…a mobilisation program…. should lead to the re-awakening and the re-orientation of our people to face with renewed faith and re-invigorated vision the challenge of taking this nation to the greatness she deserves’—IBB

One of the very bold and far reaching decisions of the Babangida Administration is the establishment of the Directorate for Social Mobilisation, popularly referred to as `MAMSER’: The Directorate is mandated to create a new social order.

Initially, the Administration’s endorsement of the Political Bureau’s recommendation regarding the establishment of a mobilisation agency was greeted with diverse reactions. There were those who thought that no military regime could genuinely support the mobilisation of the people, thereby raising their levels of consciousness and providing an environment for self-liberation and development. It was felt that MAMSER was created for self-perpetuation in power, by and for the military.

From the time MAMSER was launched in July 25, 1987 through the inauguration of its Directorate on September 2, 1987, to the present time, it has become clear that MAMSER is an agency meant for genuine mobilisation of ALL Nigerians —the masses and the elites, those in government and those being governed, the Military and the Civilians — and the Administration has in no way obstructed its operations or interfered with its style and strategies.

By virtue of Decree No. 31 and Decree 51 (Amendment) of 1987 which established MAMSER, the Directorate was set up to perform the following functions:—

(a) Establish an appropriate framework for the positive mobilisation and education of all Nigerians towards economic recovery and the development of a new social and political order.

(b) Awaken the consciousness of all categories of Nigerians to their rights and obligations as citizens of Nigeria.

(c) Inculcate in all Nigerians the value and spirit of civic responsibility, commitment to social justice and economic self-reliance through mobilisation and harnessing of their energies and natural resources into productive use.

(d) Sensitize, induct and equip all Nigerians to fight against internal and external domination of our resources by a few individuals and groups.

(e) Re-orient all Nigerians to shun waste and vanity and to shed all pretence of affluence in our life styles.

(1) Promote pride in the consumption of home-produced commodities, and in self-reliance.

(g) Prepare the framework for creating the basic institutions and norms of democracy at all levels of our society,

(h) Create consciousness about power and its use, and about the proper role of government in serving the collective interest of Nigerians.

(i) Ensure that materials which appear in the mass media, both electronic and the print, are in consonance with the national objectives of self-reliance, social justice, human rights, democratic norms, economic recovery and economic development.

(j) Propagate the need to eschew all vices in public life including corruption, dishonesty, electoral and census malpractices, ethnic and religious bigotry.

(k) Propagate the virtues of hard work, honesty, self-reliance, commitment to the promotion of national integration.

  • inculcate in all Nigerians the virtues of patriotism and positive participation in national affairs.

Viewed against the background of Nigerian history, MAMSER’s mandate is no doubt the most fundamental and far-sighted. Previous attempts at minimal mobilisation such as the campaign to ‘Keep Nigeria One’ during the Civil War years, `Operation Feed the Nation’, ‘Ethical Revolution’ and the War Against Indiscipline’, did not carry the nation far enough; they were not only selective in conception but also restricted in implementation.

Since its inauguration, MAMSER has ventured into the Nigerian society, reaching out for the positive and the best on the premise that Nigeria could only be built, and a better tomorrow realised, through the productive, innovative and creative hard work of all Nigerians. In the process, it has encouraged continuous dialogue between functionaries and agencies of government, at different levels, and the people. It has also established nation-wide network for:

(a) Enlightening, educating and motivating all Nigerians towards the goals of the Nigerian state;

(b) Creating a conscious, responsible and responsive rulership and follwership through the dissemination of appropriate political norms and rules; and

(c) Developing and sustaining basic political conventions which will guarantee a democratic and stable political culture.

As regards the target population on which the Directorate should focus, the President made it clear that social mobilisation should embrace both the generalised body of the Civil Community and the members of the Armed Forces. More specifically, these include, the family, students, youths organisations, women organisations, farmers and farmers’ co-operatives, workers, the labour unions, the gifted and the handicapped, policy-makers and executioners, intellectuals as well as officers and men of the Armed Forces and Security Agencies. Consequently, MAMSER has been exerting itself so as to translate its objectives into reality.

