Sunday, December 04, 2005

Nigerians Need to Act or Shut Up!

Nigeria is about to witness another round of elections in 2007. Even if the political horizon remains foggy due to reverberations of third term (instead of two as the constitution dictates at present), it is crucial to learn from the past. Someone once told me that the reason Nigeria is where it is today is because Nigerians are ignorant of history. This is not totally true; the issue is that we have refused to learn from our past, and if we have, we are yet to devise practical means of avoiding the mistakes of the past.

Vagabonds in Power

Nigerians including my humble self are darn good critics, but unfortunately our rants hardly get transformed into actions. A good example is the current political nonsense unfolding in Nigeria, despite the outcry from all corners of Nigeria and the world it appears those with the powers to act not listening or ready to take action. From all the three levels of government, tales of political indiscipline and executive abuse of power abound. One can see by their actions and statements that Nigerian elected officials are confused, inexperienced, egomaniac, kleptomaniac, intellectually comatose and a slightly better grade of the Nigerian area boys (street urchins and social miscreants), or the various permutations of the these characteristics.

Isn’t it amazing how these characters got elected? Oh yeah, I forget they stole their way into office by stuffing the ballot boxes! That is how. So if they actually did that, then why do Nigerians always cry to high heavens whenever these politicians and elected officials entertain us to some drama or show their gangster-like attributes? This, I’m yet to find an answer to. So let us all cry series and series of cries some more even if we and these politicians know its all going to achieve nothing. And just like an automation, the same thing will repeat itself over and over again.

Are Nigerians Resilient or Apathetic?

Nigerians have been described as resilient and pliant; I feel gullible and apathetic will be terms that aptly describe how we are. How can we expect politicians whose agents stuffed ballot boxes, and blatantly used all forms of inducement and terror tactics deliver the true dividends of democracy? Yet, this is our expectation. How gullible! If the Politicians show some persistence despite our grumbling and ranting, then we go into a state of apathy- a state some have inaccurately termed resiliency.

Democracy or any electoral process requires some level of civic responsibilities from the masses. This meaning of civic responsibility is lost to many Nigerians, it is totally erased from our collective memories. While I cannot state decisively that it ever existed, I’m inclined to believe that it must have existed sometime in our collective memories given our rich political history during the first republic. What led to the arrested development of this much needed attribute is a matter for another post.

This is not a lecture on civic responsibility, but for the purpose of this post it suffices to state that the meaning of civic responsibility goes beyond mere casting of votes. It is important to vote, there is no question about that, we also have to realize that civic responsibility is a process that start way before the ballot.

Democracy and Civic Responsibility

Majority of Nigerians do not get to know the candidates they vote for. They do not care to ask meaningful questions about their agenda. During the last campaign, many of the manifestos (of candidates that had one) were not only lousy, one could easily discern the shallowness and lack of seriousness of the candidates. If we were alert and civically responsible, we should have seen the red flags there and then. We voted for them all the same it seemed, or the ballot boxes were stuffed as we later found out.

It can be argued that the common man on the street is too impoverished to care about the intricacies of civic responsibility, okay fine, I can grudgingly live with that excuse, but what about those higher on the social ladder- the students, teachers, civil servants, professionals, business people, retirees, opinion leaders, traditional chiefs, and so forth? They need to pay more attention to the campaign and electoral processes.

Nigerians need to step up to the plate in unison and discard the cloak of apathy that we have worn for so long. We need to engage and challenge the party candidates at every opportunity. We need to not only ensure that our siblings, neighbors, and associates register and vote on the election day, we must also mount vigil at the ballot centers to ensure that no fishy dealings occur afterwards. It is our neighbors that stuff these ballot boxes, they are human not extra-terrestrial beings. Since we know them we can stop them for messing with future.

Regardless of the genetic mutation or whatever it is that deleted the meanings of civic responsibility from our collective memories, it is crucial that we reformat our minds and relearn the process before 2007. This present political dispensation is done, tired and about to be retired. The errors, accidents and calamities that have happened or yet to happen can be avoided in the next dispensation. It is grossly inadequate to only highlight the imperfections in our political system without take steps to avoid them by being more proactive and civically responsible.

We Need to Exercise Our Rights

Nigeria is ours and we need to exercise our rights and powers to the extent permissible by the constitution. If we really have the desire to live our lives in Nigeria by design and not from crisis to crisis, then we will find practical ways to prevent thugs and thieves from getting into office, and we can do this right from the ward and local government levels up to the gubernatorial and presidential levels. This is the only thing we can do for ourselves, and perhaps the only legacy we can pass on to the future generation of Nigerians.