Civic Intelligence: The missing link in Nigeria’s socio-political success

A lecture delivered by Lady E Ejiro Umukoro, Pioneer Advocate and Promoter of Civic Intelligence in Nigeria

What is democracy if it is not about the voices being heard?

What is democracy if solutions to issues around us cannot be solved by collective efforts?

What is democracy if paid-for-violence is the tool and means rather than the voices of the people?

What is democracy or nationhood for that matter when your votes don’t count?

What is nationhood if it is not the voices of the people, by the people, for the people and to the people?

When we see manifestations of anti-democratic values, what we get is a disjointed society plagued by unending social issues, political crisis, economic displacement, insecurity, lack of trust, poor governance and low standards of existence.

And that is why we are here today.

Some of us may be hearing the term ‘Civic Intelligence’ for the first time, and may be wondering was has it got to do with Nigeria come 2019 and beyond. Let me paint a scenario for you.

Civic intelligence is strong awareness of civic issues that exists in a democratic or non-democratic system of governance. It is an intelligence that is devoted to addressing public or civic issues. It taps into societies’ collective thinking, community culture, values and norms and the means or channels through which ideas, solutions, thoughts, are propagated to create engagement and influence that drives problem solving through anticipation, correction or prevention using tools, brainpower, technology, manpower, education, policies, activism, advocacy and governance to bring desired results. And everybody is a part of it because each one’s disregard for, or respect for, contributes to the existence of a problem or the prevention of a problem or solving of a problem.

So our ability to not only perceive social issues or problems around us but also making the conscious decision to think of ways of tackling them in a just and sustainable manner shows civic intelligence. For example, our homes, streets and communities are only as clean as we make the effort to keep them clean. If we have the habit of disposing papers, sweet wraps, water sachets, plastics, bottles and food indiscriminately, it shows we lack civic intelligence because we fail to be aware of the consequences of such actions: dirty environment, breeding ground for diseases, increase in accidents, high mortality rate, environmental degradation and other human-generating changes that can plunge us into anarchy. Imagine just a single action of not keeping your environment clean and its attendant effects?

READ ALSO: Read what all Nigerians, government and governed, must do to ensure peaceful society and even spread of democratic dividends

The more aware you are of the consequences of your actions, the more you strengthen your civic intelligence that propels you to take action every single time. The more civic intelligent you are, the more aware you will be to spot when you are being misinformed, used as a tool or a means to a dangerous end. The more civic responsible you are, the more, as a collective society, we can cope with or solve social issues like child rape, political thuggery, violent elections, economic crisis, conflicts, weaponisation of information, while at the same time figuring out how to lessen or avoid the next incident. Civic intelligent people are not silent observers. They are involved and part of the community they find themselves. They are not aloof, disinterested or unconcerned (because these are the exact behaviour that brought about the problem in the first place; and when left to fester, escalates). This sort of uncivic behaviour is the reason why Nigeria is not as progressive as it should be. Uncivic behaviour is not limited to illiterates, as many schooled persons and people who live in posh houses have been found to exhibit such disposition.

Civic intelligence is therefore a taught way of thinking. Or a natural disposition to civic intelligence.

How and where is civic intelligence expressed?

Civic intelligence is expressed through social institutions like schools, libraries, public health campaigns, news media, religious institutions, scientific research, non-profit organizations, professional associations, and everyday discourse. It shows up in innovative projects that are increasingly needed to address local and global challenges of growing complexity and severity. Information and communication technology has the potential to alter civic intelligence in ways that go far beyond the informational content of any particular message that is transmitted or received. This observation applies to any efforts at encouraging civic intelligence. It is in fact the central tenet of the design philosophy that would undergird civic intelligence (Douglas Schuler, The Evergreen State College / The Public Sphere Project)

Civic intelligence is about the individual and collective voices of people collectively solving social issues and problems of society, governance, environment, health, human rights, security, entrepreneurships, survival, public service, community service, gender issues, inclusivity, and much more in an intelligent and solutions-driven mindset.