MAMSER’s strategies of mobilisation have been fashioned out to suit particular audiences. Thus, there have been workshops and lectures for the intelligentsia; debates, discussions and interactions with youth and students; talks lid discussions and interactions with Traders Associations, Labour Unions, etc. These activities try to educate all on the principles and dynamics of social engineering and the rights and responsibilities of groups and individuals. They educate and thus explain the context of socio-political activities, policy options, and the overall issue of participation in government. They simplify critical issues in governance and explain to the citizens how and where they fit in. The tempo of activities has been high, with overlapping contacts, with the same population in various platforms and units. In other words, MAMSER’s social engineering has involved diverse segments of the population. Thus, the members of the public are educated on how to participate actively in governance so as to make necessary inputs into policy formulation at the local, state and federal levels. However, they are also educated on how they can demand for their rights through relevant channels and what their duties and obligations are and the implications of abdicating their responsibilities.

The Challenge and the Price of Social Change

MAMSER recognized that Social Mobilisation has a price. It is not easy to change people’s attitudes and values within a short period. But MAMSER has remained unperturbed but aggressive in its determination to bring about the attitudinal conditions for a new social order.

MAMSER believes that with the mandate it has, the ultimate goal is the realisation of the five primary objectives of National Development which are:—

(a) A united, strong and self-reliant nation;

(b) A great and dynamic economy;

(c) A just and egalitarian society;

(d) A land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens; and

(e) A free and democratic society.

It is MAMSER’s belief that the potentials of Nigeria and Nigerians are great and could be attained through mobilisation of individual and collective psyche through change. It is also believed that people will easily pay tax, support government policies, etc, if they have a sense of belonging to the nation and to national goals and objectives. Thus, MAMSER places much premium on social justice and acts as a catalyst for production and distribution of services.

The program of mass education which, within the first six months of MAMSER’s operation, produced about 600,000 adult learners has indeed rekindled the hopes of the people. One can hardly imagine the feeling of joy and confidence of the graduates of the first batch of participants in the program unless one is very close to the Nigerian masses.

The campaign for food production and distribution of agro-inputs to small-scale farmers, co-operative societies and, indeed, everybody has been extremely successful. In 1988 MAMSER had to launch ‘Operation Food First’ in line with the conviction of the President that:—`A food first philosophy is the first step in the journey towards self-reliance and economic recovery’.

The aim of ‘Operation Food First’ is to effectively mobilise, sensitise and energise the people for massive farming to ensure self-sufficiency in food production. Moreover, it is aimed at strengthening our conviction that Nigeria has adequate agricultural potentials with which to satisfy the food requirements of the country. Consequently, various agencies involved in food production like the Ministry of Agriculture, ADPs, Banks and DFFRI, among others, were mobilised by MAMSER to respond to the demands of the people in respect of agricultural loans, improved production and distribution of seeds and seedlings and other farm inputs.

It is important to note that the call for back-to-land from MAMSER has been heeded by the people especially those in urban areas, who currently use available space in their backyards to plant maize, pepper, tomatoes, vegetables, among others, in order to solve the food crises. This positive response underlines the importance of agriculture in our national development. MAMSER has been instrumental in creating this awareness. It is now a common occurrence for people to rush to MAMSER so as to be linked to the sources of the agro-inputs like fertiliser as well as to complain if cheated. MAMSER has also been encouraging the formation of co-operative societies so as to help the people, especially farmers, pool their resources and to be able to get credit facilities from banks and to boost food production. As a result, many co-operative organisations have sprung up within the past two years through the instrumentality of MAMSER.

There is also the Ombudsman’s role of MAMSER. If you teach people about their rights you should be able to help them realise them. Thus, MAMSER has championed the cause of the people, redressing their grievances, protecting their rights and privileges. It has intervened on a number of occasions in disputes between government agencies and individual workers or unions, re-absorbed workers, paid out debts, listened to unions while land disputes have been settled between communities and prisoners now receive more attention. To achieve these, MAMSER co-operates with other agencies, including the Public Complaints Commission, the Legal Aid Council, etc. That is, it mobilises people to act on matters affecting their rights and welfare. Indeed complaints are now taken to MAMSER establishments and people expect attention promptly. Thus those cases, outside the Public Complaints Commission’s schedule are equally attended to. The picture of MAMSER in this dimension is that of an establishment very close to people and sympathetic to their cause. And this is what has endeared MAMSER to the people. People appreciate MAMSER’s autonomy and integrity — which makes it possible for it to talk to both the government and the people. They see it as the government agency closest to them, unfettered by undue bureaucracy and ready to attend to their needs.

