By Sotubo Olajide (HND, AATWA)
The fundamentals of modern democracy are ironically latent in the shared responsibilities of the electorate and the elected. It’s funny that a lot of people do not know how much meaning its most common, easily remembered definition by Abraham Lincoln conveys. As defined with three distinct levels of connotations as the government of the people, by the people and for the people, the inference drawn from each are surprisingly intertwining.
Democracy is the government of the people when everyone including the electorate is actively and conscientiously involved. However, when these qualities are lacking, it becomes only a government of the few–the government that only derives pleasure in lording over those who have chosen to be gullible and docile. This is when democracy is by the people and for the people. So, in Africa and Nigeria especially, what we have is the democracy that is by the people (those in power), for the people (the docile) and not of the people. You feel me?
Many years ago, Bob Marley in his Redemption Song acknowledged this docility and vehemently cried that Africans should rise and free themselves from mental slavery. He perceived the problem was and is more of the people than the government.
We can’t ignore the fact that a lot of people through different organizations or platforms have been fighting the evils of democracy [or governance] from time immemorial but victory isn’t assured until everyone has emancipated their minds. When our minds are emancipated and are not beclouded by ethnic or religious affiliations and ridiculous handouts during elections, we’ll begin to see how much damage has been done to us and our nation. When we emancipate our minds, we’ll see that we made the system what it is today. When we emancipate our minds, we’ll discharge our duties in public offices and serve conscientiously without getting kick-backs, bribes to do the wrong or right thing. When we emancipate our minds, we’ll stop being selfish and align our interests with our neighbours’ and the nation’s. When we emancipate our minds, we’ll stop celebrating mediocrity–those who have stolen so much from us or only those who are perceived to be rich. Can you relate that to why a lot of young people want quick wealth and why our legislators including those in government will continually amass more wealth for themselves and their generations unborn?
However, this freedom of the mind can’t happen if we don’t know how much debt of patriotism we owe. Charles E. Jefferson says patriotism is a thing of the heart. A man is a patriot if his heart beats true to his country. In essence, patriotism is sacrifice. Patriotism is doing what is right anywhere and everywhere we go.
We know a lot of people sell by the road side because of the level of poverty in the country but have you ever thought about the logic behind people heaping up dirt on culverts, dropping them in drainages or throwing them out of moving vehicles? Is that poverty too? Sometimes, I feel terrible and wish I could hit someone really hard for that. The irony of this is that the government they seem to be ‘fighting’ in this sense doesn’t seem to suffer a thing when the resultant effect is an epidemic!
Patriotism also involves active participation in governance. Sitting idly by to make so much noise and watch a set of people run the affairs of the nation like theirs will never solve our numerous problems instead, it will give them more opportunity to ravage the already bastardized system. As young people who are exposed, passionate and creative, we can exploit the new ‘Not Too Young To Run Bill’ that has just been passed by the Senate to turn things around. That is only when we can prove that our generation is way better. That is when we can formulate policies that will move the nation forward and even reduce the cost of governance.
It’s no news anymore that the yearly budgetary allocation for servicing the State House and our legislators is always about half of the entire budget. Funnily, the number of these few is less than a fraction, if you ask me, of the whole population. In a layman’s term, about one thousand people are legally fed with what thirty, forty or fifty million people would have been fed with. Isn’t that democratically ridiculous? We can even extend capital punishments to public officers that influence contract inflation, divert or mismanage public funds; contractors that do not execute their contracts and those who just take pride in looting our common wealth regardless of the legal opening the constitution creates. If petty thieves could get capital punishments, why shouldn’t they?
To this end, the debt of patriotism has to be paid by every citizen of this country if we truly want things to change from what they used to be.
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