THE POWER OF THE STAKEHOLDER: Citizens as stakeholders in the development agenda

A stakeholder is anybody who has an interest or investment in a system. Anyone who the functioning of a system depends on and who the functioning or otherwise of a system affects, is a stakeholder.. Historically, the word was first used in 1963 in management literature in an internal memorandum at the Stanford Research Institute, to refer to groups without whose support, an organization will cease to exist (Stakeholder Theory: The State of the Art). Stakeholders are the major determinants of the success of any organisation.

In a country’s development agenda, the power of a stakeholder refers to how the activities of a stakeholder affect the policies, decisions, institutions, actions, and the overall development of the country. Broadly, a country’s stakeholders are the government, the private sector, NGOs, and the citizens/dwellers/civil society. A number of times however, citizens fail to realize that they are indispensable to ensuring the proper development of their society. Development should be a shared responsibility; one that all stakeholders partake in and all benefit from and not the responsibility of government alone.

In developing a society, the voice of the civil society is crucial. It is the people who know exactly what their needs are and as such are to be consulted before any meaningful development can be realized. Moreover, it is citizens who are directly impacted by the outcomes or the dearth of it. International bodies such as the World Bank and the United Nations stress the importance of citizen’s participation to ensuring equitable, accountable, and transparent government.
Several studies analyzing Brazil, known as a foremost initiator of participatory government (involving all stakeholders) in the world indicate that it has over the years encouraged transparency, ensured accountability, and improved the lives of its citizens. Likewise, countries like Brazil and India (Pune and Kerala regions) and in New York City; with well-established participatory budgeting systems (all stakeholders are involved in setting up the budget), have enjoyed more equitable and effective budget implementation. Citizens’ participation ensures more people-oriented budget allocation decisions and their timely implementation (World Bank – Empowerment Case Studies: Participatory Budgeting in Brazil).

Stakeholder participation, can fast track development for Nigeria to attain widespread sustainable development. This starts with citizens gaining an understanding of citizenship, Although the country has made significant efforts, one of the obvious challenges to implementing this agenda is low participation from all stakeholders, especially the civil society. On other development issues, many Nigerians fail to demonstrate stakeholder power and actively participate in public consultative platforms.

1. Ensuring Government’s Accountability: Although citizen’s participation is important to a country’s development process, it is government officials who make the policies that will either make or mar the development process. Citizens can however ensure that government decisions do not mar the developmental process by monitoring these decisions from policy formulation to implementation phases. Yet, citizens cannot ensure accountability from the government unless they know their rights and actively participate in planning, budgeting and implementation processes.
World Bank (2009) postulates that there is limited transparency and accountability about the use of public resources in Nigeria, but, it is the role of citizens to make public officials accountable for all public resources. Participating in elections is the first and most effective way to ensuring accountability from the government because complaints, industrial strikes, and protests are not as half effective as electoral participation. Citizens should be involved in the process of voting in government officials to power. It is however not enough to just participate in elections but follow up of government promises, policies, and performance serves as the icing on the cake.
Nevertheless, it is an informed people who can ensure accountability. Awareness of government policies, strategies and operations is an all-important step to successfully holding the government accountable. Citizens should be knowledgeable about democratic processes and activities of their government at all levels and at all times. Furthermore, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups, formed by citizens should be the watchdogs/checks and balances for governments’ performances. Surveys and analysis on government’s activities are also ways to ensuring accountability.

2. Demand: In a democracy, the participation of all stakeholders should be normal. This provides opportunities to make demands especially as active participants of decision-making processes. In addition, demands can be channeled through representatives at the legislature across the tiers of government. Citizens should avail themselves the opportunity of proximity to the local governments to demand efficient public services and exercise their rights.
Although, there is no particular strategy/rule for exercising rights or obtaining results, the cultivation of the demanding culture and approach is key to attaining development. Demand strategies are subject to respect for the constitution and individual/group preferences. Citizens should therefore be aware of their rights to demand good life and basic needs, which are all contained in the constitution of the country. For instance, the United Nations’ Human Right Declaration and Covenants stress the right of all humans to the basic needs of life; rights of every human to education and health therefore, it is not wrong for citizens to demand the fulfillment of these fundamental rights from their governments provided the means of demands follow constitutional routes.

3. Participation in Public Affairs: Citizens should desist from considering politics and voting as the rights of some selected set of people. In Nigeria, every eligible citizen (aged 18) is eligible to vote and be voted for thus, it is the role of citizens to participate in elections. Moreover, the principle of public participation holds that those affected by a decision have the right to be involved in the decision-making process; development can only be achieved when all those affected take part in the process.
Additionally, citizens’ participation in public affairs is beyond voting, getting involved in politics or in budgeting, it also incorporates the contribution of the civil society in government. Chapter II (24d) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stresses on the duty of every citizen to be to make positive and useful contribution to the advancement, progress, and well being of the community where he or she resides.

4. Right Attitude/Maintenance Culture: One of the hindrances to development, especially in a developing nation is the poor attitude of citizens to the use of public property or shared amenities. Citizens tend to consider public facilities as government property. The perception of government property should be replaced with public property and therefore handled with utmost respect if a country aspires to be developed. Utilities like streetlights, buses, roads, parks, and buildings, amongst others, should be cherished and guarded from destruction.
No development is ever going to be achieved without a culture of maintenance. Citizens must therefore inculcate the culture of maintenance for sustained shared value. In addition, the culture of destruction of public facilities to press home demands and/or communicate agitations is counter-productive. The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources recently announced that Nigeria’s oil production dropped to 1.4million barrels per day in August 2016, from the previous 1.75million barrels per day in July 2016. Yet, the 2016 budget was based on estimated production of 2.2million barrels per day. This development is already adversely affects the plans of government to improve the lives of the people. There is no way the clamoured inclusive and sustainable development of the country can be achieved if the major sources of revenue keep plunging.
Ultimately, no country can afford to decline in efforts for ensuring widespread development because every citizen must ensure individual contribution.
It is high time citizens realized that they are the most influential stakeholders in the quest for sustainable development today and in future

*References are available on:

Freeman E. et. al. (1984), Stakeholder Theory: The State of the Art: Cambridge
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999:
World Bank, Participatory Budgeting in Brazil:

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