The term “democracy” has no universally acceptable definition. Many authors perceived it in different ways based on their different fields of endeavour and orientation. Attempting to provide a universally acceptable definition could be difficult.
            Agi (1992:98), says that Democracy is an alluring concept with which every ruler wants to be identified”. It is the “cheer word” and the in-thing”, which has become as pervasive as ever, threateningly completing with the very air that we breathe. This has shown that an attempt to provide a universally acceptable definition of democracy can prove to be a Herculean task.

            According to Gitonga in (Oyadare, 1994:202), democracy “is a hurrah word”, an umbrella concept used to refer to and designate a multitude of diverse and varied socio-political systems or realities.” Little wonder that crick (in Okoye, 2001:2), averse that democracy “is perhaps the most promiscuous word in the world of public affairs”.
            Generally, democracy is a way of life that involves freedom to make choices about what one does, where he lives, and how he uses his earnings; the operation of institutions the home, the church, local, state and federal government; the right of justified property ownership; social justice and fairness; the absence of social and class barriers, equality of opportunity; and the solution of common problems through the exercise of the free-will of the people. The above definition tends to be generally acceptable because it looks at the wholelistic view of democracy. In fact, it is more embracing.
            Mbadu (1994:12), relying on the liberal (orthodox) theoretical tradition, surmises that a more theoretical level of definition, democracy ‘can be regarded as a political system in which the eligible people (electorate) in any country participate actively not only in determining the kind of people that govern them, but also actually participate actively in shaping the policy direction of the government.
            In an endeavour to be part of the definitional discourse on democracy, Yusuf (1994:112-113), also spells out what he sees as some of the tents of this system of governance. According to him, “democracy is not about the policies and activities of government, even though these may directly affect it, democracy is not just the existence of civilian government (as opposed to military government) even though the supremacy of civilian governmental authority over the armed forces is one of its basic features; democracy is not just the existence of multiparty polices, even though, it is one of its major tents; and it is not just the ritual holding of elections, for elections can be scientifically rigged and the people, for one reason or the other, can refuse to vote during elections or maintenance of political power, legitimize a government and stabilize a political system.
            It can be deduced from the proceeding view that Yusuf is averse to the “ritualistic.” Conception of democracy merely as the routine conduct of elections. Rather, he agrees, as I do in this paper, that democracy emphasis not only the central role of the people as the source of the legitimacy of whose who govern, but also the fact that public policies and programme must be targeted at the needs and overall welfare of the majority of the people.
Ogusanwo (1995:138-139), for many letter days converts of the nation, “democracy connotes periodic elections to change leaders in any society or country. For others, it connotes the automatic free opportunity to participate in the periodic election of the leaders of a country. Whether the leaders get changed in the process is a factor of the subjective conditions in which democracy operates in such society”. He also opined that “democracy involves a whole series of process and cultural values which relate to the selection of leaders at all levels of society, the behaviour of groups and individuals vis-à-vis those who hold different views on issues under consideration as well as the use of power by whose the selection process has placed in decision making positions.” To him, “it also includes the existence of the rule of law, which relates to the equal treatment of all before the law and curbing of the excessive power of who’s in control of affairs of all levels of society”.
            However, Ogunsanwo does not seen to be perturbed by the fact that the material condition of a people can immeasurably affect the extent of their participation in the selection of leaders at all levels of society. 




