Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Nigeria: A place called Gege

Working the government we have

It started off as a seemingly innocuous but general posting on Twitter. “If you cannot have the government you want, use the one you have. They are there to work for you.”

It was a variation on Luther Vandross’ song which had the line, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”

The nature of Nigerian politics is such that the winner takes it all and those in power have the ability to influence and change things for the better of the people.

Somehow, they are not naturally disposed to attending to their responsibilities and the duties we voted then into office for, it appears they need to be persuaded, goaded, coerced, forced, shamed, challenged by whatever means to be sensitive to the needs of the people and become engaged in the work of good governance.

The role of government

In my view, it is the government that creates the legal framework within which socio-economic development can thrive – civil society needs to know that they can explore, innovate, research, inform and develop enterprise and resource in the setting conducive to advancing their communities and ensuring progress.

However, if civil society hugs the side-lines and just engages in criticism and antagonism they will never engage the government enough to help them realise their aspirations and goals for progress in their communities and the country at large.

Constructive analysis matters

The involvement of the general voting populace the elections was a force to be reckoned with and it must not be allowed to fizzle out, that whole momentum needs to be channelled into demanding accountable and responsive government for everyday day until the next elections.

It was interesting to read the analysis of the first few days in office of the new governor of Imo State by Joachim MacEbong titled Is Rochas for Real? [1] It represents the kind of objective and genuine assessment and analysis we require of the so-called informed and one is hopeful that it will become the trend – it was this that inspired my original Twitter posting.

This lead to a Twitter discussion on the indifference of government to the plight of its citizens and this was exemplified in the comments of Adebiyi Adewale, a Mass Communications major who had seen problems in a suburban ghetto of the city of Ibadan in Nigeria.

A place called Gege

Gege – It was the first I had heard of Gege and there was not much information on Google about the place. As I had been informed, it has serious socio-economic problems of poverty, poor schools, high truancy rates, teenage pregnancy, drug-abuse and probably many other inner-city evils we get regaled with in the news or on television.

Gege calls for a radical intervention but it appears to be invisible to those who matter or the problems seem too intractable that the system will rather work against any agitation for progress than make to change and develop the place.

It might well initially fall on the shoulders of Adebiyi Adewale to give Gege a global profile, a location on Google Maps for starters, the publication of the pictures he has taken of the place, an objective and incisive analysis of the issues and the problems affecting the community and then growing the necessary critical mass to make government react.

It is hard work but possible

Fela Durotoye started something similar for Mushin in Lagos called the Mushin Makeover [2], there is the fear that the initiative has run out of steam, it is no doubt hard work to first drum up support, garner momentum and then keep the interest for lasting goals [3] to be achieved – it is not a task for the faint of heart, celebrity is not enough as engagement has to be enduring and persistent.

Gege is probably symptomatic of many other places in Nigeria and probably typical of the communities show-cased in the Welcome to Lagos series shown by the BBC last year.

What I have learnt so far is there is a place called Gege and there is a Mass Communications expert who will bring his skills and expertise to bear and hopefully bring lasting change to that community, as for the details about the place, I am interested enough to read more about Gege and if you know something about Gege or communities like Gege in Nigeria, it is time to put them on the map and within the sights of those who have the responsibility to facilitate the change those communities need.

Sources

[1] JMac’s Blog – Is Rochas for Real?

[2] Fela Durotoye – Mushin Makeover: History is Made

[3] GemStone Nigeria – Mushin Makeover

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