When people leave the state behind

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By Francis Aubee

Today, the nature of the state is such that a simple social contract remains insufficient. People require more, people need more, and most importantly the people deserve better. So how do people evolve and leave the state behind you might ask? First, the realization stage. People leave the state behind when the shortcomings, failures, ineptitude and lackadaisical behaviour becomes too glaring, too common, too frequent and in many cases goes unpunished or unchecked. When the recurring complaints of the people fall on deaf ears all year round except during election campaign season. When the state constantly frustrates its people with unnecessary bureaucracy and processes. When new leaders produce the same old or even worse results. All these and more, lead to general dissatisfaction and even disdain for the state — the government, public officials and entities — that should provide service delivery. The people can only take so much until full realization kicks in, but for it to kick in fully, it must be felt across the board. Majority must feel the same impacts otherwise those who critique would be deemed as “opposition” or “enemies of the state” thus the agitation. Whether you realize it or not, whether for altruistic or selfish reasons, bad governance and a weak state affects virtually everyone, thus demanding for a better state should not be partisan.

Second, after the individual and collective realization that the state is incapable of delivering for you and your community, or that the state is haggard — it tends to leave the people with two choices. One, to stay with the state and hope for better, two, to move on and leave the state behind. If you choose to leave the state behind, it does not necessarily mean physically leaving the country as is the case in Nigeria with mass emigration — japa — movement. Choosing to leave the state behind implies that you and your community manufacture ways to provide basic services that the state has refused to provide, lacks the capacity or is simply not interested in. For starters, this takes the shape of providing your own source of water, electricity (light), jobs, and many more, legally or illegally (this is another case entirely and this write-up is not justifying or implying endorsement). When it comes to road networks, in some cases communities contribute to create makeshift roads, in other cases few individuals fill up potholes with sand, stones and other materials just to simply afford themselves the “basics.” At this juncture, people begin to ask themselves, “why do we pay taxes?” There are many other services from the state that should be efficiently done and beneficial to the people, but that is typically not the case. Therefore, people would continue to leave the state behind.

Third, when intellectuals, technocrats, teachers, etc., prefer to move en masse to the private sector, open businesses and/or move to other countries where they feel valued and would be handsomely rewarded to live a dignified life, they have left the state behind. As with brain drain migration, it is sometimes a luxury many cannot afford. But for those who can, it is a very viable and appealing option. Likewise, students, youth and just people in general might seek opportunities outside of their country to study, work temporarily and possibly stay on afterwards for greener pastures. As a zero-sum game, what the state losses in human capital is a gain for the private sector and/or another country.

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Fourth, perhaps most important of all, when the people mentally, psychologically, and as citizens move on from the state. This does not mean that they become less patriotic, violent or join the opposition. It simply means that they have been pushed to a point of indifference towards the state and thus greater disdain for the institutions and people that represent the state. At this stage, it is beyond perception, it is a reality that then leaves people fending for themselves — not that they weren’t already, but that they now do so with no hope or expectation from the state. You would know this stage when you talk to people from the streets to the banks, to places of worship, and even government offices. Why would it be so evident that they have given up on the state? As mentioned earlier, bad governance and a weak state would be felt by virtually everyone, whether you work in the bank or by the road side. Yes, the degree to which you and your neighbour “suffer” might differ, but one thing remains, there is only so much your money or perceived connections can shield you from. The few shielded individuals are those who belong to the proverbial “mafia.” And even within the mafia, the presence of a rigid hierarchy means that perhaps only the very top members are truly protected. So, to what end?