Moreover, MAMSER has focused on the political enlightenment and re-orientation of all Nigerians so as to ensure meaningful and enduring transition to the Third Republic. It has organised many campaigns and executed a number of Programs aimed at sensitising the people, raising their level of consciousness and making them active participants in the political process.

Beginning with the exercise of voter registration and the local government elections of 1987 and 1988, the revision of voters’ register in 1989 to the political activities consequent upon the lifting of the ban on party politics, MAMSER has been working hand-in-hand with the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to ensure the realisation of the basic democratic expectations of free and fair elections on which to build a stable and democratic polity of the Third Republic.

True to the volatile and democratic nature of the Nigerian society, MAMSER has incurred a measure of indifference, cynicism and indeed, hostility of members of the elite class who engage in a running battle with the Directorate and the Government. Some of such people, including elements in government agencies, are puzzled that the regime could create an institution to prod it and awaken the people who now ask serious and searching questions at community meetings, gatherings, etc.

The political behaviour of the elites, which is indeed very critical for the stability of the system, may not have shown remarkable changes. But a closer scrutiny will show that the elites are becoming conscious of the growing political awareness of the generality of the people. They appreciate that they cannot just take people for granted and that is why some of them have minimised flaunting their wealth and are ready to rub minds with the people. Evidences abound in the performance of local government councilors, town union officials, social clubs, etc.

MAMSER is poised to ensure, through its political education work, that people are fully mobilised for genuine participation in the democratic process. Its focus now includes accountability and the involvement of popular organisations as crucial units for mass political mobilisation. It conceives these voluntary organisations of our people such as labour unions, peasant cooperatives, petty trader associations, women associations, youth organisations, professional associations, and the like, as critical vehicles for the transmission of democratic values and the promotion of popular participation in government.

However, MAMSER’s role goes beyond public awareness campaign. Emphasis has been shifted to the monitoring of each stage of the electoral process up to the grassroots level. The aim is to ensure compliance with the rules of the game both by the parties in the race and the electorate. Both MAMSER and NEC are collaborating to map out effective strategies to achieve the objectives of an unimpeded electoral process. Series of meetings have been held to review progress.

MAMSER has also been making some impact in the area of self-reliance and economic recovery. It is clear that the scarcity of agricultural produce and severe food shortage resulting in astronomical food prices is attributed to the culpable neglect of agriculture as a foreign exchange earner during the oil boom of the 1970s. MAMSER is convinced that food importation will not solve the economic problem of the country; but rather, food stuff importation will exacerbate it since such an approach to the economic problem will be a mere palliative which does not really provide a lasting solution. To achieve meaningful self-reliance, MAMSER insists that we must first of all mobilise the productive forces of the nation for increase production of food and industrial raw materials. MAMSER has therefore been encouraging innovations and the production of indigenous inventions. It seems this is the only way we can make this country truly great and self-reliant.

Finally, in line with the Political Bureau’s view that ‘a politically conscious, effectively mobilised and properly motivated population is the greatest deterrent to bad governance’, MAMSER has been comprehensive in the conception and implementation of its program which are based on its catalytic roles. We still need to fully transform the Nigerian society. Where this has taken place in history of the world, it has been due to mass literacy, political awakening, indigenous production of food and technology, a culture of sacrifice and patriotic commitment by all categories of citizens. The Nigerian situation cannot be different. The essence of MAMSER lies in its roles as the agitator and facilitator. MAMSER is out to advance the cause of the nation by protecting the citizens’ interests, promoting the best talents, skills and attributes in all, no matter the status and functions of the individual person or group in society. MAMSER works to ensure that individual and collective endeavours are positive, creative and would lead Nigeria forward to the attainment of development and democracy. The goal is, in short, a just and stable society which guarantees protection for the welfare, well-being and self-fulfilment of the individual and the nation.