This year, I spent our Independence Day at The Platform Conference which took place at the Harbour Point, Victoria Island, Lagos. There were some excellent speakers with some powerful & insightful presentations, and the event was well attended by enthused citizens.
But we all know great speakers and presentations don’t build nations and neither does the surge in nationalistic fervour during our annual Independence Day celebrations. This is why I feel compelled to scribble this note now 1st October has passed.
It worth commending our Independence Day season because every year it reminds us of our potential as a nation and the problem we current face, with our emotions intensely stirred up.
But now the Independence Day has passed, we must be compelled to ask what can we do about the current challenges inhibiting our journey to harnessing our full potential? How can we translate the high emotions stirred up during this season into passion & action for our national development?
Should we wait for 1st October 2014 to be stirred up again? I really hope not because that would mean one year wasted and with one year added to our lives & that of our families, the frustrations about our underdevelopment will deepen. The frustrations will rise due to an increase of desires in us and demands from our families, friends and communities.
Would Nigeria grow as a nation? Absolutely not because we didn’t grow before now due to our lack of participation in nation-building and that left governance in the hands of incompetent and selfish citizens. Interestingly, rather than grow our nation is regressing.
Is it only government we are waiting for? Certainly not because even the best government will rely on innovative ideas and products developed by the citizenry to enable nation-building. But in our case, we generally agree that our government has a long way to go and that really means much more is required of us to enable our true personal and national development.
To elaborate more, there is no government policy that was initiated solely by government officials. It required some citizen or citizens developing the concept and selling it to the government for implementation.
If we are to praise the privatisation of our power sector, we must not forget the critical role some citizens played for many years to persuade government and to develop & deliver the strategy and process that the government implemented.
For me, the summary of Dr Oby Ezekwesili’s powerful presentation at The Platform was her thesis that effective governance can only be achieved through citizens demanding accountability from their government.
She also added that institutions need people to build them but institutions can only become great through citizens active participation in governance. We must participate by researching government policies & providing feedback, attending legislative sittings, peaceful march against unjust laws & policies, writing protest letters to our legislative representatives and the executives, etc.
We should also undertake our own initiatives that will enable nation-building. It is critical to emphasise that our intensive & regular research will ensure qualitative criticism of government policies, effective accountability by government officials and the development of an effective individual initiative.
No doubt, government has a key role to play but if she consistently fails to leave up to our expectation, we must take the initiative NOW to get involved in the political process that will ensure we raise credible political parties and credible candidates before the 2015 general elections.
For all our tears and pains displayed in various forms & at various platforms during the Independence Day season, nothing will change for the next year or two or even in 100 years if the destiny of this nation remains in the hands of a few people.
Some say, we have a civilian rule and not a democracy. I say we have a democracy with so much untapped opportunities yet to be harnessed by the people. Just like our huge mineral resources has not translated into wealth for our nation because of our disconnection with governance, our lack of active participation in our democracy has not translated into the true & lasting dividends of democracy.
I reiterate that the high nationalistic fervour generated during our annual Independence Day season will never build this nation. It will only be achieved by the huge sacrifice of a critical mass of Nigerians, some of whom will die in the ‘battlefield’ without seeing the fruits.
Now the Independence Day has passed, would you commit your life to the task of building a developed Nigeria?