Responsibility And The Citizenry. Lessons From COVID-19 
In our last post, we looked at Trust: The Missing Ingredient.
Nations are not built by politicians.
Every nation gets politicians that reflect their values. The political class in a true and functional democratic society emerge with the approval and support of members of society. Those who steal and stuff ballot boxes, falsify results, the thugs, and the security agencies are all members of the society. The members of the judiciary and electoral commission don’t come from outer space.
The connection between political leadership and responsible citizenry is for the leadership to create a purpose and direction for the citizens to follow. Leadership is more of modelling. It is the ability to motivate people to do what they are meant to do, and go beyond what they usually do. It is going the extra mile for the benefit of humanity and society. It is the act of creating a vision and purpose to harness the power, talents, resources, and goodwill of the people.
Anytime people see a trustworthy leader, they are more willing to key in to his/her vision.
In the human brain, there are some neurons called mirror neurons. They are responsible for the ability to mimic actions and behaviour. Over a period of time, when leadership sets standards of behaviour that are accepted and rewarded, they become the philosophical standards of that society.
Read previous lessons from COVID-19 here.
One of the greatest needs of African countries is political leaders, who can be models, that can create direction and purpose for the citizenry. You can’t drive against traffic, as Nigerian politicians do, and expect your citizens to drive normally. You cannot reward political thuggery with political appointments and expect people to detest violence.
Occasionally, however, there are citizens who take up responsibility from a sense of patriotism.
Didier Drogba won the African footballer of the year award, and brought the trophy to the president of Côte d’Ivoire. He subsequently asked for the president to join him to take the trophy to Duate, the northern capital of the rebels then. It was a source of joy to the whole country. He was also instrumental in taking the match between Madagascar and his country to Duarte. That went a long way to bring peace for some time in Côte d’Ivoire.
In the course of the coronavirus pandemic, several citizens in different nations have risen to the challenge in different forms. We have already seen the case of Captain Tom Moore, who raised millions of Pounds for the National Health Service of the UK. He was promoted to the rank of an honorary Colonel in the British army. The Queen of England sent him a letter. Two fighter jets did a flyover over his house on his 100th birthday. There was a special stamp on letters with his name on all mails to mark his 100th birthday. Several thousands of birthday cards were sent to him.
A female doctor of Indian origin had a convoy of several cars drive past her home to appreciate her efforts in saving several lives in the course of the pandemic. The visuals brought tears to my eyes, and I prayed to God to make me a blessing to my generation and humanity. Imagine how her neighbours would have felt, not to mention her schoolmates in India, where she schooled.
In another instance in the US, there was a Pakistani doctor, Dr. Saud Anwar, that invented a system that would allow seven patients to share one ventilator. In doing so, he saved lives and reduced the pressure on the system as a result of scarcity of ventilators. The police and several cars also drove past in front of his house. It was very captivating.
Another interesting case was that of a retired Federal Road Safety Officer, Mr Adeoye, in Ekiti State, Southwest Nigeria, who refused to take home his son who traveled from Lagos contrary to his instructions. Despite all the pleas and reassurances from, apparently, a security personnel, he bluntly refused to take the son home in his car. He said that he did not want to be responsible for bringing COVID-19 into Ekiti state like one of the earlier cases. He was the one who gave the phone number of the son to the health officials and security agencies to help track him, and they did. The State Governor called him to his office and offered him a job, for being a responsible citizen. He was appointed as a COVID-19 Ambassador; I just watched him on Channels TV.
The more frequently we recognise and reward responsible citizens, the quicker we can raise a more responsible political class.
Yesterday, my solar system did not supply electricity, probably because the batteries were down. So I picked a power bank I had not used for up to four months; I was not sure if it had power. I connected a USB cord to it, and no indicator lights showed; there was still no sign of power. But immediately I connected it to my phone, the indicator lights came on and my phone started charging.
I learnt a lesson. You can hardly know how much power, ability, or resilience people have until you connect them to a purpose.
I eventually put on my diesel generator, and after about two hours, the solar system started working because it was charged.
The diesel generator is like the government, and the solar system is like the citizenry. Charge the people, build trust in them, and our nations will groom responsible citizenry.
God Bless You.
Read the next post: Institutions And Men—The Access Bank Experience.