Unavoidable, a lot of attention of has been drawn to the inauguration ceremonies that recently took place across most parts of Nigeria for newly elected leaders and those returning and I am sure they will still generate more conversations and analysis. Those inaugurations are normal a part of democracy and were necessary but if we really want to move the country forward and sincerely want to reap the dividends of democracy then we must acknowledge that there is still one more inauguration to do. After that of governments, we now need to do the inauguration of citizens. Such inauguration will be less expensive than the ones we saw yesterday, but it will have more far-reaching consequences for the future of the country.
The inaugurations of elected officials were necessary acts because the constitution says so and because they have both symbolical and functional values. The swearing ceremony is the moment in which elected officials legally become in charge of the affairs of their citizens, it signals the beginning of a new era and it offers elected officials the opportunity to make a solemn pledge to commit themselves to the defense and progress of the land and people they are called to serve: a rite of passage.
To complete these rites of passage and to make the vows the governors took work, we also need to make the governed aware that they too have a crucial part to play in the process of governance. A good way to start that process might be to remind Nigerians that in democracy, everyone is a citizen not just a fellow countryman or a subject of any elected leader. And just as the until recently candidates have taken their vows as elected officials with legal mandates to govern in the name and on behalf of their people, so also the people should find time to take their vows to behave as citizens of a modern democratic country.
The people’s inauguration can take any format one prefers. It can be done in front of a mirror or in a group anywhere, it is the consequences that matter. Many are the consequences that will come from such act and they all lead to an organic consciousness of citizenship which should be continuously celebrated. One major consequence lies in the consideration people will have of themselves and of their leaders. Nigeria is not a nation of orphans and as citizens in a modern democracy, Nigerians needs to know that their president, governors or senators are not their fathers and mothers. These elected ladies and gentleman are there to carry out specific duties and serve us, the people, just like our teachers are there to teach our children and our doctors to treat our sick ones. Like anybody else, politicians are citizens like all of us just doing a different kind of job.
To change things and make everyone feel like a citizen is a task we cannot rely on politicians to do, not because they are wicked or selfish as many are quick to say but rather because they are human. Given the chance, everyone wants to feel more special than the next person and if permitted everyone will oppress. It is the duty of the people to make sure that that leaders do not take advantage of their positions and the powers delegated to them.
When we invite these new leaders to functions, let us stop delaying the whole function and those that are there just because his Excellency is yet to arrive. We should state the commencement time clearly and stick to it, if his Excellency arrive later, let him just join us, even if he is the keynote speaker. I have seen many of our Excellencies run to catch their planes abroad, trust me punctuality will neither hurt them nor make them less excellent.
If we really want our elected leaders to be honest and truly committed when they serve the country, then those that have access to elected officials should stop asking them for money and stop making outright illicit request or demands that require them to use their position to bend the rules. Citizens need to remember that each time a politician doles out money he is going to need to recoup it from somewhere and the best account to reach for is the national or state treasury.
All these and many more things require knowledge and discipline. People need to know their rights and how to make sure they get use those rights. People also need to learn to rely on the fruit of their labour rather than favours. Naturally, rent seekers and hangers on will detest these suggestions and they will even go out of the way to discourage and impede people from becoming citizens. The true hardworking and well intentioned Nigerians need to wake up to them. The civil society not the government will have to lead the process. Our schools and various places of worship need to go back to teaching values. Happy inauguration to all.