The 2011 general elections and the inauguration of elected officials has come and gone. The question now becomes what happens next? Now we’ve voted our political leaders what role do we now have in our effort to build a developed Nigeria? I am sure we all agree that no nation has been built solely by the effort of her political leadership but rather by the collective effort of a critical mass of her people.
In February I wrote an article titled ‘2015: We Must Start Now’ and the purpose was to galvanise us to move from complaining about the political process to participating in the political process in advance of 2015. This time, the intention is to highlight the various activities we can undertake to support the efforts of our political leadership, monitor their performance and complement their nation-building activities.
There are a lot of activities that needs to take place outside of government to enable to development of Nigeria. But before we are able to participate in these activities, we must first accept that the efforts our political office holders alone cannot build our nation and also, for them to succeed, they will depend on an active citizenry. A citizenry that would provide new ideas to confronting our problems, support government efforts and hold it to account. Citizen Activists is the new name to describe this kind of citizens.
According to Wikipedia, “Activism consists of intentional action to bring about social, political, economic, or environmental change. Activism can take a wide range of forms from writing letters to newspapers or politicians, political campaigning, economic activism such as boycotts or preferentially patronizing businesses, rallies, street marches, strikes, both sit-ins and hunger strikes.”
Citizen activism does involve intentional action to bring about change and while it may involve all the activities of activism, it is more focused on activities a citizen must undertake that will lead to the development and the sustenance of a nation. Therefore, the activity of a citizen activist goes beyond targeted government pressure to also include collective community development activities. A citizen activist recognises that good political governance is essential and demands it from political leaders but also recognises that there are a lot more activities that must be undertaken by the ordinary active citizen with a vision to build a developed Nigeria.
Here are some of the activities of a Citizen Activist:
Prays for Nigeria: The starting point for a citizen activist of faith, is a lifestyle of prayer and prayer for the nation. Nigeria is well known to be a religious nation but I have observed that our religion is in pursuit of self rather than the greater good of our society. Most Nigerians of faith invest most of their time in prayer asking for their needs to be met. Nothing bad in that but when it becomes the dominant thing we pray about, we miss out on God’s full purpose for us – to be blessed and to be a blessing.
I believe it is time for us to shift our focus from ourselves and begin to focus on Nigeria. In so doing, we would begin to seek God’s blessings for our nation and when Nigerian gets blessed, we the citizens will be blessed.
Citizen activist pray for our leaders (political, economic, commerce, religious, education and family), our schools, our healthcare sector, our law enforcement agencies, our judicial system, our anti-corruption agencies, our legislature, etc.
When we pray regularly for Nigeria, more than we pray for ourselves, we will see more of God’s intervention in every sector of our society. But more than that and recognising that God intervenes through human beings, we will receive revelation or instructions on specific actions we can take as part of our contribution. More Nigerians seeking God in prayers for our nation will produce more nation-builders undertaking various nation-building activities.
Joins a Political Assessment Group: One of the key nation-building activities of citizen activists, is their participation in the political assessment process. Most done through a group, the activist gets involved in monitoring & evaluating the performance of our political representatives in both the executive & legislative arms of government.
As part of a political assessment group, the activist attends surgeries of their constituency representatives in the federal & state levels; monitor the budget allocations and expenditures of the executive, write & publish reports on the performance of the executive & legislature; compile corruption evidence and submit such to the relevant anti-corruption agencies while publicising it, etc. In essence, citizen activists ensure that our elected representatives are made to be fully aware that we have not only given them the mandate but we are also closely monitoring how they handle that mandate.
Joins or starts an Advocacy Group: In addition to monitoring and evaluating the performance of our elected representatives, the citizen activist is also involved in the activities of an advocacy group. Our elected representatives do not have all the answers or own all the innovative ideas that can lead to the development of our nation. Therefore, the activists use the advocacy group to bring those ideas to the attention of our elected representatives in the executives and legislature.
Through the advocacy group activities, activists are able to mount pressure on the state & federal legislature to make new laws, amend the constitution, repel an oppressive law, etc. Activists also use advocacy groups to seek the sacking of corrupt political appointees and their subsequent trial; the recall of a legislature member due to non-performance; the appointment of credible Nigerians into key positions in government, etc.
We must always remember that we elected the executive and the legislature in the federal & state levels (even through the process had serious deficiencies) and therefore, we must be actively involved in not only monitoring them but mounting sustained pressure on them to take the right decisions. Sitting at home and complain did not change anything in the past and would not change anything in the present or future.
