Thought leaders at Thursday Talks Lagos underscore the need for Nigerians to embrace advocacy in their individual spaces

When the late mountaineer and philanthropist, Edmund Percival Hillary remarked that “People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things,” he may never have had Nigeria in mind or thought of Africa.

With the challenges bedeviling democracy in a country like ours, however, where many have become accustomed to alarming anomalies like police brutality and high-handedness on the part of security agencies; sexual assault, fear of government, unwillingness to question the lack of probity, transparency and accountability of state institutions, that statement has increasingly resounded in our space as stories are replete of individuals standing out to brave the odds and maximize the ‘Office of the Citizen’ to echo sanity in the polity.

Flowing from this, the need to hear their stories, achievements and the challenges they face in the course of their advocacy voyage, took centre-stage at the June edition of Thursday Talks; a monthly conversation with thought leaders, change agents and active citizens aimed at driving conversations around the demand for good governance driven by active citizenship.

The event themed ‘Ordinary Citizens doing Extraordinary Things’ was anchored by Dapo Awobeku and had on the panel, Rights Activist and #ReformPolice campaigner, Segun ‘Segalink’ Awosanya, Freedom of Information (FOI) Champion; Alo Martins and Founder of #MarketMarch; Damilola Marcus who in sharing their experiences harped on the need for citizens who desire change to  do away with the culture of fear and take responsibility for their individual spaces.

On the part of Alo Martins, who gave a vivid account of a recent ‘Freedom of Information case’ he fought with the Ondo State Government, he listed the challenges he faced to include “States of the federation” claiming not to be bound by federal laws, finance and discouragement from relatives and friends. He went on to explain how he received assistance for ‘his case’ from Pro Bono lawyers to the point that he was questioned by top officials what his ‘real interest’ was, for pursuing such a sensitive case.

Calling on the National Orientation Agency (N.O.A) to publicize major laws made in the country, Martins advocated the need for more Nigerians to write F.O.I requests where the need arise, as no special qualification is required for same; stressing that citizens have a huge role in making laws work for the country since they cannot fight on their own.

In explaining the motive behind her foray into activism/advocacy, Damilola Marcus noted that although she wasn’t directly affected by the abuse of women in Lagos markets, the #YabaMarketMarch was inspired by the deep concern she felt about the culture of abuse already taken as a norm in the country, leading her to research on what she could do to help the situation.

She remarked that though change may be slow; the movement was embarking on underground measures through the help of stakeholders and a committee set up to ensure cultural change.

For the #ENDSARS Campaigner, he lamented the unhealthy practice of disintegrating the police into units in a bid to whittle down its power coupled with the disgraceful attitude of government towards Police welfare and institutions, as reflected in the dilapidated state of the Police Academy and Police Colleges.

Segalink listed the gains of his advocacy movement to include: the passing into law of the Police Trust Fund Bill without monetary inducement, the Police Reform Bill after 70 years of operating under an archaic Act and Restructuring of the Police Complaint Unit to allow for collaboration with civil organisations amongst many others.

He also stated that the weaponisation of poverty in the country by the political class stands as a major challenge in the ‘business of advocacy,’ adding that the culture of impunity in the country had become systemic with no respect for religion, ethnicity or political party.

Thursday Talks Lagos which holds on the last Thursday of every month is an initiative of Enough is Enough (EiE Nigeria); a network of individuals and organizations committed to instituting a culture of good governance and public accountability through active citizenship, The Future Project (TFP); a not-for-profit organisation committed to building empowered citizens across Africa, through (inclusive) enterprise and (active) citizenship and BudgIT; a civic organization that applies technology to intersect citizen engagement with institutional improvement to facilitate societal change.

The initiative is proudly supported by YNaija, the internet newspaper for young Nigerians, focused on the issues and ideas that matter for an evolving generation.

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