Politicians would come and go but the people's expectations would remain.
We can pray all we want but remember that the good book admonishes us to WATCH and pray. To watch means to monitor performance; to monitor promises that have been made.
Can you honestly look into the mirror and say that you are a promoter of peace, unity, justice, equity and fairness? We can complain all we want on social media but as long as some of us collude with the actors to undermine the economic well-being of others through self-serving schemes, we do not really have a moral standing to accuse politicians.
Before beautifully doctored manifestos surface, Nigerians should constructively engage with the electoral process now and at every stage.
Let’s all reset the clock and set a people centred agenda for 2015.
“Evil triumphs when good men (and women) fail to take a stand”. “If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem”. What would you stand for? Whose side would you be on – Nigeria’s or self-seeking persons’? How far are you ready to go in order to defend your position? Where would you draw the line regarding what you will and will not compromise?
As various groups jostle for the proverbial national cake, here are 2 ways to use social media to engage the "political elites":
1) Track Their Promises
Politicians are infamously long on words but short on action and 2015 promises to be no different.
Track records can be independently verified. The effectiveness of initiatives/projects can be measured. The promises of incumbents are contained in their previous manifesto documents, strategic development plans/agenda, policy speeches, rallies, town hall meetings, press releases, conferences, etc. Some are on record in video and audio. Don’t take statements at face value. Leave your comfort zone and conduct your own fact finding mission to ascertain the true state of things. As a stakeholder in this country arm chair criticism is needless. We need people who would stand up for others. Are you one?
Recently heated exchanges between some public officials and some citizens on some social media sites have degenerated into name calling sessions.
Those who criticize/hold contrary opinions about the state of governance are frequently labelled as being ignorant, lazy or agents of the opposition who do not understand the indices of economic growth. On their parts, many politicians have been accused of being out of touch with the reality on the streets.
If "ordinary Nigerians" cannot see around them the structures and systems that promote employment and self-actualization, they are bound to hold contrary views. If they cannot find evidence that other "ordinary Nigerians" without "connection" and "godfathers" have and are benefiting equitably from the system, how should they react? Are they supposed to sing the praises of those who promote the status quo or pray for longevity for those who hold both the yam and knife?
No propaganda can camouflage poor performance. Even though some hardworking public officials have made progress, the evidence may not have been clearly communicated to and/or felt by the people. “It is not how hard you work, it is also about learning to report what you do in a smarter and more verifiable way”. True success should be calibrated from the perspective of the intended beneficiaries (the people). While there is proof of some improvement in certain sectors, more still needs to be done.
Civil society organizations (CSOs) should lead the way and create/implement an effective citizen engagement framework. They should motivate and engage citizens to drive ownership and participation in the process – irrespective of citizens’ political leaning. Citizens should document the pressing challenges in their places of residence/origin that require intervention.
Don't complain about bad social amenities when you can take, collate and share on social media the evidence of the state of such amenities. Our ability to promote accountability in public office is dependent on our ability to dictate and/or influence the agenda.
“If the labour of our heroes past are not to be in vain”, we cannot fold our hands and pray. We need to WATCH and participate with the fear of God.
2) Provide a viable alternate voice & policies
Hurling insults, resigning ourselves to fate & venting our exasperation with the status quo on social media is another reason why politicians regard Nigerians as a docile lot - barking without biting, Are you passionate about re-inventing Nigeria? Do you or your organization have a viable alternative to the status quo? Can you or anyone you know execute? Can you influence leaders to reconsider initiatives that are not properly conceptualized?
If you won’t join a political party, start/ join a pressure group (like a CSO). If you won’t join a pressure group then blog/ tweet/post your solutions to the issues around your locality. With social media you already have a voice...now do something! Take photos and videos of things around your environment you believe ought to change. Conduct some research into the development priorities around you.
Share them regularly on your social media pages. Search for like-minded people and groups, who care about the same issues in your locality and start a meaningful conversation. Find a voice or platform that resonates with your views and values and throw your tangible support behind such groups.
In the final analysis, elections are won and lost eventually in the offline world. If our online activism is not integrated with practical offline activities, the status quo would remain and there lies the opportunity and challenge. Are you game?
P.S: This article was also published in the 1st of January 2014 edition of the Punch Newspapers. Click to Read