BY: Winstanley.R. Bankole Johnson

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have indeed come of age, and are aware of their potency as a barometer of good governance, or to consistently manipulate depraved minds constituting the majority from among a nations’ political class, and to occasionally influence regime changes to their sustained advantage. And whether in or out of political seasons (elections periods), they spare no effort at exploiting those advantage to the eventual detriment of gullible politicians.


Ever the political pendulums they have always epitomized, CSOs habitually spew forth statements insinuating incitements, often couched under civil liberties and human rights “sensitization” semantics, and then watch askance for an evaluation of the negative impacts such statements might have on the political landscape, before deciding a consensual strategy of how to prey on the political leadership.   And after years in the business, you can bet they are adept at this.

In their desperation for raw power, politicians often fail to decipher the real intent or ultimate designs of the CSOs, and insofar as the pulse of the electorate is favourably disposed to their party colours, they care less about accuracy and integrity of such insinuations. Soon they begin to court acquaintances with the CSOs, by clandestinely dishing out huge financial incentives in the process. Up to that point, no reference is made to them by the government as “brief-case CSOs” – well at least until things begin to work to their disadvantage.

Rented Amplifier

The CSOs would press on with whichever political party emerges as winners of an electoral process, having judiciously sat on the fence throughout the contest. In time, and as a genuine payback attempt, direct communication lines are soon opened between them and the successful Presidential candidate, more as protection premium covers, than in the democratic interest of the electorate who only recently empowered him. To properly entrench their new romance, the CSO executives begin to ensure that dedicated and patriotic party activists are systemically edged off or sidelined completely. Common sense begins to disappear from within the party structure and camaraderie. Those who started the dance and even paid the costs for the rented amplifier soon become the first victims of the “revolution”. Darkness and light should not cohabit. The CSOs are soon co-opted into state administrations, as in the Free Healthcare Delivery and Educational Services, receiving subventions direct from the Consolidated Fund to (in their own words), “make them more efficient”. Line ministers averse to such arrangements would rather quickly toe the line than risk being edged off the gravy train. Again up to this point no government reference is made to them as “brief case CSOs”.


It doesn’t take long for the coziness in the new romance between the winning political party and the CSOs to begin reflecting in the corporate and personal visual images of the latter. The conspicuousness of their “executive” titles, office accommodations and the 4×4 jeeps they drive. Their regular attendances in all government “talk shops” in which they are compulsorily required to make statements to justify subventions collected – in intricately adorned “Bamako clothes” – and their appearances on the print, electronic and social media road shows – steadfastly concurring each and every government ordinance or action. Yet again in all of this, no government reference is made to them as “brief case CSOs”. The more vociferous they are, the greater their rewards from the government of the day, which in some cases have included national honours and insignias.


But in all of this, the CSOs would always “keep their senses for their jobs”, knowing full well that in their own turf and without any structured retirement packages, their survival rests squarely on their sustained manipulative advocacy skills. So once embedded in any government, the undermining processes commences simultaneously, by a steady compilation of the weaknesses and threats affecting all flagship projects, and which, depending on the pulse of the electorate would be eventually passed to the opposition – for a fee of course – in the hope that having helped them achieve yet another regime change, their gravy train would as usual never come to a halt. Do you now get my drift?



And by the time a ruling government wakes up from its slumber, the CSOs would have morphed into full blown monsters, periodically issuing threats, innuendos and ultimatums to them to either comply with this or that demand, or face unspecified consequences, such as we have seen from CSO advocates of the Local Content Policy, Agriculture and Infrastructure Sectors, and which not surprisingly is now invoking the degenerative term of “brief case CSOs”.


Of all three, only that from the Local Content Policy sector constituted an ultimatum. They will go to Court they said, if the government fails to implement the policy. The other two are clear “threats” to national peace and security because they did not specify what would happen if their demands are not met. And the government should not take that lightly because the way they have all been synchronized would appear to suggest a concerted, yet remote-controlled attempt to either begin orchestrating a regime change or engender a dysfunctional governance climate for that.


It has to be said that this exploitative romance cycle between governments and CSOs will only stop repeating itself when the former begins to realize the clear distinctions between them and the latter (all of whom are now distinctly partisan), and maintain such distances between them as would henceforth effectively manage their monstrosity and also keep their genies permanently “bottled up”. Partners in development? Yes. But CSOs are not parallel governments and in playing their respective parts, they should always remain permanent strange bedfellows, just so as to avoid compromises.



Every government must expect that once elected into office, some or all of its flagship policies will have to be examined, criticized, exhumed, thoroughly dug up and investigated. But in doing so, the existing governance frameworks for addressing grievances and opposition should not be overlooked for political gains – no matter our influences and sources of encouragement to do so.  This is because ours is a multi-party democracy through which we choose those whom we desire to govern us for specific term limits, reposing in them such confidence as we believe they would leverage from to move our country forward. There can be no short-cut or aberration to those processes, neither will any responsible government allow itself to be stampeded off the rails.


There are not only adequate regulatory guidelines as would guarantee every citizen’s rights and freedoms, but also as would ensure adequate constrains  to equally safeguard the privileges of even the most common man. And it is the extent to which those mutual rights are respected that can engender ultimate peace and a stable climate for progress and prosperity. Any deviation from that simplistic format will degenerate into a dysfunctional governance pattern inimical to all. There may be issues here and there, but after over 50 years of independence as a nation state, the dimensions of those issues could not be greater than what our existing dispute resolutions laws could absorb, which makes ultimatums to government totally unacceptable.


A policy arising out of international treaties entered into, but not yet domesticated in accordance with Sec. 10 (d) and Sec.105 of the Constitution cannot form the basis of an ultimatum to any government.  Further as its name implies, a Local Content Policy (LCP) remains what it is, “a Policy” – still in a “draft form” – and it will remain so until it is “enacted” into law or ratified as a final document. The outcome of a proposed litigation against the government for enforcement of the LCP in its present draft form can therefore only best be imagined.   However, given the adverse impacts of its delayed implementation on the pecuniary circumstances of the citizenry, common sense should prevail and implementation expedited presently, including of course all the various concessions and allowances due the multi-national investors. Finally, I think it is about time “all the President’s men” begin to shape up in their jobs or risk being involuntarily shipped out?

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