NYSC: A Tool For Unity
Reading a newspaper story online just now became such a beautiful experience going by the topic and the panoramic pictorial highlights that demonstrate the resilience of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme. The photo story was that of a man who served in 2004 who was shown giving to his daughter clean shirts of his NYSC heralding a transition programme from his epoch to her because of the fact that she is set to be posted to serve in the coming batch of the NYSC. These photos instigated this piece which argues that the NYSC remains a tool not just for social mobilization and community development but also a veritable asset that enhances the unity of Nigeria.
The authors of a new book on the NYSC scheme vis-a-vis community development also elucidated the aforemtioned points.
Hear them: “The overarching goal of every community development project of the NYSC is to contribute to the welfare of the society, to leave a mark of honour and a legacy worthy of emulation behind. Thus, its impact is felt by the community, the corps members and all other individuals who come across such projects.
“The objectives of the CDS as stipulated by the NYSC are both community development and human capacity building oriented in nature. These objectives are: impacting positively on the improvement of rural community life; developing the spirit of self-reliance in the corps members; inculcating in the Nigerian youth the ideals and capacities for leadership, endurance, selflessness, community service, national service, patriotism and creativity by utilizing the challenges posed by rural development; exposing corps members to diverse traditions and customs of their host communities; providing the forum for corps members to experiment with ideas and translate them into concrete achievements thereby relying less on foreign technology and encouraging the use of local raw materials in the execution of projects; harnessing the enormous energy, talents and skills of corps members into an effective machinery of change in our rural communities; providing on-the job-training, skill sets and experience for corps members; providing complementary service in our national development activities, by ensuring that our underprivileged population learn basic techniques for self-help through the appropriate technology concept being promoted by NYSC; to instil in corps members the tradition of dignity of labour and productivity; to complement the activities of government at all levels in the stride towards national development”. (The National Youth Service Corps And Service Corps And Community Development Service In Nigeria By Shuaibu Ibrahim, Ojong Echum Tangban, Bem Japhet Audu and Maryam Hamza).
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In his remarks during the inauguration of the Directorate of the Scheme in 1973, the founding father of NYSC and former Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Gen (Dr.) Yakubu Gowon, informed the nation that… “The idea of a Service Corps for youths is quite unexceptionable… certainly no right thinking and patriotic persons, will query the need for Nigeria to inculcate, as a matter of deliberate public policy the qualities of leadership to her most educated and enlightened youths from among whose ranks leaders in all walks of life are recruited”.
Accordingly, youthful energy and talent are better harnessed and unreservedly directed to those things which make for the realisation and retention of the ideals which enable a nation to rise above its history and attain heights that would have normally been deemed unattainable.
The rationale for the establishment of the NYSC points towards addressing some of the fundamental issues of the civil war by actively promoting the ethos of unity and cultural integration that is relevant to the national identity question. The national question of Nigeria can be viewed from three critical perspectives: the ethno-relativist perspective, class perspective and the identity perspective.
Although the ethno-relativist and class perspectives have dominated mainstream national development discourse, national identity has emerged as the most dominant discourse in contemporary Nigeria. In the formation and negotiation of multiple identities, youths are constantly engaged in struggles for survival, inclusion, participation and empowerment for national development.
As positive agents of ‘change’, analysts argue that youths have been instrumental in shaping the dynamics of national unity and integration between different ethnic-nationalities, and in reversing ‘otherness’ and hierarchical dominance over ethnic minority regions and groups.
In this context therefore, the extent to which youths become an ‘agency of bridging the inter-ethnic and religious divides in Nigeria’ is dependent on how effectively the NYSC can transform and channel youth resources and identity capital.
This explains why the first pre-condition for participation in the national development process through the NYSC is to imbibe the culture of ‘discipline’.
The Nigerian government made the scheme militarised and regimented so that the scheme can have control, because if youths, immediately after they finish university get thrown into the society without discipline, they are going to have more problems.
So, the one year of compulsory service is a way of stabilising them (the youths) so that after they have seen life in the university, the NYSC can enforce some little discipline in youths using the military and then have a lot of control on what youths do.
The NYSC scheme was designed to actually address the youth restiveness in Nigeria occasioned by inter-ethnic and religious divides. The NYSC came in to see how it can address youth restiveness by actually bringing in discipline into the system.
