The Developmental Initiatives ( TDI ) is led by a group of Nigerian activists who have been involved in social crusades for the holistic development of the country.
The group covers diverse fields of engagement from neighborhood organisations to pro-democratic; human rights, youths/students; organised labour; informal workers; self-determination; community/faith based organizations and developmental NGOs.
TDI founders were involved in the struggle against military autocracy, legislative aberrations, judicial abuses and executive lawlessness. All these they say are crucial for the sustenance of the nation’s experiment of building peoples’ centred democratic governance and it’s institutions.
In this interview by Politicos, the group’s Secretary General Juli Iregbu-Ihejirika speaks on a wide rage of socio-political issues. Iregbu-Ihejirika has worked with some of the finest social rights advocates in the country including Beko Ransom-Kuti. She has been involved in many advocacy issues and monitored many elections. The political scientist is also an expert in international relations. Excerpts:
Q: You work with Beko Ransom-Kuti’s Centre for Constitutional Governance (CCG) and also Secretary General of TDI, how have you been able to sustain Beko’s legacies?
A: TDI, just like CCG ( through some of its members) worked with late Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, foremost human rights and pro-democracy crusader in CDHR, CD and JAF. Along the line those who identified with Beko as illustrated above have continued the tasks on multiple trenches and bodies ever since.
Q: TDI is supposed to assist in deepening constitutional democracy, how constitutional are the practitioners allowing in this experiment?
A: First point to clarify is that the present constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is laden with a lot of land mines and booby traps. It is not autonomous, never democratically designed by the people for their governance. It is creation of military Fiat and largely implemented by the practitioners especially in the three arms of government through fiat, manipulations and desecrations. Some of its components from universal democratic tenets are largely enacted by the erstwhile maximum military rulers for their anti democratic designs and are still been operated as such.
Q: We have had so many questions about our judicial system. From bribery, lack of diligent prosecution – what else can we do to ensure that the judiciary is truly the last hope of the common man?
A: The Judicial System needs surgical operations to un-bungle it from the apron strings of conservative, colonial legacies, to become totally and manifestly independent of other arms, financially autonomous and accessible to the vulnerable members of the society.
Q: Let’s look at state assemblies, they appear to exist in name only or are simply extensions of the state governors personal staff. Certainly this is not what the constitution envisaged. What went wrong, what can be done?
A: The electoral processes and lack of internal party democracy in a money-controlled, instead of merit based atmosphere subjugate State Assembly members to become willy-nilly, protected lackeys of Governors. Constitutionally guaranteed Financial Autonomy and Civil Societies Engagements of the State Parliament will create a convivial atmosphere for its independence and virility.
Q: The local government system is comatose around the country: poor governance, governors hijacking council funding and councils themselves incapable of asserting themselves. How do we come out of this hole?
A: There have always been attempts at reforming the Local Government Administration system but these always fall short of assuring its independence. The tier require constitutionally guaranteed independent funding from the federation account, higher control of local resources and internally generated revenues. The local council electoral process calls for total overhaul for elections to be conducted by national, independent commission instead of the present State Electoral bodies.
Q: The federal legislators are conducting some probes, we have seen these before. But is it not mind boggling the kinds of misgovernance and misdemeanor we have been treated to?
A: This is a curious, ironical twist. Laws are obeyed even by those who enact them, only in breach. What was the National Assembly doing with their “Oversight Functions” when these mind boggling mis-governance and misdemeanors were taking place? Who will probe the “Probers” when indicted!? Many of the findings of these probes are swept under the carpets with demonic cover-up designs. If all the law enforcement agencies are up and doing, culprits will be investigated, apprehended, prosecuted and convicted promptly as at when due.
Q: The President recently said his administration has done it’s best in relation to security, it’s obvious his best is not even fair not to talk of good enough…is the problem really about our capacity to deal with these challenges in terms of military capabilities or is there something deeper?
A: In saner climes, heads would have rolled with the spate of insecurity of lives and properties in the country. Perhaps, a convenient place to start is to heed popular call for the removal of the Service Chiefs of the Armed Forces as well as thorough reforms of their institutions to meet global standards and be submissive to the Democratic, civilian bodies in the discharge of its duties to protect lives and properties.
Q: Edo and Ondo States governorship elections are due shortly, what should INEC do differently, and how will CSOs like yours help push for better outcomes?
A: INEC should be more proactive, open, transparent and technology-driven in its operations. It should avoid collusion with partisan parties and conniving security operatives. CSOs should be protected and empowered to perform its elections monitoring and watchdog mandates. However, the Edo and Ondo states governorship elections will unfortunately reflect ailments afflicting our electoral process as well match towards 2023 general election.
Q: Are there electoral reforms that you envisage will help 2023 elections bring better outcome: less thuggery, violence and vote buying for example?
A: We urgently need a special judicial process for the prompt apprehension and prosecution of electoral offenders to serve as deterrence.
Q: What is your take on the frequency of court-appointed governors, completely eroding the power of the electorate like the cases in Zamfara, Bayelsa and Imo?
A: If the electoral processes are not brazenly manipulated, these incidences would not exist. Institutions capacity building is pivotal to democratic governance. More importantly, tackling of the skewed economic system of inequalities as well as drastic cut of the perks and privileges of public office holders are highly imperative.