Keeping the Democratic Space Functional!

by Rev. Uche Dr. Obodoechina

A group a friends wanted to influence and engage its teeming youths, idle in the villages, to something engaging and worth doing. They decided from their little contributions to build a football field in their neighborhood. They required to clear the space, mark the fields, and put the posts. These they did with great enthusiasm. For the next couple of days and months, the field was put into effective use.

The youths were no longer idle in the village squares aiding and abetting crimes. They formed clubs and took their turns in playing at their newly constructed field. Apart from this, they also took their turns to keep the field functional by planting the grasses and keeping the environment of the field clean. These they did with great zeal. But as time lapsed, their enthusiasm began to wane. At a point in time, unfortunately, their field become overgrown with weeds that they can hardly play in the field. They abandoned the field and the field became once more like a forest.

And so is our democratic space. Democracy is simply defined as the government of the people by the people and for the people. The people are in power and the sovereignty belongs to the people. It is a representative government. But the onus belongs to the people who choose their representatives for their common good, to see that the dreams of democracy are achieved in and among them. Yes, but democracy as a form of government does not belong to the elected or selected representatives nor to the people alone. It is a form of government that involves the contributions of all for its optimal results.

The people as well as their representatives must keep the democratic space functional. Just like the football field of the youths in that certain village, it has to be kept functional by the contributions of all its members. If the democratic space is allowed to grow of weeds, then the business of governance is ruined. The process of governance demands the vigilance and active participation of all the actors. That means that every member of the society has got a role to play in order not to allow the field of democracy grow of weeds. There must be an interaction between the duty bearers who have the onus of piloting the affairs of the state and the people for whose purpose the state was originally established.

The democratic space is a field of interplay between those at the corridors of power and the people for whom the bell tolls. The mutual dialogue and respect among the various stakeholders in the business of governance ensures delivery on service and justice for all. The people must constantly remind the duty-bearers of their obligation to account for their stewardship. They must be seen as servants of the people and not their lords. Of course, all forms of indifference and aparthy in matters of governance on the part of the people should be addressed and responded to.

The government is for the common good of society and not against its well-being. And therefore, members of the society must take part in the delicate processes of governance that affects their well-being and life. In order to respond effectively to the demands of keeping the democratic space warm, the citizens must be equipped with the tools of citizenship education. Citizenship education will in turn expose the citizens to their rights and duties in a functional democracy. In this way, a democratic culture and practice may emerge.

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