Participates in the Political Process: As I have stated in previous articles, we cannot avoid the process that determines party candidates and only focus on the candidates that are presented for election. Reason being, credible elections do not always mean credible candidates and without credible candidates standing for elections, we will be left with choosing the best out of a poor selection. Poor candidates elected into office would not deliver good governance and this is why citizen activist must become active in the political process to improve the quality of candidates standing for elections.
The process includes joining one of the existing political parties or joining with other like minds to form new political parties and also actively participate in the activities of the party – attend meetings, provide financial support, become involved in choosing party leaders and candidates, join in formulating party policies, contest for party office or become party candidate, etc.
For our democracy to grow, we need to witness a significant growth of our political parties. The growth in membership numbers, financial sufficiency, party organisation, policies, transparent party primaries, etc., will require the participation of more citizen activist to ensure that well educated and well enlightened Nigerians are involved in the process. When we continue to call politics a dirty game, it would continue to be dominant by people of questionable character.
Now it the best time for activist to become involved in the political process, so that significant growth can be achieved within the next 3 and a half years, in time for the next general elections in 2015.
Gets involved in community development In order not be seen as solely a civil liberties person, the activities of the citizen activist also includes community development. Besides praying for Nigeria, monitoring the government, advocating for change and participating directly in the political process, the citizen activist is involved in the activities in the community they live in and the community they are from.
As much as it is expected that are newly elected political leaders are responsible for providing education (many are providing free primary & secondary education), healthcare and other basic amenities, the reality is that government efforts alone cannot solve all our problems, at least immediately. Government has limited resources and can only attend to some of our urgent needs and this is the case in even developed nations.
The citizen activists step in to support government efforts in areas they are making an effort and to deliver in areas government is yet to address. For example, despite the free primary & secondary education offered in some states, it would still require the active involvement of citizen activist to interact with parents & children, to persuade them to see the value that education brings. Their involvement also enables 100% commitment to education by the students & parents, the provision of educational materials not provided by government and even their direct participation in part time free tutorials & mentoring. The mere involvement of an activist inspires people of poor background to take education seriously and activist are themselves inspired by the notion that we cannot expect a developed nation if we only train our children and pay no attention to the children from poor backgrounds. The consequences are ours and our children to bear.
Citizen activist also participates in health campaigns (like immunisation drive and health enlightenment efforts); family planning & training to parents & children; sanitation exercise (like cleaning of environment to prevent mosquitoes and ensuring clean drinking water used for drinking & cooking); direct involvement in building of community centre activities, market, classroom blocks, borehole projects; funding of orphanages & other charity homes; running of neighbouring watch and community association affairs, etc.
We will build a developed Nigeria when we come together in our communities to ensure support for one another and support for those who are less privileged. The real growth comes when we grow as a community rather than as individual and these communal attitudes, produces a peaceful & vibrate nation. In effect, the citizen activist participation in community development leads to attitudinal change amongst the people of the community.
Obeys the Law & Rules: The citizen activist obeys the law of the land and he or she does it because it is the right thing to do and not because of the fear of being caught. Having a great desire to see the development of Nigeria must be connected to being motivated to do the right thing. This includes paying of taxes on any work or business venture (including paying the right amount of tax), observing traffic rules, no giving or receiving of bribe, no jumping of queue, no influencing of a process in our favour or that of our family, no overinflated government contracts, no overinflated pricing of goods & services, no illegal business deals or corporate stealing, no breaking of money laundering laws, observing of rules & procedures at place of work, respecting confidentiality of work matters (not taking confidential information out of the workplace), etc. All these are as important as what our elected officials do in office.
The citizen activist observes a lifestyle of nation-focused principles and they are motivated to maintain this sort of lifestyle because they recognise that how they conduct their affairs plays a key role in the development of our nation. What we do (or model) is of greater impact than what we say and this is not limited to our political leaders. Citizen Activists are law abiding citizens and nation-building role models.
To build Nigeria, there is an urgent need for more citizen activists. No matter the successes of President Jonathan and good Governors like Babatunde Fashola (SAN) in the next 4 years, the depth & sustainability of their impact would be determined by the number of Nigerians that participate through citizen activism.
A citizen activist would be that Nigerian that would participate in most, if not all, activities listed above and more. This is because a citizen activist puts the interest of the nation first (in their thoughts, words and actions) before theirs. Reason being, they have discovered that we don’t live in isolation and so, for each of us to truly develop, our nation must first be developed.
Fellow Nigerians, it is time to put Nigeria first because her development is our development. Nigeria belongs to all of us, not just those in government and so we are all responsibility for her. Become a citizen activist today.