Advocacy, in the sense of the matter we are dealing with, is defined as any action that speaks in favour of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others. It means public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy. It also means giving support to another person in such a manner as to help that other person or group express their views and wishes, and help them stand for their rights. For instance, a civil society organization may decide to speak out for the poor masses of a defined jurisdiction or fight for the rights of vulnerable persons in the society, example, providing shelter for persons escaping from domestic violence and other forms of abuse. The ultimate goal of advocacy is to build support for a particular cause or policy, and participate in a process to influence decision-makers in a political, social or institutional system

In a bid to offer advocacy, there are some basic principles that must be followed, they include Independence, clarity of purpose, confidentiality, safeguarding and empowerment. These principles must be adhered to for an effective advocacy. Proper advocacy includes educating the public, providing information and resources to individuals in need of help, going to court, commenting on regulations, and helping individuals get benefits or services to which they are entitled.

Advocacy helps people become more involved in important decisions about their lives. It helps people understand their rights, their options, and support individuals to make an informed decision. Advocacy helps people live the lives they want to live. This is because the role of an advocate is to offer independent support to those who feel they are not being heard and to ensure they are taken seriously and that their rights are respected, and helps people to access and understand appropriate information and services. 

Note that the action plan to be adapted in advocacy depends largely on the issue or situation at hand.

An Advocacy Group also known as interest groups, special interest groups, pressure groups or public associations use various forms of advocacy in order to influence public opinion on issues and ultimately, public policy. An Advocacy group therefore is a group of people whose members support a common political, social or economic cause. They do this by educating the public and fighting for issues that impact the lives of individuals or large groups of people. A latin maxim says, “wefaris populi, estsuprema le” meaning – the welfare of the people is the supreme law. This is the principal doctrine of Advocacy.

National Development – The ability of a nation to improve the social welfare of its people, for instance by providing social amenities like quality education, medical care, transportation infrastructures etc. It can be described as the overall development or a collective socio-economic, political as well as religious advancement of a nation. This is best achieved through development planning, which can be described as the country’s collection of strategies mapped out by the government at any given time. An ideal National development plan will aim to pursue rapid and sustainable economic growth and development, improve the quality of life of the people, empower the poor and the marginalized, and enhance social cohesion as a nation.

Nigeria has evolved series of Development plans in the past, most often accompanied by a development strategy such as Operation Feed the Nation, the Green Revolution, the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), Vision 2010, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), Vision 2020etc, but without any clear methodological approach towards actualizing them. From my study, I observed that most, if not all, the past development plans have focused on materials other than human resources. 

Impact – As a noun means ‘a marked effect or influence’, and as a verb means ‘have a strong effect on someone or something’. It is the strong effect that something has on a situation or person. It also means the force of impression of one thing on another, hence a significant or major effect. 

So when we speak of the impact of Student Union’s Advocacy role on Nigeria’s national development, what we actually mean is the significant effect of the advocacy role of Student unions on national development, how student union’s advocacy role will improve the quality of life of the people, empower the poor and the marginalized, and protect the vulnerable people in the society

There exists plethora of opportunities to play our advocacy role, and they come up every time and everywhere. The student unions ought to have condemned the violence associated with the 2023 general elections as well as the deviation or departure of INEC from their own rules, particularly with respect to upload of election results to the IREV without actually taking sides in regard to the outcome of the election, as we know election is not an event, but a process. 

General Tips for advocacy:

1. Research the issue or situation

2. Build alliances with others who agree with your position

3. Determine who the opposite stakeholders are

4. Set clear goals and expectations

5. Develop an action plan and time schedule

The Advocacy methods may involve letter writing, skywriting, newsletters, leaflets, open letters and letter bulletins. The basic aspects of advocacy can be broken down into the following four main areas: preparation, communication, documentation or note taking, and follow up. The steps to effective advocacy include:

– Determine how to remedy the problem, wether through legislation, regulation or funding

– Identify the key stakeholders

– Construct argument

– Organize your constituency

– Plan your strategy with specific attainable and measurable tasks in line with SMART principle.

Next week, I will be discussing the implementations of the fuel subsidy removal by the Tinubu administration, a holistic SWOT analysis of the situation and the benefits to the nation, and what the student union should do in the circumstances.   

Comrade Igwe Patrick Afubera writes from Abuja.

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