By John Amoda
THE Constitution of this country has established the prime value of the currency of Nigerian citizenry, and our politics instead of being the cultivation of the appreciation of Nigerian citizenry, has been and continues to be a process of a structured depreciation of the value of citizenry.
The dictionary defines citizenry as citizens collectively. Citizenry is not an aggregation, it is the collective expression of that which is intrinsic in citizenship, an appreciation of the worth of each constituent of the citizenry, an exercise only possible and expressible in the collective. This is why the word, People, is so politically precious.
The Constitution defines the Nigerian Citizenry as the source of all powers of government and the legitimation of its governance.
“We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Having firmly and solemnly resolved; to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign Nation under God; dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity, world peace, international co-operation and understanding: And to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country on the principles of Freedom, Equality and Justice and for the purpose of consolidating the Unity of our people; DO HEREBY MAKE, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES the following Constitution”.
Chapter II, the cornerstone of the Constitution deals with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. And Section 14 of this chapter spells out the sovereign will of the People. “Section 14(1): The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principle of democracy and social justice.
(2) It is hereby, accordingly, declared that-
(a)Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitutions derives all its powers and authority.
(b)The security and welfare of the people of Nigeria shall be the primary purpose of government; and
(c) the participation of the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provision of this Constitution”.
The provisions quoted above and that spell out the worth and standing of Nigerian Citizenry have been progressively depreciated by our politics from Independence to date. The price the entire society can pay in a Nigeria without its citizenry is beginning to be appreciated in the current condition of complete societal insecurity. The depreciation of the citizenry is daily and routine. When rules made for all are set aside for the “high and mighty”, the citizenry suffers a body blow.
When passages are violently and rudely made for dignitaries to go through on the same roads that are crowded wall to wall by citizens travelling on business of importance, to them the citizenry is degraded;
-When elected offices are treated as pensionable prebends the citizenry ceases to be an electorate;
-When representatives become government with interests opposed to the represented, the government is separated from its citizenry and thus effectively disenfranchised.
Love of country and the willingness to go to war against enemies of cherished and highly valued way of life are expression of enlightened self-interest. The opposite is the case, that in a country in which the elected act as monarchs and the citizenry are invisible to the elected government, invaders if not treated as liberators may at best be left unimpeded in their predatory ventures by the citizenry who have long come to see government if not as their enemy, as a burden patiently to be borne. January 2011 oil subsidy protests are an eye opener to the fact that there are two Nigerias, the Nigeria of Governments, and the Nigeria of “We The People”. The Nigeria of Governments is the Nigeria of the elite living a subsidized life outside of the punishing discipline of the market place. Simon Kolawole calls the indigenes of Government Nigeria as the elites who regard the Citizenry as the enemy. In his Sunday February 3, 2013, back page essay, Kolawole writes on the “Us versus Them” attitude of the elite towards Nigerian citizenry who are majority poor. He begins thus:
“This story fascinated but saddens me. Reacting to one of my articles, a young, wealthy Nigerian said: ‘To be honest, I am making a lot of money in Nigeria. I have friends in government. I get juicy contracts and make handsome margins. I have houses in Lekki, London and New York. My house in Lekki has a high fence, security gates, guards on duty 24/7. My house in London has no fence, no security doors, no guards. Yet I feel more secure in my London home than in my Lekki house’. He said the inequalities in Nigeria are such that ‘the wealthy live like prisoners—the rest of the society resents them. And that brings me to the topic of discussion today- the grave mistake our elite make when they think it fun owning mansions and private jets, at our expense, in the face of the demeaning poverty in the land… Last week, I highlighted the twin evil of ‘outright looting’ (no attempt to execute projects at all) and ‘hyperinflation’ of contracts (including padding of budgets by lawmakers). Resources that would have been freed up and utilized to accelerate infrastructural development are mindlessly pilfered. Definitely there is a reason the streets of London, Dubai and Singapore are relatively safe today… you cannot be at ease when the society where you are flaunting your wealth is not at ease… By elites, I refer to the politicians, the technocrats and the business moguls who collude to plunder our resources. They know themselves. We know them. By the way I am not saying it is a sin to be rich. I am not suggesting that to be poor is to be righteous. The key phrase here is accumulating wealth ‘at our expense’.”
The most flagrant display of the conqueror’s attitude to the wealth of the people is the case of the Police Pension Funds. Pini Jason captures the amoral-we-are-in-power and-we-do-as-we-please attitude of John Yakubu Yusufu in his Vanguard, Tuesday, February 5, 2013 column titled: “I only stole N23 billion”. He writes:
“Last week, Nigerians were outraged. Mr. John Yakubu Yusufu one of the eight civil servant accused of stealing N40billion, note, not N40million, from the Nigeria Police Pension Fund, got a limp tap on the wrist. He had pleaded guilty to stealing N23billion, again note, not N23million. The judges sentenced him to two years imprisonment… He was given the option of walking away by paying just N750,000. Yes, you heard me right, N750,000 only, not N750million. That was the reason for the national outrage.