            Moreover, in a neo-colonial socio-formation like Nigeria, which is characterized by all forms of deep-rooted capitalist inequalities, is it really possible for us to have the existence of the rule of law and the equal treatment of all before the law?
            Writing from the radical ideological perspective, Kawonise (1989:4-5), argues that “since the economic power of the bourgeoisie forms the bedrock of their hegemony in democratic-bourgeois republics, ensuring the dominance of the lowest and largest class, or the regime of equality and social justice which all types of democracy lay claim to, will involve, first and foremost, the democratization of the economic substructure of the society.”
            According to Kawonise (1989:8), it is obvious that “democracy is not only a political category but a term extending to the socio-economic realm of the society, and in the last analysis it consists in involving the people in taking part actively and freely in discussion and decision affecting their general welfare.” And the most basic aspect of the general welfare of the people, in the words of Kawonise, is the material production and reproduction of their life. Consequently, an attempt at democratization, in the fullest sense of the term, must have as its point of departure, the egalitarianism of the process of material production, distribution and consumption. This is given the political dimension of democracy will necessarily follow.
            Ekpo (1989:47), on his part, relying on the Marxist paradigmatic framework, has attempted a materialist interpretation of democracy. He contends that democracy which means the rule of the majority over the minority, the equality of all citizens, their rights and freedoms must be located within a particular social formation.” To Ekpo, democracy connotes a form of state and a form of the organization of societies. Political and economic life, and it must be understood historically as society moves from one mode of production to another.” He also pointed out that, “democracy must be dissected and its qualitativeness highlighted, from one social formation to another. Consequently, democracy under slavery is deferent from that under feudalism and democracy under capitalism cannot be the same as democracy under socialism.” Indeed, in Ekpo’s words, a higher form of social formation represents sine qua non a higher form of democracy.
            In all, system one of the characteristics of which is the equality of being completely or almost completely responsive to its entire citizens. Democracy involves the conception of majority rule and the acquiescence of the minority, in the decision of the majority, it demands from the common man, a certain level of ability and characteristics, rational conduct and active participation in the government.                                            


            The word “democracy” can encompass very different realities depending on the accompanying adjective.
            Allison (1994:12), writes: “Democratic theory presents a bewildering variety of forms of democracy; populist, direct representative, liberal Madisonian, Pluralist, consensus and majoritarian are just a few of the forms.” The literature reviewed and adds many others. It is difficult to classify them.
            Allison (1994:13), remarks, “the absolute ambiguity of the core idea of the rule of the people precludes any real organization of the concept.” Even if one cannot classify them, one can identify something of an evolution in the definitions more or less comprehensive, more or less practical of an elevated ideal to be or of a minimum level to be met.
            Allison (1994:14), proposed a “minimalist definition” following Schupeter: institutional arrangements for arriving at political decision in which individual acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote.”
            On this basis, two developments are possible; the “consumerist” which connotes the preferences of the electorate and the development of policy and the emancipationist which extents democratic methods and the ideal of self-determination to all social and economic relations. Using the gradation and this intensification of the concept, the literature caters for all the options; ranging from liberal democracy to emanicipatory democracy, running through a variety of adjectives.
            One advocate of liberal democracy Ibrahim (1993:17) “following the total collapse of most of the socialist democracies from 1989, it became clear to the last skeptics that whatever the shortcomings of liberal democracies might be (---) they have proved themselves to be more democratic than any of the ‘Marxist’, ‘socialist’, peoples’ and popular varieties that have existed over the past century.”
            On the other hand, Mafeje (2001:20), responds to Ibrahim “Naturally the collapse of Eastern European socialites has theoretical implications for socialist/Marxists, but it does not dispose of social problems inherent in capitalist society. The issue concerning liberal democracy versus distribution of the social product and political power between classes in capitalist societies. Whether the issue is referred to as socialism or social democracy is immaterial.”
            In the same vein, the unavoidable Wamba-Dia-Wamba (1992:249), rejects the parliamentary model in which “politics is reduced to a matter of numbers and in which no guarantee is built in to force the state to be accountable to the large masses of people except through elections with long intervals.” He calls for a change to a new mode of politics and rejects politics parties and the statist concept of power, this research in quest has provoked various responses (Ihonvbere, 1993:12, Ramose, 1992:21 and Depelchin, 1993:15) and a debated on the possible contribution of traditional structures to this new mode of politics.
            Wamba-Dia-Wamba (1994:214), calls for Kafureeka (1993:89) who notes; “Democracy in the view of the liberal sympathizers is not possible without pluralism and by pluralism they mean multi-partyism. Unfortunately moving from rhetorical to concrete political practice the later threatens to annililate the former.”
            Enemuo (1992:36), also denounces liberal democracy which he sees as “since the post colonial state in Africa is essentially bourgeois and considerably compradorial, it follows that it is a state for the dominant class, not of the down trodden.”
            However, Elagab (1993:23), has it that “successful democratic experience manifest economic and social achievement which provided the social and material infrastructure for democracy to be a reality.”
            Mbonjo (1982:45), in turn, prefers hijpharts Consociational which he sees as a necessary transitory please in the democratic development of a country as opposed to the “winner takes all’ system of majoritan democracy.
            Irung (1992:30), also considers “democracy based on critical reason” an ideal form.
            Concluding this review of forms of democracy, two authors are more circumspect.
            Beetham (2004:21), explains that “democracy is a matter of the degree of realization of basic principles and accordingly concludes that democratization is always and everywhere and unfinished process.”
            Conquery-Vidro vitch (2005:123), recalls that democracy in Africa is both a new idea and a process to be implemented in a context that has never known or thought of either.”      