This mechanism of disciplining youth behaviours, which the NYSC scheme and its associated youth capability development activities provide, allows for ‘control at a distance’ that justifies the need to build and enforce disciplinary structures.
This ethno-religious narrative suggests that the NYSC is fulfilling some of its aims as stipulated in the establishing decree and act. The participation of Nigerian graduate youths in the NYSC programme is known to have established enduring friendship, interethnic marriages, political alliances and business partnerships transcending ethnic and cultural boundaries.
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However, the contemporary reality of religious extremism and intolerance in Nigeria, has called into question the success of the NYSC in pre-empting this conundrum particularly as some of the actors in this crisis have previously participated in the NYSC programme.
For instance, the Bill before the House of Representatives seeking the discontinuation of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has received knocks and cheers from a host of Nigerians. The Bill, sponsored by Awaji-Inombek Abiante, representing Andoni-Opobo/Nkoro Federal Constituency of Rivers State, which seeks to repeal Section 315(5)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) has already passed the second reading.
In the explanatory memorandum of the proposal, Abiante said: “Incessant killing of innocent corps members in some parts of the country due to banditry, religious extremism and ethnic violence; incessant kidnapping of innocent corps members across the country…
“Due to insecurity across the country, the NYSC management now gives considerations to posting corps members to their geopolitical zone, thus defeating one of the objectives of setting up the service corps, i.e. developing common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration.”
However, some respondents have expressed support for the bill, saying NYSC has outlived its usefulness and should either be restructured to meet current realities or scrapped outright.
For all of Nigeria’s existence, ethnic and religious differences have been too frequently weaponised by those seeking to obtain or retain political power. Given this history, expecting a programme to bring national unity is a tall order, one that NYSC has struggled to fill.
Some would argue that Nigeria is no more united now than it was in 1973 when NYSC was created. Even if this were true, it is an invalid comparison. What we should be asking is: would Nigeria today be less united if NYSC did not exist? That question may be difficult to answer, but looking abroad could lend us some perspective.
As some uninformed Nigerians tend to lose faith in its national service programme, many countries are bringing theirs back. In June 2018, France reintroduced a mandatory service requirement for all 16 year-olds in the hope that it will foster nationalism and counter the youth restiveness caused by high unemployment rates (Quartz , July 8, 2018)
One could argue that the NYSC budget would be better spent on improving civic education in schools but deficiencies in Nigeria’s education system would limit the effectiveness of an improved civic education curriculum.
Furthermore, France’s decision to invest in a national service programme, even with the civic education option available, is telling.
Again, if national unity is the goal, then making it voluntary would defeat its purpose. People with better-paying opportunities elsewhere would opt out. And because the rich tend to have better access to political power, this could lead to a situation where the political elite charged with fostering nationalism miss out on a significant nation-building opportunity.
READ ALSO: NYSC, Youth’s Trust And Empowerment
Nonetheless, it would be disingenuous to pretend that NYSC is perfect. One of the scheme’s major shortcomings before now is its misuse of human capital and for a lot of people, it is a waste of time.
According to this school of thought, too many corps members get assigned to government offices or community development service (CDS) groups that do not utilise their skills in any meaningful way.
Yet others believe that the best way to tackle this is to transform NYSC into a job creation programme like N-Power. For them, rather than send engineering graduates to teach English in primary schools, corps members can use the time to learn skills for entrepreneurship or boost their CVs with relevant work experience. NYSC already does this to some extent through the vocational training of the Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) that commenced in 2012. Setting up the NYSC Youth Trust Fund will greatly institutionalise the empowerment of Nigerian youth and create job opportunities.The news that government plans to place 20,000 youths for a one year fellowship programme as workers is good but setting up the NYSC Trust Fund is the masterstroke.
Someone had argued that such a shift in NYSC’s focus would be a mistake for several reasons. First, job creation programmes have a patchy record with tackling unemployment when labour demand is low. Secondly, the skills taught through SAED do not add much value to a university degree, which seems inappropriate given the programme’s demographic. But most importantly, pivoting to job creation detracts from the purpose of NYSC, “serving your country”. Although it would be nice if individual corps members do get some useful job experience in the process, this should not be the primary objective. These sentiments are inaccurate because empowerment of the youths through skills is something that would last for a lifetime.
