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  • Writer's pictureJohnson C Onuoha

Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria

Updated: May 4

Since Nigeria's independence in 1960, the search for democracy and effective government has been a top priority for the country. Between the time of its independence and the present, Nigeria has been battling these issues. The most influential political ideologies of the twenty-first century are democracy and good governance. However, there have been conflicting perceptions about whether democracy is beneficial because of the thrill caused by the country's pervasive, gruesome widespread poverty and lack of development, insecurity, poor governance, and low labor force participation, among other things. By implication, this indicates that excellent administration cannot exist in an environment devoid of democracy, which explains why democracy as a form of government presently enjoys such widespread support across the globe.

The World Bank offered a concise description of good governance and a thorough breakdown of its key elements. Thus, it argues that effective management involves exercising power to accommodate the rights and interests of every citizen within the state instead of just wielding authority in the name of the people. According to this idea, "accountability and inclusivity are two crucial core characteristics that support good governance" [1]. Any form of government based on the principles that the people have the rightful supreme power over all matters of public policy, that everyone has the equal right to participate fairly in society and enjoy equal rights, and that the pursuit of equitable economic and social equality is a fundamental human right, can be described as democratic. "Government of the people by the people and for the people" is one of Abraham Lincoln's most straightforward definitions of democracy.

In this sense, democracy focuses on the needs of its citizens. Its defining features include widespread engagement and fundamental individual and economic freedom. Due to its inherent receptivity to the hopes and desires of the poor majority, democracy, and good governance serve as the foundation for legitimacy, civic participation, and development. However, effective management does not only lie in the provision of fundamental infrastructures but also the accessibility of these facilities, whether medical and healthcare facilities, etc., the advancement of society's industrial, agricultural, and educational sectors, and, above all, the institutionalization of the rule of law. A democratic system must be in place to produce good governance because good governance thrives in a democratic environment. However, various obstacles that have persisted in impacting the nation's democratic effort have prevented this purpose from becoming a reality.

Challenges of Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria.

Nigeria decisively reestablished democracy on May 29, 1999, after a string of anarchic military incursions. Although this signaled the start of a new age infused with great expectations for effective government, more than two decades of this democratic dispensation and about four presidential administrations had shown a failure of the government to make governance inclusive and has only brought the populace increased hardship, mass suffering, deaths, a high unemployment rate, poverty, shoddy infrastructure, a shoddy healthcare system, bad roads, erratic power, a crumbling educational system, a massive increase in violent groups and violent crimes, insecurity, and the list goes on. Yet, for the political elite, over two decades of corruption, money laundering, cross-carpeting, opposition witch-hunting, attributing blame to prior administrations, and a plethora of unmet political pledges led to a decline in economic growth and development, among other things. It implies that the failure of democracy in Nigeria is not a result of the system but a result of those in charge – the political elite. [2]

Democratic processes in Nigeria are problematic since the country lacks effective democratic systems, including a reliable electoral system, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, etc. These issues include widespread corruption that permeates every aspect of the country's public affairs. As a result, the Nigerian government and political class cannot shift from their "business as usual" approach[3], which has had no positive effects, and to develop a new paradigm consistent with democratic values. Nigerians are, therefore, dissatisfied and disillusioned with how and how the government meddles in public affairs. They have also lost faith in the nation's leadership at all levels of government. Nigeria operates a fractional democracy whereby it conducts elections to preserve the image of democracy but lacks institutional rights that are equally essential components of a fully functional representative democracy. How rapidly society and its leaders learn to operate based on democratic principles and practices will determine success and goal achievement. Mohammad (2008). [4]

The political credibility of those holding public office has decreased over time due to the need for more trustworthy elections. For instance, blatant electoral fraud tainted the country's 2023 general elections. When there are no legitimate elections in a democracy, it undermines decent governance, and if not entirely rejected, the people's sovereignty has influenced the margins. These systemic inadequacies have become worrisomely apparent, which has led to political disillusionment. The democratic system's capacity to improve people's lives depends on the availability of appropriate structures for the orderly election processes that result in the change of governments.

To experience democracy and good governance in Nigeria. The government must address Significant obstacles, some of the following problems: the alteration of individual rights, the disenfranchisement of the Nigerian people through flagrant election rigging, conspicuous consumption of politicians amidst the extreme poverty of the general populace, and compelling regional governments that threatened the relatively weak federal center. (Elaigwu, 2011)[5]. Furthermore, in Nigeria, ethnic, religious, and regional sentiments rather than nationalistic and class consciousness drive her democratic and political process, which led to a worsening of the nation's poverty and underdevelopment.

Way forward

In establishing an elected, responsive, and accountable government, democracy requires that the people be guided based on their consent and mandate. According to the United Nations Development Programme Office, there are nine (9) core characteristics of democratic rule: Participation, Rule of Law, Transparency, Responsiveness, Consensus, Orientation, Equity, Effectiveness, and, Efficiency. Based on these characteristics, The government should put in place intentional government policies should be implemented to enhance democratic institutions, including political parties, the National Assembly, the Judiciary, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Civil Society, and anti-graft organizations like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), among others. To ensure the development and maintenance of democracy and sound government, these institutions must be permitted to function freely and productively. Also, as free, fair, and transparent elections are one of the principles of democracy, the people's votes must be considered when deciding who will govern them. The political elite in Nigeria must adopt a culture of leadership by example, one that sacrifices and has an unwavering dedication to the populace. They shouldn't view the political office as enriching themselves and furthering their interests.

Gender equality in democracy is vital for attaining progressive and sustainable economic development and a stable environment for sociopolitical and socioeconomic activities to thrive. The importance of engendered democratic institutions for any economy cannot be over-emphasized. It will impact the overall economic climate for realizing women's rights by increasing opportunities that reduce inequalities.


[1] Better governance for development in the Middle East and North Africa: enhancing inclusiveness and accountability - overview (English). Washington, D.C.: World Bank Group.


[3]Linus, U. O (2015), Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects. Global Journal of HUMAN-SOCIAL SCIENCE: F Political Science, Volume 15 Issue 3 Version 1.0 the Year 2015. Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects (

[4] Mohammed, H. (2008), "The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Illusions of Good Governance: The Experience of Nigeria's Democratization Process, 1999-2006" in Iwora, A. U. (ed), 7thAnnual Conference Proceedings, Benin on the theme: Nigeria and Millennium Development Goals, Lagos, Royal Bird Ventures.

[5]Elaigwu, J. I. (2011), Topical Issues in Nigeria's Political Development, Jos, Institute of Governance and Social Research Nigeria (IGSRN) AHA Publishing House.

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