CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY – AN ESSENTIAL INGREDIENT FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Theme: CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY – AN ESSENTIAL INGREDIENT FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The Hallmarks of Labour Foundation organized its first annual symposium  on Thursday, November 30th 2004 at the Lagos Sheraton

Hotel and towers Ikeja Lagos.The topic, “Civic Responsibility-An essential ingredient for national development.” The report of this

very well attended event is stated below:

RATIONALE

In a democratic dispensation, everyone possesses fundamental rights and privileges as well as obligations to other citizens, the community and the nation in general. Unfortunately, however, while they insist on their own rights, many people fail to carryout their responsibility to others. This failure to dischargetheir civic responsibility constitutes a monumental obstacle to the nation’s effort towards achieving much-needed social and economic development. Dishonest and fraudulent practices are borne out of selfishness

and have led to inefficient management of funds with colossal waste of national resources. Many people, particularly the youth, have turned to crime, drugs, and prostitution due to failure on the part of parents, guardians, teachers and society influencers to provide the necessary training and direction. The various governments have, arguably, have been negligent in their responsibility to the citizens.

OBJECTIVES

The Symposium is in furtherance of the principal goal of Hallmarks of Labour Foundation [HLF], which is to inculcate the virtues of

hard work, honesty and integrity in Nigerians, especially the upcoming youth. Specifically, HLF, through the symposium, intends

as follows:

  1. To enlighten the Nigerian public and rekindle their awareness of their civic rights and responsibilities and how their performance or otherwise can affect the nation’s development.
  2. To impel opinion leaders and influencers in various spheres of the Nigerian society to impart on members of their sectors, the need to wake up to their civic responsibility.
  3. To remind government at all levels of their responsibility to the citizen.
  4. To change the mindset of Nigerians and awaken the spirit of Nationalism, patriotism and loyalty.
  5. To change the mindset of Nigerians and awaken the spirit of Nationalism, patriotism and loyalty.

WELCOME ADDRESS – EMERITUS PROFESSOR UMARU SHEHU, CFR, HLR

Welcoming participants and guests, the chairman of the occasion,Emeritus Professor Umaru Shehu, CFR, HLR observed that the theme

of the symposium was very apt as a platform to discuss issues fundamental to the growth and development of the nation. Given the quality of speakers and discussants assembled there, he felt certain that at the end of the day there would be positive recommendations that can be put into practice. He looked forward to everybody going home “feeling much better than we came”.

As chairman of the Board of Trustees of the HLF, he reiterated the Foundation’s commitment to the promotion of the tenets of hard

work, honesty and integrity among Nigerians.

KEYNOTE ADDRESS — SPECIAL GUEST OF HONOUR, HE DR. CHRISTOPHER KOLADE, CON:

– A conscientious fulfilment of our civic responsibility should result in a positive development for Nigeria.

– In the basic traditional setting, Nigerians grow up in a culture that demands a positive commitment to civic duty on the part of the individual citizen.

– The integrity of community discipline compels the individual to willingly embrace the role assigned to him by the system and the

faithful performance of that role is his main contribution to community cohesion and progress.

– At the national level, we have not successfully translated this worthy culture to our activities and relationships.

– There are a National Anthem and a Pledge. The Pledge may not be a perfect ‘Mission Statement’ for Nigeria, but it points to some of the principles that should drive civic responsibility – NIGERIA IS MY COUNTRY, I HAVE TO BE FAITHFUL, LOYAL AND HONEST, and TO SERVE MY COUNTRY, etc. The Pledge demands an active role from the individual, not for him to delegate the role to anyone else.

– The major questions: where did we lose the momentum and how can we regain our direction and civic responsibility energy?

– Look at the these trends that run directly contrary to the need to perform our civic responsibility with selfless commitment:

evident decay and near-total collapse of some of the best values of our indigenous society; our adoption of an “Allocation Mentality” instead of productivity [more concern with the sharing of the national cake than with how it is baked]; our penchant for tuning advantage into disadvantage form ourselves, emphasising our differences rather than consolidating our bonds and strengths; our habit of giving recognition to display rather than performance.

