The legendary Karl Max had unsuccessfully predicted the imminent revolution of the working class when individuals – the common man – would finally be free to develop their abilities and talents to the maximum. He had a vision of a just society based on economic abundance shared by all, and where individuals would achieve true freedom. The crux of Max’s expectation was: “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
However, the fundamental reasons Max had wanted the fall of the corrupt capitalist class – whose interests are irrevocably counterpoised to the interest of the vast majority – are still very much with us, especially in Nigeria, and other third world countries. And even in the developed nations. The common people are still alienated from the common wealth of the land; corruption is endemic and the ruling elites continue to expropriate and exploit the resources of the land to the benefit of a few.
While the revolution as structurally predicted by Max might have fallen through, the Arab Springs – the good Arab Springs in Tunisia and Egypt and the bad Arab Springs in Libya and Syria – and the rising agitations in different parts of the world have, in a way, put Max back on the agenda.
Unfortunately, the West too, is facing its own internal challenge: it is threatened by the ascendancy of the far-right in key nations and the gradual triumph of nationalism over globalism. There must be a new thinking, like the review of the failure of the ruling class to nurture and honour social contract.
As long as protests, demonstrations and agitations have not ceased, it is difficult to wish away revolution: it shines an illuminating light on the people and society. The Arab Spring underpinned Thomas Jefferson’s deep insight that when injustice becomes law in a society, resistance or civil disobedience becomes a moral obligation. As long as the world has not come to an end, the popular sayings in civic spaces that it is not over until it is over, and anything can happen, subsist.
That is why it has become very important for the ruling elites in Nigeria to pay utmost attention to a pro-masses movement, the OurMumuDonDo group led by maverick entertainer cum social activist, Charles Oputa, globally known as Charly Boy. Like other focused pressure groups in the world that are advancing the cause of angry and frustrated citizens, the movement is constantly demanding the curbing of the pervasive corruption in the land, engendering good governance, transparency and accountability.
Nobody saw the bourgeois-democratic revolutions known as the Arab Spring coming. Nigeria is not an exception, as long as the masses continue to feel the hostile effects and excruciating pains of unfavourable and malicious economic policies in the country, insecurity and unabated killings.
Anything could still be in the offing. The people are in pains; agitations are not off the table; and, if the ruling class would not listen to the concerns being expressed by civil society groups, like the OurMumuDonDo movement, anything can still happen: the avoidable Nigerian spring or revolution.
Beyond pressuring the government to listen to the concerns of the common people and causing the social dislocations of unfavorable policies, it is a welcome idea that the Charly Boy-led movement has decided to commence a national reawakening to strengthen citizens’ participation in governance by launching a nationwide project called: The Nigerian Social Contract Initiative (NSCI) under the common man banner of #NaWeBeGovernment.
Democracy should be governed by people’s will while the social contract provides a tool for holding government accountable.
That government exists for the people and not the people for government, surmises the position of Jean Jacques Rousseau on social contract – “the depositaries of the executive power are not the people’s masters, but its officers.” Like the OurMumuDonDogroup, Rousseau is regarded as the “champion of the common man,” while his idea that “men are born free, yet everywhere are in chains,” continues to challenge the traditional order of the society.
To have a society that works, there must be a commitment to established norms and values. The social contract, as a deliberate and conscious engagement, could guide the people and the government of the state to achieve defined objectives. The NSCI project by OurMumuDonDo is fundamentally premised on a socio-political urgency to galvanise and scale up citizens’ involvement in governance, as well as create a viable tool to demand an incorrupt, pro-people, transparent, and accountable government.
The Social Contract initiative has also found a space in a social change initiative called Make Difference Against Corruption (MadACT) that a prominent Nongovernmental organisation, Youth Alive Foundation (YAF) and partners under their strengthening Youth Participation Against Corruption (YPAC) project with support from UK Aid, are implementing. The curbing of endemic corruption in the country must be elevated to a point of collective responsibility by the people and government.
Until we are able to sufficiently push for and attain a people-led approach in the fight against corruption, where there is no sacred cow, we will still be scratching the surface. Therefore, and in line with what YAF and OurMumuDonDo are doing, I would like to suggest to the Not-Too-Young-To-Run movement to consider the mainstreaming of the youth as active advocates in the fight against corruption. They could be mobilised nationally through capacity building, social marketing/ behavior change communication and civic engagement activities
The youth seeking political offices must consider, and are in a better position to enter into social contract with the people, the electorate on how to attain a functioning society. As a bargaining arrangement, the electorate can promise not to sell their votes and perform their civic responsibilities. On the other hand, the candidates must know that the people can no longer be taken for a ride; they are government and the candidates, when elected, are meant to hold government in trust and serve them.
The old order must give way in Nigeria if we must have a chance of preventing the unthinkable. We have reached a most despicable level in corruption, election rigging, poverty and hopelessness. But the people are waking up: they are saying Our Mumu Don Do; they are saying enough of everything bad. And the ruling elites cannot keep messing with the snake without getting bitten. But social contract initiative gives hope that we could avert the unthinkable.
As the OurMumuDonDo movement seeks to launch the first Nigerian Social Contract Initiative on June 20, 2018, and subsequently take the campaign nationwide, I wish to express optimism that the intervention will help to scale up inclusive participation in democratic governance and the return of power to the rightful owners – we the people #NaWeBeGovernment.
Hopefully, the campaign will help to strengthen the ongoing electoral process by discouraging votes’ trading and the holding of leaders accountable. Nigerians are saying: Our Mumu Don Do (a local parlance transliterated as Our Docility is enough)!
Atoye writes from Abuja via [email protected]