RUGA and citizens’ role in birthing change

The decision of the Federal Government to suspend the RUGA settlement scheme is a clear testimony that when the people stridently speak against not well-thought-out government policies, the government is left with no other choice but to eat a humble pie and rescind its decision.

The Federal Government, without consideration for the feelings of other Nigerians, had rolled out the RUGA settlement policy with the intention of building towns for Fulani herdsmen in each of the 36 states of the federation. The scheme would have necessitated the forfeiture of ancestral lands by many people to facilitate the building of RUGA towns since the Federal Government, the scheme’s promoter, has no land in any state. The Land Use Act of 1978 makes it clear that the whole land in a state is vested in the governor. Given the domineering attitude of the Fulani, building RUGA settlements for them would have pitted them against host communities because they would most likely have tried to foist their own system of governance and administration on their hosts as has been the case in Kaduna South, as well as Plateau and Benue states. This, most likely, would have been resisted by the host communities and the extent of the ensuing hostilities could only be imagined as four of the six geo-political zones in the country are non-pastoralists, and may neither be willing to give up their lands nor subject themselves to domination by another culture without putting up a fight. Many Nigerians saw the looming danger, cried out against the scheme, and forced the government to beat a retreat on the planned RUGA settlements.

Our kidnappers were typical Fulani men and were on drugs, they were herdsmen, they told us themselves —Bauchi victim

While the Federal Government deserves commendation for heeding the cries of the people, the trophy for the death of RUGA goes to those Nigerians who chose to speak out against a tyrannical policy. If they had kept mute, the government would not have been moved to stop the RUGA plan, and that could have set the stage for the combustion of the nation. This underscores the point that when the people voice out their concerns consistently, the government will be forced to pay attention to their needs.

I am of the strong persuasion that development will never be at the instance of politicians but at the insistence of the people. The average politician is not only egotistic but extremely hedonistic. So, the concerns of the people do not readily appear on his radar. He wants to satisfy his greed and vanity before sparing any thought for the populace. For a public office holder to pander to the wishes of the people and give priority to their concerns, he has to be put on his toes by them.

However, that is one of the challenges we have as a people. The average Nigerian is not only docile and complacent but alarmingly compliant. He has this warped belief that the country will develop in spite of his inaction and not necessarily because of his action. So, he does not see the need to fight for his right. He considers insisting on the proper thing being done as a waste of time. This attitudinal disposition has subjugated Nigeria to its contemporaries; it has been responsible for the steady retrogression of one of the most endowed countries in the world to the club of the world’s poorest people. The average Nigerian is the undoing of Nigeria, the cause of the multifarious problems bedevilling the nation.

The average Nigerian cannot exert himself to acquire the necessary information required to checkmate the excesses of a leader; this makes him vulnerable to exploitation and denigration. He does not know what his rights are; he does not understand what the constitutional provisions are concerning the responsibility of those in government to him. He does not realise that he is the boss of those he elected to rule him. All he wants is just to hole up in his little world and get enough to get by.

Conversely, despite this character constriction, the average Nigerian wants a better Nigeria. He wants a developed country; one with pothole-free roads. He longs for stable electricity supply, he yearns for pipe-borne water, he hopes the nation’s hospitals will be effective and the school system will function perfectly. The average Nigerian wants omelette but is restraining himself from breaking eggs. He wants a change in his country and his circumstances but loathes changes in himself.

For Nigeria to get better, the average Nigerian must be interested in the affairs of his country and move from docility to active participation. He has to eschew surrendering his destiny and that of his children to others. He must not wait to be goaded to act against what is not in the interest of the nation. He must be actively involved in the nation building process. He must develop a critical mind and learn to interrogate the process. He must be willing to stand up against every form of injustice against anybody and at anytime. He must resist the law enforcement agent who wants to take advantage of him. He must decline any Greek gift from any political office holder no matter the gnaw of his hunger or the sting of his lack.

The average Nigerian must flee every corrupt practice; he must neither engage in corruption nor support it. He must come to the realisation that every Naira that is inappropriately taken from the state coffers deprives a child of the much needed education, inches the sick closer to his grave for lack of drugs, worsens the potholes on the highways and makes uninterrupted power supply a pipe dream.

The Nigerian change must precede Nigeria’s change.

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