It has been less than a week since Nigeria celebrated another June 12 as its Democracy Day and yet another gloomy night here in Ekiti. After raining cats and dogs, the clouds have finally decided to stop shedding and comfort us to sleep first with a cozy hug, and then with a familiar breeze that summons fond memories. It is nights like these that my mind wanders to the warm embrace of my grandmother- Maami. I remember when I was growing up, smaller than other kids my age but with a full bush of hair on my head, my grandmother would summon me to the kitchen floor where she would plait my hair into cornrows and tell me stories until I fell asleep.
This particular night, I didn’t sleep as fast as I usually would. Maami called me by my name and said, “Ireti, for this particular story, I need you to open not only your ears, but the ears of your mind because I was just about your age when this happened”. I obediently said “yes ma” as I handed her the hair pomade that I and my crusty scalp loved. I knew I was going to love every bit of this because you see, my grandmother was a born gossip and so storytelling was not only her forte but her life’s ministry.
The whole of Nigeria was out on the streets, with Afrojuju music and palm wine inviting laughter and dancing amongst the grown ups while the neighborhood kids were throwing bangers and fireworks. Nigeria, this glorious and prosperous country had since gotten her independence from the colonial years, but everyone was just now getting to experience democracy after years and years of military rule.
My grandmother explained.
If a country has ‘gained’ independence, then it has its own government and is not ruled by or subject to any other country but itself. But if a country is experiencing democracy, then the government consists of its own people, who have been selectively elected by the people and has its affairs run by its own people (or their representatives). Nigeria had long gained independence in 1960 and so every Nigerian on the street that night was celebrating their right to elect their own government and have a say in its governance. My grandmother tapped me, “Ireti, are you sleeping?’’
In the midst of this jubilation were three kids- unbothered, indifferent and occupied by their cheeky games in the backyard. They were playing “canteen” with the sand and each of them had their own make-believe serving spoons (sticks of course). The game was very fun at the beginning because one of them had to be the mama-put who prepares delicious meals while the other two had to be customers. They would take turns.
So at first, the kids would come in and say “mama put, gimme 3 amala and 50 million meats with assorted and okro soup. Also pack ponmo and shaki inside and gimme 5 mineral there”. Designated mama put will prepare her delicious concussion of sand, stones, and weeds. “Thank you, mama, oya take this five Naira (N5). But as time went on, mama-put became the only relevant part of the play and the other kids were getting bored because one of the kids didn’t want others to play mama put.
The other kids then decided it was time mama-put allowed someone else play the part for a while but she wouldn’t agree oh! She loved being the mama put and was not ready to give up the role. Anyone who didn’t want to play canteen with her should leave- and well, they did. The other two kids went on to play another game of bicycle which was more fun and left “mama-put” to play by herself. Of course, she was not happy about this. The game was over because she didn’t let anyone else enjoy it.
You see, that’s the number one rule of democracy- everyone must have a say, whether directly or through representatives. As Nigerians, our democracy doesn’t only come alive in political agendas but also in our lives as individuals, how we communicate on social media and how we Co-habit with friends, loved ones, colleagues, neighbors, etc. Everyone has a say. Everyone has a right to their own opinion and everyone has a right to select their government.
As we reminisce on this year’s National Democracy Day, and how we spent our precious holiday, let us also remember two things; You have a right to democracy & so do others.
So here are three (3) ways you can practice democracy in your everyday life:
- Listen to your children with respect; they might be little people but no one is too little to have an opinion. Also, they are never too young to have an ‘I Can Save’ account opened for them.
- Even though majority rules while the minority maintain their rights, normalize asking for permission when introducing something new in communal work spaces, eg. The Business Hub co-working spaces. With the Business Hub, you can also rent a space for your office, rent equipment, gain access to loans for your business as well as business training and mentorships.
- Finally, use your voice; on whatever medium or social media because your voice is just as important as everyone else’s.
Maami ended her story with this, “Ile la ti n ko eso re ode- Charity begins at home”. As soon as we start practicing our democracy from home, the better society will be at welcoming it.
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