#STATE AND SOCIETY
It’s indeed pity that a one time giant of Africa and promising black country, Nigeria, has been suffering from what some would call prostrate cancer. The illness surely frustrates its development pursuit in all facets. Concerns are thus raised by all stakeholders and solutions are proffered by many schools of thought as to how the country will get on course to begin its journey to greatness.
Some think until Nigeria is restructured (Well, there are about 8 different beliefs under this) it will continue to be an underdeveloped country. Another school believes that the problem with Nigeria is leadership and once the right leadership is put in place the problems will naturally go away. Nigeria will only prosper if it attempt a bottom up approach solution to its problems, another school advocates. Some think Nigeria rather needs strong political and economic institutions as panacea to its persistent underdevelopment challenges.
In all of these schools’ submissions, the one that fascinates the Nigerian leadership’s fancy seems to be the one which proposes bottom up approach— a theory that drops all the challenges at the doorstep of the society since its the society that produces everything including the institutions and leadership, and not the vice versa. It let to be thought then which fixes which: Is it the society that supposed to fix the institutions since they are its creation, or the institutions will fix the society since they guide its affairs?
Based on the foregoing therefore, past governments had introduced different social reorientation programmes to get the citizens change their attitudes toward the state so as to achieve a universal national progress. No one would perhaps deny the quantum impacts indiscipline had on our socio-economic fabric, yet; each of these programmes designed to achieve the above objective, naturally died with the government under which it was conceived, launched and preached.
The present government that is known for it’s antipathy for public indiscipline followed the path of its predecessors. Last week, it introduced its own version of social reorientation programme– #ChangeBeginsWithMe. Unfortunately, Nigerians reacted negatively to it. As usual, challenging the government to first change its leadership style, before asking any Nigerian to change.
It must therefore be a source of worry why Nigerians have been rejecting such calls for attitudinal change over time. The question is what goes wrong between the theory that suggests the approach and its application in Nigeria? Until this is interrogated, government will continue to introduce such programmes and Nigerians will keep on turning them down. Let’s see.
Some Attitudes are System Induced:
It’s the system that sometimes make people to be desperate, nervous and often even corrupt. Man is a social animal and can’t resist or operate outside the social dynamics in which he finds himself. For instance, Muslims in the north observed the month of Ramadan under a very hot weather condition and it will pass two days without a blink of electricity in some cities. At the time of breaking the fast when everybody was looking for some thing cold to drink, one would like to see the desperation with which people run to get ice block from very few locations in Katsina city.
A politician living within the vicinity of lower class sank 2 boreholes in his house as a result of which most of his neighbours’ wells dry off. He drilled a borehole for them behind his house and everybody had to come there to fetch water. It’s sad in the morning to see adults and school children desperately coming to fetch water before going to work and school respectively. This is a community that had pipe born water before 1999. Another example is of ATM machine. In Katsina you find very few working, and not only they can’t serve the need of the city dwellers, hundreds from neighbouring villages will troop in, in search of same services. To call for orderliness in such desperate situations is near impossible.
If you have your file in any public office; you will have to bribe the staff in charge to get the services you applied for or die of frustration. However, a community will be facing some security challenges and report same to the relevant authorities countless times without any response until the challenges become unbearable. The community takes law into its hands and the vicious circle of anarchy looms large. That there is little presence of government and law in our daily lives is a fact.
The psychology of the Poor is Demoralised:
The impression that Nigerian laws create in the minds of the poor is that, laws are for the poor to follow and for the rich to break. The rich, until they commit very big crimes like stealing billions from government’s coffers, are above the law. Even at that they are granted bail for a million naira or just serve a one week jail term. But poor would steal chickens and if they escape lynching from mobs, they will spend the rest of their lives in prison without trial. At slight disagreement with the rich will attract a truck load of police to deal with the poor. Rich children and poor would together commit a crime, the son of the rich is let go and of the poor is thrown in jail. There he will rot.
Law enforcement agents don’t respect most laws they are meant to enforce: they beat traffic, they drive roughly around, they don’t join queues for any services they seek along with the public, among other such misconducts. One would see the vehicle of the Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) or police or Road Safety with broken headlights or expired tyres moving, while they arrest a commercial bus driver for same crime.
In Abuja where Environmental Task Force harass hawkers and Mai suyas, the children of the rich during the last administration would block some strategic roads during weekends for stunt driving with expensive cars. With them were well equipped security personal comprise police, roads safety and VIO; ensuring their safety and divert other traffic to the comfort of the errant children of the rich. Human being would naturally flout laws when enforcement (and its agent) is weak or when professional misconducts are the order of the day.
Based on the above therefore it’s only natural for the poor to not trust the leadership. Historically, every time since colonial period Nigerian poor would be promised paradise on earth but end up getting nothing at all. The accumulated experience therefore deepens the poor’s mistrust of the leadership.
APC promised Nigerians change and were voted based on, and for that. On getting to power they begun to disown some of the promises they made to Nigerians. According to some Nigerians, things have disappointingly continued the way they were; citing examples of perceived nepotism in appointments, fight against corruption and recruitment into public institutions. In this situation Nigerians think they are jealously guarding the change they championed a year a go.
Governments have been introducing these programmes at the time the poor’s demands were for the leadership to provide them with the most basics or when trust between the state and society has broken.
Many a pundits expect APC to introduce such a programme much earlier when it enjoyed enormous support and goodwill from Nigerians. But at this time when the economy is biting harder and the psychology of the poor is stretched, any introduction of such programme will hardly be gladly received by the citizens. In fact Nigerians have never before embraced such. The perception now would be that APC are trying to divert attention from the promises they made and the recession we are in.
But this doesn’t mean a patriotic Nigerian should not change his ways where the odds are not at play. Even if no such programme was introduced some of our public (mis)conducts are not system inclined. We have options to behave normally no matter the situation. Some public misconducts like throwing refuse from a moving vehicle, urinating/defecating indiscriminately in the open, over speeding, placing posters and adverts on road signs and public buildings that read “Post no Bill” have no pretext under “system malfunction”. For me, CHANGE really BEGINS WITH ME. And you?
Twitter Handle : @BabaBala5