2nd January, 2014
By Comrade Akido Agenro
On the momentous occasion of Nigeria’s centenary anniversary to commemorate the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorates on 1st January 1914 we at Democracy Orientation Movement salute all patriotic Nigerians both within the country and in the Diaspora. At a time as this many people are likely to express disappointment at the state of affairs in the country given the myriad of challenges confronting the nation – decrepit infrastructure, political schism, social dissension leading to worsening insecurity, and economic stagnation in spite of the nation’s abundant natural endowment. We share their sentiment. Nevertheless, we urge the people not to despair but to be courageous and to rededicate themselves to the task of nation building. As has been noted, men did not love Rome because she was great; Rome was great because men loved her.
We find it apposite to emphasize the relevance of our organization to national development given the fact that we provide the framework for the emergence of a democratic society, an environment where every citizen exercises their rights free of any inhibition, where the law is no respecter of persons with an accomplishment of a judiciary that discharges its function without fear or favour, and where the leaders are held accountable to the people, such that in no distant future Nigeria will attain the position of a united and strong democratic nation, one that is flourishing in peace, political stability and economic prosperity.
We are of the firm belief that the surest route to the anticipated glorious dawn ahead for Nigeria is via the evolution of a robust, dynamic and participatory democracy, hence our resolve to strive for the institutionalization of democracy, human rights and the rule of law (three interrelated, interdependent and interwoven ideas) in Nigeria. Accordingly, we find it appropriate at a time as this to reiterate that nation building is the responsibility of all citizens, hence the imperative for civic education to sensitize the masses to their civic duty and moral obligation. This remains the pathway to peace and political stability for Nigeria as enunciated in the quotations from the statesman below highlighting the principle in unity of purpose:
Shirley Williams, British post-war parliamentarian postulated that, “Power, at least in a democracy, is not like the gold ring on a circus merry-go-round, or the wizard magic charm, something that makes all things possible. It is held in many hands, and there has to be consensus to make things happen. For them to happen to the benefit of the whole society, rather than any individual or group within it, there has to be perception of the common good”. It requires the active participation of the masses in political affairs to evolve people-oriented policies and programmes. Democracy thrives on action not grumbling. Let your voice be heard. It is a grand delusion for anyone to fold their hands and imagine that democratic dividends will come their way without them agitating for it.
The resentment against the government is not misplaced given the state of affairs where the nation’s vast resources caters to the needs of only members of the ruling class while the masses wallow in abject poverty. However, criticism should be organised in a form that can be inputted into the feedback mechanism in the political system for them to be meaningful. In a democratic society grievances are expressed through several established methods including, industrial action, peaceful demonstration, making representation to parliament, correspondence through the mass/social media, voting at election etc. To effectively carry out this onerous responsibility, the people need to employ their brain and brawn to remain relevant in the scheme of things or they soon become sidelined and relegated to the background. The quantum of democratic dividends that gets apportioned to the masses will invariably be tied to their capacity to hold the leadership accountable for their stewardship in office.
Anyone who decides to remain apolitical by bottling up his anger and chooses to express same only in hushed tone or at private forums can be likened to a man that winks in the dark. He knows what he is doing but no one else does (to borrow a clause from the popular businessmen’s opinion on advertising). Whatever benefits that accrue to any group or community is earned by effort and not secured on the goodwill and at the convenience of elected officials.
Politicians, in spite of their claim to selflessness, efficiency and accountability, tend to exhibit the exact opposite once voted into office. For many among them the pre-election sweet talks and swagger are sheer showmanship, a mere drama displayed without sincerity and with the sole aim of entertaining the audience to win their support. It is more of hoodwinking an unwary public than a genuine commitment to service. Government officials are galvanized to deliver on the pressure from the public. Nonetheless, we hasten to add that viciousness and other activities which are inimical to public good are antithetical to the democratic process.
When elected officials initiate an unfavorable policy, lose track of the ideals that propelled them to power or commits a serious infraction a docile populace folds its hands and watches with indifference, the average segment of the population fumes but without making a definite effort to have the policy reversed or get the offending official face the full consequences of his transgression, but a politically active populace meet the obnoxious course of action with reaction of equal intensity and spontaneity such that the government is constrained to act on their demand or suffer the dire consequence of ignoring them at the next election. Whenever it becomes compelling for the government to implement a policy that comes with sacrifice on the part of the masses, the administration is obliged to educate the people for a period explaining the inevitability of the programme before embarking on its implementation.
The men and women in the latter category are thus in a vantage position where their interest will not be taken for granted or their rights flagrantly disregarded by the powers that be. Rather than lord it over the people as would be the case in the first category, the relationship here will be that of a servant-leader and followers rather the master and servant typology. People that are apolitical suffer in silence as their collective power remains largely latent and unexplored. The docile populace will need to wean itself of political naivety if they are to get a better bargain from the common wealth.
At a moment as this when the nation marks her centenary anniversary amidst upsurge in interethnic conflict, religious strife and economic paralysis viewed within the context of a nation dogged by intermittent political upheaval it is compelling for all to reflect on the events of the last century and ponder on ways to employ the lessons to chart a smoother journey ahead. Surely, if the afore-mentioned attributes are internalised by the people, the orientation will engineer a peaceful, cohesive and politically stable Nigeria, a society where all citizens practice the religion of their choice without let or hindrance, where election results reflect the wishes of the electorate, a nation where any individual can choose to reside in any part of the country to work or do business without discrimination, a nation whose judiciary has the capacity to punish corrupt government officials, a nation where the resources are evenly distributed.
The journey in the last century has been turbulent in a number of places along the line, crises that resulted from religious bigotry, corruption, inordinate ambition, tribalism, selfishness, insincerity, indecorousness, dogmatism, immoderation, political apathy, perfidy and many other antisocial tendencies that were so blatantly displayed during the period and which considerably slowed down the rate of the nation’s progress. But the experience if not lost on the populace, will undoubtedly shape Nigeria’s developmental strides in the years ahead. We implore all Nigerians to adopt a proactive approach to public issues by getting involved in shaping policies rather than sitting on the fence by merely criticising and condemning public officers. God bless Nigeria.
•Agenro wrote from Lagos.
•E-mail: Email: [email protected]