Cross River And The Inevitability Of A Democratic Tripod … BY AGBA JALINGO

In Breaking News, Civic Space, Opinion

In Cross River, as it is elsewhere, the government has always been the behemoth. A very large and powerful organization in our everyday life. But in every functional society where the government is responsive to the people’s demands, the behemoth must be complemented by another duo, namely, a strong and independent Media and an effective Civil Society. Until this tripod is standing, the delivery of good governance will remain non existent or inadequate.

If you nurse a shred of doubt, notice that over the years and through successive administrations in our State, due to the near absence of an independent media and virile civil society to complement the behemoth, innumerable administrative reforms have produced no appreciable impact on the quality of good governance in our State. This necessarily requires external pressure from the citizens on the system to respond. There has to be a shift from the normal.

This external pressure can no longer be applied only through the so-called normal channels. Over the last decade, there have been break throughs in technology and social interaction which have significantly empowered the citizenry with new tools to enforce their right to know, their right to protection and their right to quality public service. This development has handed more power to citizens to push back the contraction of the civic space and to participate more in the democratic process.

A democratic State cannot maintain stability unless it is effective and legitimate, and has the respect and support of its citizens. For this purpose, transparency is the key factor, which can be ensured mainly by effective role of the media. A strong and independent media is like a watchdog by exposing the corruption in society and providing accurate, balanced and timely information that is relevant to public interest.

We have made remarkable progress in this regard in Cross River State. In the last ten years, Cross Riverians have distinguished Cross River as the most reported State (online) in Nigeria apart from Lagos and we did not wait for reporters from other States or the mainstream media to achieve that for us. Deliberately, young Cross Riverians took the bull by the horns and have built several struggling and independent news outlets which have also become the most prompt and reliable sources of news and information about our State. The goal isn’t yet achieved but significant progress has been attained in this regard.

The journey to build a strong and reliable civil society that represents the interests of our people and communities and serve as a check on the misuse of power by the State, has also been on for a long time. It is not clear how much progress has been achieved in this direction but what is certain is the imperative for it. The urgent realization of it’s inevitability and the continuation of work by actors in the sector to give greater bite to that third leg. This must be deliberate and orchestrated.

In the final analysis brethren, the Government, Media and Civil Society must all be active in our State in order to stimulate political awareness amongst the public and encourage political participation to protect their own interests. Through these efforts, the government can then become more accountable, honest, transparent and responsive to public demands. This will win the support of the people and strengthen the government’s legitimacy.

Isn’t that a better deal?

Yours sincerely.

Citizen Agba Jalingo is the Publisher of CrossRiverWatch and a rights activist, a Cross Riverian, and writes in from Lagos.

NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Agba Jalingo, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.

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