Metropole Magazine

Today's Weather: Abuja NG: Partly Cloudy, Day 360|Night 260

02 Sep Written by  Japheth Omojuwa

We the Citizens

Our public officials get all the flaks for the mess that is our country. More often than not, they deserve all our venom. Having said that, more often than not we also fail in our own roles as citizens of this country. One of my experiences on the roads of Abuja will be my canvas for this observation.

The cab driver threw a polythene bag out of the car. I started by asking him what he thought of the government and Nigeria generally. He did not spare words. He cursed and ranted. I was patient enough to wait to see him curse public officials by name and federal character. I asked him if he thought he’d be different from those he’d just cursed. He said he had no education so he stood no chance but that he’d definitely do a better job but for his lack of education.

I asked if he thought Abuja was a clean city. He shouted “Abuja too dey dirty these days oga. He no be like dis before” (Abuja is always dirty these days. It was not like this before now). I asked if he knew why. Then he became silent. I was silent too. Then he said “if na because of that leather wey I throw wey you dey take talk all these things, abeg o, I dey pay money wey dem dey take pay those who dey clean the road o.” (If you are saying all these things because of the polythene bag I threw away, please, I pay taxes out of which the road cleaners are paid). I said nothing. I didn’t have to.

Nigeria would be a much better place if we the private citizens were different from the public officials. Nigeria is what it is because while they contribute to this mess officially, we finish the job off unofficially. Who gets the blame for the blocked drainages? Who gets the blame for the accidents caused by over-speeding drivers on good roads? Who gets the blame for the drivers and passengers killed because someone wouldn’t wait for the red light to indicate green?

Our public officials are mostly useless – if they were mostly useful Nigeria would not be such a disgrace in the comity of nations – but we as a people are not any better than they are. We pretend and rant and shout about how nothing works, and then where we find things working we do our best to stop them from working. We are our own problem.

We either accept the fact that collectively we can do a lot to make a difference or continue to pretend we are different from them. To be sure, it is a lot easier to bring about change as a public office holder but that does not mean we cannot do something to contribute to the betterment of our society as private citizens. Not to talk of supporting causes that provide resources for children’s education and small-scale business owners, we can start by just making sure we are not responsible for the litters on the road, for beating traffic light, and for being bad representatives of Nigeria abroad.

As citizens, there is so much we can do. We must never find ourselves where we think it is all out of our hands. Presidents and governors can make extraordinary change happen for their countries and states, but citizens who fail to make a positive difference in their domains are just as guilty as failing leaders.