In a typical representative democracy the majority rule while the minority have their say with little influence in governance. This is because governance is a game of number and the majority often win. Democracy makes it possible for every voter to be allowed to exercise their franchise, which is the right to vote.
The group, party or individual that has the most votes (majority votes) controls power. Minorities may not control the decision-making process because of their poor strength numerically, but they will have their say and their interests are still protected or safeguarded.
That is why some say the majority rule while the minority have their say. Though minority groups may have failed to gain control of governmental powers, they still have a say through criticism of government policies and suggestions of alternative lines of action that the government can follow. The rights of the minorities are protected under the law in a democracy.
Meaning of Minority Rights
Minority rights are the same as human rights, but this time they should be applied to individuals, race, ethnic groups or individuals that possess little of no numerical advantage or strength in the decision-making process of government
Human rights such as the right to life, right to dignity of the person, right to personal liberty, the right to fair hearing, and right to own property are all guaranteed, and they are enshrined in the Constitution.
Measures and Ways of Protecting Minority Interest and Groups in Civic Education
The quota system enables all the segments in the country to be represented in federal appointments. ‘Unity Schools’, were, for instance, established to ensure that minorities are taken care of in the admission of their children to quality secondary schools in the country.
The constitution makes provisions for the protection of all citizens, irrespective of their status. It is made rigid to ensure that nobody can amend it at their whims and caprices. A written constitution can easily be referred to in case of a breach the citizens.
Independence of the judiciary
The judicial officers should not be manipulated the executive, legislature and the powerful members of the society in the discharge of their duties. This would enable them to perform their duties creditably.
In Nigeria, the judiciary is free from external control the other arms of government, i.e. the executive and the legislature. This independence enables the judicial arm of government to be the last hope of the citizens in the country.
Franchise should not be restricted
The right to vote and be voted for is entrenched in the constitution. This means that whether you are in the minority or the majority you are allowed to exercise this right. The government cannot deny you the right to cast your vote in any election. This franchise is a veritable weapon in the hands of the minorities and it is a protection.
Efforts should be made to teach them their rights, Again, they should be given political education duties and obligations. People must be made to know the duties and activities of the various levels and organs of government. These would enable them to understand and evaluate the organs and levels of government. They would also assist them to know when their rights are infringed upon so as to seek redress in the law court.
Democratic governments help to guarantee human rights. The government is based on the rule of law. There is reliance on the principles of the constitution. This supreme law, the constitution, is highly respected and preserved unlike a dictatorial or military government.
A reflection on Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sanni Abacha’s regimes reveals that human rights were bastardized and the constitution was thrown into the dust bin. Related to this, is an emergency period. Such a period includes war, riots, epidemics and natural disasters. During this period, the citizens are denied the right to freedom of movement, association and assembly.
Efforts should be made to minimize such situations. The only antidote to military intervention in politics is good government. The government should be responsible and accountable to the people.
The mass media should not be gagged, censored, controlled or dictated to government officials and individuals in the society. This would enable them to educate and inform the people adequately. It would also help them to expose cases of injustice, domination, exploitation and neglect in society.
The press in the country can be commended in this regard. They helped to pull down the autocratic regimes of General Sanni Abacha.
Examples of minority groups in countries
- Nigeria – Ijaw,Kanuri, Nupe,Ibibio, Efik, Bini,, Berom,Jawara etc
- Ghana – Mande, Grusi, Guan, Gurma etc
- Italy – Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists,Orthodox, Romanians, Chines, Ukrainians, Albanians etc
- China – Tibetan, Mongol, Yi, Tujia, Miao etc
- Germany – Danes, Frisians, Sorbs, Roma/ Santi
- United Kingdom (England) – Asia Britain such as Indians, Pakistan and Chinese. Black British such as African and Caribbean
Importance of safeguarding minority interests and rights in Civic Education
In civic education, some of the importance of protecting minority rights include are as follows:
- Protecting minority rights and groups can help to promote national unity and integration
- It promotes and creates a sense of belonging among the minority who otherwise may have felt left behind
- It leads to even development. A sector or group of people can easily not feel the impact of government. They are carried along there bringing about development in these areas.
- Protecting minority right helps to prevent conflict and prevent secessionist attempts.
- It eradicates fear of domination the majority and eventually leads to confidence in government.
- It makes it possible for the minority to make certain laws that suits their values, custom and beliefs. For instance, sharia law is being operated in some parts of Nigeria
- It makes it possible for local differences to be accommodated since people do not have uniform ideas and institutions