– We need to define what results or added value we should look for or expect if we apply loyalty, faith and honesty in serving our country. A few lessons from the Athenian Oath of ancient Athens.

METHODOLOGY

The Symposium was structured into two Sessions, each of which covers two presentations, rounding off with reactions/discussions.

SESSION ONE: Chairman – Emeritus Prof. O.O. Akinkugbe, CON, MD, NNOM, HLR

** Wonders whether we need a dose of natural or man-made disaster to enforce unity in Nigeria

** Urges the Session to be proactive in its deliberations. 1st Paper: RECIPROCAL RESPONSIBILITIES BETWEEN CITIZENS AND THE STATE By Professor Joy Ogwu, Director-General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs [NIIA]

HIGHLIGHTS

— Urgent and timely theme for our society.

– Need to define the responsibility of the State to the Citizen and vice versa in a participatory democracy.

– Consider the Hobbesian notion of Social Contract between the State and the Citizenry. Social Contract is a dynamic phenomenon.

– The experience in most of Africa over the years reveals a relationship that is not reciprocal. While the State does not make citizens of its members, the members do not feel they are obligated to the State.

– On the domestic scene, many Nigerians do not truly feel that they are citizens of Nigeria in the sense of having and being able to claim privileges as citizens.

– The inability of the 1999 Constitution to clearly interpret what qualifies a particular people to be an “indigenous community”

and its failure to recognise group rights have continued to pose very serious problems to our practice of democracy.

– A healthy democracy can be sustained through an attentive engaged citizenry, which can be motivated by an understanding that

we all “sink or swim together”.

– Nations or communities are not founded solely on citizens’ rights. What about the citizens’ responsibility? Most Nigerians stand as spectators rather than participants. Our perceived privileges cannot be greater than our responsibilities.

– EVERY NIGERIAN IS A POTENTIAL INSTRUMENT OF CHANGE. The best guarantee of our democracy is the full and unimpeded participation of the citizenry in both the democratic and development process.

– The NEW Citizenship would reject the old politics of entitlement in favour of Reciprocal Responsibility. On-going socio-economic reforms are designed to improve the quality of life of the Nigerian citizen and also produce the right quality of public officials for the Nigerian State.

– Path to New Partnerships among the stakeholders in Nigeria: Nurturing Democracy in Communities; Public Trust and Healthy

Political Competition.

– No one but ourselves can help to renew our nation.

2nd Paper: The NEED TO REINSTATE CIVICS IN OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM By Professor Ambassador Jide Osuntokun, Department of History,University of Lagos

HIGHLIGHTS

– In the Nigerian experience, civics constituted part of the grooming necessary for good citizenship. Since education is vital

to prepare the individual for their civic responsibility, the subject was incorporated in the curriculum of primary school

education in the colonial and post-civil war periods.

– The whole purpose of civics education was to “catch them young”, because the impressionistic years of youth are deemed decisive in moulding the character and personality of the citizens. Early childhood civic education was anchored on the adage that “the child is the father of the man”.

– Draws attention to the experiences of established democratic societies such as Canada and USA, where young children are expected to be familiar with the various milestones in their countries’ history – the essence being to provide the food for patriotic fervour and to rally support for certain values such as freedom and constitutional rights.

– Contends that we can develop a Nigerian copy from such enduring examples as the African concept of the family, spirituality,

music, cuisine, accoutrements and artistry. Other platforms for a national purpose include the slave trade, advent of Christianity

and Islam, colonisation, attainment of independence, viewpoints and speeches of national heroes, successes and failures of successive leadership and lessons there from, military rule, secession and the civil war, the pursuit of peace, unity, equity and justice, the status and role of Nigeria in Africa and the world, the Nigerian project and expected role of every citizen in its accomplishment.

– Thus, civics education is not only a tested mechanism for patriotism, but part of a formative process of citizenship.

