(Attributions to Lumen Candela’s Boundless Sociology)
With numerous calls for a Biden-led summit on the future of democracy in the world, it is worthwhile to seek institutional protection of the State (read nation State), insulating it from the vagaries of democracy, and safeguarding the citizens from ineffective governments, writes Fidel Hart, a Lamprace contributor.
Without the benefit of the moral agency which strong and independent institutions lend towards ensuring government accountability and the rule of law in the United States, lacking the stabilizing influence which the Monarchy wields over governments in Britain and some other nations of Europe, in the absence of the guidance and control which the Communist Party of China (CPC) provides for the People’s Republic of China, African nations, most of which are nascent or renascent democracies, must look beyond the regular institutions of democracy (executive, legislature, and judiciary), if democracy is to serve as the vehicle for the challenging journey to the ‘’Best of Africa.”
Liberal and conservative theories of the State tend to see the State as a neutral entity separated from society and the economy, and acting through a government.
The concept of the State is different from the concept of Government. A government is the particular group of people that controls the state apparatus at a given time. In other words, governments are the means through which state power is employed; for example, by applying the rule of law.
The rule of law is a legal maxim whereby governmental decisions are made by applying known legal principles. The rule of law is rule not by one person, as in an absolute monarchy, but by laws, as in a democratic republic; no one person can rule and even top government officials are under and ruled by the law.
The concept of the State is also different from the concept of a nation, which refers to a large geographical area, and the people therein who perceive themselves as having a common identity.
The State is a political and geopolitical entity; the nation is a cultural or ethnic entity. The nation state is a state that self-identifies as deriving its political legitimacy from serving as a sovereign entity. The term nation state implies that the two geographically coincide.
Citizenship status, under social contract theory, carries with it both rights and responsibilities. In this sense, citizenship was described as “a bundle of rights — primarily, political participation in the life of the community, the right to vote, and the right to receive certain protection from the community, as well as obligations.” Governments are enthroned primarily to provide care over the State and secure these rights and obligations.
Sovereignty is essentially the power to make laws. This power belongs to The People, who donate them to governments, from time to time. The Sovereign is the one who exercises power without limitation. Government can not be the sovereign, the People are.
The donors of State power, The People or the Citizens have some rights against the State, and the need to respond to their desires and demands by satisfying them, ensured the enshrinement of citizens’ rights in the constitution as either fundamental rights or fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy.
These fundamental are incorporated, as second class of rights, in the constitutions of developing democracies such as Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.
However, African governments have ignored or neglected to substantiate these rights, through providing vital services and infrastructure, and other benefits to their citizens. Worse still, these rights identified in the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy have remained un-enforceable in the law courts.
The non-enforceability of these rights continues to create a general climate of irresponsibility in African governments, apathy in the citizenry, and puts immense pressure on the social and economic balances of African societies. This has manifested in spiraling unemployment, rising insecurity amid insurgencies, excruciating poverty, and it saps the continent’s vitality and morale.
In many other climes, governments are under pressure to give substance to these rights, or step down where they do not.
Both the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, which was drawn up following the French Revolution of 1789 and the British Bill of Rights, commonly called the Magna-Charta, contain an array of a distil form of human rights, and they are enforced.
If Africa must claim a stake as a part of the 21st Century, deeper thinking (mentation) and organization should be directed at creating independent invigilation, across the continent, for diligent actions on these rights, being that African nations are signatories to the binding treaties called the United Nations Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Constitutional provisions, across the continent, which mandate political office seekers to execute signed campaign commitments which bond them to some minimum key performance indicators on the enshrined rights, could be a part of the qualifying criteria to vie set by national electoral authorities in Africa. This is bound to liberate a political environment for creative thought, qualified conduct, and critical action, and continental advance.
Still, a very independent ombudsman or institutional sentinel would be required to make this work. The ombudsman should enjoy constitutional independence parallel to central banks, and much more, being that it would function as “stand-alone” to protect the State from its incompetent governments.
As the tempo for restructuring resonates in Africa’s State of Nigeria, the prospect of an independent Sovereign Commission for State and Citizen Rights is one that should command attention. The proposed Sovereign Commission would exercise exclusive superintendence over institutions and organizations such as the Code of Conduct Bureau, National Human Rights Commission, and Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, while sharing concurrent powers with the President over the Police institution and the Armed Forces.
The general idea is to divest Africa’s chief executives of the roles of heads of State, to assure stability and fidelity to State, while confining them to the functions of heads of government. But first, this proposition needs to gain public endorsement and support, as Nigeria restructures.