Happy New Year and welcome to the year of citizen participation in nation-building.
What is Citizen participation?
Citizen participation is essentially nation-building through the thoughts, words and actions of a critical mass of Nigerians. This is a process where citizens take responsibility for the current state and future outcome of the nation and then with courage, step out to participate in activities that will lead to her development.
It is a mind-set that says the building and sustenance of a developed Nigeria requires the active participation of many Nigerians, not just the political class.
No nation has ever developed without the active participation of a critical mass of citizens and Nigeria’s case would not be different.
Why is Citizen Participation critical?
Citizen participation is not child’s play but a commitment that demands a huge part of our time, resources and for some, their lives. Therefore, we must understand why our participation is critical to ensure we are not just motivated but deeply committed (or sold out) to the vision of a developed Nigeria to withstand the expected opposition.
Here are some reasons why:
The nation belongs to us and it is ours to build: It belongs to those from the North, the South, the East and the West and that means it is their responsibility to build her.
Better nation for our children: There is no amount of assets (money in the bank, houses, cars, investments, etc.) that will guarantee a better tomorrow for our children than a nation that is being developed.
Protect our lives: For example, when we come together to provide better healthcare facilities and at an affordable rate, we save the lives of people who will include our friends (or friend of a friend), our relatives and even ourselves.
Take back our nation from greedy & incompetent people: For me, the greatest motive (or why) for citizen participation in nation-building is to take back the destiny of our nation from the cabal who have held us captive for too long. It is not surprising that a few people dictate to us because most of us are not as involved as these few and the only way to reduce their influence is to witness a surge in Nigerians participating in all facets of our society.
Democracy provides the platform for the people not only to participate in choosing their leader but also to participate in the development of all sectors of our nation and when we understand the ‘why’, we will be able to rise up with courage to implement the ‘how’.
How we do implement Citizen Participation?
The first step in implementing citizen participation is for us to study what is required of us. The study process involves accepting responsibility for the nation first (thereby changing our mind-set from self-focused to nation-focused); reviewing why we need to participate (we must understand fully why we are getting involved to prepare us for the work and fierce opposition) and the values we must live by; identifying what specific problem concerns us most (as we differ in passion, our areas of greatest pain in our society differ too) and then draw up a plan of action that will enable not only our participation but the implementation of the solutions we have identified.
The second step is to get involved solely or with like minds to implement the plan of action. For example, if you’re most concerned about our primary educational system, you can participate on a part-time or fulltime basis take up teaching of students from a public primary school. Your plan of action may be to do this as an individual or as an organisation with several other Nigerians with similar passion. As we passionately and consistently give of our time and resources to that area of pain, this will create a model for many others to join in and/or support us with the needed resources.
When we are actively participating, we must also mobilise many others to join our efforts or to undertake theirs by our teaching them how we began ours. This is the third step. We must change from a people who talk with no action to a people we talk as a result of our actions and people are easily persuaded to participate when they see what we are doing.
The fourth step is a natural outcome of our consistent participation and that is we become an inspiration or role model to many other Nigerians of this and future generations. Nigerians like the late Gani Fawehinmi inspired so many other Nigerians (most of whom never met him in person) to participate in nation-building. We can, too.
For us to build a developed Nigeria, we need citizen participation in diverse sectors, including politics. So in this 2014, find your area of greatest pain and get involved, thereby using it as a platform for nation-building.
Arise o compatriot, Nigeria’s call obey.