How democratized is government in Nigeria? The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria began by asserting that it was being enacted in the name of “We, the People of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, having firmly and solemnly resolved … to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people do hereby make, enact and give to ourselves the following constitution…”
That Constitution also states that there shall be three tiers of government – federal, state and local. All our efforts of standing endlessly in queues March 2015 was to elect representatives to the first two tiers of government. In many states, it is not even clear if there is a local government. Certainly, no serious attention or at least the same quality of attention is paid to election of persons to this tier of government. And yet, it is this tier of government, the local government that is often described as the government closest to “We, the People”. The first question to ask, therefore, is “In what sense is our local government, a government close to us? What, in fact, do most of us know of our local government other than that it is indolent, the cesspool of massive corruption and virtually irrelevant in the scheme of things as far as governance is concerned.
What then can “We, the People” do about this situation? Is it possible for us, the civil societies to which we belong in a democratic setting to call attention to the need for a more participatory and inclusive governance system especially at the local level where this is most possible, practicable and essential? At federal and state level, we have done what is expected of us. We have sacrificed time, energy and commitment to stand in long queues to elect our President, our Governors and our representatives at these relatively remote levels. All we can hope is that they will redeem their pledges to provide us with regular power supply, potable water, better education, good roads, better health care delivery, security of lives and property, job creation and poverty eradication. But we know that if they fail or renege on their promises there isn’t much we can do except wait and try to vote them out at the next election four years from now. We can do better.
The time for lamentation is over. This is the era where ‘we’ the people must become more active citizens that hold government accountable to their promises. This is the time for action. Nigeria can only be transformed if we all play our parts with commitment and sincerity. Cynicism and skepticism will not help our journey to greatness. Let us all believe in our potentials to improve Nigeria. Let us work together to build a great country that we will all be proud of. This is our hour.
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