Over the past few days I have thought a lot about this country,Nigeria; out people, institutions and the interaction between them. Critically however, my focus has been on the outcomes of the relationship and its impact on all our lives; the obvious and less obvious impact.
A country without citizenship is a country that will drift. In a democracy, above all other kinds of societal governance, citizenship is the light to a country's path. It is the combined forces of our citizenship or the lack of it that is responsible for Nigeria as we know it, see it, feel it and hear of it.
Citizens create a nation out of their country. It is citizens that we lack as a country and that is why we watch and hope but never act to ensure we can steer Nigeria in the direction we want it to go.
What is this citizenship to which I refer and for which I stay awake to discuss?
Citizenship instills two key attributes in the persons on which it is bestowed: a sense of ownership and a sense of responsibility; joint sense of ownership with other citizens towards all resources of the country of which one is a citizen and a sense of responsibility for the state and outcome of the fortunes of the country.
If you don't feel this sense of ownership and responsibility then you may just be a citizen in name and passport only.
The sense of ownership that I refer to here connects the citizen with all assets of the state; natural and man-made; from the river Niger to oil and gas;refineries to bridges, local government budgets to federal budgets. It should inspire us to understand policy: security and military policy, legislative agenda, foreign policy and other key policies that impact on our nation state. These things are owned by the citizenry and it is their responsibility to exercise ownership at all times in order to prevent friendly or unfriendly thieves from stealing them or steering them in directions that threaten our collective wealth and existence.
The thief only visits the neighborhood where the residents are sleeping on duty or pose little or no threat when being robbed. In the same vein, even good people have a tendency to do wrong in the dark. It is therefore the duty of citizens to ensure the light is always shining on the assets we collectively own and our eyes are continuously open.
I have looked at the content of Nigerian newspapers over the past few weeks and I have wondered to myself why they don't shed as much light to all aspects of our nation state. While I understand that newspapers are privately owned and have specific editorial agenda, it will do them a lot of good not to be perceived as satellite speakers of the state but of the public mind; this will improve their standing in the public and be good for business as well. As an example, the online reporting site, Saharareporters had a video of the a state governor's encounter with a 'widow' on the streets of Benin. The encounter in which the governor appeared to speak harshly to the woman has generated a lot of angst amongst online readers and also an apology from the governor. The shining of light on the encounter has done two things: altered the public's view of the governor thereby forcing him to apologize. It also provides proof to the importance of shedding light on government activities in order to influence the behavior of public servants for the good of the country and the leaders themselves.
Another case in point is the recent letter as published on the internet (leaked by premium times) supposedly written by an ex-president to the current president; naturally some agreed with the points raised and some disagreed; the others ignored the points but chose to attack the writer. My own take as a citizen is that we have also failed our country as citizens. We should know that leaders left alone are prone to do wrong. They are human and as such need us to prevent them from the many evils that tempt men and women of power.
Democracy is the best form of government indeed but it relies heavily on citizen participation, without which it leads to an aristocracy and finally autocracy depending on how many people choose to participate. The outcome of Nigeria is equally in my hands as it is in yours, but if we choose not to participate we should not blame anyone else for the end results. We as citizens are the best protectors of democracy, let's not think we need any armed or unarmed institutions to do that for us. Nobody will give you the the level of participation you deserve, you just have to get up and participate. Our current president alone cannot be to blame for the outcomes we have seen so far, we have a national assembly empowered to do a job as stated in the 1999 constitution Chapter II of which states clearly the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy specifically sections 13 - 18 of the constitution. Members have not done a good enough job at ensuring state policies have been in line with these provisions, hence they also bear some responsibility for how things have evolved.
Having touched on these a little bit I would just end with a summary of a good roadmap that might have some benefit for those citizens who have been such in name only.
- Know the Nigeria you live in today and the Nigeria you are supposed to live in by reading the constitution of our republic to understand roles and responsibilities of all in Nigeria
- Do the same for your state and local government councils.
- Review the acts that have been enacted by the legislative houses on all tiers of government.
- Assess the impact of all you have read on the direction of your life.
- Register to vote, assess all parties based on their actual practice than on their propaganda.
In summary, just participate; everyday; and as we become citizens, the Nigeria we want will be born.
You can take a look at a few of my old articles at todayin9ja.blogspot.com