By Citizen Agba Jalingo
Politically, a lot has changed in ten years in our State, Cross River. A hitherto pious, modest and deeply conservative State, with a conformist political culture, is gradually coming to terms with a more self confident, conscious and courageous electorate.
In an environment where the SUPPLY side of the polity was the only active determinant, the DEMAND side is finding it’s voice and energy.
Tangibly speaking, it is easier today for Cross Riverians to call their leaders to account than it was in 1999. So many things that were perpetrated that time and gotten away with by people in government, will not be tolerated by any stretch today.
The spontaneity, frequency and regularity of protests by citizens in Cross River, in recent years, is also a measure of the growing confidence and courage in a people that have always been fearful and cowardly in the face of State threats.
This development is partly due to the increased information available to our people through the social media. The penetration of the internet into more communities gave our people new tools to organize and the opportunity to stop relying on State owned media organizations to continue to skew public opinion and returned that power to the citizens themselves.
Another reason is also the emergence of many online media organizations that have deliberately focused their reporting on the State.
This has again, availed the opportunity to disseminate information in an organized manner as well as providing platforms to call our leaders to accountability and good governance.
In other words, public officials, security agencies and even nefarious non-State actors in the State are now aware that there is an organized, critical and independent media in the State with chips on their shoulders.
This will get even more robust as we approach 2023. Whether our state and municipal governments deliberately invests in ICT penetration or not, the global tech giants policy of democratization of access to the internet, will definitely increase the percentage of internet penetration into our remote communities before 2023.
By January 2022, Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites already in orbit, will provide cheap reliable internet to the most rural areas in the world without building masts and base stations. People will only require an installation kit like a DSTV dish. This will lead to more online radio stations, more blogs, more online TV stations, in rural Cross River.
This will expand the capacity of our people to communicate and organize themselves in real time and in larger scale. It will increasingly empower, WE THE PEOPLE, to call our leaders to account outside their structures.
The next phase however, is for our citizens to now learn how to use these tools more innovatively to set the agenda, moving forward.
May 29, 2023 is only 618 days away. The vacant Ogoja/Yala federal constituency by-election is only months away, but there are not yet any serious persons in the arena.
Aside a few jokers, no serious actor has told Cross Riverians in clear terms that they want to be Governor or Lawmaker and what their manifestos are. The tradition has always been to wait until the last minute when you are endorsed by one godfather or a group of king makers and imposed on the rest of us.
How do we employ these tools to finally suffocate that tradition? How do we employ them to set the agenda and aim at more results? How do we employ them to filter our leadership recruitment process and avoid accidental leaders from emerging?
How do we employ them to continue to remove fear and timidity from our people and prepare them for informed participation?
These are no questions for millennials only, but everyone who still has the strength to press a keypad and a thought for a better Cross River State.
Citizen Agba Jalingo.