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By Alex-Daniel Excellencie Chimaroke

As a young person, growing up in a system that seemed to have been designed
intentionally to make you fail, always made me wonder why the country is in such a
huge mess – a mess the height of Mt. Gangirwal of Taraba.
I always wondered, why do we have so many potentials and resources both in human
and material form yet the society is failing at an exponential level, and nobody can do or
is doing anything about it. All that was obtainable were hopes, false promises, and the
deafening failure that follows; lather, rinse, and repeat.

I came across a book that helped me answer my questions. Daron Acemoglu said in his
book, Why Nations Fail, that, “The ability of economic institutions to harness the potential
of inclusive markets, encourage technological innovation, invest in people, and mobilize
the talents and skills of a large number of individuals is critical for economic growth.”
But then what empowers or creates economic institutions with such abilities? Daron
explained that “The political institutions of a society are a key determinant of the outcome
of this game… There is a strong synergy between economic and political institutions.” He
further explains that “Political and economic institutions, which are ultimately the choice
of society, can be inclusive and encourage economic growth. Or they can be extractive and
become impediments to economic growth.”

Armed with this knowledge of political institutions and how they affect the prosperity of
the society based on whether there are inclusive or extractive, and the role of the society
in creating them, I decided to take a bold step, to become an agent of inclusive change in
my immediate environment – my school.
As an undergraduate student, the discovery of my passion for leadership spurred me up
to actively engage in student unionism. In 2015 when I gained admission, I had wanted
to face my studies and graduate with the best grades I could. But on seeing the
sufferings of an average student in my school, I became burdened, more especially
because those issues could be addressed by the student union bodies on campus. These
issues ranged from lack of learning facilities (they were either dilapidated or
non-existent), lack of good hostel facilities, epileptic power supply, ineffective academic
staff, social vices such as cultism, and drug abuse, and so on. The student union bodies
(at both faculty and university levels) were responsible for the catering for some of
these issues, any issues outside their jurisdiction were reported to the school
management for needed attention. But of some non-existent reasons, these issues were
never addressed as they should. Unfortunately, this was the dilemma of almost every
Nigerian student irrespective of their schools: student leaders who were elected to serve
and represent their interest, failed woefully to do so.

It is already an established fact that politics – at any level – shapes the society in its
entirety. In that same vein, people who handle political power shape society – my school
was no different. Since my personal mantra was, “Be the change you want”, I decided to
make the change I envisioned to the student union body, and I decided to run for an
office.
In my third year, I ran for the office of the Director of Projects, Research/Technology, in
the association governing students in my faulty, the Nigerian Universities Engineering
Students’ Association. Winning the election was a huge stepping stone to providing the
needed change. My agenda was aptly captured as the Vision Project. This agenda covered
three areas: infrastructure, academics, and professional enlightenment. Infrastructure
as an agenda was focused on improving and providing learning facilities such as fixing
the dilapidated lecture halls (such that students could use it both at day and at night)
and provision of sound systems, convenience rooms and upgrade of the faculty library;
the academics agenda focused on improving lecturer-student relationship and provision
of learning materials at subsided rates when the need arises; for professional
enlightenment, my office organized seminars, workshops and coordinated internship
programs for students so they expand their knowledge outside what was been taught in
the classroom, and also through social programs enlighten the student on the dangers of
certain vices – one of such programs was on the issue of drug abuse. The Vision Project,
the brainchild of my office was successful to a large extent; it earned me an award from
the dean of the college as the Ace of Innovation and Excellence.

One major challenge that is in the political and public service sphere of the Nigerian
society is corruption. It has eaten so deep into the fabric of our society to the point
where the upcoming youth population – the future leaders – considers it a political
lifestyle to be practiced without reservations. My tenure suffered this challenge; in a
system where everybody is corrupt and only seeks personal aggrandizement, the few
good heads either bow to the overwhelming evil or forced out of the system through vile
antics. I held a resolute stand to serve the student community with honesty, sadly I
could not say the same for my fellow comrades or academic staff members (they were
not supposed to be involved by the way) who were solely interested in using the
association’s fund for personal benefit rather than the intended purpose – public
welfare.

I decided to take a further step and contest for the presidency, as a means to effect
change from the top. Unfortunately, just like a sheep facing an army of wolves, I was
overwhelmed by the vile antics of this class of corrupt comrades who sought help from
lecturers to suppress voices of change; these lecturers where of course interested in the
looting. But of course, it became a learning ground for me. I had learned and gotten
firsthand experience in political leadership. One big lesson was that it takes more than
sheer goodwill to bring about the needed change especially in a vicious political system;
the good ones are easily maneuvered.

The good I have done for my country is: I have understood the need for change in the
political system of our country; this is the good everyone should do for their country, to
set them on the path of prosperity – to acknowledge the need for change. I have
demonstrated through the little service capacity I had had, that the needed change is
achievable once there is a plan, which in my case was the Vision Project. Also, I refused to
conform to the corrupt political system even at the expense of my ambitions.

Conclusively, I made a promise, to preach the message of inclusive change and motivate
young leaders to do the same and to serve in any capacity (public office) in the society
with three h’s and a p – honor, honesty, humility, and a plan.

(c) Alex-Daniel Excellencie Chimaroke 2020