by Ikemesit Effion
One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors – Plato
Politics is the only platform where you can do the greatest amount of good to the greatest number of people – Michael Bush
A lot has been made about political participation and rightly so. It is by contributing to the cooking of the soup that you acquire the ‘right’ to determine who eats it, in what proportion, critique it or boast about it – and that includes the person who provided the money for it to be cooked.
I can rabbit on about how non-inclusive our political parties are, how clueless our leaders are – either by design or by ignorance – about their platform’s succession plans, how youths must be involved in national affairs. However, that would amount to treading a time worn and unoriginal path in discussing the young Nigerian’s role in shaping his future destiny.
I propose instead to do the lonesome and difficult. I will make the case that the young man struggling to manage a N20, 000 monthly salary in Langtang, the lady who is one of 200 applicants for a shop assistant’s job in Nnewi and the fresh graduate of Kebbi State University who is confused over what his next step should do the tough thing – seize their destiny by force.
The passive attitude of waiting till we are granted permission to participate in the political process must be dispensed with for the simple fact that it will never be granted. There is simply no precedent to support the premise that access to power was ever relinquished and ‘passed on’. History shows that political influence is either negotiated for or seized dramatically, either by force of arms or by force of overwhelming public pressure.
We must wake up from this day dream that we are currently experiencing where we yell that we are the leaders of tomorrow and that tomorrow seems unwilling to arrive. Tomorrow shall never arrive until we do Today what will guarantee Tomorrow’s arrival. This kind of Tomorrow it goes without saying is independent of the earth’s rotation. It is however dependent on a different kind of rotation – a change in the preferences of the governed about governance as practised by the governors.
As we stand astride this watershed moment in our nation’s history, we have a choice to make. It is a choice between two very stark realities. On the one hand, we can continue to be on the sidelines of the governing establishment and watch as the nation slides further down the drain of underachievement, underdevelopment and its seeming eventual disintegration.
On the other hand, we can organize, rally, develop and deploy our myriad of skills and talents towards pushing the collective destiny of Nigeria towards the Nirvana of social justice and opportunities for all. We can invade those aspects of the political and social structure most fitting to our dreams, temperaments and gifts and engineer a slow but steady reorientation of the system to the end of securing benefits for all.
And we can seek to be better at what we do at the moment. Yes, even that.
Chude Jideonwo in one of the articles in his #LeadershipSeries wrote about how Channels Television was able to effect change in our attitudes towards police training through simply doing their job – deploying their journalistic clout at exposing the squalor and grime that is the Police College, Ikeja.
We can do the same too. From the doctor attending to his patients with reasonable dispatch, to the bus driver ensuring that his passenger’s commute is a safe, comfortable and professional one, to the teacher shunning the prevalent practice of abandoning the classroom to become a brash, hawkish marketer to the detriment of her pupils, we must stay at our duty posts and render our due.
Nigeria in itself is an abstract concept. We are her bones, her flesh, her arms, her feet, and her brain. We cannot abandon our individual role and expect everyone to do theirs, because someone else may be doing exactly what you’re doing – leaving their post. That is how we suffer as a whole.
I have often heard this statement made, that we are more than the sum of our individual parts. While that may be valid in a way, adopting such a line of thinking in essence rationalizes the abdication of personal responsibility in the nation-building process. We cannot afford to do that anymore.
I listened this past week to NigeriaInfo FM’s ‘Did You Know’ segment on our First Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa which is instructive in this regard.
In the lead up to Independence, Balewa had been known as one of the voices clamoring for a division of the then colony of Nigeria. In 1955, Balewa visited the United States of America for the first time. It was to be a life altering and ultimately, significant political event. After observing the workings of that country’s democratic system he remarked,
“I asked myself, if this country, which has had different elements and nationalities from its foundation, has for almost 200 years, stayed together, made their nation work and is now a great society, can’t we back in Nigeria make ours work?”
This paradigm shift would ultimately change his perception of Nigeria’s future path, lead to a vigorous form of activism in Northern elite circles, delay Anthony Enahoro’s seemingly unstoppable push for Independence (the South wanted to be independent by 1956), ignite a debate over the future nation’s composition and political structure and ensure that a united independent Nigeria emerged in 1960.
If Balewa could change his mind about Nigeria, we can change our sentiments, and even more importantly, our actions too. Let us enter into a compact that we will do just that. It’s about time.
Editor’s Notes: This is the concluding part of the Political Intelligence series.