By Ingye Dooyum

Today, the deplorable state of affairs have made it relatively difficult for Nigerians to describe what they have done for Nigeria. Borrowing from David Easton’s System theory, as output from the system decreases, so will input advertently decrease too.

Nigerians are just trying to survive such that, no one is concerned about what they will do for the country. Nigerians just want to eat and breathe. Given this Hobbesian state of nature nonetheless, a handful of Nigerians still dedicate a significant portion of their lives to this country. True patriots not only rant, but strive for the good of all. To this end, I will tell my story; about the good I have done for Nigeria regardless of her minimality. This good will be related to my accountability, human development and assistance.

When I started my undergraduate programme, I ran a mini café where I performed all sorts of academic exercises for students. Through research, I read extensively about Marxism and was particularly spellbound by Karl Marc’s account of primitive communalism, the earliest mode of production; and communism, the advanced mode of production. Marx’s theories ignited a strong sense of empathy and ‘communism in living’ in me.

I immediately took a great concern in the non-academic staff who worked in my faculty. I mean, those old women who swept the dusty ground of the University for meagre fees. There were about five of such old women in the faculty. At the end of every month, from the money earned, I divided it into half, and shared it among them. I did this till I graduated from the university. I don’t understand or speak the Hausa language so we were never able to talk beyond mere salutations (though, often, they would ask a student to express gratitude to me, on their behalf). For me, the greatest reward was the smiles which flashed on their faces due to certainty that they would eat good meals few more days.

Thereafter, I started organizing free tutorials for students who had issues in any of their courses. It was really tasking as I had to give time to my café business, tutorials, lectures, study, and union activities. By the end of my studies, the Head of Department formally recommended that I hold second classes for courses which the lecturers were handling poorly. I did all these for free.

As an active student union member, I didn’t only speak accountability and transparency, I exuded it. I was nominated as the first president of the department of Political Science in my alma mater. Before I assumed office, I had promised to serve without taking a kobo from the department’s purse. In the middle of my administration, some executive members suggested that I approve a monthly allowance for the executive members, but I turned it down. We were just kicking off, and I wanted to build a solid and vibrant association through selfless service, financial discipline and innovation. Before most of my overzealous muslims mates protested that the position of the presidency should return to them as “the pious ones”,

I got close to setting up a library, political science students journal and newsletter as well as purchasing a vehicle for the department. I am proud to say, as a fairly poor student, not for once, did I contemplate taking a kobo out of the eight hundred thousand naira (N800,000:00) I generated via dues; dues which I handed over to the next president who “gulped” faster than water. Sadly, all the projects I initiated were abandoned, and nothing of commensurate value has been introduced till this day.

As the president of the department of political science, I joined my equals in other universities to revive the National Association of Political Science Students Nigeria. The essence, for some of us, was to re-awaken the sleeping bulldog and gather resources through dues, book launches, seminars, conferences, etc to solve the academic challenges of political science students in Nigeria. In a convention at Keffi, we settled for a political science student from the University of Jos as the national president.

I emerged as the National Director of Travels and Exchange. To my chagrin, immediately after the convention, instead of embarking on the activities which we earlier agreed upon, the national president choose to go round the country, begging for money from governors, ministers, and senators. I refused to participate in what I considered a criminal outing. He invited me to attend each visit, but I never turned up. In the same way, I refused to join in the sharing of the millions they made.

Students’ unionism plays an important role in every democratic state. Student unions keep political leaders on their toes. In Nigeria, student union members contributed to the independence struggle, and continued to shape public policies even after independence. This is the path I wanted to follow. And even though the struggle has been sold by the current crop of union leaders, my goal was to join forces with others to revive it. When this was no longer possible, I stepped outside. For me, this is a great service to Nigeria.

At the height of the Fulani herdsmen attacks on farmers in Benue state, and the unwillingness of the federal government to curb the attacks, most people from Benue argued that it was pertinent to retaliate by attacking the local Hausa communities to spur the FG into action. As a humanist, I considered this plan to be barbaric and uncivilized. I know the Nigeria I live in is an absurd theatre of chaos, confusion, deprivation and outright conflict yet, not for once have I been swayed by sentiments to take up arms against Nigeria, or any Nigerian. I did not see any reason why the sins of the herdsmen terrorists should be visited on the Hausa communities who have lived with us for years.

I decided to join the campaign to discourage local peasants and other youths from killing innocent people and causing more chaos in the community. In fact, I succeeded in stopping a group of young men from lynching a Hausa man who sells tea and bread close to my residence. At the end, though a handful of people were attacked, given the campaign that we mounted, the attacks didn’t spiral out of hand. Here again, I contributed to restoring peace and order in my society. I have been actively engaged in this effort till this day.
Within this period, I joined the Movement Against Fulani Occupation (MAFO) and The Vanguard Against Tiv Massarce (VATIM), both civil society organizations against the activities of herdsmen in Benue state, to protest against the incessant attacks on farmers and demand the prohibition of open grazing. It was the activities of these groups that later culminated in the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law passed by the Benue State House of Assembly in 2017.

