Civic Education, We The People And Governance By Oluwakayode Adeyemi

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“Living under the rule of law requires not only efficient and effective government agencies but also the extensive and responsible cooperation of ordinary people. These ordinary people are a product of the type of society we have and plan for, in as much as they are the result of a default programme. Civilised societies are a product of the grounding of the people; it can well be argued that you cannot have a civilised society without the induction of civic education from the elementary level – well not to state that there are not pockets of civil disobedience in civilised societies, but the percentage of such is very disproportional to what we have in Nigeria; and aside from criminal elements, civil disobedience is used as a medium of protest against unpopular government policies in some climes. In Nigeria, the reverse is the case, civil disobedience, and flagrant abuse of the rule of law has become the norm”

Charity it is often said begins at home. This phrase could not ring truer than the excerpts of a post shared recently on my whatsapp group reproduced below.

“We daily complain about our leaders and some pastors will tell you there is nothing wrong with Nigerians. Please take a look at these instances:

Number 1

Old student’s association couldn’t hold a scheduled election simply because the candidate from one of the sets had more registered people than their seniors. The seniors ganged up and unilaterally cancelled the election.

I would have stopped on the above scenario because the drama and the dramatis personae in it speaks volume to what our problems are presently in Nigeria, but the second scenario also brings home another of such problems that we need to tackle hurriedly.

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Number 2

We came together to register an alumni association. A cabal emerged and nominated board of trustees among themselves without general consent. He announced three (3) names as bank signatories but later sent to bank four (4) names. I left the whatsapp group when I realised it was a waste of time.

For a healthy balance of any society and its people it is essential to know your rights and responsibilities, to know the limits of your rights and as well the extent of what you are entitled to. Without a full grasp of these very salient society bonding principles, the potential for chaos and disorder is guaranteed in any given society.

Every discipline that sutures society together have rules of practice and engagement, and relatively it can be argued that we are all products of one learning institution or the other; whether within the conventional four (4) walls of a closed circuit educational system or that of the open circuit street system of learning ( as all learning na learning), there are rules, codes of practice and these must be adhered to, until a change in these rules is occasioned by societal needs and yearnings.

It is practically impossible for one to put something on nothing, hence it beats logic and good reasoning when an association enabled by provisions of the law breaks the laws that sets it up, for how can we explain the plights of the juniors in the scenario above who were prevented and deprived of their rights by their seniors who became apprehensive of the numbers the former were able to muster in an election then decided to thwart it. Even if one is persuaded by the argument of you do not have the full picture, how about the election that brought about the present NBA president?, a locus classicus in explaining the dearth of the rule of law where one group sees itself as superior and entitled to a position that is free for all.

Living under the rule of law requires not only efficient and effective government agencies but also the extensive and responsible cooperation of ordinary people. These ordinary people are a product of the type of society we have and plan for, in as much as they are the result of a default programme. Civilised societies are a product of the grounding of the people; it can well be argued that you cannot have a civilised society without the induction of civic education from the elementary level – well not to state that there are not pockets of civil disobedience in civilised societies, but the percentage of such is very disproportional to what we have in Nigeria; and aside from criminal elements, civil disobedience is used as a medium of protest against unpopular government policies in some climes. In Nigeria, the reverse is the case, civil disobedience, and flagrant abuse of the rule of law has become the norm.

The need to introduce civic education at early childhood education cannot be over emphasised, it is part of nation building and planning.  In stable governance – which unfortunately Nigeria has not had since independence – schools, particularly preschools, are often the first institutional experience for children in which they must work alongside others outside their families and immediate communities, and thus provide an ideal site for civic education. One can argue that the thrust of this early introduction is predicated on the fact that children will one day be part of the larger public therefore, schools need to prepare them to practice the habits of citizenship.

Citizenship and nation building are important aspects of early learning the educational curriculum must instil in students. I recall we had social studies and civics as subjects in my primary and secondary education which were formative. A case must be made to investigate the performance and activities of some of our present socio-political leaders to find out whether they skipped class during those lessons or just could not be bothered to pay attention.

From the home unit to resident associations to the community to the school and work environments and other association platforms, there is a need to start the critical foundational reset of our civic values and responsibilities to one another. As a matter of fact, those foundational values learnt at early educational years are being put to use in my primary school class set platform where certain rules were made to guide our activities and I must state by commendation that it has been working fine for us as a community of people – it shows there is great hope for if same is replicated across other alma maters the change will be far reaching with no need for cabals or seniors that may want to disturb the peace of a union.

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