The Change Begins With Me campaign recently launched by the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari could not have come at a better time. The campaign is coming at a time when the country’s core values are at their lowest ebb. The government is worried that the core values of integrity, discipline and transparency for which Nigeria and its citizens were known globally have substantially plummeted over the last few decades. Hard work, punctuality, good neigbourliness and patriotism are no longer the strong points of Nigerians.
Corruption in all facets of life has not only become endemic but also systemic. The image of the country in the international community has also taken a downward plunge as a result of these developments. These are the worries of the Muhammadu Buhari government.
The Change Begins With Me campaign is part of government’s efforts to halt the country’s slide to anomie and to restore its dignity and lost glory. It is a re-orientation plan aimed at persuading Nigerians to imbibe discipline, honesty, integrity and shun social ills and all forms of criminality and deviant behaviours.
This is not the first time the government will embark on a collective search for national re-birth and appeal to the conscience of the citizens. Some similar programmes earlier launched by successive Nigerian governments are: War Against Indiscipline, Mass Mobilization for Social Justice, Self Reliance and Economic Recovery, Not in Our Character and Do the Right Thing” with a catch phrase: Nigeria…Great Nation…Good People.
The Change Begins With Me campaign is different in many ways from the War Against Indiscipline (WAI), which Buhari launched in 1984 when he was military Head of State. WAI was implemented under a military regime through coercion, intimidation and force. But the new campaign under a democratic government is being driven by suasion, using all platforms of traditional and new media to achieve attitudinal change in all facet of the Nigerian society.
Ultimately, the new campaign is intended to restore the citizens’ hope and confidence in the Nigerian project.
If Nigerians embrace the wake-up call for change, the resulting improvement in the perception of Nigeria would boost the confidence of foreign investors to do business in Nigeria and strengthen the image of the country as a preferred tourist destination.
The campaign would also improve the chances of Nigerians in the Diaspora to be gainfully employed and do business in their countries of residence.
Coming back home, the Change Begins With Me project provides another avenue to fight corruption in Nigeria. Corruption is one of the most damaging consequences of poor governance. It undermines investment and economic growth, decreases the resources available for human development goals, deepens the extent of poverty, subverts the judicial system, and undermines the legitimacy of the state.
Nigerians who desire to see a prosperous Nigeria, a country of pride and dignity, a country able to hold its own in the comity of nations must buy into the Change Begins With Me agenda.
Critics of the project have argued that change should begin from the top and trickle down to other citizens down the ladder. In response, Nigeria’s Information and Culture minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the campaign actually started from the top, because the leadership is already doing what they are preaching and was now inviting Nigerians to come on board.
The Nigerian government should not be daunted by the series of attacks and criticism that have greeted the launch of the campaign. This is not to say that government should jettison public opinion in adjusting or reviewing the programme where and when necessary, but care should be taken to ensure that it is not derailed.
Similar programmes launched by previous governments did not accomplish the purpose for which they were embarked upon, owing largely to lack of political will to carry it through. Government must therefore ensure that the campaign does not end with its launch by putting appropriate structures in place to oil and drive the process.
Nigerians cannot afford to let this opportunity to create a new Nigeria slip by. They should accept the campaign, embrace it, nurture it and work towards its success, because that is the way to go.