We Are The Many: The Office of the Nigerian CitizenBy ayodeji (Edited by Amanda Chukwudozie)
The 2015 Nigeria elections have come and gone. Our same-of-same national elections turned out a different script from earlier elections with plot twists worthy of a Game of Thrones episode. Somehow, we survived the sudden postponement of the elections, the slowdown of economic activities, the vitriol on social media, all manner of political tricks and the violence the experts predicted. The elections weren’t perfect, but they were fair enough and only the few genuinely robbed would appeal, a far cry from 2011.
The elections are over. It’s for us to turn our attention to governance.
Social Media played a major part in the elections, from campaigning to photo-ops to monitoring voter turnout to exit polls. SM is an excellent tool if used properly – it was the crevice through which the Arab Spring flowed, for example and it will be key for the Office of the Citizen, no pun intended.
I could write a long blog post, but I’ll just transcribe a conversation between my friend and I.
Me: Who won the Senate seat in your district?
Friend: Who cares?
M: House of Reps?
M: If you don’t know the people who represent you at the NASS, how do you perform your role as a Citizen?
M: The Office of the Citizen is the highest office in the land. We cast votes to choose the people we want to govern us and people who represent us when laws are made. Through the media we learn of their policies and projects. Through our twitter, Facebook and even blog comments, we debate the policies and their merits. We hold and attend townhall sessions. When they start with their wayward policies, laws and financial dealings, we strike and protest so show that we are not happy with them.
F: Guy, na Naija we dey abeg. Those guys are in the NASS to chop money!
M: You said “votes don’t count” some days before the elections. We all saw that they did.
F: True. But that’s for the executive arm. No one cares what the legislature do.
M: Well, we have to, since they make laws that affect our daily lives, plus the fact that their budget is 150 billion naira.
F: 150 billion naira? Chai! How many are they sef?
M: Three senators from each state and one from the FCT for a combined 109 senators, plus house of reps members.
F: They are a lot, oh.
M: Not as many as we are. The government and all its arms and agencies work for us. We are their employers.Truth is, we have been lax in our responsibility of holding them accountable, and this is why the country, our business, is failing. We have to be the Change we want to see. We have to rebrand and re-strategize to perform our Citizen role. Wouldn’t you want to know your Rep’s vote on issues of national and personal importance such as rape, underage marriage and the PIB?
F: Bruv, you’re making sense o. My Rep’s vote is my vote on that issue.
M: So, won’t you prefer the voting technology in the NASS be used so you can know exactly what your Rep voted instead of the Aluta ayes and nays system they currently use?
F: Definitely. So, you and your friends want to constitute this “Office of the Citizen”?
M: How now? That office has always existed in the Nigerian constitution. It is your job description and mine. My friends and I just want to spread the word, to remind Nigerians of our responsibility to demand accountability from our government. If we don’t do it, nobody will. You can’t take anything for granted in this country: people will do whatever they like without any consequences. Our public officers’ incompetence kills innocent people in this country regularly, and nobody gets punished for it. We only hear one excuse after the other. Our country is at the mercy of cabals…it’s time we formed our own!
F: So we have to monitor the government: note their promises, note their budgets and allocations, note their projects and every single thing they do?
M: Yes we must. And we must call them out when we suspect foul play. We can, and must, impeach officers who choose not to serve. There’s so much we can do. Form citizens’ awareness groups in our neighborhoods and constituencies. Hold town-hall meetings so we all stay abreast of what’s happening. Write to newspapers…
F: Guy, at this rate, shey you won’t run for Senate yourself?
M: In due time, my friend, in due time.
If you’d like to read more,
- The Enough Is Enough Nigeria team is one of the advocates of the Office of the Citizen through initiatives like Shine Your Eye. Below is a link to an article written by Yemi Adamolekun of EIE. http://www.punchng.com/opinion/office-of-the-citizen-and-the-long-road-ahead/
- And here’s a list of the Senators representing each district and their political parties: http://www.shineyoureye.org/blog/elected-senators-list-2015