– Today’s realities pose challenges. How have those with the benefit of civics education performed, given the failure of leadership characteristic of most of our post-colonial history?

Also, with the dominance of western values and increasing globalisation tend to hamper the development of national ethics and values. In a world characterised by material selfishness and primitive accumulation, corruption has become a universal norm. While the developed societies have established mechanisms for ‘taming, restraining and tempering’ corruption, the malaise has been devastating to developing countries.

– But we must not give up. As a people, we are aware we have a lot of problems affecting every facet of our national life and social interaction. Our comportment and attitude hardly recognise the freedom of others and manifest a disconnection between ourselves and our communal/societal responsibility.

– Against this background, education will be crucial to the new beginning, with a large dosage of moral and civic education. In formulating the new agenda, we would incorporate elements of religion and civics education with the sole aim of producing a morally upright citizenry. This should be backed by moral, religious and legal sanctions which are enabled to be swift and sure.

– Although there is no perfect society, the essence of human civilisation is to try to attain perfection. The challenge lies in reparing our society of the future by starting to teach our young impressionistic toddlers about the DOs and DONTs of civilised human society. As the Chinese would say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. The struggle for moral rearmament must therefore, commence through the education of those who would succeed this wasted generation of ours.

AUDIENCE REACTIONS

— How have the present crops of leaders, who benefited from civics education, impacted on the society?

– How do we make the government become aware of the real state of poverty and suffering in the land?

– How could the Federal Government be assisted to reach out to the grassroots with its policies, plans and programmes?

– In our society which seems to be guided by impatience and selfishness, what are the criteria for determining our role models? What is the best approach to mobilise the suffering masses, especially at the grassroots, to their civic responsibility?

– If every Nigerian is potentially an instrument of change and the majority of the people are disenfranchised, what manner of change do expect?

– There is too much premium on academic education, but inadequate provision for the absorption of products from those institutions.

Government should focus more on training the child to be gainfully employed.

– People do not seem to trust the Government, but can we really blame them? There are contradictions in the governance of this country, and government must provide good enough reasons for the citizenry to trust it.

REPONSES [PROFESSORS JOY OGWU AND JIDE OSUNTOKUN]

– The military interregnum, especially in the then post civil war era, destroyed the gains of civics education and the standards of morality in our society. Then and today, there are benefactors of civics education who have been and are morally upright. Examples abound. For the future, we need properly articulated civics education programme.

– The decadence is generational and societal, and not limited to the leadership.

– The citizens of Nigeria tend to forget they have tremendous powers in their votes. Also, interest groups hardly exercise their powers to hold the leadership [in government and the legislature] accountable. We are a reticent people who have a habit of demanding our rights without exercising same.

– Change should be systematic and incremental and we must have the consciousness to be part of the change; an attitudinal change. A revolution, in the classical sense, will destroy everybody.Trust until we are disappointed.

– There should be increasing emphasis on self-employment as well as the development of medium level technological capacity and know-how. At the level of government, we must have long-term strategic planning to enable us cope with the products of our educational institutions.

** A critical observation is that GRINDING POVERTY is a major source of disconnect between the citizen and the State.

SESSION TWO: Chairman – Mr. Allison Ayida, GCON, HLR

** The Nigerian Project must go on; it must not flounder. 3rd Paper: THE NEED FOR RELIGIOUS AND ETHNIC TOLERANCE By Hon.

Justice Mustapha Akanbi, Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission [ICPC]

HIGHLIGHTS

– Expectations of peace, progress and stability dashed. Ours has been a motion without movement. Nobody seems to really find solutions to the problems.

– Any meaningful progress, whether at sea or land, requires a peaceful environment and a clear vision, which would lead us to a safe port – the land of our dreams.

– Of the many ills that have plagued the country, Religion and Ethnicity have been front-burners with the consequence of violence, which most times is unnecessary and for very trivial reasons.

– It is also pertinent to aver that political discontent and deprivation of all sorts also tend to fan the embers of religious and ethnic sensitivity.

