What we need from Atiku

There’s a lot that needs fixing in Nigeria. The task is made more difficult by the lack of an educated majority. By education, I don’t mean academic education although that is also a problem that needs fixing, I mean civic education.

There’s a disturbing gap in how much majority of Nigerians, particularly those captured by poverty indices and those most impacted by poor governance, know about civics. Majority of us don’t know what our civic rights and responsibilities are and what the responsibility of government is, the limits to its powers and why those limits are necessary. We’ve had some call for the suspension of one arm of Govt, others suspension of the constitution and more lately overreach by the military with some members of the public even justifying same. It’s clear we have a followership problem. This problem is exacerbated by an obvious leadership problem given the terrible leaders we’ve had over the years even if a nation deserves its leaders.

Until and unless we improve the level of civic education amongst Nigerians, we will remain susceptible to seeking a messianic solution in a politician.

The government or our clandestine rulers, for diabolical reasons are incentivised to maintain the status quo as it assures their hold on power or at least their proximity to it. It’s highly unlikely the present crop of political elite will implement the kind of mass civic education we need (just observe how they see payment of salaries as doing the civil service a favour). Even if a creative disruptor arises from within the ranks of the current political elite and goes rogue, their attempt to change the status quo will be easily suppressed given the lack of civic education of most voters and the systemic way voter ignorance has been sustained.

It isn’t hard to see evidence of this lack. All we need to do is observe how some Nigerians justify the actions of the military in civil matters since the Buhari government assumed office. The many years under military rule as made military involvement in civil matters seem normal to us – even the govt is quick to call on military intervention. No govt in recent times has made any attempt to upgrade the police force to meet the challenges of securing a complex society.

This lack of education is now at crisis level and we need to break this cycle like yesterday.

I am sympathetic to Waziri Adamawa’s interest to become President or at least be on the top ticket of a party in 2019 but I cannot support him. The main reason is we need people with resources like him to help educate the people on civics. From the lowest of Nigerians all the way to the middle of middle class need to be engaged and taught about government & governance, its role, responsibility, necessary limitations as well as highlight the issues with our laws & constitution, governance structure, societal structure, the relationship between the govt and the governed and the need for a debate to agree a new one. We seemingly need to be educated on what democracy actually is, especially the “for the people” part. We need to be almost brainwashed that it is the people that is sovereign, not govt. We need to be reminded (or have it planted like a microchip in our brain) that governmental power devolves from the people. Public servants aren’t doing the public a favour. The key word is servant.

Waziri, this is where we need you. We need you to partner with your like minded friends to create a programmatic educational resource that will systematically go around the country between now and the next general election educating the majority of Nigerians about democracy, governance, the responsibility of government and the responsibility and power of the public. When majority of the public become educated in civics then they’ll be better able to engage their local, state and federal legislators to pursue changes to laws that will bring about improvements to our living standards. Do this Waziri and you will go down in history as a legend of our nation.

My request does not stop there. We need help with our leadership pipeline. The pipeline isn’t currently skewed to the needs of the society or to producing those with the skill and the heart to serve. People with the heart and skill to serve are too easily frustrated out of party primaries and the governance process. We need to tilt this pipeline in favour of the society.

Waziri, even if you become President, an ignorant populace will be easily stoked against you by those with a vested interest assuming you’re genuinely the Lee Kuan Yew we’ve been waiting for or need. You’ll need a better educated public to buy quickly into reform policies as I’m sure you’ll appreciate how a slow adoption prevented the pace of reform during your second term as VP.

As you go around the country seeking support for your candidacy in 2019, know that an uneducated public makes it less likely (you had the best manifesto with the best ideas during the last presidential primaries of all parties – only an educated public will read and appreciate the effort) you’ll ever become President. Please help educate us. Our government is too unreliable (eg PACAC) in this regard.

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What we need from Atiku