By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
There is no shadow of the doubt any more that Nigeria as a country, has, in the past seven years suffered leadership hemorrhage. What is however new and relevant to the present discourse is the sudden collective resolve by commanding majority of Nigerians made up of mostly youths to rescue the country from its present leadership challenge. Out of some many examples of alignments and realignments geared towards achieving this new order, the freshest stemmed from a recent telephone talk with Smart Madu Ajaja, United States Of America Based, Human and Environmental rights Activist and founder of a politico-philosophical ideology/initiative code-named “Open Nigeria”, and has as its prime objective; ‘unlocking the potentials of Nigeria for all Nigerians and put the country on the path to genuine nationhood and greatness’.
On that day, at that time and in that place, I listened to him demonstrate with vivid imageries as to how all Nigerians without exception are in chain and lockdown with no direct, open, equal, unlimited and unconditional access to opportunities to grow and develop and to progress and prosper according to their abilities and level of competencies. Aside from arguing that Nigerians are in political and socioeconomic cage occasioned by bad leadership, of which the cage must be let open so that the people will be free to express themselves, particularly as the situation in the country deprives citizens access to socioeconomic well being and negatively impacts the people’s lives and their mindsets,, Ajaja offered roadmap for restoring the political cum socioeconomic health of our nation and proposed strategy for the reintroduction of reason to its proper place in our democracy. According to him; majority of our people are financially and socioeconomically disenfranchised. So, they urgently need to be inspired, raise their level of consciousness to articulate and understand four basic things. One, their right to life, their right to freedom of choice, their right to freedom of expression, their right to freedom of association, their right to worship and their right to self determination. That is one; the second leg is that citizens must understand that they have the right to the citizenship of Nigeria. And then, that if they have the right to the citizenship of Nigeria, that takes us to the third step/or the third leg; citizens’ understanding of their obligation. When I mean their obligation, I mean their responsibility to Nigeria, responsibility in the forms of civic, morals, constitutional and spiritual obligation to Nigeria. And the fourth leg is citizens’ understanding of, and application of respect to the rule of law. On the forthcoming election, he captures it this way; well the general election coming in Nigeria is as uncertain as the word uncertain. There is a cloud of uncertainty around the 2023 general election. I say that explicitly because of the state of preparedness of Nigeria to organize credible elections under the current administration.
One, the delay in the amendment/passage of the electoral bill into law is a big setback. Even that amendment was not far-reaching enough to ensure that criminals are prevented from having a say in who becomes who in Nigeria. But at the same time, I want the people of Nigeria to understand that they should set up a parallel mental Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) because this INEC will not deliver the type of election result/outcome that we are looking for. What do I mean by this? We know all those steps that have stopped Nigeria from progressing, we know all the criminals that negatively affect the outcomes of elections. So the people of Nigeria starting from various communities now must ask questions, one big question; can we afford to continue this way, the way we are right now? Especially with the current height of insecurity, kidnapping and with all the murderous activities that are going on unchecked in the country. ‘The people must take the initiative this time to ensure that they have a true and credible election. The order we are pushing for is an intellectual and practical order. There is a lot that the ordinary people of Nigeria can do without resorting to violence. We can approach issues by outright rejection of those who have bought our country. The second is when they call for meetings, we should not be at their meetings any more. We should distance ourselves from them until we are able to get what we want’. ‘Now we have an opportunity to address our grievances. We must take absolute advantage of it.. But how can we do it? By organizing, organizing and organizing behind credible people who can give us what we are looking for. Who can provide leadership that will keep our young people in our country?’ He added that the people have their own blame too by not being able to hold leaders accountable. The understanding of government by the people of Nigeria is that the government is almighty God that they must fear. Go elsewhere, the government fears the people. I live in the United States of America, where the government is so scared of the people. It is so bad here in Nigeria. So, the nonsense has to be reversed. Our people must be made to understand that they wield this power.
The way forward is where we are now. The way forward, according to him, is to open the system to all Nigerians. Anything short of opening Nigeria is like dressing a wound and ulcer that you know is not going to heal. Nigerians are like in a cage. That cage must be let open so that the people will be free to express themselves. How do they do this? ‘We need to set the best standard for leadership and followership. We have this terrible style of leadership. So we need a progressive and proactive leadership that will provide actionable leadership and followership that is conscious of their rights. The youth of Nigeria must understand that they are the owners of Nigeria right now and they must take it. I believe that Nigerian youths have been shying away from their responsibility for a very long time. They should understand their rights as citizens of Nigeria’. They should stop expecting to be paid for the most basic thing; the right to cast your votes is a spiritual thing. It is your right. God approved that. Leadership is spiritual; it is more spiritual than political. For you to be leaders, life is involved, blood is involved, and the future is involved.
You don’t have to be paid to choose a leader for it is going to impact you. If you are paid to choose that leader, and the leader turns out to be the kind of monster that we presently have in Nigeria, you will find yourself blaming yourself. Just like we are all suffering right now. Something big he added, is brewing for Nigeria and we will get to that level of consciousness that we need to create that critical mass that can force an exodus out of old English-Nigeria into a new Nigeria, into an opinion Nigeria.
‘The power to organize the 2023 general election should be quickened by the people of Nigeria not by force but by the way they will conduct themselves, by the way that they will prevent people from doing the things that they used to do in the past. That will help INEC a lot. So the power or what is going to come out of the 2023 general election as I see is going to be actually based on how the people of Nigeria take that election. Even if INEC has a program to make the election, the people must make it succeed’.
Continuing he said; the only way is for the people to stand up, know their rights and decide their destiny. Every man has got the right to decide his destiny. So the people of Nigeria must stand up to decide their destiny. Nigerians should do justice by themselves that will produce the type of result that will for once break the back of those who think that they can hold Nigeria hostage and I see it coming.
As to the quality of President Nigerian youths expects, he observed that a president is supposed to be humble. A president is supposed to be all loving. A president is supposed to be the president of the whole of Nigeria and could come from any part of the country. Every part of the country will be his constituency. And we are looking for that person. He concluded.
As the author of this piece and keen political watcher, I guess that these present declarations must act as an incentive to Nigerians.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), A Lagos-Based Non Governmental Organization (NGO). He could be reached via [email protected]/08032725374.