Popular participation is the willingness and active involvement of the people in the conduct of the affairs of their state at the community, local, state, and federal level.
Citizens are in a position to share their opinions and ambitions, voice disapproval, and make demands of the government and other institutions thanks to popular involvement. In order to eliminate social exclusion and prejudice, as well as to advance accountability, citizens can influence politicians’ decisions by proactively participating in the participatory process.
Importance of popular participation in Nigeria
1. It improves openness
As public process, popular participation holds decision-makers accountable. The community has a right to transparency in decision-making and should believe that their opinions were heard. Additionally, it allows community members the chance to comprehend how a viewpoint or requirement that is distinct from their own had to be met, as well as improves their comprehension and acceptance of a final choice or result.
The public’s perception of an endeavor you are spearheading can be significantly improved by knowing that all suggestions and inputs have been fairly considered and taken into account. We can strengthen democracy and make sure that people have a say over the decisions that affect their daily lives by involving all stakeholders in public policy projects, including local governments and organizations, businesses, residents, and communities.
2. Your effort will function more effectively with widespread support
Participating the public in a project might help you find obstacles that would otherwise cause it to take longer than expected and cost more money. You may make sure that the project goes smoothly and that the budget is used properly by doing an ongoing assessment of the community’s requirements, priorities, and key stakeholders. When your plan, resources, and budget are determined, complaints and objections that could otherwise hinder your project can be recognized, handled, and catered for.
3. Increase the sense of ownership within the community
Members of the community possess extensive local knowledge as well as technical, historical, scientific, and cultural insights. Public decision-makers are more knowledgeable, self-assured, and capable of meeting all demands when these perspectives are shared and taken into consideration.
Increased community confidence in institutions of governance and decision-making results in better public decisions. Establishing open lines of communication between your company and the neighborhood will also increase the demand for your services and make people feel as though they contributed to the success.
4. Promotes the participation of marginalized citizens in democratic processes
Citizens have a voice when they participate in decision-making processes and may express their own wants and goals. A diversified viewpoint on a policy or project will enable unheard voices or the marginalized to be heard, preventing the loudest voice or the strongest opinion from influencing the decision-making process.
Policymakers may make better decisions – without being influenced by the loudest voice in the room – when civic initiatives and needs are gathered from a diversified sample pool. When a varied representation of the needs and ambitions of the public is obtained, the ultimate choice of policies or projects is improved.
5. Can help to foster social change via group demonstrations
Demonstrations against constituted authorities in Nigeria have existed since the colonial era because of unfavorable policies or legislation. In order to promote social change in Nigeria, citizen protests such boycotts, sit-ins, and other types of protest have been documented. The Aba women’s riot in 1929 was the first known instance of a public protest in Nigeria. The riot was caused by colonial officials’ imposition of taxes on women.
Madame Olunfunmilayo Ransome-Kuti led 10,000 women in a demonstration against Oba Sir Ladapo Ademola II, the Alake of Egbaland, in 1947, 18 years after the Aba Women’s Riot, after their group’s requests for the repeal of the tax on women and other issues were not met. Before the colonial governments were forced to repeal the tax regulations, these women occupied the area around the palace for days. On January 3, 1949, the Alake of Egbaland abdicated the throne for the same reason.
Segun Okeowo, the National President of the Nigerian Union of Students at the time, organized Nigerian tertiary students across the country in 1978 to protest the hike in meal tickets with the slogan “Ali Must Go.” Other major protests when Nigerians turn out in large numbers to voice their disapproval over unfavorable government decisions, laws, policies, and acts include the Anti-SAP Riots, June 12 Protest, Occupy Nigeria, and End SARS.
The protests forced governments and other entities to modify or abandon their unfavorable policies and actions. Unfortunately, the majority of these protests resulted in several deaths at the hands of the military and police.
6. Promotes policymakers’ accountability
Participation by the public encourages state actors to be accountable for citizen-related issues. Citizens can demand accountability from public institutions by organizing a front. Therefore, popular engagement encourages governmental entities to be more accountable, ensuring that decisions are made for the benefit of all citizens and facilitating citizens’ access to redress procedures.
Through community monitoring, citizen report cards, social audits, and public expenditure tracking surveys, citizens can take part in demanding accountability from other actors and stakeholders. Additionally, the administration of public finances is strengthened when citizens are involved in the planning, carrying out, and supporting of processes like participatory budgeting, specific-budget monitoring, and participatory audits.
7. Helps to choose elective officials who represent the people
Nigeria is a democracy; therefore, selecting the individuals who hold elective offices depends on public engagement. This is made possible by voting, which is widely acknowledged as the most popular form of popular engagement. Voting presents a fantastic opportunity for individuals to select candidates that are judged accountable because the idea of popular participation advocates that citizens should be able to influence decisions that concern them both individually and collectively.
And if the elected officials don’t do a good job, the people can elect new ones in the next election by not voting for them. In order to prevent electing dubious state actors due to low voter turnout, it is essential for people of voting age to actively participate in electoral democracy.
There will soon be an election; participate by supporting a candidate, contributing to their campaign, and casting your ballot. You can run for office if you believe you can make the desired change with more efficiency as a policymaker. Increased voter participation will significantly lessen election-related violence, ballot snatching, vote-buying, and suppression by bad actors.
There are specific conditions that must be met for public participation to produce the best results. A solid organizational foundation, citizen initiative autonomy in local decision-making, a productive information network, and material and technical support are a few of these. Without a structured environment, popular engagement will be ineffective. If there is no established basis for public participation, citizens will be vulnerable to manipulation by dishonest elements. The existence of an organizational structure can act as motivation and give citizens the knowledge and abilities they need to participate in the participatory process.
A thorough and effective information network is also essential for enhancing the effectiveness of public engagement. The population won’t have the necessary incentive to effectively participate in popular participation when there is a shortage of information about events in the nation. Furthermore, it is unlikely that their participation in the participatory process will be meaningful or logical if they do so in the dark.
The information required to promote effective popular participation consists of three types of information: normative information that calls for citizens to commit to policies of change and development; administrative information that enables citizens to jointly plan their community engagement activities; and technical information that encourages citizens to acquire the skills and competence necessary to handle development programs.