Here in this post, we are going to outline and discuss the role of citizenship education in improving the democratic system of government in Nigeria.
The transition of Nigeria from military rule to democracy is nearly two decades, and one would have expected that some level of development is evident in the democratic system.
However, present realities suggests otherwise and this cannot be separated from the extreme level of naivety on the part of the citizens.
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It appears as though citizens of Nigeria still have residual knowledge of how a military government runs, and somehow, the approach to this painstakingly acquired democracy is largely from a trial by error perspective.
The Gettysburg’s Address of 18th November, 1863 by Abraham Lincoln remains fresh in the memories of Americans till today.
Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why their democracy, and more pivotally, the purposeful participation of American citizens in politics, are different from what we see in Nigeria today.
Knowledge is power and while knowledge could be acquired via formal and informal platforms, the Nigerian society, seems to be configured in such a way that suggests that only formal education is given any credence in the scheme of things.
We must understand, and appreciate, that elections are not participated in by the educated alone but by all who are 18 years and above.
This means that proper knowledge of democracy and governance as it were, is a core course for everyone within the Nigerian state should our democracy ever attain the height of what could be described as a developed democracy.
In the words of Dewey (1926), education in various expressions (formal, non-formal and informal) is fundamental to the establishment and formation of a citizenry which recognizes and values the importance of participatory engagement in the process of governance and institutions of government that would be relevant to particular societal arrangements.
For instance, with the general elections in Nigeria only few months away, it is sacrosanct that citizens are properly educated on what is expected of them as citizens, their responsibilities as the electorate, the yardstick to measure the propositions presented by each candidate and what expectations they must have from those who are eventually elected into public offices.
Make no mistake, the sorry state of our democracy and governance in Nigeria as it were, cannot be separated from the naivety of the electorate.
It then means, that if we continue to rely solely on formal form of education, democracy and governance in Nigeria might not experience the level of growth we envision which on the long run should position us in the class of a developed democracy particularly from a global perspective
The onus lies upon us; to reconfigure our polity in such a way that citizenship education is provided at every level, particularly at the grass root.
It would interest you to know, that as of 2015, the adult literacy rate in Nigeria was at 59.6%. Logic also tells us that a very good number of these persons, are likely to be parochial and those who are not formally educated have formed the bulk of the electorate.
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This is a dilemma as those who supposedly have the needed information to guide their involvement, have either lost interest in the system, or have stopped believing in the system, hence, taking a parochial posture or seating on the fence. All of which is harmful for the democratic system.
In more recent times, concepts like Stomach Infrastructure has succeeded in further crippling the democratic process, as those who are more involved, are not properly educated with respect to what is expected of them as citizens of Nigeria and what is expected of those to be elected or those elected into public offices.
Although these uneducated people get fully involved during elections, they are not adequately informed, a result of which is getting brainwashed along the line, or for economic realities, selling their votes to the highest bidder.
The ripple effect of this is eventually having people elected into public offices who are either clueless on what it takes to paddle the boat of our democracy into the promised land or are not adequately equipped to do so.
This is where Citizenship Education comes in. The right dose of knowledge on what our sole responsibility is as citizens, at every level (formal, non-formal and informal), plays a pivotal role, in charting a course for a developed democratic system. It helps to inform our decisions as well as our approach to governance altogether.
In conclusion, the earlier we incorporated Citizenship Education (Formal, Non-formal and informal) into the very fiber of our society at every level from schools, organizations, associations and also encourage that it becomes a subject for discussion even at the family level, the better for us.
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