            Democracy is the principle that all citizens, especially those under privilege classes in an undemocratic state, have political rights.
            Enahoro (2000:48-49), referred to this principle as equitocracy.” Equity between the nationalities that comprise this nation Nigeria and equilibrium between the contending and competing interest and social forces in the country.” Chief Anthony Enhoro continued by insisting that, “without equitocracy, one cannot guarantee irreversible democracy in the multi-religious and multi-cultural setting of Nigeria.” If all of the above should prevail in any environmental then that environment can be termed a democratic environment. Otherwise, there would always be a tendency for the less privilege segment of society to clandestinely take whatever which is their own share of the national cake, or to resort to dangerous maneuvers designed to exhort political concessions from the authorities.
            It is, however, conceivable that in our euphoria and optimums, we may forget that democracy, unarguably the best form of government for any nation, is also perhaps the most difficult to establish on firm forting and manage.
            Oyovbaire (2002:138), in his own view outlined what he called the principles of a democratic environment and there are as follows:
i.                    Implanting and institutionalizing the love of freedom and equality.
ii.                 Resentment of autocracy whether in military uniform ‘Agbada’ or suit.
iii.               Encouraging freedom of dissent and respect for the individuality of each person.
iv.               Creation of an appropriate environment that enables the individual to free himself from the constraints of poverty, hunger, ill-health, coercion and control.
v.                  An overall commitment to even and rapid development of the human elements within the polity.  
            The above listed items are the principles that must be in place before you call an environment a democratic are according to Professor Sam Oyavbaire.


            In Nigeria, democracy is taken to be synonymous with regime or administration which is headed by civilian politicians but whether or not the affairs of the state are managed solely to further the interests of members of a self seeking cabal is unimportant. Against the background of this distorted view of democratic governance, it is often said that since 1960, Nigeria has practiced democracy for about 48 years. Thus, it is said that Nigeria has had the first, second, third (aborted), four and now the fifth Republic.
            Inspite of the noise and propaganda by government’s spokes persons on the achievements of democracy during president Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime (second coming) even a casual observer of events and happening in Nigeria since 2003 could agree that for the political office holders on down him, it is business as usual.
            In concordance with convertional practice, when the Olusegun Obasanjo led administration assumed office for the second time, promises and pledge were made at Nigerians. The people were told that official corruption, infrastructural decay, poverty, inflation, insecurity, unemployment etc would be seriously tackled.
            The World Bank Atlas (2006) reported that Nigeria live in a world where 1.2 billion people live on less than 1 dollar a day, 10 million children under the age of five die each year mostly from preventable disease and 113 million primary school age children do not attend school” Okoye (2006:7).
            Yusuf, (2000:198), says that over 45% of Nigeria live below the poverty line while two third of this group are extremely poor. He also indicated that poverty in the country will rise by two third and almost half of the population will be below the poverty line by year 2010.” In fact, the situation may be said to be gloomier.
            However, members of the government during Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration at the local, state and federal levels have clearly demonstrated that public resources are meant to be enjoyed by those who occupy political offices, as well as their friends and associates. This is shown in the disproportionate and underserved allowances and entitlements, which they have awarded themselves. To whose pillagers and indigenous colonizers public officers are meant to serve the selfish and personal ends of those who occupy them.
            Awomede (2005:22), said that “shortly after they were inaugurated in 2003, members of the national assembly legislated for themselves N3.5 million for each senator and N2.5 million for each House of representative members, as furniture allowance. Much against the grain of the general state of poverty in the country, the legislators said, in very clear terms that they were in Abuja to a fortune themselves. This prompt Late Chuba Okadigbo once said that “as a Senator, he was neither in Abuja to live in Cockroach hotels nor spread poverty.”
            Between 2003 and now, the legislators have their ambition to live the good life, approving new cars for themselves on a yearly basis and stupendous allowance while working the minimum.
            Awowede (2006:23), in the year 2004, the National Assembly budget was a mouthful: N1.33 billion for traveling. On the whole, some N22 billion was to go into running the federal legislature. This makes, the legislators already graduating into Pseudo-ministers and contractors, legislating constituency projects of N500  million for each member.                           


