Failed Government or Failing Citizens?

By Philip Amiola

One of the easiest ways to gain popularity as a public analyst, social commentator or political observer in Nigeria today is to consistently harp on the ineptitude of the government and the resultant helplessness of the citizens. We blame the government for all our problems – insecurity, unemployment, high crime rate, ethnic violence, poor infrastructure, lack of basic amenities, dysfunctional educational system, failing health system and a host of others.

The vast majority of Nigerians are so disappointed with the government that they will readily utilise every platform to express their frustration; and really, who would blame them? Evidently, the government has consistently failed to fulfil the legitimate and most basic expectations of the citizens, such as the ones highlighted above – and that is very unfortunate.

The more unfortunate thing however, is that most of us have unconsciously submitted our lives and destinies to the government we claim not to believe in. We seem to have forgotten that the government will not run our lives for us. We have allowed poor performance on the part of the government to breed indifference in the way we live our lives and conduct our personal affairs. How many times have we failed to do what is right and blamed the consequences on the government?

We must realize that the most important things are not the things that the government will do for us. Many of us cannot sustain simple refined behaviour such as using the waste bin, staying on a queue, showing everyday courtesy and obeying traffic rules. We have not learned to nurture relationships and maintain disciplined lifestyles. A good number of us even find it difficult to flush the toilet after each use. Apparently, we expect the government to do that for us too. As outrageous as this may seem, those of us who have been at the receiving end know that it is true.

How many times have you crossed a neatly kept lawn instead of using the walkway? How many times have you thrown an empty can, bottle or sachet out of your car window instead of using the waste bin? How many times have you cheated in an examination or disobeyed traffic rules because no one is watching? How about crossing the highway on foot when the pedestrian bridge is available? Answering these questions and similar ones will help us assess our individual levels of personal responsibility. You see, personal responsibility is the most basic form of government and if we don’t get it right at this level, we cannot get it right at any level. It is true that the government has failed us, but should we continue to fail ourselves too? And really, who is the government, if not us?

It takes nothing to criticize, condemn and complain – anyone can do that. What if you decide instead, to make a difference in your own little way? You can fill up those gullies in your neighbourhood. You can raise funds to rebuild that run-down facility. You can volunteer your services to those disadvantaged students. You are not helpless; there is always something you can do. Desmond Tutu said it well, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good that come together to overwhelm the world.” Now, read that again and think about it. You see, there is no better time than now to be a Nigerian; because in pitch darkness, even the faintest glimmer of light makes a world of difference. Stop complaining about the darkness and start shining your light.

God bless you. God bless Nigeria.

A passionate believer in the New Nigeria, Philip Amiola is a teacher, writer and campaigner of empowerment. He writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You can follow him on Twitter @Dermatoglyphics.

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