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Political Participation in Nigeria: The Role of the Citizens

The Nigerian scenario is that of political infighting, public displays of disaffection, the convoluted partnerships with each stakeholder involved as a result of self-interest. This, in turn, presents itself in the existence of a certain control group(s) involved in the devolution of resources in the economy.

The military rule post-independence, and the subsequent rule of the country by a dominant party, up until some years ago, is enough proof of this. The new party in power, still had a former head of state who was active in 1975, 1976 and 1983 coups from the military era as its presidential candidate in 2015 and subsequently president for the country. There are also members of the National Assembly who have been in power for three consecutive terms or more. This further solidifies the control-group theory on which the Nigerian political system lies.

The 80-20 syndrome is prevalent as 80 percent hold 20 percent power and authority overruling and governance, as the fear of loss of life and property or intimidation by political thugs and Godfathers have placed a mirage on the ability of citizens to participate actively in governance. The changing dynamics of population, with millennials demographically a higher percentage than the baby boomers and the generation X has placed more emphasis on the importance of political participation as key to socio-economic and developmental progress.

It is time for young Nigerians to stand up and choose their preferred candidate, as well as run for political post themselves, not minding the consequences. Nigeria is a young country, with a median age of 18 years (Quartz Africa) and with the recent triumph of the “not so young to run campaign” led by coalition groups, it is time for the well-meaning young Nigerians to take the reins in government.

The days of sitting on the sidelines are over, the children have weaned, the time is now and the time has come. Nigeria is moving into an inevitable phase which would be marked by a Marxian revolution if democratic and reconciliatory processes are not taken to ensure a transparent system of governance not based on heterogeneous factors and ethnocentric favoritisms. The need for a change outside of the supposed “change” experienced in the past administration has made it pertinent for the involvement of citizens outside this control group in politics.

That said, because democracy is defined as the government for the people and by the people, the role of the citizens would be centered on choosing and electing the most unbiased, unrelenting people who do not place self-interest over national interest and have a track record of excellent and impeccable work and who do not see Nigeria based on ethnic lines, but what each person has to offer.

It is a right as well as an obligation of the Nigerian people to vote for her preferred choice of candidates, it is a right for them to have a voice and speak with one voice, not minding the consequences or blowbacks.

It is a right for the citizens to demand equity, justice, fairness in the devolution of power and fiscal federalism by the government. This is the right we have.

We are a nation of over 170 million people, each person has a name, a personality, a purpose and should also have a voice. We the citizens should participate in the voting process by getting our PVC’s and trooping out en-masse on Election Day. We also have a role to hold our government accountable for its misgivings.

It is the role of the citizens to also ensure the rule of law is followed, as change begins on the micro level before occurring on the macro level. The mentality of we citizens still needs to be addressed as a normal Nigerian is self-seeking and hedonistic before being selfless and exhibiting martyrdom. The teaching of right morals, values and good socialization from the family system and other institutions like that of education, religion and societal would affect and change the type of leaders we have moving forward. The role of the citizen, therefore, is to change himself, and then his community, before it becomes a change on the aggregate level.

We as citizens are to speak up, vote, challenge the system, challenge status-quo and change our mentality.


Tamilore Asikhia is a volunteer with EiE Nigeria. You can also be part of our volunteer network here

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