To create the New Nigeria, each Nigerian must take personal responsibility, realising that we are the government.
When I wrote an article titled Failed Government or Failing Citizens in January 2013, I expected a reverberation of mixed comments. I was not disappointed. In that piece, I attempted to challenge the belief system that makes us channel our creative energies towards blaming the government rather than taking responsibility for effecting change and proffering solutions wherever we can. While I got some degree of positive feedback, a section of my audience seems to believe that I am either “part of the Nigerian Government that has failed us” or I am “not exposed to the realities of a responsible government.”
The backlash notwithstanding, I still believe that poor performance on the part of the government should not breed indifference in the way we live our lives and conduct our personal affairs. My position was further strengthened on a recent trip to Ibadan, the Oyo state capital. Entering through the Iwo Road-Ojoo axis, I was impressed with positive developments that have sprung up since my days as an undergraduate at the University of Ibadan. For a city which was listed by the Financial Times of London in 2012 as one of the “Big 5” cities in Africa, one shouldn’t have expected any less.
However, my excitement soon gave way to disappointment as I approached the University precincts. All the way from Barika to Agbowo, the median on the dual carriageway was adorned with bags of solid waste in place of the customary rows of ornamental plants or neatly kept lawn. It was an incredibly disgusting sight – so incredible that I had to stop and take some pictures.
Many questions began to flash through my mind. At first I wondered if Oyo State has any agency that is responsible for waste management. Upon realisation that it does, I wondered what kind of mind-set would prompt supposedly enlightened Nigerians to dump household waste right in the middle of the road. Although I happened to have sighted this in Ibadan, similar situations exist across the country; and this has contributed in no small way to the outbreak of diseases and incidence of so-called natural disasters.
While we must hold our political office holders responsible for fulfilling our legitimate expectations, I believe that as responsible citizens of this great nation, we should also hold ourselves responsible to basic standards of propriety regardless of the effectiveness or otherwise of government agencies and public systems. Like I have often said, we must realise that the most important things are not the things that the government will do for us. To create the New Nigeria, each Nigerian must take personal responsibility, realising that we are the government. We will get it right someday.
God bless Nigeria.
Philip Amiola is a teacher, and a writer. He tweets from @PhilipAmiola.