Get off the sidelines

 By Remi Oyeyemi

Like millions of other Nigerians, one is very concerned. One is concerned about the subsisting chaos in our social order. One is concerned about the turbulence in our economic condition. One is worried about the glorification of charlatanism in our political landscape. One is disturbed about the morass of our moral mill. The absence of integrity, the discountenance of dignity, the disrespect of reason and disregard of facts all combine to give one serious concern about Nigeria.
When one traverses the social media, rummages through the newspapers, and listens to real life experiences of Nigerians, one could feel the concern of Nigerians. From discussions with a variety of Nigerians, irrespective of the social, economic and political status, the concerns have been evident. One could fathom that Nigerians wanted solutions to the manifesting myriad of problems. One would come away with the fact that Nigerians are fed up with the situation in the country.
But what is not very clear is how ready are Nigerians of all hue and cry to get off the sidelines and be involved in changing the course of their destinies. Their attitude of believing in a messiah to come around and liberate them might not be the best one given what we have witnessed so far. It is becoming increasingly self-evident that Nigerians have to stand up and take control of their destiny by getting off the sidelines.
It is one’s belief that time is now for all of us to get off our laptops, drop our pens, stop complaining and get off the sidelines. It is time for all of us to accept the fact that we are the captains of our souls. Not all of us can be president. Not all of us can be senators. Not all of us can be governors. But certainly, all of us can be active participants in the political process. Through our participation, we would all be able to work together to forge a new destiny for our country, forge a new country for our children and posterity.
“Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.” -William Jennings Bryan
With our active participation as individuals or as members of groups we would be able to decide on the direction of the country and the type of policies that have to be in place. We would be able to hold our leaders accountable. If someone is a local government chairman and he is not able to declare his assets, we would be able to hold him accountable or force him to leave office.  Any councilor that lives beyond his means could be held accountable. House of Assembly members would be forced to be accountable for their stewardship.
The Senators who collect constituency allowance and spend such on their girlfriends would be made to answer questions. Those who become commissioners and live beyond their incomes would have some explanations to do. The political party operatives would not be allowed to get away with deceit and deception. Party platforms and promises would be seriously adhered to. Presidents or governors would not get into the office and deny their promises made during campaigns.  All these could be possible only through mass participation in the political process.
Mass participation is the heart and soul of democracy. It is the lifeblood of freedom. It is the best check and balance for governance. Mass participation is the best form of holding elected officers accountable. If our elected officers know that we are all paying attention, they would think twice before they steal our commonwealth or engage in any other form of corruption. If our elected officers know that we are informed and very much aware of the way the process works, they would not be able to hold us to ransom or deceive us.
The refusal of those who are truly equipped to participate in the process is what is killing Nigeria.
A country that is endowed with so much talent in human and capital resources should be able to do better. This is a country that produced the Obafemi Awolowos. This is a country that produced the Nnamdi Azikwes. This is a country that produced the Ahmadu Bellos. This is a country that produced the Herbert Macauleys, the Aminu Kanos, the Akanu Ibiams, the Bode Thomases. This is a country that produced the Wole Soyinkas, the Tai Solarins, the Gani Fawehinmis the Mokwugo Okoyes, the Bala Usmans and several great minds in several fields of human endeavor.
The present situation in which the country finds itself is caused by the limited participation of its citizens in the political process. It is caused by the citizens abandoning the field to those who are morally and ethically unqualified. As a result of limited participation by citizens, a lot of riff-raffs have taken over the political space. Some pen robbers who in some cases are more destructive than actual armed robbers have taken over the reins of governance. Incompetent and horribly prepared politicians have taken over the control of our lives and the evidence are all over the place for us all to behold.
“The life of a nation is secured only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous.”-Frederick Douglas
It is like every stratum of our government is populated by criminals. It is like the private sector that used to hold on the light of hope has also been compromised. Integrity has no more value. Dignity has become a subject of ridicule. Hypocrisy has become a highly valued virtue. Utter Shamelessness is second nature in the landscape. Illicit acquisition of money is now the focus of both the leadership and the followership. Our children are being fed with contaminated values thus further jeopardizing the future of the country. Our moral compass has been vandalized.
Those who are repulsed by the reeking dirt are staying away from politics. Their integrity and self-respect make them utterly unqualified to participate. They are leaving it to people of doubtful character. People who had no intention to serve but to pillage; people who have no shame but blatant exudation of banditry are the ones in control of the inner rooms of power while their cronies walk its corridors.
One doesn’t want to generalize and engage in blanket condemnation. It would amount to intellectual dishonesty not to admit that there are still few good and honest men and women. Men and women who truly want to serve; true patriots who are sincere. But they are like few sheep in the midst of many wolves.  Chief Obafemi Awolowo once posited that politics is not a dirty game; it is those who play it who make it dirty. It is time for all Nigerians to get involved and get off the sidelines. It is time for mass participation in the political process. It is the only way to clear the Augean stable.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”-  President Barrack Obama
If we are all seriously concerned as it seems to be, it is time for all of us to get off the sidelines. It is time for us to go back to our communities and actively participate and stop complaining.  If we engage on social media from now till eternity, it will not move a needle unless we all agree to actively participate. Even, with active participation, we might be able to hold our media houses accountable through the use of our patronage. We could hold our law enforcements accountable if we all agree to be involved. Such is the limitless power of mass participation.
Please, get off the sidelines. It is the only way to move Nigeria towards the directions we all want. The time is NOW!
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.”

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