That terrorist attacks are assuming a frightening national phenomenal would not sell a newspaper as a lead story. That Nigerians are yet to fully wake up to the reality of the dragon that is charging at our national live is discernable from the way we carry on as usual is not also news. That most of us are clueless as to the way out of the tunnel is also audible to the deaf. Above all, that our government, particularly at the Federal level have more to say than to do on this matter of national security has become a subject of beer parlour and pepper soup joint banters(apology to Alozie Ogugbuaja) is no news.
Then what is the news? I think the news as far as I am concerned is that we the people of this greatly blessed nation do not know how powerful we are in directing the affairs of our nation aright. Unfortunately many of us still think that the ultimate power still lies with our elected representatives. I think the major problem is that we do not have an elementary understanding of the working of the state.
Though the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has for example declared that ‘the welfare and the security of the people shall be the primary aim of government,’ we do not still know how to hold our elected representatives responsible for our security and welfare. As it has been with security, so it has been with welfare. Welfare is critical for security to make sense. Or what sense does security make to an empty stomach? Security is crucial to welfare. Comfort is meaningless if one has to sleep with the two eyes open. It is the combination of welfare and security that is equal to total social well-being. Therefore, when a state does not guarantee welfare and security, it is pointing us back to the state of nature.
My concern today is to see how I can show us that there power is our hands to determine our national destiny. This is the demand of true patriotism. I have spent the better part of my adult life studying the twin subject of personal and corporate change and by necessary extension nation building and social work. The truth is that the people deserve the leaders they get. The national pulse is determined by the social consciousness of the people. Please note that my views are well-researched and back by historical facts.
I therefore enjoin you to lend me a space in your social conscience to erect some social blocks, aimed at building from foundation your social consciousness.
‘Power to the people’ is one phrase that has continued to punctuate the message and struggle for change throughout the history of mankind. I submit here that the foregoing phrase suggests that the people want power. It will not also be out of social logic to conclude that the people desire for change and their agitations thereof is to enable them be in control of their collective destiny within the tenets of a modern and civil society. There are three areas where the people seek power. These three areas are backed up by God, history and law. Every revolution in human history (The French Revolution, Bolshevik Revolution, the struggle of the South African people for majority rule and even the recent agitations in the Middle East and North Africa, just to mention a few) has begun with the agitations for one, two or all of these three areas of power interests.
The people seek political power, economic power and social power. Political power gives the people a decisive say in governance. Economic power enables the people to satisfactorily answer the question of how to meet basic human needs. Social power gives the people the platform to enjoy and protect social amenities provided and maintained by the government to enhance their physical and mental comfort. All these three areas of power interests are inseparable triplets. The presence of one is the security of the others. It is when the foregoing are achieved that the constitutional position that ‘the welfare and the security of the people shall be the primary aim of government,’ makes any sense in a modern society.
I made bold to say that the awareness of the people of these powers and effective exercise of them is the true definition of true citizenship. I further submit that anyone, who is not aware and equipped to effectively exercise the foregoing powers in a state, is not a citizen, irrespective of what the opening of a national broadcast, ‘fellow Nigerian Citizens’ suggests. I hope we know that one of the synonyms of the word, ‘fellow’ is the word, ‘equal.’ Imagine if you and I are equal with the man or woman voicing the common social cliché, ‘fellow Nigerian Citizens.’ If you dare believe in your equality, social status and reality will soon jolt into seeing the full picture.
Now, due to lack of proper social and political education, the majority of our people do not understand the dynamics of power, including the ones they seek. Therefore they are not strategic in their noble pursuit of political, social and economic powers. They approach their agitations either by putting their collective destiny in the hands of a social messiah, often christened, social crusader or they go out in raw anger. The latter was the approach during the June 12 Annulment, where hundreds lost their lives and yet the election remained annulled.
I submit here that in the agitation for ‘power to the people,’ we must take into consideration the conclusion of Montesquieu that ‘power does not shift except for superior power.’ Montesquieu’s apt postulation brings us to the conclusion that the whole essence of social contract is to enable the people to retain superior power. We all know that social contract, which creates a legitimate and formidable platform for the pursuits of the three kinds of powers, enumerated above, ‘implies that the people give up sovereignty to a government or other authority in order to receive or maintain social order through the rule of law.’ Social contract operates to ensure no entity (government or other authorities) is as powerful and effective as the people. Therefore the idea behind the social contract is that people in a bid to retain power, decided to give their collective powers to the government at the inception of the State.
The thinking was that the power was weak and useless in the hands of one person, but becomes a weapon to the people’s advantage when it is collectively deposited in the hands of the government in a modern State structure. It is important to note that the power surrendered to government is a double-edge sword. It makes alive and kills! Until it is able to make alive and kill when necessary, it is not in the best interest of the people. It will only protect the best interest of a few, who benefit from this big loophole of one-edge-sword power dynamics. They recognize their power to vote in and vote out their leaders. They understand the meaning of representative government. In the final analysis the people surrendered their powers to the government and yet retained it.
They know that governance is not the sole proprietorship of their elected representatives, but a Social Public Liability Company, where all citizens are equal shareholders. Therefore they employ vigilance, which has been called, ‘the price of liberty.’ They keep their eyes on the affairs of the State and demand credible service from their representatives. The people understand the burden, the state, through government is created to carry culminating in a consistent and informed demand that their elected representatives at every level of government live up to the primary aims of government, the welfare and security of the people. They demand a credible agenda from the state on how it plans to meet their welfare and security. Therefore the people’s expectations, measured by the devolution of political, economic and social powers are always before them and are hardly victims of gullibility, otherwise known as blind faith and uninformed reliance on unfounded promises.
The foregoing is an ideal, which only few nations have been able to achieve. I do not think social contract operates in its real sense in Nigeria and most parts of the African continent. In Africa, the State as represented by government has abandoned or has never taken responsibility for the political, economic and social well-being of the people. The people are used to living without the State playing its roles under the principle of social contract. The people have therefore become their own regulatory bodies. It is a pure but pathetic case of ‘everyone to himself, God for us all.’ Government and governance have lost their meanings to the people.
I think this is the template upon which we should begin our agitation and discussion at the present state of insecurity in our dearly beloved nation.