Also, can we also ask how we can reform NYSC? Despite its flaws, NYSC is critical in the health and education sectors. The NYSC Health Initiative for Rural Dwellers has benefited thousands of Nigerians, many of whom would not have gotten access to proper health care without this programme. Likewise, corps members have helped plug teaching gaps in rural schools.
No wonder the prominent civil rights advocacy group; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has expressed great concern about the bill seeking discontinuation of the scheme.
HURIWA cautioned that the move might worsen the level of insecurity in the country, adding: “If you scrap NYSC, what are you going to do with these young graduates who have come out from the university with nothing to do?
“Don’t you think that it will heighten the insecurity situation in the country? Don’t you think that it will make our youths to be very despondent and then begin to fight the government?
“Another objective of the NYSC, which is very critical, is to make the corps members self-reliant. Right now, we don’t have big employment available in Nigeria to go round and government is the highest employer of labour in the country as of today. The majority of industries have all closed down and the ones still operating are working at less than 50 per cent capacity.”
READ ALSO: The Lies A bout NYSC
The rights group further stressed that the scheme is the most needed programme now, in view of the present situation where Nigeria is almost divided along ethnic and religious lines.
“Although we know our country today is facing security issues, we don’t think scrapping the scheme would be the solution. Government should rather find drastic measures to end insecurity in the country. Let government tackle insecurity. Insecurity is everywhere and corps members are just victims of national insecurity; they are Nigerians.
“More than ever before, this is when we need the NYSC. If we are talking about national unity and now you have a situation where people are now suspicious of one another; we need the NYSC more now than ever”.
On the issue that corps members are now being posted to their geopolitical zones, HURIWA opined that there is nowhere in the NYSC Act that people should not be posted within their geo-political zones.
“Specifically, Section 1, Subsection 4 D of the NYSC Act, states that corps members should be posted to states other than their own and in giving them assignments, they should make sure that people from different sections of Nigeria are within that place”.
Indeed, the National Youth Service Corps has no doubt proved to be so pertinent to the corporate existence of the nation. The general consensus among Nigerians has been a suggestion for several reforms that should be carried out to reposition the scheme in line with contemporary realities so that its impact will be more. It is also to be noted that any investment and whatever the energy exerted to reposition the NYSC must be seen as judicious and patriotic.
The prospect of NYSC is quite reassuring as beyond national unity, several enduring people-oriented community development service projects executed by corps members dot the landscape, nooks and crannies of the country and more are unfolding through the creative initiative and ingenuity of youth corps members as part of their patriotic contributions to national development. Therefore, eliminating NYSC wouldn’t make the government more responsive in the short term, and many communities would be made far worse off than before.
Finally, for NYSC to succeed, corps member safety has to be taken seriously. This is especially true because the national service scheme by design separates corps members from the safety nets that Nigerians have to come to rely on; their families and communities. Since corps members are considered ‘government pikin’, we should expect that the safety of corps members be given particular priority. This writer is aware of the efforts made by the Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim-led management of NYSC to partner with the Army, DSS and all relevant security agencies to give the highest consideration to the safety of corps members in their areas of operation in Nigeria.
Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was the National Commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.
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TB Joshua: Remembering Exit Of A World Changer
By Dare Adejumo
The month of June is a significant month in the annals of Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN). It is the month of the birth and passing of its founder, Prophet TB Joshua, that great world changer.
Its fifth day makes the second year of his glorious exit from earth and on the twelfth, the great man of God who cherished marking his birthdays would have been 60 years old.
Nations across the world would have been agog for an extraordinary prophet of God whose footprints of wonderful deeds touching the lives of millions across the globe remain in the sand of time. TB Joshua came to revitalize the face of Christianity and made the physiognomy of practical Christian living as given by Jesus Christ already in abeyance real to mankind once again.
There’s no hide and seek in his life. He was love personified. The humbliest human being I have ever come across. Firm and stern, even in his moment of severity, you would still find love encapsulated. You could not offend him. He’s extra sensitive with propulsively radiating wisdom, unfathomable knowledge of life, charming and a paragon of magnetically illuminating character. He was completely acidic to vanity, envy, jealousy, human comparison, imitation, vulgarity and wonton desires. He described them as some of those “foolish things” not to be entertained for a moment in one’s life.