In fact, it is the role I played during this period that prompted my late uncle to ask me to accompany him to the refugee camp located at the outskirts of Makurdi. It was an impromptu Sunday call for assistance, but I gathered some clothes, cooking items, and money for the refugees. When we arrived the camp, and I saw their condition, I regretted why I didn’t bring more. This would mark the beginning of my assistance to the refugees. The next Sunday, I gave a lot including an expensive gown I had bought for my girlfriend.

I and my uncle took a particular interest in a family of five; the man’s hand was nearly chopped off completely by herdsmen. Doctors had managed to stitch it back, but the hand might never amount to any resourcefulness. As an uneducated man, married to an uneducated woman, with three children, life was bleak for them. As if that wasn’t enough, their last child had tuberculosis. I felt a special attachment to her because I also suffered TB years ago. We decided to organize a fund raising for them, among family and friends. At the end, we were able to get over three hundred thousand for them to start a business. I am happy to say, they are doing quite fine today.

I also want to say, irrespective of the divided nature of the Nigeria society, or the imbalanced nature of the country which favours one group against others, I don’t discriminate against other tribes. I am a Nigerian who can relate and work with any Nigerian with an open mind. I have displayed this quality, severally. On and off the social media, I share and promote the worthy cause of other Nigerians, which have no impact on my life.

For me, being a Nigerian is enough. I don’t care where you hail from, what you believe, etc. I think this is a great service I am doing for Nigeria. If all Nigerians can embrace this quality, we will bridge our differences, and rapidly transform our society. The gap between Nigerians is wide, and those who oppress us, constantly use it to keep us in line. Only, if we can rise above these differences!

To sustain and help protect her nascent democratic experiment, I have laid my life in the trenches and unknown hinterlands on election duties not minding the risk, volatility and uncertainties associated with election conducts in this difficult country. I have turned down bribe while working as an election officer in distant places of Benue state. In the last gubernatorial election in Benue state, I was re-assigned to Yandev, Gboko to conduct a supplementary election. While the election was going on, I was approached by members of the two most popular parties to collect bribe, so they could rig the election. I turned them down. The money offered by one of the party agents was very huge, but I refused to accept it.

As a political scientist, I know the negative effect of electoral bribe – dumb and corrupt people buying their way into offices and making a mess out of it; Nigeria regularly a shining example. Given that opportunity, I refused to sell my conviction and responsibility. Equally, I have also refused to sell my dignity and right to demand accountability from leaders by begging them for crumbs. I would rather remain poor than worship those who steal my future, for crumbs. I believe that through protest, education and social action, we will ‘take our country back.’

In retrospect I have been able to do these things to Nigeria courtesy of my firm resolve to live a life of positive impact to myself and community by undertaking to acquire education at a great cost to myself and family. Here in Nigeria, education used to be in the first two decades of the nation’s independence in 1960. Things have now fallen apart! This situation partly accounts for the prevalent illiteracy and poverty in the country. Armed with this realization about the multiplying effects of illiteracy to a highly religious, cultural and conservative society, I have equally undertaken to enlighten and liberate fellow citizens from the shackles of mental slavery to a productive, independent and free life.

The campaign to free Nigerians has caused me much socially, educationally and economically. Still, I will not deter. There is always a price to pay for liberation and transformation. I have given myself to the liberation cause and I recognize that the mind must be free and independent for development to come.

My efforts to campaign against witch-hunting is one which I am very proud of. Often, people are alleged to be witches in rural communities and subjected to inhuman and other degrading treatments. Sometimes, it results to death. Child witch-hunts truncate the education and development of children. In this 21st century, we should know that witchcraft is not real, and witch hunting is a wicked and criminal practice. This is why when Dr Leo Igwe founded the Advocacy for Alleged Witches, I quickly volunteered to help him mount a fervent campaign against witch hunting and assist victims of witch hunting. So far, a lot of progress have been made, but more work needs to be done. This is a major reason why I choose to undertake this research, to win the first price, and make a donation to AFAW.

These things might come off as little or insignificant, but I take them differently. For me, they are tests of my conviction and citizenship; the praxis of the theories which I have always espoused. In my way, I have displayed an example of an ideal citizen necessary for the growth and development of Nigeria. If every Nigerian can boast of the good that they have done such as these: shunning corruption and showing empathy and resolve to alleviate the plights of others, Nigerians will shoot Nigeria on a trajectory path to greatness. At this point, this is the good that Nigeria needs her citizens to do for her.

(c) Ingye Dooyum 2020