Communication Failure: Bane of Politicians, Democracy
An attempt at redirecting the Nigerian state in her march to building a just, fair, prosperous, peaceful and equitable society was the crux of the presentation at the 35th Public Lecture of Covenant University, Ota
Delivering the lecture titled, “Communication, Politicians and True Democracy” the Head, Department of Mass Communication, Covenant University – Professor Idowu Sobowale, aptly painted a picture of the disconnect that exists between the political class and the governed.
He said the gap exists because politicians are more concerned with giving information to the people and persuading them to comply, without consulting them or taking into account how it would affect their interests.
Professor Sobowale noted that the concept of being a politician entails volunteering, thus a political office holder is not supposed to make politics a do-or-die affair as it has been portrayed in Nigeria and other developing countries of the world.
The one time journalist with the Daily Times of Nigeria decried the scenario that has played itself out in the political landscape of Nigeria. According to him, the political scene in this nation cannot be said to be in conformity with the practice of true democracy, taking into account the myriads of political, social and economic maladies plaguing the nation.
Furthermore, Professor Sobowale bemoaned the peculiar nature of politics in Nigeria, which has made politicians often feel there is no need to communicate with the people whose mandate they seek. This in effect has resulted in electoral violence and irregularities in a bid to grab power at all cost.
The erudite Scholar and Professor of journalism posited that genuine communication and true democracy must entail exchange of ideas. That is a communication system that allows for feedback from the electorate to foster better understanding of the expectations, needs and aspirations of those that have entrusted their mandate to them. This he opined would help the electorate appreciate the politicians’ challenges and limitations, while trying to fulfill their electoral promises to the people.
Professor Sobowale, who is the Chair of Covenant University’s Opinion Poll Unit, noted that often, the public hearings by the National or State Assemblies on topical national issues are always patterned towards a predetermined course, void of sincerity. “A genuine attempt should be made to carry the electorate along for their input in policy formulation and decision making process,” he stated.
“For true democracy to take firm roots in Nigeria, there must be sincerity of purpose, commitment, honesty and patriotic fervor in the conduct of government. Democracy must be understood to mean a lot of personal sacrifice, service to the community, transparency and accountability in dealings and uncommon tolerance to opposing views,” he added.
Affirming the importance of section 22 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Sobowale said, “If Nigerians are to derive the real dividends of democracy from the system and (from) their elected and appointed representatives, then a beneficial relationship must exist between them and the media of communication in the country”.
In his welcome address, the Vice-Chancellor of Covenant University, Professor Charles Korede Ayo, noted that the happenings in developing nations, especially African nations, have shown that there cannot be any meaningful development without true democracy. He stated that most of the conflicts the world has experienced could have been avoided if there were fora for true and sincere dialogue and interactions between parties.
He said that most of the conflicts in the world stemmed from the selfish political interests of our leaders. Others are the result of anger expressed by the oppressed minority groups for non-availability of platforms to be heard. He cited the situation in Nigeria, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sudan, and Mali as examples of the devastation lack of true democracy can bring on a people.
Professor Ayo, affirmed that the wave of democracy sweeping through developing nations and the recent ‘Arab spring uprising’ have made the application of Information and Communication Technology to governance a necessity. He announced that Covenant University’s research effort on e-democracy would soon be deployed in Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Council, and would also be extended to other parts of Ogun state and Nigeria in general.
In his closing remarks, the Chairman of the occasion and Chancellor of Covenant University, Dr. David Oyedepo represented by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Charles Ayo, noted the consensus all over Africa that e-governance has not worked. He commended Professor Sobowale for opening up a new chapter in his lecture on e-government and the application of ICT to public administration. He noted the major themes of communication the erudite scholar mentioned during his lecture such as government-to-government, government-to-employees, government-to-business and government-to-citizens interactions and said they are all crucial to the development of any democratic structure in any given society.
He predicted that without a well-designed system of government-to-citizen interaction, e-government would continue to be a failure anywhere in the world. “So long as the practice of winning elections without the ballot continues in Nigeria and any nation of the world, our leaders will never be accountable to us,” he declared. Quoting the Chancellor, Professor Ayo concluded that the gathering at Covenant University was not to bemoan failures, but rather to advance success.
Among dignitaries at the event was the Secretary of the State Government, Barrister Taiwo Akinoluwa, representing the Governor of Ogun State, Special Adviser on Education to Ogun State government, Dr. Abimbola Tunji. Friends and colleagues of the lecturer from the academia, professional associations, ministries and government parastatals, religious organization, the media as well as family graced the 35th Public Lecture