Democracy has been defined as a government of the people, for the people and by the people; it is a system of government that predicated on the variegated interests of majority of the people, whilst not neglecting the vested welfare and wellbeing of the minority. Democracy is said to be the best form of government because it is participatory, and it touches on the needs and aspirations of the people. Democracy in Nigeria has been repeatedly promised by those in power for decades but promises seem to fall short of their mark and Nigeria remains to be anything but a true democracy.
For a democracy to be successful the people of a country need to feel like they matter, their vote matters, and that the government cares about them.
A true democracy is people initiated, people promoted, sustained by the people for the benefit of the people.
However, if democracy loses its humaneness, it can gravitate towards democratic despotism; and it can be another form of authoritarianism where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. This becomes even more plausible when inherent structures that ought to stabilise democracy are conspicuously absent.
One of those supporting pillars is the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Institute (NILDS) that was set up as training and research to provide back up support for training legislators and their various aides across the three tiers of government and even far beyond; to foster proper understanding of the nitty-gritty of what it takes to make good laws for suitable governance of the country.
It would be recalled that NILDS has the responsibilities to improve capacity of Legislators to sustain and consolidate democratic governance through deliberation and policy formulation. Improve the technical capacity of legislative staff, committee secretaries and political aides to process appropriation bills and policy oversight of the executive; To stock and improve the quality of relevant information, for members of the national and state assemblies and the general public through the dissemination of research output and the organization of consultative fora for the public sector, as well as representatives of the private sector and civil society; To promote and disseminate among Legislative Assemblies in Nigeria the practice of science-based methodologies of law-making; To design, analyze and evaluate development policies in Nigeria, especially dealing with macro-economic, socio-political and cultural issues, as may be necessary from time to time; To support networking arrangements involving parliaments and policy analysis units in the sub-region in order to share experiences amongst several others.
It is these roles that help to stabilise democracy and makes it functional, it is for this reason that the institute should be properly funded and given all the needed support to succeed by functioning effectively and operate smoothly.
There is no doubt whatsoever that NILDS will help to eliminate poor leadership and bad governance; it will inculcate in leaders the right sense of commitment to service and it will also promote strong and veritable fellowship that hold their leaders accountable.
It is in view of this that, in a great article published in Foreign Affairs, Larry Diamond analyses the reasons for the current democratic rollback. Although approximately 60 percent of the world’s independent states are democratic in electoral sense, a number of countries have been regressing toward authoritarianism and for the first time since 1994 freedom around the world suffered a net decline in two consecutive years. Diamond warns that without addressing the key problem underlying weak democracies – bad governance – this democratic decline is likely to continue. What’s the way out? Democratic rules and institutions need to become as important as voting in order to make the ruling elites (including freely elected ones) accountable and to restrain the natural predatory tendencies of those in power in both political and economic realms.
Before democracy can spread further, it must take deeper root where it has already sprouted. … Emerging democracies must demonstrate that they can solve their governance problems and meet their citizens’ expectations for freedom, justice, a better life, and a fairer society. … For democratic structures to endure – and to be worthy of endurance – they must listen to their citizens’ voices, engage their participation, tolerate their protests, protect their freedoms, and respond to their needs, which is what NILDS try to ingrain on the democracy process in the country.
Diamond also emphasizes that, contrary to some views, economic prosperity cannot be achieved without better governance. Without political institutions that guarantee good democratic governance, corruption hampers economic growth and no equal opportunity exists in the market. In most of the world’s poor countries, the “economy first” advocates have the causal chain backward. Without significant improvements in governance, economic growth will not take off or be sustainable. Without legal and political institutions to control corruption, punish cheating, and ensure a level economic and political playing field, pro-growth policies will be ineffective, and their economic benefits will be overshadowed or erased, which is exactly what NILDS has been advocating in its different training and research undertakings across the length and breadth of the country.
The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), therefore, to ensure the attainment of the objectives of the Institute in the provision of quality academic and professional research, policy analysis, training, documentation and advocacy on democratic governance and legislative practice and procedures.
In furtherance of its commitment to the expansion of the democratic space, and genuine democratisation the Director General of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, NILDS, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman has welcomed a partnership between NILDS and the Nigerian Institute for Advanced Legal Studies, NIALS, in the areas of specialized training on Legislative support services, Legislative drafting and legal research.
The DG, who played host on Wednesday, October 16, 2019 to a delegation from NIALS, led by its newly appointed Director General, Prof. Tawfiq Ladan, stated that the visit was timely, coming at a time when NILDS is undergoing reforms geared towards repositioning the Institute to provide better services as a research and training organ of the legislature in Nigeria and the African continent.
Earlier, Prof. Ladan, the erstwhile Director of Legislative Support Services at NILDS informed that, NIALS being the only institution currently offering a Doctorate Degree Programme in Legislative Drafting in the country will be glad to provide specialized capacity building workshop for NILDS’ staff, particularly those in the Legislative Support Services department. He also offered his Institute’s renowned services in the area of printing and publishing of NILDS’ subsequent publications.
It is also expedient to point out that, women play critical role in any democratic process, that is why, the United Nations Women, a global organization committed to gender equality and the empowerment of women has opened high-level discussions with a view to signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies NILDS. At a meeting at the UN House, the Director General, National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies Prof Abubakar Sulaiman stated that the focus of the technical intervention is on the plight of women and gender diversity across all spheres of our national life. This is coming against the background of the Director General, NILDS vision to promote the process of legislation that address the plight of women and children, who have remained marginalized in the social and political space, in spite of women’s remarkable excellence in academics. Prof. Sulaiman bemoaned the continued vulnerability of women and children, as the most affected victims of the upsurge of crime, criminality and prevailing insecurity in many parts of the country.
“We have a framework in our work-plan on programmes that would address, gender inequality, alienation of women from political participation, women enlightenment, gender mainstreaming, children education among others. There is need for parliaments to look in the direction of, how much government is doing to address the plight of women and social inequality”- Prof. Sulaiman said.
For the Country Representative to UN Women and ECOWAS, Comfort Lamprey, the UN Women will support NILDS programmes through focused interventions and technical assistance with the objective of deepening and strengthening Nigeria’s democratic growth. She identified four main focal areas as priority to the UN Women: Capacity empowerment to support women in the 9th National Assembly, gender budgeting with special attention on allocation across the sectors, conflict prevention and resolution with emphasis on bringing attention to the negative impact and the role of women in mediating and ending conflict.
It is therefore very clear that, NILDS has very significant role to play in the democratic process, it is doing a lot presently and can do far better provided the necessary enabling environment and the tools with which to work is made available.