Civil society and opposition politics in Nigeria (1985-1999).
Akintola, Olubukola Stella.
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This study investigates the role of civil society in the Nigerian polity between 1985 and 1999. The institutions that constitute civil society, particularly human rights organizations, professional groups, non-governmental organizations have played crucial roles in checking the excesses of Nigerian governments. They have also -served not only as instruments for protecting human rights and guarding against the aouse-of the rule of law in the absence of a constitution but also in the advocacy of democracy in Nigeria. e study examines generally and in theoretical terms not only the relationship between 'state and civil society but also how far, and in what ways the state can affect or engage, purposefully, civil society in general. Drawing on de Tocquiville, Diamond, Gramsci, Hegel, Hobbes, Mamdani, Marx, and Mill, the study attempts to cut through the definitional quagmire by defining civil society as an arena made up of voluntary associations with differing interests and objectives and anchored within the space between state and society, which work towards those diverse societal interests with the aim either of promoting change or maintaining the status quo. The struggle against military dictatorshijJ in Nigeria gave rise to a large and complex civil society. The study examines the activities and / internal problems of these organizations. Specifically, it focuses on the role and effectiveness of civil society groups as instruments of democratic change in Nigeria. In this regard, it examines extensively their oppositional stance against military dictatorship and assesses their effectiveness in promoting transparency, accountability, and good governance in Nigeria. In essence, then, the study seeks to provide insight not only about the workings ofNigerian civil society organizations but also their potential as a vehicle for emplacing transparent and effective governance. To drive the point home, the study examines three major civil society organizations (representing different categories of civil society) that played crucial roles in the struggle for good governance and the protection of fundamental human rights in Nigeria. These are the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), and the Campaign for Democracy (CD). Looking ystematically at eacn of the three cases, it investigates the dangerous and, often, brutal struggle by members of the civil society as they sought to compel successive military regimes to adhere to pnnciples of good governance, respect for basic human rights, transformative development, arid-democracy. A testimony of their relative success in pursuit of their appositional agenda was reflected not only in the political transition activities of each military government but also in their ability to isolate recalcitrant regimes and externalize the struggle by sensitizing the internationalcommunity as happened under General Sani Abacha. Nevertheless, the ability and capacity of civil society to sustain its role as a balancing force between the Nigerian state and people remains in doubt due both to continuing uneasiness in its relationship with the state and to organizational and operational problems associated with internal factionalization, proneness to infiltration and sabotage, victimization by obnoxious laws and decrees, inadequacy of funding, weak operating capacity, fragile organizational struchlres, and poor alliance and networking arrangements. The Study argues that in order to provide a constructive challenge to the authority and power of the state and to achieve their transformative agenda for social, economic, and political development of Nigeria, civil society groups would need to wrestle effectively with some of these problems.