We as citizens of the United States observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. We may endeavor to follow the news accounts of our nation's politics as they unfold, and of the consequences those political actions yield, but we have little power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. Perhaps we write an occasional letter to our senator or representative, but we almost inevitably receive a vague and impersonal response explaining why they will vote in our opposition.

Over the decades, our representative democracy has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. The system that the founding fathers painstakingly devised in order to best serve the interests and the will of the people has been corrupted and the systems of checks and balances on power that they instituted have been stripped away. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change, without any hope of instituting a new system of governance that would instead take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and would empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the places in the world where people are successfully bringing about that type of change in the face of similar odds, where an alternate form of democracy, which is called participatory or direct democracy, is taking root. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

Our system of representative democracy does not admit the voice of the people into congressional halls, the high courts, or the oval office where our rights and our liberties are being sold out from underneath us. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

In places like Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, India, and the Phillipines, new experiments in grass roots community based governance are taking place. There is much to be learned from these and other examples of participatory democracy from around the world when we try to examine how this grass-roots based governance could begin to take root here in our own country in order to alter our political system so that it might better serve the American people.

In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…


Thursday, September 4, 2008

NIGERIA: Government Employees Protest Cutbacks to Participatory Democracy

A couple of articles about recent protests and strikes by the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees against the central government's appointing civil servants from government ministries to replace local governing councils and the resulting setback to the opportunities for participatory democracy that the local councils represented. - Editor

NULGE protests planned scrapping of LGs

• Tuesday, Jul 29, 2008


The Rivers State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) has indicated its willingness to participate in the national protest march which comes up in Abuja on August 7.

The protest, which is at the instance of the national office of NULGE, is to protest the alleged plan to scrap the local government system in the country.

Briefing the press in Port Harcourt, the state President of the union, Apostle Godwin Tumini Diri said that NULGE in Rivers State would join its counterparts in other parts of the country to condemn the call from some quarters to abolish the local government system which provides opportunity for participatory democracy, social mobilisation and social services.

The state NULGE boss said that since the nation’s democracy cannot survive in the absence of a viable and sustainable local government, scrapping it will bring more problems to the country.

“The union is rather asking the various responsible organs of government in the country to guarantee the existence and continuity of the local government system in the proposed constitutional amendment, he said “

According to him, some of the ways of doing this is by increasing council allocation from the present 20 per cent to 30 per cent, invalidate the state joint allocation accounts while Local Government Service Commission should be included in the Constitution.

Also, the concept of uniformity in the political system of local government should be institutionalized,
Apostle Diri said, adding that NULGE believes in the use of peaceful approach in sorting out its differences.

Our recourse to this civilised approach is strengthened when we realised that majority of Nigerians, including most of those providing leadership at the state levels are supportive of sustainability of the local government system, he said.


NULGE resumes strike in Imo


The Nigeria Union of local government Employees (NULGE) in Imo state, resumed its suspended strike, accusing the state government of failing to meet its demand.

The union had asked the state government to withdraw the 27 civil servants it posted to local governments as Directors of Administration and General Services.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that most of the councils visited were deserted and that the few staff around sat in clusters, discussing the strike.

It would be recalled that the state government on July 25, appointed 27 state civil servants to replace the local government directors.

The measure was vehemently opposed by NULGE, which said it amounted to interference in the running of the councils.

The union on Aug. 7 issued a 14-day ultimatum to the state government to rescind the decision.

Government, NAN learnt, did not respond to the union's demand.

Chief Linus Nwajere, the union's President in the state, told newsmen in Owerri that the strike would not be called off until government cancelled the postings.

He also said the state government erred by transferring civil servants to local governments.

He said NULGE viewed the postings as an attempt to destroy the careers of local government workers. 'The time to say no is now.

All council workers at the local government service commission and local government staff pensions board should stay at home for now,'' he said.

Nwajere said that the government invited the union on Aug. 2 for a meeting, where a truce was brokered.

The NULGE chief said the State's Deputy Governor, Dr Ada Okwuonu, led the government delegation.

He said that the decisions reached at the meeting included the suspension of the first strike and the cancellation of the postings.

He said while the union suspended the strike, government failed to recall the civil servants it appointed as directors in the local governments.

Nwajere however, commended the state government for directing the Auditor General for Local Governments to audit the accounts of the councils from May, 2007.

He said that audit reports would let the people to know the actual amount each council had received from the federation account, including the oil windfall.

``This will make the audit exercise more meaningful to Imo people,'' he said.

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