When democracy was established in Athens 2,500 years ago, the credit for this was given to Solon, the law giver; Cleisthenes, the father of Athenian democracy and Pericles.
The factors responsible for the rise and growth of Athenian democracy are applicable to Nigeria in the light of the 1993 presidential election annulment that led to social stasis.
That social stasis was to usher in democracy or government by the people.
So it can be said that the dictatorship era of 1985-1999 with its attendant lack of freedom and absence of rule of law paved the way for the birth of May 29, 1999. Democracy stems from Pericles understanding that: “Our government is called democracy because its administration is in the hands, not of the few, but of the many”. The representative democracy necessitated by large population as distinct from direct democracy made Abraham Lincoln to define democracy as: “The government of the people, by the people and for the people”.
Democracy without duties and responsibilities is anarchy; the state owes the people basic duties as the people owe the state responsibilities. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is presently saddled with the administrative responsibility of overseeing the welfare, wealth creation and security of the people of Delta State. And it behoves of all Deltans to rally round him for a better state where peace, justice and development can be felt.
He obviously understands the imperative of a stable economy when he said: “Creation of jobs for our youths in the state is to make them economically independent”. That is why 6,000 jobs are to be created in three areas of agriculture, vocational and technical education.
As the Governor strives to revive institutions to restore values, we must cooperate in discharging democratic responsibilities because disobedience and ingratitude retard a society. We must not be seen to be indifferent to the danger represented by social miscreants who distort government policies in various ministries, agencies and institutions. We must pray and watch through involvement as government change agents as there cannot be duties without responsibilities.
In what way are we contributing to government efforts when we indulge in corrupt practices, are indifferent to our duties as civil servants, public servants, business men and political appointees? Is that how to promote the welfare of the state?
Our duties entail not only voting but as citizens to project the state in our homes, offices, markets, streets and in whatever we do, and in the process help government safeguard our collective interest. I consider it rather defeatist when I hear people say “if you cannot beat wrong values join them”. Rather we should avoid those perpetuating evil values if you cannot change them.
So as citizens, we must do what is necessary to support the good efforts of Governor Okowa as anything contrary is sabotage. Our school headmasters, teachers, civil servants, principals, provosts, lecturers, and every sector must reflect this wave of responsibility. The state belongs to Deltans and the Constitution envisages that the Governor cannot be everywhere, hence the provisions of duties and obligations we owe the state. As agents of the state, we must discourage corruption, indiscipline and all forms of exploitation that may tarnish our way of life. That way the labour of our heroes past would not be in vain.
In every stratum, same mantra is needed. As a medical doctor, Governor Okowa understands the importance of health to national development. Indeed, he has entrenched this values on every sector.
Today public hospitals are functional but the hospital management must reflect his ideas, they must see life as sacred and see the dignity of man as important. As citizens, we must reflect his patriotic image, not to divert patients to our private clinics, not to steal government drugs, not to extort the state. There is need to be punctual in the discharge of our duties.
Our environment is polluted, streets littered with filth; we dump refuse indiscriminately on roadsides, gutters and waterways and turn around to blame the government. Efforts of government are frustrated by such odd attitudes. The resulting health hazards are avoidable if we fulfill our obligations by embracing environmental sanitation and desisting from blocking water ways. Markets are filled with dirt and filth creating health and environmental hazards. Is this how to pay a government committed to our welfare?
We must not abdicate our responsibilities. When both high and low see their position as an opportunity to give and not only to take, the prosperity of the state is assured. Taxation is obligatory and tax collectors must be upright; tax evasion is unfaithfulness to government because tax is the key to sustaining a state. Delta can attain the Lagos feat in revenue collection if we as a people resolve to serve in truth, heart and might.
Corruption drains wealth, negligence and incompetence bleed government. In developed countries, technological advancement and development thrive because of efficient taxation; it is obligatory to pay tax. When you don’t pay tax, why complain of inadequate social services? The affluent, including firms and companies defraud the state. This type of corruption drains the state.
We criticise government arbitrarily because we refuse to remove the log in our eyes but bother about the speck in other people’s eyes. We fail in our responsibilities and duties yet expect miracles from others.
There are some armchair critics out there who hide under ethnic, tribal, sectional shades to complain about Okowa’s election as governor. These critics would rather prefer to retard us with greed and selfishness. Okowa was not elected on tribal sentiments but competence, pedigree and acceptance by the masses.
Prince A. Abugo is the Special Assistant to Governor Okowa on Social Advocacy.