Barrister Hannatu Musawa
It’s amazing to think that this time two years ago, Nigerians were deep in the fray of politics and the opposition was chanting the change mantra. Since then, a lot has happened. Now that the (then) opposition has become the, (present) ruling party, Nigerians are beating down the doors of government asking to see where the change that they voted for is. As I, myself, reflect on where exactly that change is, I want to tell you a short story…
“…Some time ago, back when there was rabid fuel scarcity, I did something that I am not too proud of.
Driving with a low tank of fuel, I was forced to head to a fuel station. Arriving at the fuel station, I met an incredibly long queue, of which I joined. With the queue not moving and having been there for a while, I concluded that queuing at the station indefinitely was not an option I was willing to embrace. So, I decided to leave the queue and drive up to the station. As I approached the station, lots of young men offering black-market fuel approached me. I thought about obliging the black-market trade fleetingly, but eventually decided against it. I settled on cutting my losses, going home and sending a driver to join the queue instead. But then, a well-dressed middle-aged man approached my vehicle and asked if I wanted fuel from the station.
“Yes,” I replied without hesitation…“But the queue is too long. I will just go home and send a driver to join,” I said.
“I work at the station and I can let your car in to fill your tank now, now Ma… for a small amount,” Offered the man.
I understood perfectly what he was offering and, I must admit, it didn’t take me long to decide whether I was going to accept his offer or not. Yes, I was going to get the tank filled now!
I had justified the trade in my mind; you see… It had been a long, tiring day and I had fasted. And paying extra to jump the fuel queue may have been a form of injudiciousness, but it was one I felt I deserved at the time.
So, it was! I followed the man with my car and he led me into the fuel station through a separate entrance. After some motor acrobatics, I aligned my car with the fuel pump and within a few minutes, I had a full tank of fuel in my car. The whole operation took less than ten minutes.
Satisfied and smug, I drove out of the station. Feeling a little guilty and sorry for those I had bypassed on the fuel queue, I turned to look at them. That was when I made contact with a woman in the queue sat in the driver seat. She had three young children in the back seat. The kids looked like they were all under ten years old. The youngest was crying non-stop and the two elder kids seemed to be fighting. Between trying to console the younger child and trying to mediate the fight with the older children, she turned and looked at me. She had the most desperate, forlorn and tired look on her face. She was sweating and looked overwhelmed. That was when a large surge of disappointment followed by utter guilt hit me.
Thinking that I had dishonestly paid a bribe, jumped the queue and shortchanged law-abiding Nigerians, while a woman in her situation had done the right thing by following the queue, despite her circumstance, made me feel so bad, guilty and disgusted with myself. It was then that I had an “A-Ha moment’ about what the change, that so many Nigerians fought to have was. What it symbolized!”
…By God’s Grace, as I sit here, in this crispy New Year, watching my fellow countrymen and women ask where exactly the change is, I am reminded of my misadventure that day in the fuel queue.
The question shouldn’t be ‘where’ the change is; it should be ‘what’ the change is. So what is the change? The answer is… ‘For every single one of us in this nation to commit ourselves to make a change for the better! As Mahatma Gandhi said, every single one of us in this country has a responsibility to be the change we wish to see in Nigeria!’
So, when we speak of Nigeria’s urgency to see ‘change,’ whom do we expect that change to come from? The expectation for change has been fixated on the government. A long ‘To-Do’ list has been placed at the foot of the President. But in reality, the wind of change that ushered in a new government in the last election wasn’t so much about voting one man into office. It was about the need of a people to see a change in the very fabric and marrow of their country. And if that is what it was, then it includes every single one of us that considers ourselves a member of the collective known as Nigeria!
We live in a time when people speak about requests in terms of needs, needs in terms of rights, and rights in terms of entitlements. Government, and government alone, is thought compelled to provide the expected change. And while such an expectation maybe valid to a large extent, we have to refer to the very concept of responsibility and accountability when we speak of the mantra of change that recently took hold of and shook Nigeria.
To be responsible is to be answerable for one’s action. When one acknowledges a legitimate call to do something, one has a duty to react. Accountability rests not only on a genuine call for action, but also in the ability to heed the call. Just as the president and the government has a responsibility to us and to the nation, we each also have a responsibility to every other Nigerian and to the nation at large. Once both the government and Nigerians accepted the call for action, which we did when we voted for change, then we all have that responsibility to heed its call. What happened in the elections of 2015 was Nigeria’s call. What we did in voting for change was to heed that call. Now we have a responsibility to follow it through.
Indeed, elections of 2015 saw a nation’s call for change. Nigerians heeded and opted for that change. But our responsibility didn’t stop after the inauguration.
Responsibility doesn’t usually come from one single establishment or one union. Individuals in a family or a community bear the responsibility to care for its members, in the same way that the friends, neighbors, leaders and governments do.
Although we should all have expectations for the government to implement policies, which will make our existence as Nigerians more comfortable, we should be aware that we each have a role to play in that journey to change. Every single Nigerian has a role to play in actualizing change.
While government has a great responsibility to attain the parameters needed for us to grow and flourish, one must be realistic and keep in