Democracy is said to be the government centred on the citizenry but one then wonders if this isn’t just lettered words. Adia E. Stevenson stated that “As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the law givers and the law abiding, the beginning and the end.” Since democracy empower citizens to elect their representatives, the sole responsibility of these elected should then be to cater for the needs and desires of the citizens but our reality is one where the elected only seek self-aggrandizement.
A state is regarded as one that has a defined territory, a sovereign and legitimate government and most importantly, a citizenry. Irrespective of the system of governance, the purpose of every government has always been to provide and better the lot of her citizens. Although in most states, resources are being depleted and embezzled thereby leaving an impoverished and malnourished citizenship. How then can a citizen demand for a better representation?
Marcus Garvey espoused that ‘A people without the knowledge of their past, history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.’ He also stated that ‘liberate the minds of men and ultimately, you will liberate the bodies of men’. According to the history books, citizens have had to find their voices and challenged the powers of those who they elected to represent them.
Taking a cue from the actions of citizens outside the shores of our beloved county, On December 1, 1955, Rosa Park challenged Montgomery City code which established a transport segregation between whites and African Americans. On this day, Rosa Park refused to stand up from her seat and this led to her arrest. Though she was later released on bail, on December 5th 1955 which was the day of her trial, people were encouraged to boycott the buses and after a successful boycott for 381 days, the Supreme Court ruled and declared the public transit segregation unconstitutional.
In recent weeks, citizens have had to come out in their numbers to challenge governmental policies and demand for change or reversal of these policies. From Hong Kong to Israel and to Spain, massive demonstrations have been on for weeks challenging government policies and politics. Citizens are not perturbed by the deadly counter measures initiated by government, rather, they are spurred to ensure that their wishes are adhered to.
To Windrow Wilson, “Liberty has never come from government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is the history of limitations of governmental power, not the increase of it.” Citizens of these states understand the importance of a united and active citizenry but can that be said of Nigerians? According to Joan Claybrook, “there’s nothing beyond the reach of ordinary citizens doing the daily work of democracy, and no problem too great to tackle with the power of active citizenship.”
To Dwight D. Eisenhower, ‘neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.’ As Nigerians, we are constantly reminded of the good old days, the period when Nigeria’s economy and currency rivalled that of other European countries. We are told of how our economy was solely dependent on Agriculture before the discovery and exploration of crude oil.
Years later, while Nigeria’s economy is in a deplorable state, vast majority of citizens desire to leave, to seek greener pastures from our counterpart whom we once rivalled. Citizens are now disconnected from the country and are also quick to lay the blame on older generation rather than seek ways to demand better representation from the government.
According to Don Tapscott, “Industrial capitalism brought representative democracy, but with a weak public mandate and an inert citizenry. The digital age offers a new democracy based on public deliberation and active citizenship”. Technology has provided a strong medium through which citizens can educate themselves on governmental dealings and policies as well as take a cohesive and united stand against anti-people and anti-economy policies.
The importance of an active citizenry cannot be overemphasised as we are the only instrument of change that our beloved country possesses. To tackle corrupt and inept leadership, citizens must first realise that divided we fall, united we stand; irrespective of our ethnic or religious affiliations.