Lack Of Accountability, Root Of Nigeria’s Challenges

Ezinwanne Onwuka

Ezinwanne Onwuka

Democracy, as defined by Schmitter and Karl (1991) is “a system of governance in which rulers are held accountable for their actions in the public realm by citizens, acting indirectly through the competition and cooperation of their elected representatives.”

In the ordinary sense, accountability, which entails a relationship between those responsible for something, and those who have a role in passing judgement on how well that responsibility has been discharged, presupposes that an official or person who has been assigned duties should be held responsible for their actions and the consequences emanating from them.

Given the foregoing, the question that readily comes to mind is: are Nigeria’s political leaders accountable to the citizens or can the citizens, through their representatives in parliament, hold the leaders to account? The answer is obvious.

Needless to say, the state of public accountability in Nigeria is highly disheartening. The more emphasis is placed on it, the more worrisome it becomes. Moreso, the continued deterioration of the level of accountability among public officials shows that the country is facing a crisis of democracy.

Accountability lies at the heart of a democratic government. That is to say, democracy thrives on and is sustained by accountability. It can then be said that as a result of the serious public accountability issues in Nigeria, we have completely stripped democracy of virtually all its meaning. Consequently, our fledgling democracy is encumbered by many challenges, particularly electoral malpractices and irregularities, and systemic corruption.

Over the years, the only evidence that proves Nigeria practices democracy is the dry, periodic conduct of elections that are neither credible, free nor fair – they are usually marred by violence, manipulation and rancour.

Election is a means of enhancing public accountability. This ensures that elected officials who do not satisfy the electorate may likely lose in a subsequent election. Hence, fraudulent elections constitute a big threat to democratic accountability as it subverts the will of the electorate.

Disappointedly, though electoral legitimacy provides the basis for democratic accountability, elections in Nigeria are mostly a perversion of democracy as votes are, oftentimes, manipulated to favour a particular candidate or political party.  The implication of this is that political office holders that come into office via electoral fraud would not see the need to be accountable to the people. This creates an opportunity for them to embezzle funds without fear of facing the wrath of the law.

Corruption, the abuse of public power or office for private or sectional gains, is bound to thrive unchecked where the culture of accountability is poor. The absence of a working system of accountability, therefore, explains the reason corruption is pervasive and well entrenched in every sector of the Nigerian society.

From year to year, trillions of naira are budgeted for expenditures by Nigerian governments. However, despite these huge budgets and expenditures, there are still problems of unemployment, infrastructural decay and poor service delivery by sectors/institutions like education and health, among others. The result of this is low output of the economy and poor quality service delivery. All thanks to corruption!

Due to the absence of public accountability measures, which ensures that the society gets value for its money and that public resources are not diverted to private use, anyone that is lucky to grab political power can basically get away with most crimes, and some of these crimes involve money laundering and uncontrollable theft from public coffers.

Indeed, the absence of accountability is the root of all the other challenges bedeviling the country. Adegbite (2009) had averred that “…where there is no accountability, development will inevitably be stunted.” Hence, it is apparent that the country will not make progress without an effective system of public accountability.

Public office being a sacred trust, those in whose hands public resources are placed as trustees, have a sacred duty to not only account for them, but also to ensure their prudent management and efficient utilization.

In conclusion, in negotiating the future of Nigeria, political leaders should show commitment to change and progress. They should show through their will and acts that they are accountable to the people they govern. And they should understand, according to Soyinka (2002) that “accountability is not merely accounting for the money you spend, it is accounting for your actions.”

 

 

Ezinwanne.

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