Nigerians, especially those of the Christian faith, usually start a new year with a theme for that year. As part of our current culture, the focus is usually on ourselves and has nothing to do with the country we live in. Yet, the decline in our country affects us all and this has become a huge hindrance to the attainment of our personal theme.
So I ask myself, “What will be the theme for Nigeria in 2015?” I want to believe that it will be a year of change and my focus is really about the change in citizens’ mindsets about governance, leading to many more citizens participating in the process. This change will enable us harness more democratic opportunities that will deliver real and lasting dividends of democracy.
For this to occur, we must destroy that age-long ‘one-man-solve-all-our-problems’ mindset. The change is simply about more citizens moving from the side-lines and actively engaging the various tools and platforms democratically available to build a developed Nigeria.
How do we implement this change?
Get your Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC): It is true that the process involved in obtaining the permanent voter’s card is strenuous and time-consuming but we must pay this price to ensure we acquire the tool that will enable us have a voice on the elections days.
For the many battling with INEC to get their PVC, please don’t give up. I would recommend a citizen initiative is launched for this. For example, a website can be created where the data of those citizens yet to collect their PVC can be collated and the initiators of the website can work with INEC to address each case.
The emphasis in this year of change is citizens taking the initiative to solve a problem.
Get ready to vote on both 14th and 28th February, 2015: We must thoroughly plan our itinerary for both days to ensure we are adequately prepared to vote, wait for the results to be announced, document it and communicate it on result collation sites.
Part of our preparation for the election days must also include the in-depth study of the key issues facing our nation currently and the candidates we believe are best equipped to deliver the solutions.
We must put aside religious and ethnic sentiments and focus on facts as we conclude on who to vote for. For those who say neither Buhari nor Jonathan is worth of their vote, I recommend they undertake a protest vote. In a democracy, a “protest vote” occurs when somebody is so disillusioned with the system that they use their vote on a candidate who has virtually no chance of winning.
The point is every citizen qualified and registered to vote must participate in the process. No excuse is expected especially when it is a proven fact that mass citizen participation in democracy delivers true and lasting dividends of democracy.
Mobilise others to vote: After our adequate preparation, we must mobilise others to vote. We must support others to undertake the process we took (secure their PVC, research into candidates and also mobilise others to vote).
Through this process, we will help to accelerate the growth of informed voters and citizens actively participating in governance, even after the elections.
Increase focus on the Legislature: As stated earlier, our ‘one-man-solve-all-our-problems’ mindset causes us to ignore the other key political actors. The legislative arm of government is made up of our representatives (I repeat, our representatives) who use our mandate to monitor the executive arm and influence their policies for our good.
It is therefore pertinent that we give the legislative candidates (National and State Assemblies) the same attention we give to presidential and gubernatorial candidates. When we improve the quality of our representatives, the executive will improve in performance and a performing executive should not be hindered by a poor quality legislature.
Develop the culture of studying the budget: With the work of organisations such as BudgIT (www.yourbudgit.com), it is much easier to access, read and understand the budgets of the Federal and State governments.
Why is this important for change? Our understanding of government’s plans, revenue estimates and sources, and allocations to each sector will enable us properly assess if the government is keeping to her electoral promises, if the government is prudent, if the government is allocating enough resources to critical sectors, etc. It will also highlight to us where government can do better.
Equipped with these facts, we can then lobby our legislative representatives to monitor government and also petition the executive arm directly. We can also check at end of the year to evaluate government’s performance.
The more we study the budget of our federal, state and even local governments, the more we appreciate the challenges government faces; understand the real vision of a government (usually better judged by what they do and not the propaganda they dish out); increase our demand for accountability; and would be ready to vote them out at the next election or give them another term in office.
Devote more of the time and energy to nation-building: We need to divert the huge time invested into social media commentary into participation in governance. These activities will include and are not limited to:
– Documenting the electoral promises of the candidates (executive and legislature).
– Knowing our representatives in the Senate, House of Representative, House of Assembly and in the Local Government Council. Know their constituency office, their email address and phone numbers. We must visit their offices, write regularly demanding account of their stewardship and use the medium to bring problems in the community to their attention.
– Join a Nation-building member organisation such as GEMSTONE Nation-builders Foundation (www.gemstoneng.org).
– Participate actively in your Alumni & community development association.
– Attend political rallies.
– Give resources (time, money, well researched solutions to a problem) to a candidate.
– Find your area of most pain (that national issue that troubles you the most) and invest resources to lead the change. Our area of most pain varies from one person to another but there are people who share our pain. Identify them and collaborate.
Pray: I will continue to reiterate that we may pray a lot in Nigeria but we’ve not begun to genuinely pray for Nigeria. Our prayers have been mainly focused on us, which is why our country continues to decline before our very eyes.
The first signs of a citizenry praying fervently for Nigeria will be seen in a rise of citizens with change mindset, core values and focus, dedicating their all towards the building of a developed Nigeria.
2015, as a year of change, throws up this challenge to people of faith who already understand the power of prayer.
The clarion call of the hour is for citizens to take back the destiny of this nation from the few but powerful cabals who have held us captive for too long. One fact we must know and reiterate to ourselves ever so often is that the true test of democracy is not that the people voted but that the people hold the power.
In this year of change, we the people must gain more power over our destiny. Would you commit to this task of implementing this change?