened the future of Nigerian democracy and led to a brutal ethnic cleansing and civil war in 1967 – 1970 (Okechukwu, 2015). There was high level of corruption and misappropriation of public funds by public office holders which was left unchecked. The politics at the time was the politics of regionalism where whosoever captured the larger regions won the highest number of seats in the legislature, and thus form the government at the center. Nigerians then blamed the ugly situation of things on parliamentary system of government in its practice of democracy and democratic experiment (Matthews, 2002). Their dissatisfaction was in view of the structure of governance in the first republic, which they felt was not conducive for national integration.

ii) Democratic Experimentation in the Second Republic (1979 – 1983)

The journey to a second republic in Nigeria witnessed pitfalls. It can be asserted that politicians did not learn from the challenges that beset the first republic. In 1979, a new constitution was enacted and the constitution modeled Nigeria’s democracy after the Presidential system of government found in the United States of America.  In this system of government, there is the separation of powers among the three arms of government (that is, Executive, Legislature and Judiciary). Nigeria’s democracy during the second republic witnessed four years of political wrangling, failure of zoning system, corruption, flagrant disregard for the rule of law, lack of national integration and disregard for fundamental rights of citizens. The collapse of the second republic in 1983 was due to the above stated problems witnessed in the country (Ogbeidi, 2012). The democratic experiment at the time was widely considered not appealing to Nigerians.

iii) Democratic Experimentation in the Third Republic (1992-1993)

The Nigerian democratic experiment in this era was not an exception to the previous eras. There was the controversy of which ethnic group should capture political power. The federal military government of General Ibrahim Babanginda created two political parties in 1992 namely Social Democracy Party (SDP) and National Republican and Convention (NRC) for the purpose of contesting elections, but the military was too partisan, and this affected the outcome of the general elections. In June 12, 1993, Chief M.K.O Abiola declared himself the winner of the 1993 general elections, but was arrested and charged for treason. The cancellation of the result of the 1993 general election led to the collapse of the ‘would be’ third republic. Power was then transferred to an interim government led by Chief Ernest Shonekan.

iv) Democratic Experimentation in the Fourth Republic (1999 – Date)

Towards the return of Nigeria to democracy in 1999, expectations were high and the country was looked at as a power bloc in the African continent. The general elections came by in 1999, voters turned out en masse to vote for their preferred candidate. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo emerged as the winner of the election and was immediately sworn in as President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. During Obasanjo’s administration (1999-2007), Nigeria’s democracy was bedevilled with challenges of corruption, embezzlement of public funds, project abandonment, disregard for the rule of and human rights abuses, electoral malpractice amongst others (Mathews, 2002); Oromarephake (2007), has stated that the result of democracy in Obasanjo’s administration was lack of accountability, and good governance, project abandonment, infrastructural decay, ostentatious lifestyle by leaders, social inequality and continued underdeveloped democracy. The 2007 presidential election witnessed the emergence of Alhaji Umaru Musa Ya’radua as the president of Nigeria after the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Though the administration of President Umaru Ya’radua was short lived (because of his death), there were signs of hope in the national polity. In his short tenure as president, he embarked on forming a government of national unity, a move that was applauded by even the opposition parties. His tenure also witnessed the introduction of the amnesty programme which brought a reasonable level of peace to the troubled Niger Delta Region. With the death of Late President Umaru Musa Ya’radua in May, 2010 Nigeria witnessed the swearing in of his Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as President and commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan later contested the 2011 presidential election and won on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

In recent times, Nigeria’s democratic experiment has faced enormous challenges. The country’s democracy is being plagued by massive corruption, embezzlement of public funds, undue interference by the executive arm of government in the affairs of other arms of government, human right abuses, disrespect for the rule of law and insensitivity to public opinion. From the above analysis, the Nigerian democratic experiment has faced myriads of challenges. For the Nigerian democratic experiment to succeed, premium must be placed on the practice of good governance.


From the discussion so far, this dissertation has shown that good governance no doubt is absolutely necessary for the achievement of socio-economic and political progress in any society. It is the means through which the state can effectively address the allocation and management of resources to enable it respond to the collective good of society without discrimination. Failure to give any country good governance can result in widespread corruption and abuse of due process. The results are lack of accountability and widespread poverty of the vast majority, thus making them vulnerable to easy manipulation and exploitation by the elite. Consequently, to promote good governance and accountability in Nigeria there is the need to ensure that the basic structures of government such as the executive, the legislature and the judiciary are made to live up to their responsibilities. In addition, the leadership must demonstrate the capacity, courage, will and sincerity of purpose in tackling the identified challenges. Finally, there is need for radical structural changes in the mode of governance in Nigeria.

Expectedly, democracy is essential for good governance because embedded in it are the tenets of good governance like rule of law, transparency, accountability, participation, effective and efficient policy implementation, inclusiveness, responsiveness etc. Moreover, unlike monarchy earlier appraised at the beginning of this work which does not allow for the operation of political parties within its political system, a situation that denotes the lack of an institutionalized framework designed to accommodate the competing interests of different socio-political grouping are catered for. Again, the mystery surrounding succession in the monarchical form of government remains an albatross to good governance. This is because the cogency and integrity of the political system depends upon an unknown variable unlike democracy where the issue of succession is legally guaranteed through periodic elections. In essence, democracy guarantees a peaceful transition of power unlike monarchy where succession could be a subject of controversy by way of palace coup, primogeniture or any other alternative means.

The discourse of democracy and good governance is one that has continued to remain imperative, and frankly quite controversial in the affairs of post-independence Nigeria (Ezenyili, 2012). Despite the chances Nigeria has in advancing and progressing its democracy through good governance, its quality of leadership is a significant issue that should concern the Nigerian citizenry. This is due to the truism the level of development and political stability a country possesses can be attributed to that country’s overall governance, as well as its quality of leadership. According to Ologbenla (2007), the outcome of political instability and underdevelopment is as a result of poor leadership and good governance. Essentially, the effectiveness of leadership is one that ensures the application and executive of good governance and its processes; and the promotes developmental strides for the benefit of citizens; thus, democratic structures and apparatus of democratization are dependent on good governance (Ologbenla, 2007). In fact, it is on this basis that the importance of leadership is reiterated as a fulcrum for the survival for any system (Nnablife, 2010). Paradoxically, the crevices of the giant of Africa (as Nigeria is so fondly referred to) despite its various human and mineral resources, is one which savours in political, infrastructural and socio-economic decadence. However, the expectation of Nigeria to soar high in congruence with global economic giants may not be farfetched due to its enormous endowments. Additionally, ensuring socio-economic development by harnessing Nigeria’s vast reserves and resources furthermore proves this ineptitude and questions the composition of the framework of Nigeria’s democracy leadership and governance. In addition, objectivism in polity and ‘rightness’ may be challenged by the idea of ethical governance as it seems to witness a total loss of creed and compunction and abuse of every moral norm of state management and administration.  It becomes an illusion, to this end, if Nigeria can ever resist the odds against her democracy, rise above her flawed democracy and decadence; however, the confrontation lies where there is a lack of sanity and morality by those that are meant to uphold the constitution of Nigeria, pilot her affairs, ensure good governance, and essentially guarantee the dividends of democracy in the Nigerian state.

Finally, it is safe to conclude that democracy can ensure good governance in Nigeria if strong democratic institutions like the electoral umpire are allowed to function independently, a free and unhindered press is guaranteed and security agencies and other institutions of government are allowed to operate without undue political interference. All in all, a strong commitment on the part of the governing class is important in ensuring that Nigeria’s present democratic process produce good governance.


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