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Office Of The Citizen
By Odera N. Okakpu
In arguably one of the most impactful speeches ever written, President John F Kennedy asked the people of America to "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." At the height of the Cold War his speech was a subliminal message to the whole world about peace. Many analysts of the great essay conclude that the entire speech highlighted the relationship between duty and power.
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As citizens of Nigeria, we are guilty of complaining bitterly. "Nigeria has not done anything for us" we wail gnashing our teeth, "The government is useless, the politicians are incompetent" etc.. Ironically, It is because of this we have had 50 plus years of independent rulers pocketing government funds for personal and instant gratification. It is because of this many Nigerians lie, cheat and scam thier way to "success." We as millennials, as enlightened young people groomed in the 21st century digital age, can we not begin to think of our duties and roles in the Office of the Citizen?


According to Professor of philosophy Joseph Tussman, "The basic insistence of Democracy is that no one can properly be subject to the law who is not also, in a meaningful sense, a rightful participant in the process by which the system of law is created and developed." Democracy, we say, is “self-government.”  By this we do not mean that everyone can do whatever they please. We mean that the same person who finds himself a “subject” of a system of government and law is also, in another capacity and at the proper time and place, a sharer in the making of the law and in the process of governing. "To be a member is to be both a subject and a ruler."


Going by his analysis, that would mean that when the average citizen anywhere in the country finishes with a sachet of pure water they do not just throw it to the wind and never think about it again, they throw it in the trash. That means that if we see a child being beaten nearly to death for stealing because of hunger we do not bring out our phones and stand and watch, we stop it from continuing. That means that instead of pumping excess of our already worthless currency into the luxury market allowing them make millions of our ignorance we invest that money back into Nigerian society, even while knowing just how hard doing business in Nigeria is. But we won‘t care, because if we have taken up the responsibility  of the Office of the Citizen, it will be imbedded in our DNA that for the fact we were privileged enough to make what we have, we need to do whatever we can to make sure the next person can at least eat. This simply means that being Nigerians, as inefficient and lackluster as our democracy is, we at the very least obey the little rule of law put in place to make our society more condusive to live in.


Thankfully it is because of that sense of responsibility few people set up NGOs targeted at catering to specific social issues. But that is not enough, with 170 million people and a very baby democracy, it is up to every last person to put in an effort.  We must not think that it is only by money and status that we can affect the society we live in. By simply being a kind person we can add so much to the to the chemical composition of what makes Nigeria what she is. In America I have observed what a great weight they place on a person being a "good guy" or a "bad dude". No one likes a bully, in politics or otherwise. Mean people are always called out and because of that the society is generally nice, publicly nice at least.


In the same iconic speech, JFK also said  "...Man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life." Shedding light just once again that the power to make or break lies within each and everyone of us as individuals. We must never ever take that for granted.


 

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