by Yomi Kazeem
When you do get in, maintain a set of principles, draw a line between working in government (to make things better) and working with government (to loot and plunder).
‘The government is bad!’, ‘Things need to get better!’, ‘We cannot continue like this!’, ‘shey na like this we go dey?’ These are all commonly shared sentiments amongst Nigerians. In recent times however, the focus has commendably shifted from complaints to attempts at proffering solutions.
While it is clear that the deficiencies and shortcomings of government run deep and are perennial, it is also clear that effective change on a large-scale will be a lot more achievable if championed not just by the people but also by some elements in government. Sadly however, the bad far outweighs the good in government and so it is quite hard for change to emanate from and be championed by government.
How then do we tackle the dearth of enough industrious personnel in government? By contesting elections? By accepting government appointments? Or by simply folding hands and watching the continuing drama? The most apparent solution remains getting involved, in varying degrees, in the affairs of governing our country.
The immediate reaction when a Nigerian whom we regard as ‘one of us’ embraces a role in government – either by selection or election- is that ‘he has joined them’. Truth be said, Nigerians have been disappointed by some elements in this government on whom we had placed high hopes but flatly ruling out participation in government will not solve the problem. We need collective government machinery made up of quality minds and hands. Without prejudice to the current members of government, some of whom may actually deserve to be applauded, Nigeria needs a change in modus operandi and this will be half-achieved if more people get involved.
What then are the rules of engagement?
Many argue that it is impossible to be in government without getting corrupt- that remains the biggest question mark and hovers on the horizon as many examples abound of people getting ‘born again’-not with the gospel but with currency.
Many have seen but few have comprehended this malady. However, tagging a relatively innocent person (emphasis on relatively) as an automatic failure even before they begin their tasks will fetch us minimal benefits. People can go in and effect change, raise the standards or stir a revolt in policy making and implementation. People can go in and prove to others that it should not be a taboo to be a part of government but just as they go in, roll up their sleeves and get down to work, we have to refrain from expecting instant celestial miracles. Do not hold knives to their throats and do not crucify them each time they stumble because stumble, they will.
Whoever plans to ‘get in’ must make sure that the conditions are as right as can be. If there are any variables that may inadvertently result in problems further down the line, do well to tackle them at the beginning not halfway down the journey. (Like Ribadu should have rejected not the appointment but the role of reporting to Madam Diezani who seems to have more than a fair share of doubts as regards corrupt practices).
When you do get in, maintain a set of principles, draw a line between working in government (to make things better) and working with government (to loot and plunder). Before you cross the line, weigh your options: resignation or condemnation. Anyone with a modicum of dignity will know what to choose.
However, starting at grassroots may prove smart as suggested by @BabatundeJnr, a social commentator; there are fewer shackles of government to contend with at this level and genuine change can be effected and impacted on the people albeit to a lesser degree. Starting off at the grassroots level, with persons who have verifiable records as well as shades of ability and/or education in public administration, whilst working their way upwards will, on the long run, result in the wholesome change we require but only in so far as momentum is maintained.
When it is all said and done, the reasons that motivate participation in government is a critical issue as it will be foolhardy to assume that every young Nigerian has a burning fire in his belly or is consumed by the need for change; not all are. As such we need to actively separate the wheat from the chaff and continue a monitoring process to ensure that the wheat does not get drowned by the sea of madness it finds itself in after getting into government.
We are not all wired to be participants in government and so some argue that, you can make a change not just from within the government but also from without but the bottom line is and has always been: If you can talk the talk, by all means be ready to walk the walk.
Follow Yomi Kazeem on Twitter: @TheYomiKazeem