Senatorial candidate of the Labour Party for the 2019 Bayelsa East elections, Iniruo Wills has said the time has come for politicians and public office holders to be loyal to the people rather than the people striving daily to be loyal to them.
“We must reverse and reframe our loyalties. The politicians have to be loyal to the people, not the people to the politicians. We can no longer presume them to be patriotic. They must prove to us that they are. It is time to challenge our leaders to prove their patriotism or let them stand accused as unpatriotic, from community to community, state to state, and nationwide.”he emphasised
He said the era of what he described as “follow-follow, siddon look and how far” attitude of citizens was over and chided public office holders who continue to take the citizens for a ride.
He was speaking on “Reframing Citizenship to Context” at a one-day event in Port Harcourt to elicit new perspectives and spark fresh conversations around key issues affecting governance organised by TEDx, a not-for-profit organisation committed to raising a new generation of bright, young leaders and entrepreneurs.
Wills noted that with the failure, since 1999 of past and present leadership to turn the fortunes of the country around, the time for citizens to take up the gauntlet and actively engage in collective mass movement to take back their destinies within the ambit of the law had come.
Hear him: “After the 2012 mega flood and its destruction, the 2018 flood came to remind us that our governments don’t care about us. Between the Federal Government, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and successive administrations of the worst affected states like Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta, there is still zero flood or ecological management plan. Who cares? Only in societies where there are either no governments or no citizens or none of both should this be the norm !”
He said with the social dysfunctions manifesting in Port Harcourt being referred to as the petroleum pollution capital of the world, and Nigeria having the highest number of out-of-school children globally, estimated at about 13.5 million kids while corruption has being elevated to a national culture among other grim statistics, the way forward was for civil society to begin the process of reinventing itself and midwifing a national dialogue which must address the fundamental issues of citizen survival.
He observed: “For two years, residents of Port Harcourt and its environs have marched and screamed their blackened lungs out against the toxic air we breathe, but from Brick House in Port Harcourt to Aso Rock in Abuja, the ears of all governments are deaf”
He said, “What we need is a self-help strategy of conscious, concerted citizenship and active patriotism whereby we take collective responsibility for reframing the Nigerian society, thereby reframing the Nigerian State and holding our governments and all public leaders accountable and penalizing them whenever necessary, from community to federal levels.”
Wills, a practising lawyer and former commissioner for environment and Information in Bayelsa State emphasised that citizens of Nigeria must take ownership of civil society by using it as a tool to produce what he called Nigerian Citizen Compact, an outcome of the proposed dialogue which must stipulate standardised code and ethics of good governance for all public holders with sanctions clearly defined.
He said such a document must be compatible with and complement the proper Constitution of Nigeria and set the overarching social standards for active citizenship, patriotic leadership and qualitative governance.
He however stated that “one fundamental deficiency of organized civil society in Nigeria is that it is almost entirely funded by foreign donors and perhaps lately (especially in the area of social enterprise support) by a few rich corporations in Nigeria. External donors should remain welcome. But the evolution towards a people-populated, people-funded, people-empowered, and people-accountable civil society needs to start urgently, if we ever want to reframe our society.”
Wills who is also the President Ijaw Professionals Association (Homeland Chapter) asserted that such an amalgam of civil society groups would serve as a shadow group to keep both the ruling and opposition parties on their toes and may eventually metarmophose into a political party and take over the reigns of power as happened in ANC’s South Africa and elsewhere in the world.
“For these reasons, the Citizen Movement (though it can evolve in different forms, whether by coalitions of the willing or a single social behemoth) should eventually metamorphose within lawful guidelines into a viable multi-tier network of non-governmental assemblies or “shadow government” that will keep our governments and often equally disreputable opposition parties on their toes. If it transmutes into an authentic peoples party in the future to assume the reins of power, upstaging the toxic political order within the framework of our constitutional legal order, so be it…it would be nothing new under the sun”