Nigerians, get off the sidelines!

Like millions of other Nigerians, one is very concerned. One is concerned about the subsisting chaos in our social order. One is concerned about the turbulence in our economic condition. One is worried about the glorification of charlatanism in our political landscape. One is disturbed about the morass of our moral mill. The absence of integrity, the discountenance of dignity, the disrespect of reason and disregard of facts all combine to give one serious concern about Nigeria.

When one traverses the social media, rummages through the newspapers, and listens to real life experiences of Nigerians, one could feel the concern of Nigerians. From discussions with a variety of Nigerians, irrespective of the social, economic and political status, the concerns have been evident. One could fathom that Nigerians wanted solutions to the manifesting myriad of problems. One would come away with the fact that Nigerians are fed up with the situation in the country.

But what is not very clear is how ready are Nigerians of all hue and cry to get off the sidelines and be involved in changing the course of their destinies. Their attitude of believing in a messiah to come around and liberate them might not be the best one given what we have witnessed so far. It is becoming increasingly self-evident that Nigerians have to stand up and take control of their destiny by getting off the sidelines.

It is one’s belief that time is now for all of us to get off our laptops, drop our pens, stop complaining and get off the sidelines. It is time for all of us to accept the fact that we are the captains of our souls. Not all of us can be president. Not all of us can be senators. Not all of us can be governors. But certainly, all of us can be active participants in the political process. Through our participation, we would all be able to work together to forge a new destiny for our country, forge a new country for our children and posterity.

“Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.” -William Jennings Bryan

With our active participation as individuals or as members of groups we would be able to decide on the direction of the country and the type of policies that have to be in place. We would be able to hold our leaders accountable. If someone is a local government chairman and he is not able to declare his assets, we would be able to hold him accountable or force him to leave office. Any councilor that lives beyond his means could be held accountable. House of Assembly members would be forced to be accountable for their stewardship.

The Senators who collect constituency allowance and spend such on their girlfriends would be made to answer questions. Those who become commissioners and live beyond their incomes would have some explanations to do. The political party operatives would not be allowed to get away with deceit and deception. Party platforms and promises would be seriously adhered to. Presidents or governors would not get into the office and deny their promises made during campaigns. All these could be possible only through mass participation in the political process.

Mass participation is the heart and soul of democracy. It is the lifeblood of freedom. It is the best check and balance for governance. Mass participation is the best form of holding elected officers accountable. If our elected officers know that we are all paying attention, they would think twice before they steal our commonwealth or engage in any other form of corruption. If our elected officers know that we are informed and very much aware of the way the process works, they would not be able to hold us to ransom or deceive us.

The refusal of those who are truly equipped to participate in the process is what is killing Nigeria. It is a tragedy that in a country like Nigeria, all we can give ourselves is a “certificateless” leader. And when we had someone who had a certificate, he was not in any position to justify the receipt of such a certificate. Both experiences speak volumes about the rest of the citizenship. They speak volume about what has become the state of our education and how our citizens and children were and are still being prepared for the task of nation-building. Most importantly, they speak to an abysmal participation of Nigerian citizens in the political process.

A country that is endowed with so much talent in human and capital resources should be able to do better. This is a country that produced the Obafemi Awolowos. This is a country that produced the Nnamdi Azikwes. This is a country that produced the Ahmadu Bellos. This is a country that produced the Herbert Macauleys, the Aminu Kanos, the Akanu Ibiams, the Bode Thomases. This is a country that produced the Wole Soyinkas, the Tai Solarins, the Gani Fawehinmis the Mokwugo Okoyes, the Bala Usmans and several great minds in several fields of human endeavor.

The present situation in which the country finds itself is caused by the limited participation of its citizens in the political process. It is caused by the citizens abandoning the field to those who are morally and ethically unqualified. As a result of limited participation by citizens, a lot of riff-raffs have taken over the political space. Some pen robbers who in some cases are more destructive than actual armed robbers have taken over the reins of governance. Incompetent and horribly prepared politicians have taken over the control of our lives and the evidence are all over the place for us all to behold.

If we are all seriously concerned as it seems to be, it is time for all of us to get off the sidelines. It is time for us to go back to our communities and actively participate and stop complaining.

  • Oyeyemi is a public affairs analyst.