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Silence is Consent: Occupying the Office of the Citizen – ‘Yemi Adamolekun

When I started actively working on governance issues 10 years ago, it seemed that there would be a rational sequence of actions that led to holding public office holders accountable. People put themselves forward to serve and when they fail to deliver on their promises, refuse to serve or serve in ways that are destructive, we bring this to their attention, expecting them to align. If they do not align, we vote them out of office or use other legal processes to enforce accountability, including protests! It was very straightforward to me.

I would get so frustrated when talking to people about demanding better governance, because there was just very little or no interest in taking any action. Some did not know their rights; while others had the general understanding that government should serve them, but both groups felt helpless and by extension, hopeless. I initially could not understand it but as I spent more time in the space, it finally made sense.

It is actually quite simple. People can not fight for what they do not know or understand, and for those who understand how a democracy should work, they think the opportunity cost is too high. Therefore, instead of deploying time, energy and resources to ensuring those who had the legal obligation and access to resources to scale results actually performed, we choose to solve the problems ourselves – we build roads, schools and hospitals; dispose our own waste and provide water, electricity and security. We jokingly call it being a one-man local government and it technically seems easier than holding government accountable, but it is not. For one, it is significantly more expensive and as such, it cannot scale. So we continue to scratch the surface and wail endlessly about the dysfunctional system that determines our standard of living.

I am intrigued by followers of both major religions who abdicate their responsibility to God in words and deeds. I particularly like the Christian slangs – God dey! God will do it! It is well! God is in control! Meanwhile, the articles of their faith states in Psalm 115:16, “The heavens belong to the Lord, but he has given the earth to all humanity.”

I am saddened by generations of citizens who do not know their history – the struggle for independence; the role of our nationalists; the civil war, to name a few. In the words of Carter G Woodson, “Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”

I am fascinated by entrepreneurs, who invest the better part of their lives in building businesses in a country where the interpretation of the law depends on who you get as a judge and your lawyer’s connections. How do entrepreneurs build in a country that does not prioritize the education of its youth? Where are the graduates and technically trained workforce that you will employ to run these businesses? Even without legacy in view, the challenges of a large unemployable demographic are already obvious.

I “accidentally” joined the third sector space a decade ago, but it was not really an accident. My interest and conviction in a Nigeria that works for the benefit of all made it inevitable. I have chosen to be an active citizen, occupying the Office of the Citizen, which is really the highest office in the country. Today, I’ll share some more about my ten-year journey in a conversation with Maupe Ogun-Yusuf. Join us if you can – www.eieng.co/MarTTalks.

 

‘Yemi Adamolekun is the Executive Director of EiE Nigeria (eie.ng), a network of individuals and organizations committed to instituting a culture of good governance and public accountability in Nigeria through active citizenship. 

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