Participatory Governance for Social Change?

by Rev. Uche Dr. Obodoechina

Ordinarily democracy is a government of mass participation. It is classically defined as the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Democratic representation is a good form of governance. Therefore, governance is about the duty of administering the goods and services of a people. It deals with policies and principles.

It is found in all most all sectors of human life. For instance, there is always one type of governance or the other. Even in the family, the most important foundational basis of the society, there are some sorts of governance. Also in the Church and other organisations, governance is a daily household expression that deals with proper ordering of goods and services for the people.

There can be no human organisation where governance does not playa role. There will always be a need to adjudicate. And there will be occasions to execute the decisions arrived at for the good of the members of such an organisation or society. Governance is therefore at the heart of any human society and organisation. And none of these, can exist and realize its reasons of existence without engaging in a type of governance.

Our focus in this reflection therefore is about citizens' right to participate in the ebb and flow of governance of their states for the common good of all and for the social transformation of the society.

It was Pope Paul VI in his epoch making Encyclical letter Octogesima Adveniens who first recognized the growing importance of the two fundamental aspirations of man in a society- namely the desire for equality and participation. He called these two aspirations 'two forms of man's dignity and freedom' (22). It is of great significance that the Pope associated equality and participation with human dignity.

By this great insight, participation and equality became fundamental human rights to which every member of the human community may lay claim. Taking bearing from this teaching, it became obvious that every human person has the right and even the duty to be actively involved in all the decision-making processes that affect their lives and well-being.

The practice and understanding of this teaching lay good foundation for a democratic society. Exclusion from the mainstream of events of governance will be a far cry from the wishes and aspirations of any society. Yet it is the source of all the conflicts in our socio- political experiences in Nigeria, where for instance participation in the processes of governance is the exclusive reserve of the mighty.

And this is the reason for the ceaseless agitations among several sections of people in this country, People are deliberately marginalized in the things and events that concern them. It is not democratic even with its representations, when individual persons for reasons of their sex or religion and especially for the reasons of their poverty are side- tracked in the events of great significance in their lives.

How on earth would one expect peace in the context of exclusion? The truth is obvious. Even in our little families and among our kit and kin, we know that exclusion does more harm than good. There can be no peace in the family if one or two member get the impression that other would not want them to be involved in the affairs of the family.

Neither is it possible for the said family to know peace and progress when such rancour breeds in their midst. And so it is in the wider society. Additionally, it must be underscored that neither the family nor the wider society can prosper and grow without the contributions and participation of its entire members in their talents and competencies.

The society is poorer who excludes its members since there would be no access to the skills and contributions of such member who suffer exclusion and isolation. Is it any wonder that our Nigerian society is bleeding on the point of exclusion?

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