When a Government does not perform!

by Rev. Uche Dr. Obodoechina

What can the people do when a government does not perform its statutory duties of services to the people? In other words, what can be done when a government fails to carry out its duties to the common good? What would be the line of action open to the people in the light of such a dereliction of duty by the government? Is it possible that the people will do something to redress the situation or are they likely to sit down and look on? In fact, do they have the right to do anything to the contrary? And from where comes that right of a civil action on the part of the people? The questions can be multiplied ad infinitum.

The truth remains that the government belongs to the people. And there can be no government anywhere 'if there are no people establishing it. And there would also be no government if the people do not so desire. In summary, the government belongs to the people and cannot exit outside of the people. Since the government belongs to the people, it is the bounden duty of the people to see that the government fulfils its reason of being.

But where it is obvious that the government does not want to do its duty, the people must act. In the first place, the people must invite the duty bearers in the corridors of power .to a Town Hall Meeting. A Town Hall Meeting affords the government and the people an opportunity of an interface for dialogue. It provides the needed forum for interaction between the people and the government.

Of course the Town Hall Meeting is not only organized when the government is not doing well. It should be a regular exercise in stewardship and accountability on the part of the government, In other words, the government ought to use the fora of Town Hall Meetings to give an account of its services to the people. And so the people have the opportunity of asking the duty -bearers' questions on its non-performance of their duties.

That would be the first step in the long processes of bringing an erring government to order, depending on the situation of a particular government and people. In case the Town Hall Meeting do not bear the required results, that is to say, when the duty-bearers in government refuse to appear for a meeting for dialogue, what would the people do? It is possible that the non-performing government would not be eager to meet the people in a forum of dialogue.

There will be the tendency of such a reckless government to close contacts on itself. It has a temptation to be aloof. But a people conscious of its rights will not tolerate an irresponsible government. It would not obey laws and directives of such a government that do not promote its well-being. No one would be bound to obey 'an illegitimate government with its travesty of laws. This is called Civil disobedience. It does not promote anarchy.

Rather, it is the stating and re-stating of the boundary of just laws beyond which the people are not bound to accept and obey. It is also the affirmation and re-affirmation of the rights of the people to good services from its own established government. Civil disobedience is the power that belongs irrevocably to the people, to disobey harmful laws and directives of a moribund and non-functional government.

In the case of democracy for instance, the people can withdraw its mandate of representation from such good-for-nothing government. The process of mandate withdrawal is well-known. The occasion of national polls during elections is an important moment of great decision on the part of the people. Even though elections are rigged in Nigeria, it remains the most germane way of showing a bad government the way out of service.

Strike actions and protest marches by labour unions, civil liberty organisations, and other organised peaceful mass protests by the people against the oddities of government are parts of the corrective instruments at the disposal of the people against a bad government. In fact, if the people are conscious of its rights and powers, the government will be made to sit up!



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