– Religion is defined as “beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community. It is an admixture of culture and beliefs.

– Christianity and Islam together with traditional worshippers should serve as the springboard for launching our country into a new world of wholesome humanity, truth, transparency, honesty, justice, probity and accountability, which are the hallmarks of any great nation.

4th Paper: FOSTERING AWARENESS OF CIVIL RESPONSIBILITY

–THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA By Dr. Tonnie Iredia, Director-General, Nigerian Television Authority NTA]

HIGHLIGHTS

— Defining civic responsibility as comprising actions and attitudes associated with democratic governance and social participation. These include advocacy for worthy causes, tolerance and appreciation of human differences, addressing social problems in an informed, committed and positive manner, etc.

– Empahsises the significance of communication for human survival. As the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the pres is a strong influence on society. The media informs, educates and entertains. Its basic functions include surveillance of the environment, correlation of parts of the society, transmission of social heritage, education of the masses, mobilisation and entertainment.

– Civic responsibility of the media is about understanding and propagating the terms, tokens, and responsibility of the relationship between the State and the citizens.

Through conscious process of inculcating certain values, skills, habits and attitudes in the citizens, it helps generate civic dispositions to such ideals as belief in the rights and responsibilities of individuals in society as well as the aspirations of the government. It is these dispositions that inform participation in civic affairs such as elections, community service and assumption of responsibilities.

– Challenges facing the media include complaints of bias and infringement of the citizens’ right to privacy. While not exonerating the media completely, it should be noted that the journalist cannot pretend not to have an opinion. Journalists certainly do not have the gift to draw no conclusions or have no opinions about the matters they cover.

– The advent of the Internet has sharpened the issues of press responsibility, bias and invasion of privacy – speeding up the news cycle and easing the bottlenecks to access. Thus, competition in the press has increased, widening options to the audience on

practically every subject-matter and issue of human society.

– Despite clear problems and constraints, the media has played significant, positive roles in the development of the nation – the struggles for independence, against misrule and abuse of governmental powers, and the restoration of democracy.

– SUGGESTIONS: Under the present civilian administration, the Nigerian Media has been re-engineering to reposition itself to the 21st Century challenges of the industry. The industry is poised to witness rapid growth and development, with attendant improvements in expertise and professionalism.

– To meet these challenges, the media needs to invest in training, re-training and capacity building, modern equipment and

facilities, effective internal mechanisms for regulation of the practice, quality programmes and editorial contents and packaging

with great attention to accuracy, audience sensitivity and customer satisfaction, strategies to attract and retain advertisers and investors, avoiding partisan politics and features on religious fundamentalism that could cause disorder, dissent and

chaos in the society.

— Concomitantly, the media must be alive to its social responsibility, be mindful of its service delivery and service compact with the audience and adhere to ethical guidelines [tell the truth using honest methods, show respect for professional integrity and responsibility, exercise discretion “when in doubt don’t”, work for the solution of economic, social and humanitarian problems, help strengthen respect for human rights and assist in the maintenance of national and international peace].

CONCLUSION

The Media must accept and fulfil certain obligations to the society, which can be met by setting high professional standards of informativeness, truth, accuracy, objectivity and balance.

– The Media should be pluralistic, reflecting the diversity of their society by granting access to various viewpoints and to rights of reply.

— The Media must keep our communities connected to the past, present and future by communicating the values and traditions we hold dear as well as the policies, actions and expectations of government.

– The Nigerian Media can help keep Nigeria united, informed,virile and strong.

AUDIENCE REACTIONS

— Violence today is a reaction of the ordinary Nigerian to the hopelessness of the situation around him. Can we prevent this violence in the face of blatant disenfranchisement?

– Leadership has been identified as the main culprit.

– In the same vein, followership is also not left out, because where there is bad leadership, there is bad followership.

– Nigerian lack puritan ethics that you find all over the world.

– Nigerians should practise civic virtues so that we show ourchildren the way forward