] Issa Aremu, Rein­vent­ing civil so­ci­ety

Daily Trust - - VIEWS -

The the­matic sub-com­mit­tees of the Na­tional Con­fer­ence Com­mit­tee on Civil So­ci­ety, Labour, Youth and Sports re­sume work to­day at Nicon Lux­ury Ho­tel, Abuja. Trade unions, stu­dent move­ments and vary­ing forms of civil so­ci­ety have been at the fore front of the strug­gle against colo­nial­ism, for democ­racy and de­vel­op­ment dat­ing back to early 19th century. In­deed Nigeria pa­rades ro­bust trade union move­ments, vi­brant civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions as well as stu­dent move­ments with vary­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of a plu­ral­ist so­ci­ety that Nigeria is. Since the Com­mit­tee of which yours sincerely is the deputy chair­man started work last Mon­day, it has gen­er­ated a num­ber of pol­icy ideas aimed at rein­vent­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the state, busi­ness on one hand and labour and civil so­ci­ety on the one hand for a new part­ner­ship for greater democ­racy and de­vel­op­ment. Af­ter much de­lib­er­a­tion, the Com­mit­tee ac­cepts that the fail­ure of gov­er­nance is a good op­por­tu­nity for civil so­ci­ety groups and labour as well as youths in Nigeria to even demon­strate greater na­tional rel­e­vance. Un­doubt­edly the Com­mit­tee among oth­ers is set to re­po­si­tion the civil so­ci­ety to re­turn to good old days when civil so­ci­ety groups were vig­i­lant, sen­si­tive and moved against the mis­car­riages of jus­tice, im­punity and non-ac­count­abil­ity of the mil­i­tary po­lit­i­cal of­fice hold­ers. If civil so­ci­ety groups com­mend­ably halted mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ships of the late 80s and 90s, then they should even do more to deepen the cur­rent democ­racy, mod­er­ate the in­cip­i­ent civil­ian dic­ta­tors, put pres­sures on gov­ern­ments to en­sure un­in­ter­rupted power sup­ply, cre­ate jobs and ter­mi­nate un­em­ploy­ment, guar­an­tee good qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and health, halt mass poverty and re-in­dus­tri­alise the na­tion and en­sure se­cu­rity and peace. Nigeria has un­doubt­edly made much progress in demo­cratic process, with se­rial na­tional, state and lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions in­clud­ing in­ter­nal par­ties’ demo­cratic elec­tions. How­ever this democ­racy needs ur­gent qual­ity con­trol. It must deliver the prom­ises of wa­ter, light, roads and se­cu­rity. Only vi­brant civil so­ci­ety groups could serve as a check on the po­lit­i­cal class over non-ser­vice de­liv­ery. The Com­mit­tee there­fore sets to come out with strong rec­om­men­da­tions to en­hance the ca­pac­ity of civil so­ci­ety to serve as a check on bad gov­er­nance. Or, bet­ter put, civil so­ci­ety groups must help to bring about good so­ci­ety. Part of the chal­lenges will be mak­ing civil so­ci­ety groups fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent thus mak­ing them less de­pen­dent on for­eign donors with all the at­ten­dant pos­i­tive im­pli­ca­tions for na­tional de­vel­op­ment and se­cu­rity. Rein­vent­ing civil so­ci­ety also means build­ing in­ter­nal democ­racy in civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions and cre­at­ing gov­er­nance struc­tures that fa­cil­i­tate ac­count­abil­ity. Civil so­ci­ety groups can only give what they them­selves must have; ac­count­abil­ity and in­ter­nal democ­racy. The prob­lems fac­ing the youth are more acute, fall­ing which to ad­dress them now por­tends ex­plo­sive dan­gers as we have seen with youth un­em­ploy­ment and ma­nip­u­la­tion of the idle youths by po­lit­i­cal op­por­tunists for vi­o­lence and in­sur­gency. The Com­mit­tee is con­vinced that there can be no youth em­pow­er­ment with­out first youth de­vel­op­ment that can only come through skill ac­qui­si­tion, qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and value adding de­cent em­ploy­ment. Labour is­sues are even more di­verse cov­er­ing min­i­mum wage, so­cial pro­tec­tion, and pro­duc­tiv­ity and em­ployee com­pen­sa­tion. The Com­mit­tee sets to push for de­cent work agenda that must in­clude sus­tain­able pro­duc­tive se­cured jobs in both pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors, jobs that have min­i­mum so­cial pro­tec­tion floor through min­i­mum wage at work and min­i­mum pen­sion af­ter work. It’s time we kept. By the time crim­i­nal il­le­gal re­cruiters of labour (con­trary to the spirit and con­tent of the coun­try’s labour laws) out of their busi­ness of fraud, tears and deaths as we sadly wit­nessed with the re­cent im­mi­gra­tion ser­vice re­cruit­ment tragedy that claimed score of lives of ap­pli­cants na­tion­wide. This na­tional con­fer­ence must ini­ti­ate rec­om­men­da­tions that ac­cord labour the dig­nity of en­try and exit just as cap­i­tal is be­ing ac­corded gen­er­ous pro­tec­tion of the state. Un­doubt­edly labour and labour is­sues must be on the exclusive list of what struc­ture of Fed­er­al­ism this con­fer­ence is com­ing out with.

Nigeria is truly a sport­ing na­tion. It has been par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Olympics and other global sport­ing com­pe­ti­tions since 1948 with hun­dreds of medals to show in box­ing, foot ball, swim­ming among oth­ers. In re­cent time, Nigeria has made sig­nif­i­cant progress in foot­ball de­vel­op­ment. But what is good for foot­ball is even more de­sir­able for other sports that in­clude ta­ble ten­nis, swim­ming, box­ing, and scores of other sports. At the end of the Com­mit­tee work, the point should be made that Nigeria’s Min­is­ter of Sports should not just be an un­of­fi­cial Min­is­ter of foot­ball . Holis­tic de­vel­op­ment for sports, as recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties and busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties to em­ploy and em­power the mass of the youths is de­sir­able. The Com­mit­tee is ex­pected to be ad­dressed Mon­day and Tues­day by some re­source fel­lows from Na­tional Direc­torate of Em­ploy­ment (NDE), Na­tional Pen­sion Com­mis­sion (PENCOM), NSITF and ILO among oth­ers.

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