Pastor TB Joshua
TB Joshua was a divinely self-made man. Here was a man with little elementary education. Yet with your degrees, erudition and western exposure, you would be humbled by the self-discovery of your personal hollowness or quasi- emptiness when you sat to discuss or share a view with TB Joshua, a shy village man. TB Joshua was an attestation to God’s omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence and greatness that lay in simplicity.
I personally witnessed several cases of some other so-called men of God who out of ignorance and envy were once persecuting him but after receiving the touch of God in different dimensions including mere touching of EMMANUEL TV while praying came to weep before God for forgiveness. Joshua would only say to them: ” I didn’t fire one single arrow back from all your arrows against me; otherwise you won’t be here today to talk. One thing we should always know is this: I did not choose myself to do God’s work. He in His wisdom just chose me and I know He is with me. God would never give anybody this kind of power He gave me if the person would use it for selfish purposes or against his perceived enemies. No!”
TB Joshua was a puzzle, an enigma. He was the light shining in darkness that many couldn’t comprehend. He looked too simple and ordinary having not been commissioned by the earthly papacy or religious authorities of the day and for him to be performing miracles of diverse kinds like breathing. This was clearly indescribable, incomprehensible, a mystery and shocker to the spiritual ignoramuses and empty flamboyant oratorical, motivational preachers with big congregations.
That great English thinker and philosopher John Locke once said: “New opinions are always suspected and usually opposed without any other reason but because they are not already common”. In God’s adamantine and inscrutable will, TB Joshua came to the scene when the acts of Christianity seen in Jesus Christ and His early desciples and apostles as captured in the Bible were gradually becoming moonlight tales to this generation. Religious leaders had already metamorphosed to careerism and polarised with pervasive unhealthy cacophonous standards. It was obvious that these religious leaders no longer knew what they were doing then even till today in several quarters without any tangible impacts in the lives of atrophied worshippers!
That was the turning point.There was no way TB Joshua could have had it easier. He faced satanic conspiracies and persecution galore, but the man remained focused with unmitigated perseverance, vision and mission of his divine assignments which he tenaciously upheld victoriously till the last.
He took his persecution joyfully and that conspiracy against him at home launched him to the outside world in God’s agenda and design for his mission on earth.
Hear him: “I began discovering the good life when I was only 15 years. My objectives and motives were determined at once. I wanted what God wanted and I wanted it for the reason God wanted it”. That’s prophet TB Joshua for you. Till the end he carried his childhood with him, with malice to no one but love, charity and firmness to all in God’s righteousness. To him love is pure. Take good care of your heart because that is your communicating point with God and must ever remain pure to know and flow with Him. You can never love God if you don’t love your neighbours and your neighbours include your percieved enemies, those not in the same faith with you, the poor and those in need who you must give love unconditionally.
This Godly character often made TB Joshua to be misrepresented by low spiritual human beings whenever they saw him attend to other people who were not Christians just as his Master, Jesus was accused of dining with republicans and sinners which made the religious authorities persecute Him.
The truth of humanity as once put by that foremost existentialist Italian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard is that history would always repeat itself because man would never learn from history. Many never discovered Joshua not until he had departed! What a painful loss.
You could never find TB Joshua criticizing or talking about other men of God. He moved on quietly on his own even though he lamented the pervasive discrimination and disunity in Christendom.
Several people from other churches who received healings and miracles in his church, Synagogue Church Of All Nations SCOAN wanted to come and do thanksgiving in his church but Joshua would not allow them. “Go back to you church and do your thanksgiving and give your offering there. We are the same. God had already answered your prayers there before you came here” for you to see how selfless he was in all his dealings.
TB Joshua was more interested in the quality of your Christian life and character. He would ask you: “Do you hear from God? Do you listen to Him? Does He speak with you? Do you know how much you need Him? Do you have a relationship with Him?” The God’s general believed that your highest achievement on earth was to hear from God.
To TB Joshua, Christianity is not a religion but a relationship with God. If you don’t have that relationship with Him you have missed it and you are worshipping in vain. “How can you be worshipping God you don’t know?” He would jerk up his congregants to move away from spiritual docility, complacency and indolence.
TB Joshua was never an academic preacher. He spoke words of life that transformed lives of ardent and fervent seekers of God and salvation.
