In the contemporary world, nothing has given man an identity more than citizenship, interestingly subsuming many other modes of socio-political identification and assuming ideality at both national and international fora. In whatever form it is given, citizenship comes with rights and duties on the part of the issuer and receiver, both being citizens of a sovereign entity – individual or corporate. While citizenship is mostly viewed as a civic status with attendant entitlements and responsibilities, it extends beyond that prism to reveal a process of socialization or acculturation into the business of nationhood and nation-building.
Being a process of socialization therefore, citizenship is a continuum in: relating and imbibing the identity, history, goals and ideology of the nation; communicating her laws, policies, programmes and initiatives; orientating, empowering, preparing and securing members of the polity to contribute their energies ultimately to the achievement of national goals; etc. It is about wooing the heart of members into adopting and professing the national creed and pouring that heart into the vision and mission of the nation.
This view tends to discredit the automaticity of citizenship as obtained by mere registration of birth or endorsement of naturalization documents. This process of socialization is a lot more practical than theoretical, as further steps beyond the constitution to construction – the molding and engagement of willing and prepared members who (will) lend their hand in the building and sustenance of a great nation.
It is this view of citizenship that is being advanced to the Nigerian nation as she grapples with challenges of integrating and harnessing her vast human and material resources for socio-political and economic gains. Adoption of this integrated view of citizenship will take into account the extent to which each Nigerian has been prepared for active citizenship: what level of continuous civic and other forms of education is being given to members from their inception to citizenship? Has the citizens’ continuous encounter with the state been dignifying to both parties? What examples of patriotism and other national values are authorities and statesmen providing for the citizenry? What enabling environment is being created for the citizens to legitimately attain their socio-economic dreams and contribute to the wealth and wellbeing of the nation? Are those in positions of authority having similar experiences with other citizens in terms of social amenities and other basic services and opportunities provided by the state? How edifying or rewarding is the stellar dispay of hardwork and patriotism by members of the state? etc.
No doubt, nation-building starts with grooming the individual into responsibility. It is simply logical that the amount and quality of materials thrown into the mold of each citizen will cumulatively determine the outlook, strength or capacity of the nation. The Nigerian nation is not exempt from this equation of ‘quality in, quality out’ and therefore should guard against such trends as: breeding a largely uneducated or poorly educated citizenry; abandoning a terrified citizenry which is largely too unprotected, unsupported and poor to be productive and dutiful; ambushing into criminality citizens who had not been shown examples of civility and statesmanship; being a household that cannot account for or identify all its offsprings in number and condition; breeding locally potential exiles who would later blossom as citizens of other more socially and economically favorable nations; not driving plans, curricula and initiatives that vigorously pursue national interests; etc.
The creed of the Nigerian State as beautifully crafted by her founding fathers, clearly implies ‘country first’. That mantra should equally translate to ‘citizen first’ since the citizen is the unit component of any democratic nation. This is the tie in the race of nation-building between entities that direct the affairs of the nation and her citizens, as they pursue common national goals. This is the equation that produces strong and dependable public institutions – corporate citizens which are committed to quality service to the nation and her citizenry. This same equation instigates citizens to pour their heart and might into the service, development and sustenance of the nation that stands tall and protective of them.
This is the kind of integrated citizenship that could spur an Allen Onyema for instance, to sponsor a mission via his airline to rescue 188 Nigerians who had come under threats of xenophobic attacks in South Africa or a Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh to sacrifice her life to prevent the spread of the Ebola Disease in Nigeria, “for the greater public good” (in her words), amidst other shining examples of patriotism.
There is no gainsaying that nations thrive when authorities and citizens alike come home to the ideals of nationhood and nation-building through active citizenship by channeling their energies towards the ultimate achievement of national goals. This is guaranteed by the state’s continuous investment in the citizen as the seed of national prosperity and posterity.
By Emmanuel Ikechukwu Igbo from Lagos