International Republican Institute (IRI) has urged Nigerians, especially protesters, not to despair when government does not immediately accede to their demands.
The United States-based organisation observed though protest is potent for implementing positive policies in the country, citizens should be friendly to government.
Speaking on the sidelines of a workshop tagged “Protest to Policy for Civil Society Organisations and Influencers” in Abuja, Senior Governance Manager, IRI, Utpal Mistra, noted that there are lesser protests in advanced democracies.
He said: “It is very important that protest is looked into when we talk about democracy because in every democratic society, and also not so- democratic society, you see protest all over that has become a social behaviour for human beings. Whenever we’re not satisfied with something, we resort to protest, when we feel that our demands are not heard or we are wronged, we choose protests.
“So, in advanced democracies, there are less number of protests, whereas if you look at countries like China, there are about 1,000 protests every day in different places. So, what we thought was to look into the protests, and see how they can be turned into policy. As an institute, we wanted to study what were the attributes that made some of these protests successful so that we could turn them into policy outcomes.”
On his part, IRI Resident Programme Director, Santiago Stocker, said despite the uncertainties surrounding protest, it remains a legitimate avenue to air concerns when government and institutions fail to deliver.
His words: “We are here today to talk about protests. The right to protest is fundamental in a democratic society. It is enshrined in the United States Constitution, Section 4, Subsection 40 of the (1999) Nigerian Constitution and in many other countries around the world. It is an essential right to protest.”
“Protest can be a great drive for change, but it can also spark instability, especially when protest becomes violent or when government responds with violence. Across the continent, we have seen protest movements overthrow autocrats.
“At this moment in Nigeria, with institutions and democracy yet to be consolidated, protest is more important than ever. But how protests are conducted and government’s response determine whether the demands of the public can be translated into policy change and contribute positively to democracy.”