I remember a female nurse I once encountered when she came to treat a patient as she stood looking at EMMANUEL TV. On enquiries whether she knew of the television station, she said that she used to attend SCOAN. “I was a nurse and member of the church’s medical team. Then the church was not rich, just managing to survive. It was what happened during the man of God’s birthday that made me stop going and besides I had relocated to a farther distance. We all on our own contributed money to give TB Joshua as a present. When we got there to present it, the man just asked us to put all the money in one sack. He asked us to choose some people among us to take the whole money to the disabled people’s home at Oko Baba. He instructed that one of us should just dip his or her hand in the sack and be distributing the money to them one by one with whatever the hand could gather at once like that to the less privileged living there and nothing should be left in the sack. I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked that the man could take everything there like that not minding that the church itself was very poor”. This woman completely missed the beauty of life and essence of humanity the prophet symbolized. TB Joshua believed your giving is only meaningful when you give what you cherish most. He would never give in half measures. He was extraordinarily generous and at home in humility with all categories of people as a friend however commonised other people may look at them. Every human being is unique and important to TB Joshua and must be treated with dignity.
TB Joshua was never a burden to anyone but carried all human burdens that crossed his paths. He was the only man of God holding crusade abroad without asking for any donations or collecting offering from worshippers. He would rather go there with loads of charity works for people and the country. There was a time in Cameroon when the airwave was jammed with announcements that TB Joshua would be coming to hold a crusade in Yaounde, asking for people to donate money. This was a scam because the scammers were capitalizing on Joshua’s popularity and the perceived pressure of the country’s request for his crusade program in Cameroon. TB Joshua in holy anger countered the announcements saying: ” That cannot be my TB Joshua of Synagogue Church Of All Nations SCOAN. I have no plan to go to Cameroon. God has not directed me to go there. Have you ever seen my pictures or envelopes asking for donation of money from anyone or anywhere? Please disregard this announcement. When God gives you an assignment He would also send to you what you would need through His chosen vessels”. This is a symbolic message for you to differentiate the chalk from the cheese in the religiously distorted world. He never allowed himself for a moment to be carried away by anything.
The lofty principles and legacies of TB Joshua remain enduring and a high watershed in Christendom. The joy today is that SCOAN is in the capable hand of a down-to-earth and visionary successor, Pastor Evelyn Joshua, a woman who had gone through the spiritual mills and rigorous discipline of TB Joshua the spiritual mentor extraordinaire who strongly believed that life’s biggest decision is what you do with Jesus.
Toyin Falola: A Lifetime Achievement Honour For A Colossus
By Temitope Oriola
The Canadian Association of African Studies (CAAS) has awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award to Toyin Falola, a professor of History, University Distinguished Teaching Professor and the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas, Austin. CAAS is the preeminent association of Canadian scholars studying Africa. The Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest honour of CAAS. Therefore, it is rarely bestowed.
For context, no scholar received this honour in my three years on the board of CAAS as vice president, president and past president (2019-2022). The latest in Professor Falola’s constellation of global awards represents another acknowledgment of the worldwide status of the Bobapitan of Ibadanland. As a former president of CAAS, I know the painstaking process involved in the adjudication of CAAS awards. I am particularly delighted that Baba Falola, as we all call him, is recognised in this manner.
It was unusually fitting that York University, Toronto, was the venue of the conferment. Falola was a professor at York University between 1990 and 1991. He had also previously delivered keynote addresses at the CAAS signature annual gatherings and helped to organise the conference in 1991. The president of CAAS, Nduka Otiono, a professor and director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, noted that the “esteemed accolade recognises (Falola’s) exceptional contributions, unwavering dedication, and profound impact on the field of African Studies in Canada and beyond.”
The United States took Falola from Canada but his influence is very much like he never left. The University of Texas, Austin has somehow managed to hold on to Professor Falola. I am curious about how Texas has done that since 1991.
I met Professor Falola at the 2016 Africa conference at the University of Texas, Austin. I was immediately struck by his fine magnetic personality. You immediately felt an instant connection as you would a family member. The annual conference convened by Falola is an excellent gathering and for some young scholars, their first international conference outside Africa. The conference also attracts senior scholars and university administrators across Africa and the diaspora.
Toyin Falola received his B. A. (Honours) in History in 1976 from the University of Ife (later renamed Obafemi Awolowo University). His PhD in history was awarded by the same university in 1981. Falola wrote his doctoral dissertation on “The Political Economy of Ibadan, c.1830-1900.” Always on a quest to learn and chart new grounds, Falola received his D. Litt. in African Studies from the University of Ibadan in 2020 (i.e. 42 years after his first doctorate). This is the stuff of extraordinariness.
