The Increasing Influence Of Non-state Actors

The activities of pressure groups played a significant role in ushering democracy in
Nigeria in 1999. The annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election set the
pace for a groundswell of opposition to Nigeria’s lengthy military interregnum.
Groups and individuals such as the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Campaign
for Democracy (CD), Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP),Gani Fawehinmi
etc touched off a nationwide awareness on the ills of military leadership. From that
moment, the influence of non-state actors has assumed a full spectrum. This broad
net is attracting different types of players with varying agendas. These actors have
posed as a litmus test to the survival and entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria.
Past and present democratic administrations struggle to find the right balance
between fundamental human rights and freedoms on the one hand, and security of lives
and property on the other. Achieving the right mix is always difficult.

As a result of the interplay between government and these actors, power is now
distributed in a three-dimensional way. At the very top is the security apparatus
firmly in the hands and control of government. The second is the economy, though
once in the grabs of the government, now is gradually being transfered to the
organised private sector. Since it is proven that government is a bad manager of
business. Lastly and by no means the least are the non-governmental organisations,
religious groups, terror organisations etc. However, this sector has international
reach and links. To assume that managing these three sectors as an easy task will be
to over-simplify a complex reality.

The most complex power resource is the military. For a country that has now
witnessed the longest multiple political cycles under a democracy, it has become
very important to re-professionalise this critical sector to be seen to conform with
a democratic setting. The disproportionate use of force by the military against the
Shiites which led to a siege on the facilities of the Shiites for more than 24 hours
brushed off the good image of this administration, especially as it is perceived to
have enjoyed official sanction.

So far the free-market economic system has survived two major onslaughts, namely:
the Great Depression of the 1930s and the 2008 economic meltdown. The economic
meltdown had dealt murderous blows to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and has seen power
shift to the left in Greece. Despite several campaign promises by the Syriza in
Greece and with a fiery Alexis Tsipras as the head of government, the Bretton Woods
has seen through most of its reform programmes. Julius Nyerere’s “Ujamaa” did not
work as well. Before them, the collectivisation programme of the former USSR of
forcing the “Kulak” did not achieve industralisation as a targeted outcome.
Globalisation, as a by product of the free-market economic system, has forced the
Middle Kingdom (China) to gradually dismantle barriers to international trade.
Inspite of all these shocks, the free-market economic system has proved that there
are no alternative systems waiting by the wing to replace it.

Sure, there are lessons for Nigeria to learn from – protectionism has its advantages
and limits. Nigeria is gradually moving towards a private sector driven system.
Therefore, if Nigeria’s system wants to attract foreign investments, we must set our
priorities right. This is where Nigeria got it wrong when the telecommunication
sector was privatised. The Nigerian government did not make research and development
in our various institutions as one of the focal points of its privatisation drive.
That is partly why more than a decade after privatisation, these telcos only promote
the entertainment industry. For example, the MTN “Project Fame”, Etisalat’s “The
Johnsons”, “Glo Naija Sings”, Glo’s “Dance With Peter Reality TV Show” etc. By
this, Nigerians have been taken to a stage of mass consumption of non-durable goods
and services without a corresponding purchasing power to sustain it. Is it right to
ignore our teeming students of Physics and Electrical Engineering for the
entertainment industry? Do we have to wait until when a graduate of physics or
electrical engineering could not explain satifactorily what a circuit breaker is
before something is done? In South America, priorities were set for Daimler Chrysler
to use coconut fibres for their car seats and head rests. This significantly
enriched the coconut farmers. Costa Rica had a mutually beneficial relationship with
Coca Cola.

The situation could be salvaged. The penalty hit on MTN is just another lease of
life. The government can select 6 universities/polytechnics and make this telco
giant to anchor its researches with the proceeds of the fine spread over 15 years.

The recent encounter between the federal government delegation and the Bring Back
Our Girls (BBOG) members was almost a PR disaster. Because there was plenty
information but less public attention. Attention rather than information became the
scarce resource. And neither of the parties offered to be the cue-giver. Different
versions of what transpired between the parties made the public less sympathetic. In
an information age, it is about whose story wins-and the story that wins is that the
kidnapped girls should be safely returned and re-united with their parents. It is
noteworthy to state that the governing APC used the BBOG movement as a platform to
mobilise both domestic and international support ahead of the 2015 general
elections. Credibility has become an even more important power resource to the
governing Party than ever before. The APC must not squander it.

These non-state actors should not be seen in adversarial terms. The government
should use its interactions with these actors to increase the country’s
attractiveness.

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