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The Office of the Citizen

February 27, 2021 | Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
Written by Tolu Okunade

“…Yes we need strong, patriotic and visionary leaders, but more importantly, we need strong, patriotic and visionary CITIZENS who would tell their leaders what to do, who would get them to do it or who would shove them aside and show them how it’s done.”

— Chude Jideonwo (TEDx Euston 2014)

I write today with a burdened heart. Secondary school students were abducted in Kagara yesterday. I’m sure we’ve seen this. This is perhaps the third or fourth kidnap of Schoolchildren in the space of three months. I can’t give an accurate figure because I have lost count. I couldn’t sleep last night. School children. What if it was me? I can’t imagine how the families of these children feel. 

Amid all these, the last time we got a Presidential Address was on January 1st. Our freedom as citizens of this nation is being impeded by terrorists. Not bandits, because banditry doesn’t fully grasp what they do. How dare you move around with guns in the broad daylight? Then you go ahead and abduct citizens going about their daily businesses? Holding the government to ransom? 

Irrespective of this, we are having conversations about negotiation with these terrorists. We’re in the middle of a war that can destroy the thin thread by which this nation hangs and we’re here speaking about negotiating with terrorists? How is this a decisive action? How is this a military intervention? How comfortable is it for us to negotiate with terrorists and grant amnesty to ‘repentant’ Boko Haram Members but open fire on unarmed protesters? 

We the citizens must rise. We occupy the office of the Citizen. The most important office in a democracy. That office wields immense power. Yet, we’ve not utilized that power. We’ve been asleep too long. And where has that gotten us? Nowhere. We’ve sat on the fence forgetting that one day, the fence would come crumbling down and we have nowhere to run to. 

This isn’t a call to anarchy, (one thing I’ve learned is that violence never solves anything) but we need to wake up. This country cannot work for a small percentage while the rest of us wallow in fear. 2023 is just around the corner. What plans do we have for the next elections? Isn’t this the time for us to engage in conversations on how to birth a new political order? Indifference would do no one any good. We can’t afford to be bystanders anymore. 

I understand we all have plans to leave the nation and seek greener pastures in saner climes. A Twitter user had jokingly said Nigeria needs itself needs to leave Nigeria so it can be given some time to think. Many have even called for a return to the era of the slave trade so Nigerians can have free access to countries abroad. 

Nonetheless, this isn’t the solution the nation needs. While you might be able to afford to travel abroad if you consistently plan and save towards it for a couple of years, will your sister be able to? Or your Parents who live and work here? Or perhaps your aged grandparents? How about your Uncles? Aunts? Nieces? Friends? Their friends? What happens to them here? Can you see why we must be interested? Why we can no longer be bystanders. 

The government must remember that no government in history has ever won a fight against the people. No matter how long it took. The examples are glaring for all to see — South Africa. The Gambia. Zimbabwe. The US. Even Nigeria. No government ever wins against the people. The power of the people is and always has been stronger than the people in power. 

Over the next couple of days, we at The Nigeria Journal would be sharing tips on how you can get involved as it pertains to political inclusion and sensitization. It would be our quota to building a nation our children would be proud of. 

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