A citizen is not just a native or an individual who is a legally recognized subject of a state, but is someone who also has a responsibility to defend, protect and put the interests of the nation first. Those who seek to be recognized as citizens should not only look at the privileges that come with this recognition. To be a citizen is to have a sense of duty towards one’s country, it’s not an entitlement. Citizens are not supposed to wait for an invitation to participate in the building of their nation, they see this as a part of their responsibility. They are driven by a sense of contribution, they understand that their country can only advance to the extent that everyone contributes equitably and benevolently.
Citizens understand the importance of putting the needs of the masses first, before personal ones. They will always avoid those decisions that only create an advantage for them at the expense of the collective good. It is through this lens that decisions are made. In fact, all that a nation is and will be is the sum total of its citizens; a country will always reflect its people. What a country needs is not just a mere change of government, but rather a change of values, so that those elected into public offices can begin to serve with a sense of duty based on those values that seek to protect the interests of the masses. In my opinion Africa’s issues are not a product of poor leadership only, but also citizens’ with poor moral rectitude.
What do I mean by this? A person in leadership is a citizen first, no-one is born into leadership. Therefore it is totally impossible to expect someone to be a genuine leader when they have never been a genuine citizen. It is madness to expect a President to be full of integrity, when he/she has never lived that way before he/she assumed that office. People do not necessarily change because they have become leaders, in fact the position will just expose the true nature of the person. If the person used to give cops, drinks or money to get away from being fined; when that person gets into power, their behaviour will continue, and the only aspects that will change are the consequences of their disposition. We do not just suddenly become good or bad leaders, both are a process of consistently practicing those values that seek or undermine the collective good.
If African countries will change for the better, citizens should stop looking to those in power as the only problem, but rather we should all start reflecting on our own values. What have we contributed to the status quo? It is easier to point a finger at a leader whose issues are in the public eye and completely forget about our own secret corrupt tendencies that are detrimental to the advancement of the nation. The hour is calling for honest personal introspection and re-evaluation of our personal values. Do our personal values advance or undermine the well-being of the country?
Let us not only ask those in power if they are leading in the best interests of the country; are we as citizens also living in the best interests of our country? One can never lead in the best interests of the country if they have never lived in the best interests of the country at an individual level in the first place. The values of those in power and that of the citizens have to be in sync in order to reap sustainable positive change. It is a misnomer to expect those in leadership to have values we don’t live by or have never lived by. Civil societies should not just focus on holding those in power accountable but should also invest heavily in educating citizens on the importance of living in a manner that protects, defends and advances the collective good
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
― Mahatma Gandhi