THESE are extraordinary weeks for people globally. Indeed difficult times, as Covid-19 continues to infect and cause death across the globe.
Here in my country, we are already alert and indeed it is time for citizens to listen and heed medics’ pieces of advice.
Though we have not reached the situation being faced by people in some countries, where it has taken great toll, and forcing people to avoid stores, restaurants, movie theatres, offices, and other public places, the alarm is already on that the disease is real.
But we seem to have a problem. Amidst the coronavirus catastrophe, some bad and dangerous long time culture still prevails and may cost us.
This is a culture which Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi an Indian politician who was the first and, to date, the only female Prime Minister in India, identified in the following words; people tend to forget their duties but remember their rights.
We are at the critical moment of a shear need to have responsible citizens, those who can deliberately and diligently contest the agenda of winning the war against COVID-19. But it is rather tricky.
Yes, problematic because, as Martha Gellhorn an American novelist, travel writer, and journalist who is considered one of the Great War correspondents of the 20th century puts it, citizenship is a tough occupation which obliges the citizen to make his or her own informed opinion and stand by it.
I think Gelhorn’s massive experience gained from reporting on virtually every major world conflict that took place during her 60-year career, must have made her confident to illuminate on how complex citizenship is.
So amidst greatest challenge of coronavirus pandemic, the question which comes to my mind is how do people, ensure that they all meet their responsibilities to self, family, community and country?
The answer can be complicated, for as we have seen, it is clear that we do not have a healthy regard towards our responsibilities as citizens to promote our wellbeing, be it in terms of our rights, or otherwise, and those of others.
Many believe this to be a global, but comparatively speaking; I think it is an African continent major societal concern.
Certainly an alarming situation because even though in most Africans countries people have fought for their rights, if I may say, strongly and successfully, both before and after independence, many countries have a very comprehensive Bill of Rights to protect these rights, but the question of wananchi abiding to civic duty remains challenging and complicates.
No wonder why despite the damning situation, what we see and hear from peoples’ opinions in social media is, but full of jokes, tales, fictions and jests, all related to coronavirus. It is as if people have not realised that we are the ones who should, by all means, take responsibility for our country to win the coronavirus war.
It is a healthy regard for citizens’ responsibilities which is crucial now during COVID-19 than ever before. This we suggest because it is critical that present state of citizens’ engagement in the coronavirus risk management systems and should be taken seriously where we live.
It should be so because the virus is lethal and broad in its impact. The virus could become a food-security issue and, has the potential to fuel a looming recession and the like.
Sadly, despite the vivid vulnerability to disruption by virus-related demand declines, shutdowns, and layoffs across the globe, some politicians have even politicised the pandemic and have used the term coronavirus to scorn fellow politicians or rather citizens.
This is not only dismal and dreary but depressing indeed. They seem to have forgotten or are deliberately ignoring the wisdom of their fellow politician Jesse Ventura, a former politician who served as the Mayor of Brooklyn Park from 1991 to 1995 and as the 38th Governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003 who once said truth that there is much more to being a patriot and a citizen than reciting the pledge or raising a flag.
They simply need to go back to school and learn from John Davison Rockefeller, an American business magnate and philanthropist, who is widely considered the wealthiest American of all time, and the richest person in modern history who believes that; every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation, every possession, a duty.
I do not think, because of coronavirus, that as a nation and at this point in time, we need to sit down and write out a charter of citizen responsibilities that lay out the responsibilities to be borne by wananchi to themselves, to their families, communities, and international country.
I know we might need this charter of citizen responsibilities at some point, but during this unprecedented time for us all, let us be rational, and common-sense and respect for other prevail. From what I hear and read, it is obvious that a man or woman who neglects his duty as a citizen is not entitled to his/her rights as a citizen.
We all have the duty to do good, says Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State. In fact, as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French idealist philosopher and Jesuit priest once said, it is our duty as men and women to proceed as though the limits of our abilities do not exist.
I simply wish to reiterate that in national emergency, healthy regard for citizens’ responsibilities is crucial. While this is a time of distress, let me encourage my reader by saying, it can also be a time of hope. We must remember that human society has been constantly exposed to disasters and emergencies throughout its existence.
During times like this, large-scale disasters and emergencies have always been major life events for both communities and individuals.
But my concern is the commitment and seriousness of our communities as we learn to live in a state of emergency, a time when President John Magufuli’s government has already alerted wananchi to change their normal behaviour and orders.
While key actors should remember that citizens are integral part of the system and, as such, should be empowered to self-protection, citizens themselves should act quickly and attend to the unique local impacts within this national crisis.
I strongly believe that citizens are the basic units who are in large extent capable of helping not only themselves, but also others. Each one should know that it is where we live, in our local vicinities, where COVID-19 could likely hit hardest. Let us unite!!
The author, Dr Alfred Sebahene, is Ag Head of Department of Corruption Studies, Lecturer, Researcher, and Social Issues Analyst at St John’s University of Tanzania, Dodoma. Email address: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile: 0767 233 997