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“Nigeria – who cares for its needs?”
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“Nigeria – who cares for its needs?”

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Jonathan Ugiagbe picElections are a time to reflect on democracy, writes Jonathan Ugiagbe, 30, a Correspondent from Benin in Nigeria, who argues that Nigeria’s democracy needs nurturing by leaders and the people alike.

For any nation, an election period is a time for renewal and also for reflection.

After a long spell of authoritarian rule, democracy came to Nigeria 16 years ago amidst expectation that a civilian political dispensation would offer a new lease of life to the entire country in terms of innovative policies, growing the economy, promoting civic culture and improving the human condition.

All Nigerians, especially those occupying or seeking positions of power and authority, owe the nation a duty of care.

Disappointed expectations engender despondency. Political institutions are inefficient and the political process has fallen short in essential ingredients of democratic values. The parties are not what they should be, namely, the engine of the democratic process and platforms for elite recruitment and circulation. Instead, they have morphed into avenues for the imposition of candidates to the detriment of internal party democracy, becoming mere special purpose vehicles that can lead to power grabbing and individual wealth appropriation.

Even the electioneering process is uncertain. And in desperation for a hold on the nation’s treasury which political power confers, some politicians deploy violence and other devices that are a disservice to the nation. The faces they or their hirelings show and the words they speak are nation-wrecking, and not nation-building.

Some of those involved in the contest for public office have demonstrated not even the least understanding of the issues or how to move the country forward. Indeed, their campaign messages are mostly mere empty cliches.

Given the foregoing, citizens must be nudged into a reflective mood, to soberly wonder whether, indeed, anyone cares about Nigeria.

Chinua Achebe once likened Nigeria to a child in need of nurturing. Disclaiming the image of a fatherland invoked in Nigeria’s old anthem, he described the nation as a child in need of care. From the conduct of most Nigerians, especially those in power and authority, however, the child would seem orphaned, oppressed by greed and selfishness. And nobody seems to care.

In reality, every Nigerian who morally and by complusion ought to nurture the child appears to have abandoned that duty. This moral duty is drowned in the pursuit of the self, with the result that the neglected nation suffers the consequences of being uncared for: stunted growth, waywardness and disorientation.

So, what has happened to those values that edify Nigeria? Nigeria, after all, has not always been what it is now.

As a people, the diversity of Nigerians has always strengthened their unity. All have cherished freedom of self-development and actualisation. In that diversity, all tribes and tongues have been united in their deference to age. Respect for constituted and legitimate authority are very Nigerian. Nigerians are accustomed to playing the Good Samaritan under any circumstance, providing shelter, security, food and clothing for those in need. Pluralism is an accepted norm and has always allowed for mutual co-existence.

Unfortunately, those in power take modernity as the end of development and in the process repress the social experience. The result is, as the late eminent Nigerian social scientist Claude Ake once put it, “…we cannot determine how we are, who we are, or for that matter, why we are. We are dissipated in incessant rivalry. Our society is a contested terrain from which everyone takes and no one gives. One effect of this is that our prospect for material progress is irreparably injured by a firmly entrenched distribute mentality.”

Nigeria, of course, has strengths and weaknesses. Corruption; a certain mindset of the country as a no-man’s land, vast, rich and just there to be plundered; or the view of the country as an already-baked cake which no one seeks to preserve for the future but to be shared today without scruples – these are the nation’s greatest weaknesses, the ones that breed the question “who cares?”

The nation’s strengths, however, are inherent in its values, apart from the enormous natural resources with which Nigeria is endowed. At this point, these values as strength must be restored and these resources must be harnessed on a sustainable level for the sake of today and tomorrow. What is required is patriotism and nationalism to nurture Nigeria. Patriotism entails love for one’s country, which propels one to do something to protect and grow the country. Nationalism enables the former by the inclusion of a political super-structure for the realisation of the love of one’s country.

These values are required at no other time than now. These times do not allow for a revolting denial of responsibility of Nigeria, a child in distress and one that must be cared for.

Reach me on Twitter @jonathanugiagbe

photo credit: Wahlkampf in Nigeria 2015 via photopin (license)
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About me: I am an easy-going person who takes people for who they are regardless. I like reading, travelling and table tennis.
My objective is to work with existing staff and facilities, contributing the best of my ability and quota so as to improve organisational objectives and achieve management goals and targets.  Currently, am a blogger and a web designer.
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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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