Date Published: 05/10/10
My First Letter to Nigerian Citizens: Can We Afford not to Do It? By Dr. Terry M. Bagia
Author, Human Rights Lawyer and Legal Scholar
Fellow Nigerian citizens, my most revered fellow patriots and all people of goodwill around the global community, it was not quite long ago when I came together with few like-minded patriots originally from our beloved country, Nigeria, to form a new organization christened United Nigerian Citizens Consultative Initiative Inc. (UNCCI). It is an open secret that, there are moments in life that we don't only do what is right but we do what is required. Interestingly, what is required is often more sacrificial.
It gladdens my heart to share with you that the founders of this new organization warmly welcome all well-meaning Nigerian citizens and people of good will around the globe to affiliate and/or partner with United Nigerian Citizens Consultative Initiative Inc. (UNCCI) in its historic struggle to make our world a better place for all of us particularly in the overall eff orts at m aki ng Nigeria come out of the prolonged social, economic and political doldrums. We, who represent the voice of the cheated and down-trodden common citizens of our dear country, Nigeria, have to blaze the trail and chart the right direction for the actualization of the vision of our nation’s founding fathers. The valley may be deep, the climb may be steep; but with the collective efforts of all of us, our ultimate victory is guaranteed. Certainly, we shall win!
United Nigerian Citizens Consultative Initiative Inc. (UNCCI) is a patriotic and non-partisan organization truly dedicated to galvanizing, sensitizing and engaging the good citizens and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to heartily and conscientiously embrace and engage in the task of nation-building. The desirable plan of action is to be achieved through the assumption of a responsible path-finding role of bridging the gap between government and the citizens and people of the nation as well as engaging the entire Nigerian citizenry both at home and in the Diaspora to participate in a true democratic process that would stand the test of time. Inaction is indirect suicide.
For an effective galvanization of the Nigerian grassroots base, the foregoing organization is meticulously designed to operate through its Nigerian subsidiary, United Citizens Consultative Initiative Inc. (UCCI), duly incorporated in Nigeria, the main battle ground. The Nigerian subsidiary has three affiliate bodies which include: Nigerian Students Network for Democracy (NSND), Nigerian National Youth Initiative (NNYI) and Nigerian Women Grassroots Alliance (NWGA). Just like the beginning of every journey in life, the initial aspirations are so high to the extent that the ultimate expectations are beyond measure. Signs of a new dawn are quite visible in the Nigerian socio-political atmosphere. As a fellow passionate Nigerian patriot at the home front recently noted, “Presently, Nigerians are ten times wiser than they were at the beginning of last decade.” I believe him.
As the first public outing of the aforesaid organization, a ground-breaking and very ambitious victory rally is scheduled to hold in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State Nigeria, on Saturday August 28, 2010. All Nigerian citizens and all people of good will are enjoined to muster a renewed passion to turn the hands of the clock around as they ensure their preparedness to massively participate in the scheduled event. This historic event is truly expected to be a forum for charting a new direction for an enduring democratic leadership for our beloved country, Nigeria, come 2011 and beyond.
The forth-coming victory rally is captioned "Citizens' Votes-Must-Count" rally and its theme is "Eclipsing the Power of the Barrel and Enshrining the Power of the Ballot." Emphatically, as it were, the victory rally will hopefully feature the “who is who” in Nigeria and it is expected to serve as an enlightenment, interactive and deliberative forum between the government and the governed with special interest in the grassroots base within the Niger Delta and across the entire Nigeria. Similar programs, including town hall meetings and conferences will hopefully be replicated in the different regions of Nigeria going forward. As the adage goes, "if you want to go fast you go alone, but if you want to go far you go together." Together, we shall go far in the ultimate task of bringing Nigeria out of the woods. Our fatherland, Nigeria, must see the light of day. Our hope is alive!
The task at hand may be unequivocally challenging and earlier efforts may have threatened to terminate into a fiasco but, we will never let go our staying power and persevering spirit. Remember, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” Thus, we strongly believe, our ultimate victory is certain. We are propelled by our deep understanding that true test of leadership is the "ability to see the top of the highest mountain from the deepest valley below." We hope, each and every one of us, as individuals, shall all prove worthy of a true leader's mettle and when we combine our wits, victory is sure. The only question centers on whether, or not, we are prepared to rise above rhetoric and practically step boldly into the realm of real action.
It is an open secret that our eternal creator has blessed Nigeria to such a wonderful extent that so many people of goodwill in other parts of the globe would not only be naturally envious of but, would inevitably give up anything to be part of. However, as it is clearly evident, our supposed highly blessed country has since independence attached little or no importance at all to her greatest assets – her citizens. There have been virtually little or no conscious efforts by the politically privileged class to work to restore hope in the citizens of the country. This trend places a call on our lives, as lovers of our nation, and indeed, the entire humanity, to be prepared to be the foot soldiers of the struggle for the restoration of hope to our citizens. This is the yardstick of true patriotism. Though the tasks ahead of us may be enormous, but “if we know where we are going, the world will certainly make a way for us.”
