Posted by Emeka Ugwuonye | 29 December 2013 | 4,210 times
Of course, no one person has the right to place a judgment on all Nigerians. And particularly, it would seem most unfair for anyone to truly blame the failure of leadership in Nigeria on the poor struggling and chocking masses of this country. Yet, one cannot fail to notice that Nigerian citizens, as a whole, failed or simply lack the ability to check their governments. At any point in time, there is always some dynamic relationship between the government and the people. They mutually influence each other.
It is not left for the government to be responsive or accountable on its own. The people must demand accountability from government in order for them to get any. If the people lack the ability to hold their governments accountable, definitely, we will have the type of government we have today in Nigeria. The key, therefore, is to empower the people vis-a-vis the government. The emphasis is on empowering the people vis-a-vis the government.
This is why my solution to the Nigerian problem, all its problems, is people empowerment. But what do I mean by empowerment? I don’t mean empowering the people vis-a-vis themselves. That is, empowering the Niger Delta people vis-a-vis the non-Niger Deltans. I don’t mean empowering the Igbos vis-a-vis the non-Igbos. I don’t mean empowering the Yorubas against non-Yorubas. Unfortunately, this has been the only type of empowerment Nigerians have been asking for.
Take, for instance, the quest for Igbo Presidency by the Igbos, and suppression of that quest by non-Igbos. It is all about empowering one group of Nigerians vis-a-vis other groups of Nigerians. That sort of empowerment can never save Nigeria, and it would not help any Nigerian. Indeed, that threatens Nigeria and Nigerians. It is therefore clear to me that the Igbo Presidency question cannot help the Igbos at all. The only people that would benefit from Igbo Presidency are those Igbos that are already comfortable under the non-Igbo Presidency regime. I must state that such is a dubious and dishonest idea pursued by the same deceptive and dishonest and highly compromised Igbo leaders. It is a grand deception meant to manipulate the disempowered people.
If an Igbo Governor could not take care of the Igbos in his state, he should stop pretending he would do any better if he became the President. If as a businessman you did nothing to help the Igbos, if as a professor you did nothing to help the Igbos, if as a minister of government you did nothing to help the Igbos, if as a professional you did nothing to help the Igbos; nothing will change if you become the President of Nigeria. You will still do nothing to help the Igbos. Let’s just stop being stupid and foolish over those lies and deception.
The empowerment of the people against the government (whoever the president may be) is what we need in Nigeria. We must move the emphasis away from ethnic rights to human rights. We must provide a country that is fair and just to all its citizens. We must have citizens that have the power to hold their government accountable under all circumstances. All Nigerian governments understand that what it would take to hold them accountable is for the people to become empowered vis-a-vis government. And, not illogically, every government of Nigeria has deliberately pursued policies aimed at disempowering the people.
They do this in many ways. One obvious way is to deny the people important and foundational rights – right to education, right to life, right to heath, right against poverty, right to the pursuit of happiness. These are all important rights that ought to be the primary concern of government. There ought to be no Nigerian who could not read and write. There ought to be no Nigerian who starves. There ought to no Nigerian who is unemployed and who lacks money for food and shelter. There ought to be no Nigerian who cannot see a doctor when he is sick. That is the people’s empowerment. When you have that in place, that is better than having an Igbo President, while the Igbos continue to lack all these rights.
The present conditions show that Nigerians lack basic forms of empowerment vis-a-vis government. I put a simple test out four days ago with a simple idea that an average person ought to understand. I chose to poke holes in the speech given by the President of Nigeria. In a one-and-a-half page of speech, ten paragraphs in all, over a mundane idea of Christmas greeting, the speech of the President contained about 40 errors. That was cynical, funny and pathetic at the same time. I placed my observations in the public domain with intention to draw attention to it.
Everywhere else in the world, my comments, given that number of errors in a short document, would have gone viral. But not in Nigeria. Each Nigerian has to view my comments from the angle of whether he or she liked the President or hated his enemies. And this is even when it is clear that the President did not write that speech himself. But having turned the President into a God or fetish or devil, depending on which ethnic affiliation you have, it has been impossible for most Nigerians to view my comments dispassionately.
Some people naively though that my comments on President’s speech was just about grammatical errors. They are satisfied that the President even bothered to greet them on Christmas. They ignored the fact that the matter reflected failure at several levels of government accountability. It was failure to understand the use and significance of the social media in modern governance. It was failure to understand the people and the audience the President was trying to reach. It was a failure to hire and recruit the right officials based on competence rather than political patronage. It was simply a huge failure to lead the country with any sense of modernity.
The disempowered, unenlightened Nigerian did not see this. He or she sees nothing. The average Nigerian is therefore clueless. He has no opinion on the fact that the President of the most populous black nation in the world where 65% of the population comprises people under age 30, could not even send a simple message on Facebook without so many basic errors. It did not even matter to him that the President actually hired people to do that job. Those people are paid good money. Those people have their robust support staff all paid for by the people of Nigeria. Yet, those people could not even bother to proofread a document they sent out in the name of the President. And an average Nigeria finds that okay.
It is clear that the disempowerment of Nigerians has been total. They are incapable, as of now, of having an accountable, responsive government or leadership. They would encourage mediocrity in government and they would reap what they sowed. The real fight in Nigeria is to empower the people by all means necessary.
•Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire, lawyer and activist whose photo appears alongside this piece, wrote from Lagos.
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