By GERALD ADEWOLE
All through history, social mobilization has proved to be a potent weapon for galvansing the citizenry towards the attainment of national goals and developmental aspirations. According to the existential philosophers, development is human-centred and action-driven. As the subject and object of development, man is the propelling power of development. This is why all genuine efforts at national development must necessarily proceed from human capital development to the conscious mobilization of the collective will and capacities of the people to drive the development process.
This process of pooling together, harnessing and channeling the creative energies, skills and capacities of the people towards the attainment of pre-determined goals is generally regarded as social mobilisation. It has to do with the deliberate exposure of the people to the challenges and opportunities in their social environment and stimulating them to take personal and collective action towards overcoming the challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities for personal or communal development.
From the biblical Tower of Babel, through the Egyptian Pyramids, the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain, history is replete with great adventures, exploits or landmark achievements made through the sustained and systematic mobilization of men. In Nigeria, the attainment of political independence was made possible through the process of social mobilisation spear headed by our nationalists. It was in direct recognition of the centrality of social mobilisation to the propagation and promotion of reforms for national development that the Babangida administration established the Directorate for Mass Mobilisation for Social Justice, Self Reliance and Economic Recovery (MAMSER).
New sets of values needed to be enshrined to engender the success of such programmes like the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), the staggered transition programme, a new political order based on learning process by new brigade politicians; Economic Programmes for Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure among others.
Today, the need for a coherent and sustained programme of social mobilisation has become even more urgent and compelling than ever before. The government of President Muhammadu Buhari is vigorously implementing far-reaching policies and programmes aimed at repositioning Nigeria for accelerated growth and development.
This policies and programme, encapsulated under the change agenda of the administration, include the fight against corruption, the restoration of national peace and security, the diversification of the economy for rapid growth and development; the alleviation of poverty, the creation of wealth and employment, the development of critical infrastructure, among others.
This philosophy of change needs to be massively popularized so that it can have the full support of Nigerians. Indeed, the change agenda is a call for a break with tradition and to reinvent Nigeria and Nigerians. It is a transformation from the crisis of negative attitudes and dysfunctional values that have promoted a culture of corruption, vices of insurgency, armed robbery, vandalism of public infrastructure, ethno-religious conflicts and mutual inter-ethnic discord and disaffection.
The change agenda is also a clarion call for abiding faith in the Nigerian project and the revitalization of our collective sense of nationalism and patriotism. It follows therefore that the change agenda is both a programme of physical, social-economic and infrastructural transformation as well as the transformation of the attitude and orientation of the citizenry. It is for this reason that social mobilisation is both critical and strategic to the success of the on-going efforts of government to change Nigeria.
The right attitudes and values must not only be promoted and entrenched, the citizens must also be made consciously aware of the policy direction of government, the rationale for such policies and the personal and public benefits of these policies and programmes. This strategic approach to public information dissemination is desirable, not only to create mass awareness on the change agenda, but to mobilize the masses to freely and actively support all policies, programmes and projects being driven by government in the effort to change Nigeria. There is no doubt that the task of social mobilisation in the Nigeria of today is not only daunting but also a very challenging task.
In the face of severe economic stress exacerbated by pervasive corruption, high level of poverty and unemployment, outrageous infrastructural decay, the tendency could be for many to be cynical and apathetic about issues of public concern.
It therefore requires a committed effort in public education for Nigerians to understand that the failure we experience in various sectors today is a result of a long period of neglect and inaction on the part of past leadership and perhaps bad folleweship. Corruption has become an endemic cankerworm because the political will and leadership courage to fight the menace was hardly available. The economy is in comatose because of decades of over-dependence on oil as the mainstay and the failure to take the right path of diversification.
In the midst of oil wealth we bluntly refused to harness the huge potentials in agriculture, solid minerals and the manufacturing sector to expand the base of our economy and get our youths fully and productively engaged. We neglected to invest in our small and medium scale enterprises and to develop technical and vocational skills for self-employment and self-reliance.
The cumulative effects of these are mass poverty, unemployment, youth restiveness and vices of all kinds. The foregoing are the challenges this administration is tackling head-on, in the face of a dwindling economy. While these challenges are many and appear difficult, they are by no means insurmountable. All hands must be on deck in the task of rebuilding Nigeria.
Adewole writes from Abuja.