New month message: Nigeria’s path to becoming a country of citizens

Valentine Ozigbo

By Valentine Ozigbo

I welcome you to the dawn of a new month, November, a month we have crossed into with the guiding hand of the Almighty, and I am profoundly grateful for His never-ending mercies.

Our nation has recently witnessed episodes that have tried the fabric of our trust in its institutions. The palpable disappointment with the Nigerian Judiciary, the flagrant miscarriages of justice, and the audacious jubilation of those who perpetrate electoral heists are not lost on any of us. Yet, amid these challenges, I urge you not to lose hope, for our collective strength lies in our unity and the power of citizenship.

Over the past few weeks, I have been ardently speaking about the pivotal role of the citizenry in shaping our nation’s future. In my convocation lecture at Paul University in September, I stressed the significance of active participation. My keynote at the Anambra State Association in the United States, ASA-USA National Convention in Atlanta, USA, delivered in October, and my discourse at The Niche Lecture last week revolved around the essence of active citizenship.

While our nation is fraught with leadership and followership challenges, the root issue, one that is inarguably the core problem, is our national identity. This is where the ancient Greeks provide a surprisingly contemporary lens. They categorised their populace as ‘Idiots’ – those detached from public affairs, ‘Tribesmen’ who were staunchly loyal to their kin, and ‘Citizens’, the individuals who placed the state above all. In Nigeria, the pendulum of our national psyche has, unfortunately, swung heavily between the ‘Idiot’ and the ‘Tribesman’.

So, the pressing question before us is: How do we move from being passive observers and parochial tribespeople to proactive citizens?

I firmly believe that the transition requires cultivating emotional intelligence, fostering a collective spirit, and establishing mutual respect. It’s an ethos of “live and let live”, understanding that the end of our rights is the beginning of another’s.

Institutionally, our education must lay the groundwork, weaving in values of civic responsibility. Moreover, it’s time to challenge systems that sow seeds of division and instead ensure equal opportunities for all, irrespective of tribal lineage. With the advent of technology, we have a unique opportunity to harness digital platforms for meaningful dialogues and national cohesion.

Yet, beyond systemic changes, there’s an intrinsic transformation required – a deep introspection. We must invest in capacity-building, ensuring every Nigerian has the tools to contribute positively to our nation. Equally important is accountability. Our nation craves a system that not only delineates consequences for actions but robustly enforces them. For, in the words of my reflection, “A society without consequences is a dead society.”

As we hope and pray for personal miracles this month, let’s also extend our prayers to our beloved country. The miracle Nigeria needs is a seismic shift in values, a culture that uplifts its people and eradicates the desperation that leads to social decay.

In closing, I pray that this new month ushers in a renewed sense of purpose and dedication for all of us. Together, we can and will rebuild our nation, brick by brick, ensuring that every Nigerian not only identifies as a ‘Citizen’ but acts as one.

Happy New Month, and may the Almighty guide us on this transformation journey. Nigeria’s destiny beckons and it is through our united efforts that we will answer that call.


-November 01, 2023 @ 17:45 GMT |