Country first, then people…

There is a popular, but questionable Nigerian saying that “nobody is bigger than the country”, which tends to make the human content of it not just less-important but un-important.
But the people are the tangible and value-loaded software of the shell called country. Aren’t they? The people are the soul and spirit of the country. The country is for the people’s protection, provision and enablement. It houses the all-important software, the human beings. Without the people the country is just a covering, just a wrapper. The people do all the work. This is the immutable philosophy on which the existence and idea of a state or country can rest. People come before the country actually in the ranking of importance. They should.
If a nebulous thing called country or state comes before the person, no wonder the perplexity about what the people would expect from the country and what the country should do for the people. If this confusion is not resolved, there is no end to the misery caused by the wars and conflicts about which the unheeded clarion calls by the state on its people are made. The country is crying all the time for its people to see its un-ending internal wars and conflicts as a common problem, and to bring all hands on deck to adopt a common purpose toward ending them. You ask, for instance, for how long Radio Nigeria would be “uplifting the people and uniting the nation”? Are people not bored by this sloganeering, and wondering what it is achieving all these years? Why can’t it be dropped? We don’t seem to be getting anywhere with the aims of that sing song. How many countries would rather put their national woes into a radio song that way and sing it for so long without feeling ridiculed by that?
If such songs were useful in any way, our country would have been a paradise by now in terms of the upliftment and unity of its people. Despite what Radio Nigeria thinks it is doing, the issues are aggravated. The slogan is a waste of time and has clearly a negative effect. It has the same effect as when a child is brought up by being told every time how bad he is. He doesn’t know what being good is, because he has never been told that one can be good. He becomes bad indeed and always. Many Nigerians only know about being corrupt, being looters, being poor and the bad things one can be. The persistent, recent jingle message now is that we should suspect all neighbors and people we pass on the road because the terrorists are still on the prowl, targeting markets, schools, churches, neighborhoods and places where people gather. Undue alarm is being raised about Lassa fever in a way that shatters the people’s confidence in them selves. There is alarm over bird flu and all sorts of things. There is a new virus called zika. The Ebola virus is gone but still lurking around ready to strike again. We are still scared to death about it. There’s no hiding place for anybody about death alarms from these pandemics. People go about shivering, afraid of the ground on which they walk.
Soon the Zika virus may be imported into Nigeria in what seems a dangerous game of the developed countries. Zika is a sickness that is said to be striking pregnant women and shrinking the babies in the womb. It has been reported in 27 countries. It is killing victims like Ebola. To increase our anxiety locally, we have the cruel radio warnings on illegal motor parks and minors sent out on street trading. These make the lawful citizen feel haunted and uneasy over crimes he has never contemplated. Certainly this is an invasion of his privacy as if he is not entitled to his peace of mind again. The entire scenario sounds like a declaration of war between the state and its people. Every body is made equally to feel like a terrorist.  This area where it has never been experienced and may never be experienced is being harassed with warnings about it. I thought a country may provide its innocent citizens protection against this type of unwarranted invasion. If people are told for once that they can be good, perhaps they may change and do better by being peaceful.
In Nigeria, the government is constantly calling upon the people to join hands with it to fight terrorism, to work for unity, to fight corruption, to fight crime. But the people being called upon are the very people their country is out to suppress in the bitter struggle for supremacy. They are the very people who engage in terrorism, divisive actions and utterances, corrupt practices, insurgency, vandalism, economic sabotage and other crimes. They do these to beat their country into submission so that the country would return the people to their pride of place as the masters in the relationship. The people know intuitively that they are supposed to be masters. Governments corruptly deny this and put the people down. Using the state power in their control, governments usurp that power that belongs to the people. Were the governments to concede that they are answerable to their people; all the wanton atrocities the people commit against the state would not arise. The impunity with which the governments lord things over their people will also stop. And there will be peace. The moment we start seeing the deviant behaviors among our people as responses to the high-handedness and irresponsible attitude of the state, we shall begin to see reciprocal changes in the sense of compliance of the people to laws, rules and regulations. That will be the end to wars and conflicts.
In my philosophical moments, I ask myself: what essentially makes the difference between developed and under-developed/developing countries? The difference is in the degree of sincere consciousness of the state that power belongs to the people, which it surrenders voluntarily, and that the people are masters over the state authorities. Not only that, the people must be aware of their superiority over the state authorities, and apply it to putting the state in check at all times so that it will never exceed its limits. The people, using their power will compel the state to do what it is supposed to do and not do what it is not supposed to do. Here, this is utopia. This people-power is only used during election when people use their votes to determine the fate of their almighty overlords. But soon after the people have put the winners in power, roles reverse and the people become voiceless and powerless serfs to the new leaders. They lose the power they exercised on election-day, with which they could make and unmake. In developed countries, there are laws that restrain the state authorities from usurping the people’s power. The laws punish them severely when the try to do that. People are also empowered by law to demand and get the right to retain the power they have over the state. That power enables the people to remove leaders who override or do not respect the people’s rights to regard their governments as their servants. These laws are ruthlessly enforced. And the leaders are always mindful of the laws. We have nothing in the form of such Civil Rights Laws. And that is the problem.
What then are we doing with the tangible unit of society, the individual person? This is the atomic, indestructible and indomitable unit the country is doing everything to crush. You will realize that God in creation, started with the person. Then he added another person of the opposite sex to form a family. The build up added a child and then children. From there it was enlarged to the kindred, the clan, the village, the town, the tribe or ethnic group and the nation. Does it make sense in the present times, to neglect all these Divine formations and decide that the country will not take special care of the person from whom it was originally formed? Without the person, the country is to all intents and purposes devoid of its fundament. It will not function. The country can survive so long as it recognizes the individual person’s worth and derives from his/her concerns its key or primary assignments. Whatever is the main concern of the person should be the main assignment of the state/country. A country’s goal is a fellowship in growth more than a growth without fellowship. This is what the statement, “nobody is bigger than the country”, prescribes – a growth in infrastructure to the exclusion of the person. Once the people are made to feel un-important in any way, they will feel un-involved in the affairs of their nation or country. They will not indentify with the problems of the society. They will them-selves pose the problems. How then will they agree to be part of the solutions? The state, nation or country can reconcile with the individual person. Its mission will be more understandable. It will bring an end to the fighting, wars and conflicts. Then the title of this article will be reversed: “People first, then country…….”

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