The Attitude Lounge by Kodwo Brumpon: Citizenry participation 


‘The witch-doctor who invoked a storm on his people cannot prevent his house from destruction.’ – Nigerian proverb

It is interesting how we keep hearing the ‘good old days’ chorus, yet we do not want to sing a ‘better modern day’ verse. All around us there is a stagnant air of pessimism and cynicism permeating our public life, and yet we are putting in less and less effort to diffuse this presence. It has become trendy to lead ‘private lives’ and expect the public to still exist. We complain about others being apathetic without volunteering for any programme ourselves. We point fingers at others without taking the speck out of our very own eyes. We expect life to be about our individuality, and everything else can simply stop functioning. Well, we forget that we will also become extinct the moment all others cease living.

Modernity, with all its knowledge, has schooled us enough to understand that the social climate has a reciprocal effect on our politics – which in turn affects the economy. Interestingly, we make all the effort to measure the quantum of our economic activities and impacts of our politicking, but not our social attitudes. We have become loners, individually and collectively. We only live for ourselves, and so we have created an environment wherein the ‘crazies’ shape the social, political and economic trends (a situation the Brits describe as ‘the lunatics have taken over the asylum’).

If we truly believe in the ‘good old days’, then like the proverbial ‘sankofa’ we need to go back for the good of those times. After all, it is said “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”. Likewise, what was good for the societal foundation of yester-years is true for this age. Our fathers and mothers strategised in a way that allowed them say ‘the what’ about every social incidence and interaction – and why it mattered. They then moved a step higher to mesmerise their audience with stories to inspire them into taking pleasure in caring about that which mattered. By the time they were done, their audience had been lifted onto the plains of transcendence – where they proverbialised the aspects of life they had been exposed to. The objective for enlightening people through charm was to galvanise citizenry participation on the social front.

They did what they had to do, because they understood that life deserves our admiration and care. To this end, the focus of the individual’s upbringing was on goodness, truth and beauty. They believed that a stronger societal attitude would provide a flourishing human spirit that inspires the necessary participation in politics, and subsequently the development of robust and resilient economies. They defined themselves through their social interactions, striving to be warm, honest and respectful; to make every person love him or herself enough to love others well. They energised their relationships because they understood that good citizenship imposes on us all the duty to take care of each other.

The attitudes are different in our day: Improved technology and globalisation have created a community of humanity that focuses on building vibrant and bigger economies to the detriment of social and political pillars. This has changed how we relate to each other as well. To a large extent, we now determine the vitality of people based on their contribution to the production of goods and services.

For most people, individuals only matter when they can produce or contribute to economic results. We know that politics is an important contributor to this strife, yet we do not want to strengthen the social interactions that would ensure lively politicking. We have bought into the philosophy that solitude enriches the creativity we need for bigger economic impacts.

Implicit in the two scenarios is a reminder that who we are is as much the product of our individual nature as it is of the culture in which we are nurtured. We should therefore be ever-conscious of the need for a wholesome upbringing of every individual; and this wholesomeness should inspire individuals to participate in the building of just and prosperous societies. In concrete terms, we should ensure that the three foundational pillars – social, political and economic – are structured in a manner that ensures whatever is mounted on them will make life meaningful for all people.

We all need peace and prosperity. To achieve this, we need the active participation of all people. That is why we all must call for and participate in debates on matters affecting the common good of our society. It is time that we participate and get people from all walks of life to also participate in the questioning of public affairs and all that we do. Within the principle of democracy, participation is equivalent to upholding what is sacred to any nation.

In this respect, there is a call for every individual to actively relate well with others by respecting their opinions and giving them adequate space to express their beliefs. This challenges us to be careful of how we behave, because others are watching and may imitate what we do. We either do that or we can all shy-away in cynicism and end up in an all-consuming paralysis of apathy.


Kodwo Brumpon is a partner at Brumpon & Kobla Ltd., a forward-thinking Pan African management consultancy and social impact firm driven by data analytics, with a focus on understanding the extraordinary potential and needs of organisations and businesses to help them cultivate synergies which catapult them into their strategic growth and certifies their sustainability.

Comments, suggestions and requests for talks and training should be sent to him at [email protected]

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