America has its problems, many of them major and possibly fatal, however its democracy seems to work most of the time and when it doesn’t, it self corrects. So why is Nigeria so different?
Would you consider that you are as responsible for the state of this country as anyone else is? Or does that statement fill you with outrage and disdain? Whose fault is it that our democratic system does not work even though the very same model manages to squeak out progress in other countries? Our technocrats are either corrupt or have their hands tied by corruption and can’t do much. How did we get to the point of brazen corruption that dares you to look at it and laughs cheerily in your face if you protest? What is the role of the average citizen in this country? Are we to blame? Is it really just our leaders? Is Nigeria somehow inexplicably blessed with the world’s worst politician and technocrats alike or is Nigeria the problem. And by ‘Nigeria’, I mean the governed and the government and all the institutions that tie these two together in a endless play that inevitably ends in despair for most and riches for the few.
One can make the case that the Nigerian government was modeled after the American democracy. America’s local councils are very similar to our local governments. Her 50 states and the federal government tied in a tango that almost matches ours. Albeit, in Nigeria’s case, the very same model has created massive unemployment, insecurity in every region, and the most notoriously corrupt leadership in the world. America has its problems, many of them major and possibly fatal, however its democracy seems to work most of the time and when it doesn’t, it self corrects. So why is Nigeria so different? Why has a similar model of government created such divergent results? Are Nigerians to blame? Or is it really just leadership?
Democracy is the hardest form of government because it requires hard work by all. Those who govern in a democracy must work hard to retain their privilege and those who are governed must work harder still to maintain the privilege of ruling themselves. Self-government is hard and often thankless work. It requires that after a hard day of working at making a living, you spend time worrying about what your government is up to. It requires petitions and protests. It requires constancy and vigilant focus on progress. It is hard and often discouraging. Yet, it remains a very popular mode of government simple because men want to govern themselves. Yet this privilege comes with great duty. A man who self governs must go above and beyond to enforce his agency and put the feet of his government against a great roaring fire of collective will.
A self-governing society creates not just leaders, but stewards. Stewards get their terms of reference from the collective and they enjoy this privilege only if the wards prefer it. The work of self-government is not just exercising rights to vote; this is the least of your duty as a member of a self-governing society. The job requires that you join committees and write letters, that you support your advocates and activists when they inform you. That you make phone calls and write emails, that you support whistleblowers and to reward the only excellence. It asks that you read the news and promptly take action. It is hard, terrible and thankless work.
Good leaders are not made; they are forced into existence. When a Nuhu Ribadu Report comes out, self-government requires that the normal people take action in a massive cry of outrage. And when they don’t, the good leaders that they ask for are killed and publicly humiliated by the status quo. So the next time you wonder what is wrong with Nigeria, look in the mirror.
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