Evidence of slackening political participation is growing as the Nigerian state ages. It may even seem that in its 60 years of independence, it has continued to re-invent wheels in the democratic cycle.
For too long, Nigerians have swung from ideological politics from before Independence to survival politics during the junta. Therefore, many argue that six decades of freedom from British colonial rule, Nigeria has very little to show as a nation.
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Meanwhile, the retrogressive role of citizens in fostering representative leadership is doing more damage to national development and the security than other causes currently being looked into by the government.
When the founding fathers of modern Nigeria were laying the foundation for independent democracy, they had no other way than to appeal to realpolitik. Though ideology was also a large part of their politics, the political system in the 1950s approached particular challenges unique communities faced in their own right.
Realpolitik is local. And grassroots politics deploys realpolitik in its approach to solving national issues from the ground up. Grassroots politics as a means to political participation and realpolitik should instead be tried as a route to faster and more effective national development.
Role of Security in Political Participation/Elections
The example of late presidential election winner, M.K.O Abiola – a scion of grassroots politics – is still a template in some political circles across the nation, 27 years after. During Abiola’s campaign, every nook and cranny of the nation had a sense of participation in determining happenings at the national level; this was nothing but a grassroots approach. Arguably, the 1993 election cycle might be the most inclusive in Nigeria’s political history.
Because the 1993 democratic attempt was diffused by the military junta, the active political class have since adopted a different political routine for the Nigerian electorate. Ever since all effort to proliferate communal participation in the political climate through grassroots politics always fizzled out. The divide and rule tactics of bribing the average Nigerian voter with crumbs of stomach infrastructure have also not helped matters since the 4th Republic but has only created more fissures in the political fabric. It can therefore be deduced that elections are a true test of a people’s political maturity and sophistication.
Candidly so, the introduction of a new variety of thuggery into politics has also scared away more well-meaning Nigerians who would have participated as public servants or the electorate. The alienation of realpolitik at the local level was thus sealed.
As the average parent now warns their ward to stay away from any form of politics, very few people would naturally be willing to contribute required effort to patriotic ideals.
Incidentally, it is only a cohesive band of diverse People – as was the case in the recent Edo state gubernatorial elections – which are able to effectively stand against the forces of manipulation in national politics.
Grassroots Politics and Community Organising for Development
Moving away from the political advantages of an integrated local population, the economic and sociological add-ons are numerous.
Sometimes referred to as ‘self-help governance’, many Nigerians have since resolved on community organising for localised development. Without grassroots politics where individuals get involved, it would seem as if government at all levels have abandoned citizens to their fate. This is the same feeling of alienation which has energised a lot of Nigerians to have strong feelings against paying taxes/dues to national governments.
Government participation in locally organised communities can therefore reverse the trend where citizens feel alienated from the dividends of democracy.
Role of Community Organising and Local Policing in Security
Community organising possesses the advantage of putting a structure of governance to local communities. This was the form which governance took in post-colonial times. Each micro-community tackled their own issues practically and achieved development through local cooperation of residents.
In essence, community policing – in like terms – was suggested as a lasting solution to insecurity in the nation; but it was never allowed to fly for fear it might get abused.
From intelligence gathering to getting volunteers who have specific knowledge of their locality, security has a chance of improving drastically once the layers of government are ready to support locals with better equipment and law enforcement.
In a desperate attempt to cull insecurity in the region, a cluster of states in South-Western Nigeria have adopted a version of community participation named Amotekun– for securing the suburbs.
Security as a Boost for Tourism, Agriculture and Economic Development
A secure environment is an economically liberated community. There is an evident climb in the number of local jobs in tourism when security is guaranteed. Farmers who have been apprehensive about land cultivation will witness changes once unruly cattle herds destroying farmlands are controlled.
Once optimal security is attained in post-independence Nigeria, a significant boost in tourism, agricultural output and job security will be guaranteed for citizens.
Leaving macro infrastructure to the private sector to drive; alongside myriads of micro developments at the community level should then be the ultimate goal of government.
Therefore, it is high time the government stopped looking at national infrastructural projects as the only way out of economic hardship for citizens.
A Clearer Path
For Nigerians to see evidential integral development in a nation bedevilled with the recurrent crisis, governance must fall back to going local. It will be the tiny pockets of growth witnessed at the community stage that will aggregate into behemoths.
This principle is in line with the much-touted devolution of powers at the centre while at the same time giving more deterministic power to local levels of governance.
If we would ever return to the worthwhile days of grassroots politics, realpolitik would be the better template which both leaders and the electorate should adopt.
Politics should be local after all. That is the stage where People can tell whether 60-year-old independence has given them a chance in determining what the democratic fate of the 1914 amalgamation should be.
Featured Image Source: Aljazeera
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