Citizens as agents of change
One thing the majority of Nigerians can agree on, despite our differences is that we really should not continue like this. I believe we have made some progress, slow? Yes, but progress nonetheless. During the last general elections, I was very impressed with the attitude of Nigerians; although participation in terms of voting, can improve, percentage turnout was better than previously recorded and many now believe that their votes indeed count. This is something- a big something even. Also, Nigeria has a very vibrant, effective press, in spite of what critics may try to make us believe. The system is not perfect but it is indeed effective and this is key to the proper development of our democracy. However, there is still a long way to go.
Many of us now participate in what political scientist Eitan Hersh described as ‘political hobbyism’. We are armchair critics, we passionately and intensely follow politics, in fact, we care about it deeply. We are tired of the venal, profligate, bloviating political elite who have completely subverted our values and continue to squander our resources. Some people (many of whom by the way are indeed experts) have taken it a step further. They engage creatively in what I’ll call ‘political bashing’ every now and then. I must say that I think political bashing is very necessary. It has helped to generate public umbrage when necessary, it helps to put public servants on their toes many times, and more importantly, it shapes national discourse by generating the most relevant conversations and enlightening the masses. However, we need to channel all that passion, exasperation and energy into action. First, it is now of utmost necessity that more Nigerians participate in politics. We now have to do the hard, dutiful, potentially frustrating but also impactful work of grass-root politics. Whether we like it or not, it is important for the so-called elites to join political parties. Help run them, determined to focus on effective decision making and seeking broad compromise when needful. You may not agree with everything it stands for, but you can actually help shape what it stands for, use the party as a vehicle for goals, influence the selection of candidates and so on.
It is not as impossible as it seems. You can join the party in your ward where you live or work by simply approaching a party member or party executive and state your intention to join the party. You will subsequently get a membership card. Certainly, this system is not as flexible as desired and can be improved to a point where prospective members can perhaps join online. But then, that’s probably another motivation to participate, to influence administration and other logistics. The more quality people who participate in politics, the better. The patriots, who are already participating actively, have the civic responsibility to encourage others to participate too. Furthermore, voting is sacrosanct and should be approached as such, eligible Nigerians should not shun this civic duty, and should advocate in any way possible, encouraging more people to vote. When possible, attend Q/A sessions with selected candidates, engage them, ensure that the tough questions are presented and candidates have solid, realistic agenda to resolve specific problems. Donating funds to (perceived) good candidates is also a good idea. Another essential issue is the need to protest. We need to peacefully, massively hit the streets from time to time. Multiple marches including millions over a long period of time are bound to make a difference.
We are now confronted with daunting tasks as the rot systematically progresses. It is imperative that we continue to strengthen the strong voice(s) of expertise in political discussions, work tenuously to nourish our democracy and ensure that our democracy translates to good governance and development. Furthermore, it is important to weaken the blight of corruption, ensure that we have a system where corrupt leaders are severely punished, as this is one sure way to mitigate corruption. It is essential that we agitate for an independent, credible justice system and nurture such to full maturity. It is time to resuscitate our failed institutions, improve national security, education, medical care and assure guaranteed retirement. I think the wish list is long however, we cannot continue to wish and should not defer hope till the next generation. Our Utopia is not going to fall in our laps; we have to fight fiercely for the Country of our dream. To redeem this country from Faustians, charlatans and knaves, decent people have to rise up and act, before it is too late.
Oluwadara is a writer as well as an academic researcher. She is currently a PhD student at the Department of Food Science, University of Campinas
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