Being Text of Address Delivered by Senator (Dr) Anyim Pius Anyim GCON, 

President of the

Senate, Federal Republic of Nigeria at the Institute of Directors Members 

Evening on

Wednesday, October 30, 2002 at Lagos, Nigeria.


I am indeed delighted to be invited to this event in the capacity of a Guest Speaker. I must also seize the opportunity to thank immensely the council and members of the Institute of Directors Nigeria, for the keen interest they have consistently shown in the affairs of the National Assembly. The several letters of invitation to their events and programmes extended not only to myself but also to other principal officers of the National Assembly amply demonstrate this. May I say that I sincerely regret my inability in the past to honour your invitations on account of very pressing National engagements.

May I also thank the esteemed members of the IOD especially it’s indefatigable Director-General, Mr. Akin Iroko for his kind concession of asking me to speak on any subject of my choice. Consistent with that open cheque I have opted to speak on the topic “Democracy and Accountability… The Role of the Civil Servant”.

My choice of topic is informed largely by three factors namely:

(a) The audience is essentially the movers and shakers of corporate Nigeria, a sector that I have no considerable or requisite background.

(b) On account of my modest role in the present democratic experiment in addition to my background as a former civil servant I advised myself to limit my address to the sphere of my experience.

(C) But most importantly, a painstaking reflection on the drift of our Nation reveals that the institution of the Civil Service touches and impart on all aspect of our National life.

Thus I considered it instructive to rub minds on the issue with captains of industries and barons of commerce who in one way or the other interact with the institution of the civil service.

Ideally, if the twin concept of Democracy and Accountability as vehicle for sustained national development must pick the desired acceleration or if you like velocity, the critical role of the civil servant must be constantly appraised and critically re-examined.

Mindful of the time allotted to me to speak, I shall restrain myself to the salient issues without unnecessarily shrinking the substance.

Democracy and Attributes of Democracy

Democracy by classic definition is the government of the people by the people and for the people. This simple definition presupposes that political power belongs to the people and is exercisable by the people through their elected or accredited representatives. 

These representatives are expectedly accountable to the people. Democracy as a form of government essentially implies that sovereignty lies with the people.

In other words for a system of government to qualify as democratic it must be fundamentally participatory or representative both in concept, content and context.

Attributes of Democracy

Since democracy is about the process of safeguarding the sanctity of the social contract between the elected representatives and the electorate, certain basic structures must be present. These structures are in form of institutions, norms, values, checks and balances that are requisite to sustain a true democracy. These institutions and norms altogether guarantee accountability, rule of law, and good governance.

The cogency to preserve and protect the inherent attributes of democracy are substantially reflected in statutory and constitutional instruments. For example, Section 14 (1) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution provides thus:

“The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.”

Subsection 2 (a) elaborates further:

“Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority.”

And in order to leave no doubt as to the nature of our democracy, Section 14 (2) (c) provides thus:

“The participation by the people in their government shall be ensured un accordance with the provisions of this Constitution”

To further consolidate the attributes of democracy Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the 1999 Constitution provided for the Legislative powers, Executive powers and the Judicial powers respectively. These provisions in clear terms established the three arms of government.

Ladies and Gentlemen, you can agree with me that no other form of governance can guarantee these attributes except democratic governance.

The Three Arms of Government

Democratic attributes recognize the separation of power between the three arms of government i.e. the legislature, executive and the judiciary. To ensure accountability in democratic governance, powers must be separated amongst the three. Presently, there is no doubt that we have achieved the creation of the three arms, but we are still challenged with the reality of separation of powers amongst the three arms. I need not say more here because we all know that the rampant face-off between the legislature and the executive both at the Federal and the State level is indeed the struggle to achieve and enthrone separation of power not just in theory but in practice.

Let me quickly add that except the three arms are not only encouraged but also supported to develop simultaneously, the virtues of accountability, check and balances will be lost. And that will certainly result to stunted growth of our nascent democracy. It is important to note that meaningful development and progress can only be attained under a harmonious working understanding that painstakingly recognizes and indeed respect inherent limitations in the system. For this working understanding to be meaningful, it must be anchored on constitutional responsibilities and conventionally accepted practices that promote independence and yet mutual co-existence of the three arms for the overall interest of the oversea.

The Rule of Law

The doctrine of rule of law insists on the supremacy of law over institutions, persons and authorities. It recognizes equality of every person before the law. In other words, the law should be no respecter of persons. The law must be certain and proactive. The law must protect the low and the mighty. And justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. 

This principle presupposes that every citizen is equal not only as a free citizen but in knowledge and status. In this regard, the application of law must be such that the process must be understood by the citizen. It is not just enough that you have good intention, or that you are acting within the limits of your duty. It must be done in a way that those affected by your action must be convinced that you are acting rightly etc.

