In a country where there are individuals with competing interests, it is outrageous to expect the government to satisfy all demands of the citizens. What A wants might be different from what B needs, and then C might need the demands of both A and B to be provided in equal proportion. This scenario might not prove challenging to the government if there are means of satisfying all the needs. However, in a situation where resources are limited, only the demands of one group will be met. In this case, the group that will be satisfied is the one that can move the hands of the government. That will be the one that understands the art of lobbying.
What is Lobbying?
According to Cambridge Dictionary, lobbying is “the activity of trying to persuade someone in authority, usually an elected member of a government, to support laws or rules that give your organization or industry an advantage.” This definition shows that lobbying is not limited to influencing the government but also to other persons, who have the authority of making changes that will be of benefit to the lobbyists. Furthermore, Investopedia states that “lobby” refers to, “a group of people who band together and try to influence people in public office and politicians.” It also defined the term as an act, which is performed to “influence government officials to act in a way that is beneficial to the lobby or an industry’s best interests, either through favourable legislation or by blocking unfavourable measures.” Hence, when a person or a group of persons (say, an association) tries to influence the decision of the government or people in authority concerning a matter of interest, they are said to engage in lobbying.
Importance of Lobbying
As implied earlier, it is difficult for any government to satisfy conflicting demands of citizens, especially when resources to do so are unavailable or limited. For instance, if beans farmers desire to export a large percentage of their produce, which will earn foreign exchange for the country as well as make the farmers richer, local beans traders may stand against it because it will affect their own business. Of course these two groups have conflicting interests, none of which are completely detrimental to the country, so to say. It is left for the “wise” group to move the hands of the government into setting up policies in their favour. Of course, the government might not set up policy that will suit a small number of persons. But if several groups pool themselves together (say, beans farmers, maize farmers, yam farmers, and other crop farmers) to form a formidable lobbying team with shared interests, they have greater chances of being favoured. This is why it is necessary for the skill of lobbying to be mastered and utilised by every Nigerian.
Furthermore, lobbying brings the needs of people to the attention of the government. Of course, there are other ways of calling the government’s attention to the challenges faced by citizens, but lobbying makes the presentation subtle and forceful at the same time. This is not to say that once a matter is presented, it will be attended to immediately and the winners go home with the trophy. Nevertheless, so long as lobbyists continue to pressure their contacts, positive results will emerge some day.
Is Lobbying Legal in Nigeria?
In 2016, the Nigerian Senate entertained a bill that proposed legalising lobbying in Nigeria. This bill, titled “Bill for an Act for the Regulation and Registration of Lobbyists in Nigeria and for Other Matters Connected Therewith, 2016”, proposed that lobbying should become a profession in Nigeria. The bill suggested that lobbyists must register under the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Ministry of Justice before they practice their profession in the country. However, the bill did not pass its second reading since Nigerians, including the legislators, felt uncomfortable with it. To many, lobbying is the same as bribery. This is to say that, unlike countries such as the United States, where lobbying is legalised by the Constitution, Nigeria has no law currently backing it.
Is Lobbying the Same as Bribery?
The truth is most Nigerians equate lobbying with bribery because they both seek changes that favour beneficiaries. However, while bribery involves presenting gifts to individuals for personal use, lobbying makes contributions that directly favour many people. For instance, if a bean farmer wants to be the sole exporter of beans, he may bribe a government official to achieve that goal. Note that this deal will favour only the beans farmer and the bribed official and it will become detrimental to other beans farmers that want to become exporters too. But if the move is to set up policies that will benefit a large number of people as well as improve the country’s economic and social development, it is not bribery but lobbying.
Why Should Nigeria Adopt Lobbying?
Nigeria is a multi-ethnic, multi-tribal, multi-lingual, multi-religious, and multicultural country. It is filled with individuals with conflicting interests. Each group of persons has unique needs and desires, which they all push for. However, it is impossible for the government to attend to all these needs at the same time. As a result, only those that are able to push their agenda properly will benefit.
In Nigeria today, there are a good number of associations and pressure groups but most of them prefer using activism to seek government’s attention. Some bias their members and the general public to seek sympathy and support. The end result is that the government treats them as nuisance instead of attending to their demands. But if lobbying becomes a tool used by many, roundtable conferences and talks will be the way out of many problems facing society today.