            Nigeria is among the few sub-Shara Africa countries in which the government has mapped out poverty alleviation programme and strategies as an important economic policy objective. The emergence of a democratically elected government in 2003 promises to put more pressure on government to respond to the yearnings of the nations poor masses for poverty alleviation.
            Soon after, the national planning commission was given the task of developing strategy for poverty relief by setting up a poverty alleviation programme development committee. The committee came out with a draft national strategy the community Action programmes for poverty Alleviation (CAPPA), for federal government’s consideration (federal office of statistic, 2004:3)
            Federal office of statistics, (2004:5) after due consideration, the federal government adopted the draft national strategy but renamed it as ‘poverty alleviation programme, it as ‘poverty Alleviation Programme.” (PAP).
            In January 2001, the federal government phased out the poverty alleviation programme, and replaced it with the National poverty Eradication Programme (NEDEP). The main objectives of NEPED include the following:
i.                    To provide a rational poverty reduction framework that lays emphasis on appropriate and sustainable institutional arrangement.
ii.                 To provide technology acquisition and development particularly for agriculture and industry.
iii.               To provide capacity building for existing skills acquisition and training centers.
iv.               To provide agricultural and industrial extension services to rural areas.
v.                  To provide integrated scheme for youth empowerment, development of infrastructures, provision of social welfare services and exploitation of natural resources.
vi.               To provide institutional development for marketing agricultural and industrial products.
vii.             To provide a pro-active and affirmative actions deliberately targeted at women, youth, farmers and the disabled.
            To achieve a co-ordinated implementation and monitoring of the programme, its activities were classified into four schemes, namely:
ü    Youth empowerment Scheme (YES)
ü    Rural infrastructure development scheme (RID)
ü    Social welfare development scheme (SOWESS)
ü    National resources development scheme (NRDCS)
            The National poverty Eradication council (NAPEC) is the supreme organ concerned with the formulation and execution of the poverty eradication programme. The council is constituted by the president as chairman. Other members of the council include the Vice President, the secretary to the federal government, 13 federal ministers, the chief economic Adviser to the president and the National co-ordinator of NAPEP.
            The functions of NAPEC include:
i.                    To formulate and review all polices and strategies of the government designed to alleviated and eradication poverty.
ii.                 To set annual targets for institutions and agencies of government mandated to undertake poverty eradication programmes. 
iii.               To mobilize and allocate resources for approved programmes.
iv.               To establish the legislative and constitutional framework for the successful implementation of the programme.
v.                  To approve and establish the proper administrative instrument necessary to ensure the implementation of the poverty alleviation programme (PAP).
            There is a growing consensus that a new approached to poverty in Nigeria is needed. A rapidly growing economic is essential. So too is broad participation in the growth process, which will ensure alleviation in poverty participation in planning and implementation of poverty alleviation programmes can be widened and deepened through decentralization and fashioning a new arrangement with democratic governance.    


