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Nigeria’s enlightenment era should start now

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By Ndidi Uwechue

GIVEN all the killings, terrorism, violence and insecurity happening in Nigeria, and add to it systemic corruption, I have taken it upon myself, as my patriotic duty, to guide citizens, particularly young people, so that they can make the best choices at this time of increasing chaos and turmoil.

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President Muhammadu Buhari

Citizens ought to develop an interest in the way they are governed because government affects each person’s life, either for good or for bad – and we all want a good life, do we not? In ancient China, the Mandate of Heaven was a doctrine that heaven would bless the authority of a just ruler, but would be displeased and withdraw its mandate from a despotic ruler.

The Mandate of Heaven would be invoked by philosophers and scholars in China as a way to curtail the abuse of power by a ruler. Today, the main role of a government is to protect and provide.

The government protects citizens and their property from violence; plus it provides public services and an enabling environment for economic well-being, educational advancement, health maintenance, and the ongoing welfare of all citizens.

From the state of Nigeria, it is clear that the government has completely failed in its duties. Citizens then have to ask: What is the point and benefit to them of keeping such a government?

There are three well-established principles underpinning a democracy: Sovereignty is with the people (popular sovereignty) not with elected politicians, autonomy (individual and collective), and  equality. Based on these fundamentals, we can say that Nigeria is not really practising a democracy.

There are increasingly loud voices of discontent throughout the country. What Nigeria is going through is not new though; many other countries that are progressing and prospering today faced such a crossroads, so their citizens collectively changed their situation.

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We can learn a lot from Wikipedia: “For the philosopher John Locke, the right to revolution formed an integral part of his Social Contract Theory. Locke declared that under natural law, all  people have the right to life, liberty, and estate. Thus, under a Social Contract (of government with the people), the people could instigate a revolution (or uprising) against the government when it acted against the interests of citizens, to replace the government with one that served the interests of citizens.

In some cases, Locke deemed revolution an obligation. The right of revolution thus essentially acted as a safeguard against  tyranny”.

So let us be clear about this. In political philosophy, the “Right of Revolution” is the right or duty of citizens to overthrow a government that acts against their common interests and/or threatens the safety of the people without cause. Some argue that it is even a duty, so even more so than a right, for citizens to remove a government that is an enemy towards them and their welfare.

South Africa is a country that we can learn from. The citizens of South Africa seeing that an apartheid government was destroying their hopes, potentials, and aspirations rose against the government and successfully removed an apartheid government and an apartheid constitution.

When power realises that its very existence is threatened, it succumbs to the demands of the people. That is what happened in South Africa; the apartheid regime became so overwhelmed by the people’s uprising that it realised it had to dialogue with the people, and give them what they wanted.

A similar thing is happening in Sudan. The people are determined to make the leaders feel threatened about their continued stance, and when that turning point is reached, they will negotiate with the people. An uprising can last for weeks, months or years and happens when citizens experience a depressing present, and can see that life will never improve under the current leadership.

The internet provides several non-violent methods that citizens can use in the “Right of Revolution” such as protests, general strikes, civic boycotts, petitions, social media, etc. There are even video games such as “People Power – the game of civil resistance” that students of political science and ordinary citizens find useful. Good government also requires a good constitution, one truly created by the people and for the people, so our youth should develop an interest in, and do research to learn how a constitution is created.

For far too long Nigerians have not gotten involved in civic education, and this has weakened us to accept poor leadership and undemocratic governments. Things have now come to a head and Nigeria’s enlightenment period should start right now.

Enlightenment through civic education is crucial in a democracy: equipping ordinary citizens with knowledge about what a democracy and Constitution entail. It lets citizens know what they can do to protect and improve their democracy, to stand on the foundation that sovereignty is with the people, and that the role of members of government is to serve them, to be public servants.

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At this time of turmoil in the land, being confused is not a good option. Google is our best friend, and the internet is an excellent place for young people to get the knowledge, skills, critical thinking approaches, etc., that are essential for democratic nation-building.

Youth, especially, should use the internet to research and learn how they can replace the wrong things in society with the right things. This is our era of public enlightenment to create a well-informed citizenry, empowered for citizen participation for a better nation.


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