Professor Falola has received 16 honorary doctorates from universities across the globe. The roll call includes the University of Jos; Lincoln University; Olabisi Onabanjo University; Monmouth University; Federal University, Lokoja; and Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
A Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), Falola has held fellowships, professorships and distinguished scholar status at various universities and other institutions globally. For example, he was visiting professor at the Olusegun Obasanjo Centre for African Studies, National Open University, Abuja (2019-2021) and honorary professor, Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa, from 2018 to 2022. Professor Falola was also Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South, Library of Congress in 2016; visiting professor, Pontifícia Universidade Católica De São Paulo, Brazil in 2007; and fellow at the Humanities Research Council, Australian National University in 1995. He is a life member at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge.
Traditional institutions have also bestowed high honours on Professor Falola. He is Nii Kpani Ashaabla 1, Adabraka Otukpai Palace, Accra, Ghana; the Agbakin of Kusela-Ibadan; the Bobagbimo of Ugboland; and the Mayegun of Auga, Akoko.
Being a globally recognised scholar and an excellent human being are not necessarily mutually inclusive. Falola is an iconic scholar, a mentor to generations of scholars and a humane person. His devotion to the success of others is astonishing and uncommon. Falola is intentional about creating opportunities for others. He derives great satisfaction in seeing others thrive. Falola’s accomplishments require a truly exceptional intellect, fine analytical mind, perspicacity and a strong work ethic. His long list of accomplishments speaks to a lifetime of devotion to investing in others and expecting nothing in return: World class brilliance meets humaneness.
.Oriola is professor of criminology and associate dean at the University of Alberta. He is president-elect of the Canadian Sociological Association and former special adviser to the Government of Alberta on Police Act Review.
10th National Assembly: Nigeria’s Last Chance
By Mon-Charles Egbo
In a few days, the presiding officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives would be elected upon the inauguration of the 10th national assembly. This event, typical of every contest, would throw up two categories of people: those who are pleased with the outcome and the ones who feel otherwise.
Understandably, the wishes of both sides are interests-driven though it cannot be immediately established whether the interests are about the country or individuals.
But on the belief that it is about nationalism, then head or tail, it is a win-win for Nigeria. This is because logically, both divides mean well for the nation only that their perceptions differ. And again, while spirited attempts, largely motivated by multi-dimensional sentiments, are made to externally influence the choices of the legislators-elect, the decision as to who would become their presiding officers begins and ends with them. Whether by consensus or merit, they are the ones that make the choices in the final analysis. It is within their exclusive rights and privileges and also, the election is a process that has strict conventions. So the outcome, like the two sides of a coin, coincides or is at variance with the wishes of the outsiders, once again, depending on whether their interests are broad or narrow.
Therefore as the 10th national assembly comes on stream, the basic public expectation is a sustainable dispensation of good governance delivered by a legislature that is people-oriented and under a leadership that is defined by dexterity, creativity and absolute loyalty to the people. For emphasis, Nigerians today deserve a responsive parliament driven by a deliberate commitment to regular citizens’ engagement.
Granted, these aspirations are as non-negotiable as they are core dividends of democracy. Yet, they are not automatic. They can only happen with the active involvement of a vigilant citizenry as researches show that strong democracies the world over are characterized by robust citizen participation. In other words, there can never be effective leadership without effective followership. This is the reason every well-meaning Nigerian should urgently pause and ponder on the prevailing sorry state of the country.
This is imperative because except for ignorance or mischief, it is glaring that we cannot hand over to our children, the same country that we inherited from our fathers. The signs are there yet we seem indifferent. Or, are we not alarmed by the grim prospects of losing things and persons very dear to us, including innocent children, if Nigeria fails? What about the mental agony of losing personal liberties and becoming captives in our own land, irrespective of status? Are the masses not yet seeing the damning consequences of their age-long prejudice and hostility towards the national assembly? Are we not yet persuaded that certain things should either not have happened in the first place or should have happened differently if only we were actively involved in the goings-on in the national assembly since 1999? Could we have been this mercilessly impoverished and short-changed sequel to leadership deficit? Truly, every heart should bleed over Nigeria’s precarious situation because when it rains, no roof is spared.
