A brief survey of Political Dimension of Development
Political Dimension of Development. ……. For society to develop there must be in place an adequate political order that translates into an efficient system of governance. However, the idea of governance is quite complex. It can refer to the activities of a government or the process through which society or an organisation is administered, managed or controlled.
In this regard, governance may be described as the complex of the legislative, executive and judicial activities of a government. With specific reference to society, governance involves the exercise of political power in the management of social affairs, the process of decision-making and implementation.
Etymologically, the term “governance” means to steer, to guide, or to direct. Historically, the term is believed to have been first used by Plato in his critique of the Athenian democracy and leadership patterns in the ancient Greek society.
When we say of a system of governance that it is efficient, it simply means that it is able to achieve the ends expected of a government or that it possesses a number of inherent qualities.
For example, an efficient political system would be one that adequately protects and promotes the rights of citizens, provides for the general welfare and interests of members of society, enhances social harmony through the maintenance of law and order, and properly manages and distributes available resources in society in ways that would stimulate economic and social development.
The last statement above brings to fore the political dimension of development which consists in the efficient management and distribution of available natural, human and social resources in order to facilitate social development.
Indeed, the political institutions and structures in a society determine its prospects of development. It is for this reason that inept political structures and bad political leadership have often been identified as the bane of development in many developing societies, especially in Africa.
The prevailing opinion now is that democracy offers the best system of governance that would guarantee social development as well as all the other benefits that are expected to be available within the context of an efficient political system.
The democratic institution has gained such a wide acceptance today that for developing countries to receive international aid, they are required by international financial organizations, such as the World Bank and the IMF, to democratise. Hence, we have a widespread attempt to democratise political structures and institutions in virtually all the countries in Africa and other parts of the world.
Democracy, which has gained global prominence as the best form of government that could guarantee development, may be simply described as a system of government in which the authority to exercise power derives from the will of the people . The most popular definition of democracy is credited to President Lincoln of America, who defined the political system as government of the people, by the people and for the people.
This implies three core characteristics of democracy: that democracy is the government of the people means not only that political power is exercised over people but also that it derives its legitimacy from their consent and commitment; its being a government by the people points to the fact that people participate extensively in governmental processes: the ‘for the people’ clause indicates that democracy seeks to realize the common good of people as well as protect their individual rights. It emphasizes the responsiveness of a democratic government to the rights, needs and interests of all citizens without exception.
In essence, Lincoln’s definition refers to three key principles that are believed to be central to democracy: the principles of safeguarding individual rights (especially freedom and equality rights), popular participation in government, and the pursuit of common interests. However, much controversy exists on how to interpret these principles and their order of priority when they conflict. Be that as it may, we should note that the aspect of the idea of democracy that refers to the pursuit of the common good of people shows, in very clear terms, that development, which is about the enhancement of the quality of life for the generality of people in society, is incorporated into the very idea of democracy.