When a former President of America, John F. Kennedy said, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” he understood the importance of collective participation in fostering socio-economic, political and all-round development.
In view of this, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari last week Thursday launched the 'change begins with me' campaign in order to stamp out indiscipline, corruption and instill attitudinal change among Nigerians.
President Buhari resorted to this age-long practice, blaming the lack of a good attitude trend for the country's economic, security and leadership woes.
“Before you ask ‘where is the change they promised us’ you must first ask ‘what have I done to be part of the change for the greater good of society,’ the president said on Thursday after launching the campaign that was planned by the Federal Ministry of Information, Culture, and National Orientation.
The Minister of Information Lai Mohammed said the campaign will educate and enlighten Nigerians to appreciate the values of Nigeria: accountability and honesty, which are needed for national development.
This is not the first time President Buhari will be launching such campaign. The campaign is a throwback to President Buhari’s War Against Indiscipline (WAI) in 1983 when he ruled Nigeria as a military head.
If successful, this campaign would entrench the values of integrity, accountability, social responsibility and inculcate positive attitudinal change in Nigerians.
But how well will this campaign resonate among the citizenry in the face of corruption and wanton impunity among leaders who are supposed to be a harbinger of the change they are campaigning fo
President Buhari’s fight against corruption ever since he was elected as the president has been tied to this new campaign but critics believe that the president’s fight against corruption has been mere witch-hunting targeted towards members of the opposition party only.
Some of his party members have been exonerated from corruption charges brought against them while those charged have not been convicted.
For instance, Nigeria’s Senate President Bukola Saraki is currently facing corruption charges with the Code of Conduct Bureau. Since September last year, the number three citizen of Nigeria is facing a 13 count charge of corruption over false declaration of asset and he has not been found guilty yet due to the heavy politics involved.
Furthermore, such campaigns have yielded little result, if any, owing to the inability of our leaders to bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality. Most of such campaigns on the part of political leaders in time past were mere window dressing to deceive gullible citizens of their unalloyed commitment to turn the tables around and restore public sanity.
From former President Olusegun Obasanjo ‘heart of Africa’ project to the ‘rebranding Nigeria’ campaign launched by former information minister, Prof Dora Akunyili, findings show that these attitudinal campaigns have not been successful in Nigeria.
Due to the past failures of similar campaigns in Nigeria, the President and his team are expected to put up measures to ensure the success of such campaign. For instance, there are hardly any institutions or strengthened law enforcement methods to achieve this.
If such campaign therefore is expected to see the light of the day, there is urgent need for strengthened institutions and better law enforcement, built on democratic principles.
Having suffered disappointing memories in the past by many sugar-coated leaders, most, if not all Nigerians, are in doubt of the sincerity of the leaders to bridge the gap between expectations and reality.
To restore this public trust and confidence, the Buhari-led administration must distance the campaign from unnecessary politics and work assiduously on establishing a structure that will see to it that both politicians and citizens conform to the principles of the campaign.
To this end, whether or not the campaign would be successful is not measured in rhetoric but in action.