However, there is good news. There is a ray of hope. A new beginning is possible. Nigeria can still work. But once again, it is a function of our actions now. Yes, our future is in our hands. Before us right now is an opportunity, possibly the last, to act, lest Nigeria slides into absolute failure.
So, if what informs our concerns and interests regarding the choice of the presiding officers are really borne out of patriotic and nationalistic ideals, despite the eventual outcomes, then we are morally liable for the success or failure of the 10th national assembly. Yes, what it becomes depends on what we do or fail to do now.
Hence if we wish not to bungle this last chance, then we should right away stand up and be counted. We must embrace this 10th national assembly as truly our own. We should seek to be fully abreast of its scheme of things. We have to accord it all the necessary support and cooperation for it to excel. It is no longer about short-term benefits but about what unites us and aids our journey to nationhood. Everyone should immediately remove their togas of ethnicity, religion and partisanship and think Nigeria first! The media, civil society organizations, professional bodies, labour unions, youth, women and community-based groups, the political class, as well as the clergy, should put on garments of activism in championing a legislature that derives its legitimacy and relevance from the people. Every mouth should loudly speak against bad governance whenever and wherever it occurs.
With an open mind, we should pay attention to how the legislature supervises the other arms, especially the executive. Specifically, we should demand explanations from the 10th national assembly as to why the country’s refineries are not operational and what they hope to achieve in the face of Nigeria’s dire situations, particularly the raging petroleum subsidy questions, poverty index, youth unemployment, insecurity, rising debt profile, health, education and power sectors, budget performance, federal character principle and then, why the federal executive council is awarding contracts without the public procurement council in place. We should clamour for legislative agenda with timelines and whose deliverables can translate to tangibles in the immediate, instead of high-sounding achievements that would exist only on paper and make no meaningful impacts in the lives of the people in the long run.
Then dispassionately, in pursuing these programmes of action, we should be seen to be fair, right and just always. We should be considerably articulate, skilful, objective and law-abiding. We should be alert, probing and listening and then be guided by reciprocal respect for these leaders. We should reject every form of confrontation, rumour-mongering, mutual suspicion and hate.
Equally, we should vehemently resist the divisive instrumentalities of religion, tribe and politics. We should seek to build social bridges always by being at the right places, saying the right things and then doing the right things at all times. We should commend and condemn when necessary. Where we stood before the election and subsequent inauguration of the assembly should not matter to us again. Rather, we should be anxious to see the 10th national assembly succeed by working through our representatives for issue-based engagements with the institution towards the attainment of a Nigeria where democracy and good governance reign supreme.
Using our periodic interactive sessions or town hall meetings with them, and their feedback channels, we should consistently demand accountability from the individual representatives while also availing them of useful information. Any lawmaker that is not accessible, principally through their functional constituency offices, should be called out respectfully. And while we keep records of our engagements with them for future reference, we must not distract or blackmail them with self-serving burdens of demand.
For the umpteenth time, if we live above board in our conduct this national assembly would always reflect the truism that “to whom much is given, much is expected” and also that as leaders, they are merely fellow citizens elected by loyal citizens and entrusted with the popular mandate. Also, the legislators would demonstrate indeed that they are agents and trustees of the people, and as such should always embody our wishes and desires. Furthermore, through our sustained advocacy, they would always draw a line between politics and governance in their actions.
Then above all and because equity demands clean hands, the first step in achieving all these is to have a fair knowledge of the workings and core mandates of the legislature. It is important also that we understand some operational challenges being faced by the national assembly. For instance, the 1999 constitution is not reasonably protective of the legislature, especially in its supervisory roles on the executive. Serially, there are no definite consequences for acts of disregard for the powers of the legislature by the executive. The former apparently exists at the mercy of the latter. Even more pathetic is the case of the state governors. But in the interim, it is only when we operate from an informed perspective that we can be factual and objective in our expectations and engagements with lawmakers.
And so in conclusion, this is just an early warning! The occasion calls for rapid and decisive actions. This is the last chance to redirect the ship of the country from the brink of collapse following the failure of governance, insecurity, corruption, unemployment and poverty.
As such, we the people, as the ultimate owners should immediately rise and take back the legislature. And in this, we have to let enthusiasm, patriotism, resilience and diligence guide us, so that “the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain”.
Egbo is a public relations practitioner and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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