Corruption, the biggest hindrance to Nigeria’s democratic development – Global report
Corruption is the biggest national challenge facing democratic governance in Nigeria and a number of other countries, a report has shown.
The report, titled ‘Open Society Barometer’ by a non-governmental organisation, Open Society Foundations, says “democracy remains the most popular form of government globally,” with 86 per cent of respondents in a survey wanting to live in a democratic state and nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) preferring it over any other system.
The Open Society Barometer serves as a global reality check, asking people each year about the issues affecting their lives, communities, countries and how best to address them.
In this year’s report, the Open Society Foundations surveyed 36,344 respondents across 30 countries between May 18 and July 21, 2023. The focus of the survey is to determine people’s faith in democratic governance in the face of recent threats by coup det’at and interference by authoritarianism.
The countries surveyed include Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Saudi, Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Turkey Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States.
According to the report, the countries, which are chosen to reflect economic, geographic, and political diversity, “have a combined population of 5.5 billion people.” The report reads in part, “In each country, we aimed to survey a statistically representative sample of 1,000 people, tailoring questions to national contexts where appropriate, and providing definitions of keywords such as ‘democracy’ and ‘authoritarianism’.”
“The reports of democracy’s demise are greatly exaggerated,” the report says.
“In fact, it (democracy) has a strong pulse. And the gravest threat it faces is not the rival appeal of authoritarianism, but rather the question of whether democratic leaders can deliver for their populations.
“People want to believe in open societies in which checks on power, pluralistic and independent institutions, minority protections, and individual rights enable all to participate.
“With the rise of authoritarianism and populism, new debates about the relative efficacy of rival systems of government, and the acceleration of the so-called ‘polycrisis,’ it is easy to conclude that democracy is doomed to decline. But our polling shows a broad and enduring faith in its principles among the global public.”
The report reveals that even though there are several challenges facing democratic governance globally, 86 per cent of respondents prefer it to authoritarianism.
Ninety-two per cent of respondents from Nigeria say it is important for them to live in a country that is democratically governed, while 69 per cent prefer democracy to other systems of government. Challenges identified as facing countries in the world include human rights violations, climate change, corruption, poverty, inequality, and political violence, among others.
“Corruption beats climate change and poverty and inequality when respondents were asked about the most important challenge facing their country. Almost a quarter of people (23 per cent) chose this answer, and nearly a fifth (19 per cent) said that corruption was the issue with the biggest impact on their life.
“Corruption at a national level ranked highest as a priority in Africa and Latin America, but was also prominent in Asia and Russia,” the report reveals.
This has led to a lack of trust in politicians by the people.
Only 27 per cent of respondents in Nigeria trust politicians to work in their best interests.
“Unsurprisingly, people who believed corruption to be the most important challenge in their country were more likely to distrust national or local politicians,” according to the report.
It adds, “But distrust is prominent across age groups and geographies. When compared to religious leaders, leaders of international institutions (e.g., the UN, the EU, the African Development Bank), journalists, business leaders, and charity leaders, most respondents believed local and national politicians were the least likely to work in their best interests.“Of the institutions represented, respondents most trust charity leaders (51 per cent), followed by leaders of international institutions and religious leaders (both 45 per cent).
“People from low- and lower-middle income countries were the most likely to trust leaders of international institutions, with the highest levels of trust in Bangladesh (81 per cent), Kenya (72 per cent), Ethiopia (69 per cent), India (68 per cent), and Nigeria (67 per cent).
“Meanwhile, people in the United Kingdom (26 per cent), France (24 per cent), Germany (24 per cent), Japan (21 per cent), and Russia (15 per cent) were the most distrustful.”
Other issues such as poverty and inequality also take prominence among global challenges.
The report states, “People in all countries polled face many of the same challenges, and more than half (53 per cent) feel their country is headed in the wrong direction. Presented with six different issues, respondents were evenly split among the three or four they deemed most important in their country, in the world, and in terms of their impact on their daily lives.
“But globally, the largest share of people polled (21 per cent) said, ‘poverty and inequality’ has the most impact on them personally. This was true of both Senegal—the smallest economy surveyed, where 26 per cent ranked poverty and inequality first—and the United States—the largest economy surveyed, where 19 per cent did.
“Similarly, food insecurity and hunger affect people in high- and lower-income countries. Across the 30 states surveyed, nearly half (49 per cent) of respondents said they have struggled to feed themselves or their families within the last year. In Bangladesh, as in the United States, 52 per cent of people agreed with this statement.” On human rights, the report says, “Seventy-five years after the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, people believe the concept of human rights retains relevance and value globally.
“When asked if human rights have been a ‘force for good in the world,’ a global average of 72 per cent of people agreed. Only one country—Japan—indicated less than majority support (45 per cent).
“When given the statement ‘human rights reflect values that I believe in,’ an average of 71 per cent agreed, with just nine per cent disagreeing. Japan showed the lowest levels of agreement (34 per cent).
“Among the countries with the most support for the statement were Nigeria (86 per cent), Kenya (85 per cent), Bangladesh, Colombia, and Ethiopia (each 82 per cent), and India (80 per cent).”
Thirty-one per cent of respondents from Nigeria said civil and political rights were most important to them, 45 per cent went for economic and social rights, 14 per cent for environmental rights, and seven per cent preferred digital rights.
“There is also considerable support for accountability when rights are abused.
“A global average of 63 per cent agreed that ‘tools such as travel bans and freezing bank accounts are useful ways to bring human rights violators to justice.’“Respondents from Asia and Africa were most likely to endorse this statement, with Bangladesh (79 per cent), Nigeria (78 per cent), Egypt (74 per cent), Ethiopia and Kenya (both 73 per cent), and Pakistan (72 per cent) all registering above-average support,” the report further says.
Despite faith in democracy on paper, respondents living in countries deemed more open do not necessarily report better performance in practice.
Nearly two in five respondents agreed with the statement that human rights “do not protect me and my family.”
Forty-two per cent feel the laws of their country do not keep them safe.
“There is also a widespread perception that human rights are applied selectively at the global level,” states the report, citing other factors.
“Respondents demonstrated a widespread fear of political unrest leading to violence. A global majority of 58 per cent—and majorities in 21 of the countries polled—agreed with the statement, ‘I fear that political unrest in my country could lead to violence in the next year.’
“Fear was highest in South Africa and Kenya (79 per cent), Colombia (77 per cent), Nigeria (75 per cent), Senegal (74 per cent), and Argentina and Pakistan (both 73 per cent).
“But large majorities in high-income countries were also worried, notably around two-thirds of respondents in the United States and France. Similarly, significant numbers (42 per cent) around the world did not feel ‘the laws of [their] country keep people like [them] safe’.
“Insecurity was especially strong in Brazil (74 per cent), Argentina (73 per cent), South Africa (72 per cent), Colombia (65 per cent), Mexico (60 per cent), Nigeria (60 per cent), Italy (53 per cent), and Senegal (52 per cent) where majorities disagreed with the statement.