            Showing the emergence of a democratically elected government in 2003, which promises to put more pressure on government to respond to the yearnings of the poor masses for poverty alleviation. We must however, accept the fact that although the government seems to have the political will and has shown a commitment towards poverty alleviation, the progress has been show.
            In line with the views of the World Bank (1996), sex basic principles form the framework for more effective and efficiency action to alleviate poverty in Nigeria. They are as follows:
i.                    Poverty alleviation must be at the heart of any economic and social development strategy.
ii.                 The political will and commitment by government towards poverty alleviation must be backed up by economic action. 
iii.               Economic growth is necessary, but not sufficient for alleviating poverty in the long run. The improvement of human capital should be part of the programme.
iv.               The design and implementation of efforts towards poverty alleviation must be guided by the needs of the poor identified by the poor.
v.                  Poverty must be look at from a gender perspective as women are particularly vulnerable to the social and economic burdens of poverty.
vi.               Poverty must also be viewed as an environmental issue since it engenders resources degradation and further impoverishment.
            From the foregoing, it is evident that under democracy, government must ensure macro-economic stability, uphold the rule of law etc. Income redistribution would reduce the inequality gap thereby reducing the risk of social upheavals and the pervasive high level of poverty (Bawo 1996:12) maintains that “the level of income of the citizens is overwhelming the strongest prediction of democratization.” In which case, the higher the poverty levels in a nation, the water is her democracy and vice versa.”
            No wonder the democratic government of Olusegun Obasanjo between 2003-2007 has not achieved much. The democratic government has neither reduced poverty nor affected it in any form. The policy that was initiated to impoverish the programme was made to satisfy the interest of those at the corridor of power because the target group or the civil society could not benefit from the programme. All the promises and efforts to eradicate poverty could not be achieved. And following the writings of Bawo (2006:12), democratic governance that came into play on 29th May, 2003 was very weak since the poverty level in the nation was still high.
            The foregoing analysis is evident that the more government reduces poverty, the more would be the social-economic stability of the polity and the more sustainable the democratic governance would be.
            Since the enthronement of democratic governance in Nigeria, there have been social upheavals in many part of the country especially the South- South, Western and North-Western zones. The problems in the zones range from dissatisfaction by the impoverished people of the Niger-Delta region to ethic violence in the west and the religious crisis in the north.
            In all this cases, it is the poor masses that are used even by the rich to perpetuate such crisis. Some of this crisis which posed serious dangers to our building democratic experiment could be predicted on the fact that a poor man is a hungry man and a hungry man is in turn an angry man. So most of such social upheaval could therefore be averted it poverty alleviation programme had worked out well.
            The situation of poverty stricken or levels in the country had continued to grow from bad to worse-hence poverty alleviation programme.
            Efo (2006:30), the president also on 15th February 2004, declared “Nigeria has no business with poverty, with our resources; human and material, we shall strive to eradicate poverty from our country, Nigeria; That was why Olusegun Obasanjo came up with the poverty alleviation scheme: passed it into law with prime aim as he said of creating jobs, as if were, for the teaming Nigeria populace”.
            Efo (2002:31), this for him is a way of affecting out poverty. Yes, jobs were provided through this programme but were only for the elite class and not for the poor masses.”


            The researcher having looked at the basic principles form the framework for more effective and efficiency action to alleviated poverty in Nigeria as enumerated by World Bank (1996), observed and wants to argue that they should be adequate collaboration and complementation among the three tiers of government to achieve a well defined poverty alleviation programme under democratic governance.
            The researcher also deem it necessary to add that under democratic governance must ensure macro-economic stability, uphold the rule of law etc, which ensure income redistribution, would reduce the inequality gap thereby reducing the risk of social upheavals and the pervasive high level of poverty as declared by Bawo (1996), but also should embarking on projects that do have direct relevance to the poor masses in country and in some cases abandonment of these projects should be not encouraged.
            However, lack of the involvement of the target group in policy formulation and implementation or execution should be stop, because during the inception of the programme, the structure showed that they will not even achieve their target in the sense that the target group (rural people) was not involved.
            Finally, the researcher observed that different scholars, aired their view on the principles of democratic governance, objectives of poverty alleviation programmes and functions of NAPEP, but failed to acknowledge the fact that it has some accompanied problems.
            These problems as observed by the researcher includes
i. Democratic governance and poverty alleviation programme creates an atmosphere for corruption among the officers.
ii. It also creates visionless leaders in the sense that some of our leaders are visionless and inefficient. They are always interested to satisfy their personal aggrandizement at the detriment of the poor masses. 
iii.                           Problem of ethnicity, this happen, when the federal government of Nigeria was allocating money to the various sectors for the project, the various ethnic regions were scrambling for their own share or to get the largest part of the share.


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Ekpo, H.H (2000), Poverty Alleviation and substance of democracy in Nigeria, Calabar: University of Calabar.

Ekong, E. (1991), Rural development and the persistence of poverty in Nigeria, Uyo: University of Uyo press.

Edozien, E.C (1975), Poverty: “some issues in concept and poverty” in poverty in Nigeria. The Nigeria economic society, Ibadan.

Mbonjo, O. (1982), “World Bank, IMF and Nigeria Poverty reduction strategy”. The Guardian Online July, 10 2001.

Madueme, I.S (1999), An evaluation of the poverty profile of civil servants in Nigeria: A case study of Enugu State”. International journal of studies in the Humanities (IJOSH) Vol 1 and 2, No 2.

Federal office of statistics (2004), poverty and welfare in Nigeria: Washington, American Writing Corporation.      

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