Without any iota of doubt, corruption primarily defined by the misuse of public funds with impunity, is the endemic cancer that has eaten deep into the very fabric of the Nigerian socio-political system. This cancer cannot be eradicated unless it is vehemently and conscientiously attached at its very foundation. Corruption can only be eradicated if a progressive and people-oriented crop of leadership is elected into political offices. A crop of leadership that would be driven by an undiluted sense of accountability to our hitherto cheated, despondent, hapless and helpless electorate is what Nigeria needs to get out of the mess of misrule and the web of wastefulness. Political power has to be given back to those it truly belongs – the Nigerian citizens.
There are so many sorrows: the bitterness of death, the tortures of jealousy and the anguish of long-suffering. But there is none that rends the heart and ruin a man’s life like institutionalized treachery from someone to whom one has entrusted with something so precious and golden. Nothing, of earthly status, can be more precious and golden than the destiny of over 150 million people and those of their children and their children’s children. It behooves all Nigerians to be well schooled in the in act of ‘using their tongue to count their teeth’ as we get ready for another round of choosing who will captain our national boat as we trudge on in our sail through the uncharted sea of our national struggle.
The most fundamental right of the citizens of any country on the planet Earth is the right to vote and be voted for. The conduct of free and fair election in an atmosphere devoid of the politics of bitterness, fear, distrust, animosity, election banditry, political hate and legitimized blood-letting must become the frontline of any constitutionally regulated political system day in and day out. It is only under a political setting where this fundamental right of the citizens to willingly partake in free and fair elections is not only respected but guaranteed, that it can be clearly evidenced that the wielders of political power would identify with the problems and needs of the ordinary folks - the common citizens. Under such a political setting, the elected officials would ordinarily see themselves as stewards of the people. It is only the realization and the consciousness that it is the common citizens that pull the strings of their political opportunities that would make them watch their daily actions. Legitimacy matters!
The lessons of modern civilization have clearly demonstrated that government of ordination or imposition, which has hitherto become the bane of the Nigerian political practices, has proven to be just as dangerous as government by organized mob. People of ordinary backgrounds can rise up and strive to make a difference. We would all have more of a role to play in determining whether true justice prevails in our country as we all stand on our feet to shun any deceptive ploy by those who may attempt to pollute the sacred stream of the Nigerian democratic journey. We must all join hands to banish the mockery of democracy. It is at moments like this that ordinary people rise up to do extraordinary things.
For instance, in Poland, it was a young electrician named Lech Walesa, the son of a carpenter, who transformed the nation from communism to democracy. In Czechoslovakia, it was a common writer named Vaclav Havel, the son of a mere office clerk, who traded his pen for a podium and rallied his people to freedom. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela, a brave black man who worked his way through law school as a police officer, spent 28 years in prison to make one central point: “We are all created Equal.” In India, it was a young Oxford-trained lawyer, Mahatma Gandhi, that employed the philosophy of non-violence to defeat the British might and won political independence for his country, India, just as was the case of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of the United States of America who stood up against oppressive Jim Crow laws to secure freedom for all Americans. What else do we say of Barack Obama, the son of an ordinary Kenyan academia, who took the world aback and through his inspirational “Yes we can” slogan used the internet for American youth’s galvanization, rose to the totem pole of the 21 st century global politics and became the first black President of the world’s most powerful and richest country, United States. All these leaders have one thing in common with most of us. Like the past, the future leaders of this world are not mostly born to the blood of kings, but to the blood of ordinary citizens of their respective countries.
Leadership failure has become the endemic menace of the Nigerian society. It goes without saying that our country is presently stuck in the middle of nowhere (at crossroads) because of poor leadership. We must all rise up to replace the mockery of democracy with something meaningful which will truly deliver the dividends of democracy to the ordinary citizens of our great country. We cannot afford to sit on the fence while the monster of corruption continues to sprawl like a hungry python through the nooks and crannies of our national polity and eat up all that was once bright and beautiful in our national socio-political vineyard. The little roles each and every one of us can play are quite indispensable. No effort is too small, nor is any too big. It has to be recalled that it has been proven true, without doubt, that “if you want to go fast, you go alone, but if you want to go far you go together.” Together, we can go far in the ultimate task of bringing change to Nigeria. The time for change is now!
We can no longer wait. Our broken national fence begs seriously for immediate visitation and reconstruction. We, therefore, reiterate the clarion call on all our fellow Nigerian citizens and fellow patriots to not only go out massively to register as voters but also sensitize their kith and kin who have hitherto been sitting on the fence to go and register when the time commences. Our ultimate task must go beyond mere voting. We must follow through with the entire process to ensure that our votes count. The time for despair and despondency has gone. To sit down rescind to fate is sheer insanity. The time has come to hold the bull by the horn and redefine our national destiny.
Fellow compatriots, it is now our turn to make things work for our country. Our little contributions, as Nigerian citizens and the people of goodwill around the globe, can be very significant. An Olympics coach once told his players, "You were born to be players. You were meant to be here. At this time; at this moment, seize it; do it." They did just that and they won the gold. We cannot settle for less. You may be tempted to ask, “Can we do it?” but, please permit me to ask, “Can we afford not to do it?”
Dr. Terry M. Bagia
Author, Human Rights Lawyer and Legal Scholar.