As a young researcher for BBC Media Action in Nigeria, I've been
involved in conducting research and evaluating a number of our radio and
television programmes which aim to educate and involve Nigerians in the
governance of their country.
One thing I've often noticed is the reaction you get whenever you
ask questions of people about how our country is run - whether it's got to do
with electoral processes, service delivery, accountability, corruption or the
performance of public office holders.
An otherwise easy-going discussion suddenly changes into something
far more rowdy. People start to clamour for the opportunity to talk first, interrupting
each other and arguing the facts amongst themselves.
They often see it as an opportunity to vent their frustrations and
anger over the actions - and inactions - of their public office holders at all
levels of government.
for me to observe in these arguments that Nigerians seem to know a lot about
the governance of their country and what they expect from their leaders.
They want government to provide amenities, security, and infrastructural
development among other things, and they want government to be accountable and
transparent in their dealings.
One respondent in Lagos said, “I will say the fault is the government. In
the aspect of education, electricity and health, they all have plans and
promise for it but they embezzle the money. They are not honest. They look for
their pocket first.”
But there is a gap between people’s knowledge about how governance
can work and what they can do themselves to affect how their country is run,
such as actively attempting to hold their leaders to account.
Through our research, many factors have been identified to explain
this this gap. But some seem particularly important.
For example people feel distant from their leaders and too weak to
affect any change. This divide is visible in an emerging slang term for
referring to politicians and public office holders as “our ogas at the top” (“our bosses at the top”).
People often feel powerless and incapable of challenging these “ogas”
and just accept the fallout of their decisions. Many people also report a
feeling of fear about confronting leaders on accountability or corrupt
For some, there are also difficulties in accessing existing
channels and platforms for addressing governance issues and malpractices.
The result is a feeling of apathy as citizens prefer to cope with
whatever lot they have.
But “No wahala”
- “no problem” - as many Nigerians would say.
BBC Media Action in Nigeria is using media to try and address some
of these issues. For example, BBC Media Action is using a radio magazine show
called Talk Your Own – Make Naija (Nigeria)
Better to increase people’s knowledge about governance-related issues
and encourage dialogue between citizens and their public officials.
A recording of radio drama Story, Story.
We are also using a popular drama show titled Story Story to try
to increase knowledge and encourage discussion of governance-related issues so
as to improve the governance systems in Nigeria.
While we are still studying the impact of these programmes,
previous research, alongside initial findings, suggest that Nigerians are
benefiting from these platforms.
As a young Nigerian interested in how my country is run, this is
something I’m very happy about.
But the most exciting aspect for me is the fact that I am part of
the research team that assesses how these strategies are actually impacting
Nigerians. Our findings are then fed back to our programme producers to improve
the whole process.
Anyone may say we have an uphill challenge on our hands. But I
know it’s possible and being part of reducing that gap between the governors
and the governed in Nigeria drives my work every day.