The rule of law also protects and promotes freedom of speech, association, religion, family life, political participation etc. These freedoms are indeed considered fundamental. It is so fundamental that it accommodates the freedom to disagree, as well as hold contrary view on any issue. These enshrined and time tested doctrines are safeguards for accountability, transparency and due process in a democratic government.


Accountability under democratic government comes in different form but targeted at same goal. Except to a lesser extent, the judiciary, the other arms of government are duty bound to give accounts of their steward to the electorates and the people routinely. But even at that, the judiciary also has its own mechanism for accountability though subdued.

For the executive and the legislature, the Constitution and the Laws of the Country contains elaborate procedures for rendering routine and regular accounts of its steward. Such process includes election periods when the electorates are required to renew the mandate of an elected officer. The court of public opinion and the institutional process. The latter ensures compliance with the conditions for disbursement of funds, its utilization, rendering quarterly returns, confirmation of appointments and exercise of powers and authority. The mechanism of oversight functions as constitutionally provided is yet another key process of ensuring accountability in governance. Most of these lay down process for accountability are effectuated through the bureaucracy of the civil service.

Who is a Civil Servant?

The Civil Service is a superstructure of the government with elaborate duties and responsibilities. In simple terms, the Civil Service is the executing agent of government policies and programmes. The unique position of the civil servant is that he is the operating agent in the three arms of government.

Much as the legislature makes the laws for the Executive to execute or implement, the operational instruments at all times is the civil servant. And since the laws and policies of the legislature and the Executive imparts one way or the other on the activities of the entire Nation, the role of the civil servant can never be over-emphasized In a democratic setting and more so with the global appeal for National economies that is private sector driven, the role of the executing agents of governmental policies and programmes must be of keen interest to the organized private sector in particular and the populace as a whole. To appreciate the role of the civil servant in a democratic government that aims at a achieving accountability, we must ask this question:-

Is the Civil Servant not a critical catalyst for the enthronement of transparency in the affairs of our nation?

To underscore the question, let me say that democracy is a collective enterprise. The tree of democracy must be watered by the exemplary leadership of the public, bureaucratic and the private sectors. Every Nigerian must personally and collectively be responsible and accountable for his role if democracy must be nurtured for sustainable national development.

Democracy and accountability must be a concern to all Nigerians, irrespective of present vocation.

We must bear in mind that laws and policies are essentially directed at effectuating the process of governance, social relation and ultimately consolidating the attributes of democracy for genuine national development and international prestige.

To accelerate the realization of this goal, the private sector under the auspices of such bodies like the /OD must be an active and interested player. The private sector must be seen to add value to the system rather than compromise or corrupt the system to achieve immediate ephemeral gains. I believe that our ways of life as a Nation and indeed perception by the international community will improve tremendously, if all hands are on deck to wage war against the tendency to corrupt and compromise the system of the civil service.

We must resist the attraction to corrupt the civil service at will under the slightest pressure, We must express a resolve to kick into the dustbin the despicable Nigerian Factor, which is an euphemism for corrupt practices.

Ladies and Gentlemen, permit to ask yet another question, what do we intend to accomplish at this gathering? Is it the generation and dissemination of ideas? I think the answer is No, because over the years there has been no shortage of ideas. I mean solid good ideas. I think our mind ought to be agitated by this simple question. What role can I play as a politician, civil servant, banker, lawyer, teacher preacher, student, market woman, electorate, IOD member etc. to drive the wheel of progress of our country’s democracy and accountability for genuine national development and Greatness?

To assist us all in the soul searching exercise, may I leave you with the very thought provoking words of Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, former Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity:

Democratic governance incorporates relations, norms, values, procedures, institutions, duties and obligations. It is a totality that encompasses the political, social and economic domains in a mutually reinforcing and symbolic nature. Democratic governance is not simply structure or only rituals; it is also a modality of behaviour and interaction. It constitutes relations as well as values to be internalized. It is a means of societal empowerment….

Democracy and accountability is sine-qua non for re-inventing a strong and united Nigeria. But the essential ingredients of transparency, rule of law, justice, equity, fairness and virile civil service are fundamental.

At this crucial and indeed critical period of our National evolution, development and transformation, we need men and women, groups and institutes that would stand up and be counted as leaders. These leaders from different frontiers of our National life would collectively energize and put in place the desired adherence to due process. 

I therefore propose that the organized private sector such as the Institute of Director etc should device and sustain a forum for regular interaction and exchange of ideas between the civil service (the executing agents of government) and other key players in the polity. This will result to greater understanding of areas of conflict, constraints, pitfalls and frustrations.

In making this proposal I am persuaded by the conviction that one of the critical qualities in contemporary leadership is the ability to improve coordination between one arm of government or sector of the economy and another. A effective coordination certainly will guarantee synergy and optimum application of human and national resources.

My distinguished audience, the resolve and the will to achieve these amongst others are the challenges of our time and generation. These democratic credentials are achievable both in the government circles and the corporate Nigeria. The choice is ours. But we must not forget that the option is scanty and indeed scaring.