Do you want to be relevant in Nigeria and Africa at large? Be a citizen! Get involved in the good governance process of your country. Does this mean you will automatically become a politician? No! It means you are a good citizen! Many people, especially professionals, fear getting involved in the governance process of their country because they hate being called a politician or the idea of becoming one owing to the bad name and perception attributed to it.
If you don’t want to be a politician, at least be a citizen.
Yes, citizenship participation is the citizen’s major weapon of mass correction and development. Political leaders fear the unity of citizens. But do the citizens know this? Do they use what they have for the good of their country? The citizens form the Human Resource department of the political management of any nation. They have the power to fire and hire public office holders. They run performance checks and improvements for political leaders and the citizens are the biggest source of finance for any political arrangement – you can call it a country.
If the employee did his own part during the interview process – campaign and town hall meetings – and the HR (citizens) did part of their work by employing the candidate through elections, then why should the HR go to sleep when the employee resumes work? Is that not negligence of duty?
Citizen participation in governance is a key and most important people-government interaction that must exist to birth a sustainable democratic atmosphere where every citizen including leaders have equal access to the Commonwealth of their country.
The absence of citizen engagement is the absence of good governance and the tenets of good governance are only attainable in a democratic system of government.
Mourice Lévy, Chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, must have had a true society built by good governance in mind when he said the beauty about the world is that everyone can change it.
The ability for any citizen to influence his government activities is universal but the willingness and actual action to get involved in the processes employed by any government in running and sustaining its people is in short supply, especially in societies like Nigeria, where citizens have been conditioned through military interventions and political orchestrations for the ruling few to go on unchecked or unquestioned. Poverty, illiteracy and political ignorance are some of the inhibitions to citizen engagement in many developing countries. However, in the face of all these inhibitions, there should be no other way or excuse for citizens not to ensure an equitable, egalitarian and sustainable state of their society.
The mere act of voting a leader into government is one aspect out of many key civic duties required of every Nigerian citizen. The act of electing leaders into power is so critical that it controls and affects every other aspect of governance.
Frank Herbert vividly captures the whole discussion in this short quote – Good governance never depends upon laws, but upon the personal qualities of those who govern. The machinery of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that machinery. The most important element of government, therefore, is the method of choosing leaders.
It is therefore important for all of us in Nigeria to know that when we decide to take part in the process of choosing our leaders, we are performing one requirement that achieving good governance demands. If we don’t participate in engaging our leaders, we don’t have a moral justification to complain about their actions. They need us to engage them so that they can make the right policies and legislations that are good for the entire people and not for only the privileged few.
After we have begun our citizenship engagement by actively electing our leaders, we must not go to sleep thinking our leaders, who we thought were trusted individuals as we knew them before they got into power are still the same men and women. No, they are not the same again! Something has changed about them – their dependents, advisers, aides, influencers are now more than they were before they got into power. A man or woman in power is a totally different fellow, at least they aren’t perfect to always do the right thing and make the best decisions in all situations. That is where we begin to know that citizens need to engage more with their government in areas of policy formulation and implementation, and in all areas of executive, legislative and judiciary function performances.
These engagements can come in forms of public debates, journalism or editorials, other Media engagements, protests or demonstrations, active involvement in governmental programmes and projects. This article itself is a form of citizen engagement which is tailored to increasing citizen participation in governance.
So, whatever actions citizens take by which they seek to criticize, influence policies or bring a government to account on any matter concerning public governance is public participation or citizen engagement. By doing so, they are actively involved in the economic, social and political processes that affect their lives.
All the above being said, we must as citizens learn to become better by doing the right thing ourselves so we can have a moral justification to call our leaders to order. There is this judicial Maxim – he who comes to equity must come with clean hands.
Let us together call on all well meaning Nigerians, young and old, to take Nigeria as our own and let us build her together. We have no other country to call our own, our leaders need us, and we also need them to lead us alright. We elected them, but we must not leave them to themselves, we will all regret our actions or inactions, not because they deliberately would make us regret our choice of voting them, but because we refuse to tell them what we want and what is good for all of us including them.
If you say you are fine with where you are, don’t worry, it’s only a matter of time, they will reach you – how? The policies they make will either affect your business or take your job. So, get involved in any way you find reasonably practicable and within your budget and safety. Just ensure you are doing something to make Nigeria a better place.
If you create jobs, educate the conscience of the youth, organise vocational education, seminars for motivation, anything at all, you are doing something.