This means that in every given society of governance, both the governing and the governed must have strong civic intelligence to make their societies work effectively. In other words, those governed must be constructive followers and be seen to engage in constructive solution generation rather than playing the blame game or finger pointing.

Civic intelligent members of society ask themselves: how have I contributed to this? What has been my role? Can I change how I contribute to the Nigeria economic and political narratives? What steps must I take?Civic intelligence goes hand in hand with political intelligence and cultural intelligence.

To be politically intelligent it means knowing when the government is taking you for a ride. When there are no good roads but the government can dole out thousands of dollars for a single goal scored at an international football competition is an example. So as citizen, we not only need use appropriate skills, behaviours and strategies heightens our awareness of political landscape, but most importantly use the right skills to manoeuvre through political minefields.

Cultural intelligence means we have or have develop the capacity to work effectively across all cultures whether in government, the academia, business or education using more effective business practices. Cultural intelligence means you have the ability to blend in and adapt as you go along when interacting with different people from different backgrounds without playing the ethnic card as ethnic jingoist would have us believe.

A simple example would be a case of a new wife or husband getting to deal with their respective in-laws. If each of them is not culturally intelligent, she would meet brick walls of antagonism and even rejection. Same thing in the work place and political fields. How well do you know different groups across cultural divide, political inclination, business motivation and so on when dealing with them? All of these adds to effective collaboration and success in all spheres of life.

But what is the goal of civic intelligence? To proffer solutions to mankind’s myriad problems and tackle them swiftly rather than let it degenerate. Let me share with you what Doug Schuler describes asthe six aspects of ‘civic intelligence’. He mentioned:

  1. Orientation
  2. Organization
  3. Engagement
  4. Intelligence
  5. Products and projects, and
  6. Resourcesas the key elements needed to create projects, policies, technologies, perspectives that will drive collective participation.

Why is this important? Castells in 1998 said that “Societies are, and will always be, shaped by social actors, mobilized around interests, ideas, and values, in an open conflictive process.”Civic intelligence therefore, encompasses strong advocacy through community networks in public spheres that promotes civic intelligence through democratic means and activists networks using every single tool of communication available to us to create a call-to-action, engagement, participation in a continuous cycle of involvement that is always on high alert. As long as humans exists, there will always be issues to solve and value to give, which in turn helps evolve the civic intelligent DNA of a people, community and nation.

It is this collective civic intelligent DNA that is the missing link toa fuller, robust actualisation of a better model of democracy in Nigeria.

But what is the root cause enabling this gap in Nigeria? Substandard education, skewed value orientation, mismatch of ethno-religious-politics, weaponisation of information, brain drain, intellectual impostor syndrome of those with competence as against those without who are unafraid to step into the arena of decision making, especially in politics and governance with their unscrupulous activities permeating all other facets of life in business, economy growth, security, human rights, education, law and jurisprudence, welfare and so one, by enshrining a system of systemic corruption of values and practices that has increased the problems we face today in Nigeria.

Since 1950, after the discovery of oil in Oloibri and other parts of the Niger Delta: Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Rivers State, and Delta that cuts across key areas across Ogoni, Olomoro, Otujeremi, and other villages and towns in Nigeria, oil spills, pipeline vandalization, disregard to nature, environmental degradation continues to plague these regions even in the face of continuous exploitation of the region’s richest natural resources.

Yet the population keeps burgeoning, and the environment keeps deteriorating, coupled with the propensity towards disagreement and strife that has snowballed into violence that has destroyed lives and properties, and still has failed catastrophically to solve the existing problems but have gone on to create far worse problems and creating new ones. The fact that more problems are being created rather than solved shows there’s no collective application of civic intelligence in dealing with these issues.

Today, we live in world driven by human-generated changes. We live in a digital world raising technological and digital issues that affects our lives and will in the future continue to influence our lives in ways we may not have imagined. The question is, are we in Nigeria conquering that technological space and time in this moment in history to prepare ourselves for the onslaught: the good, the bad and the ugly that digital technology will bring where artificial intelligence becomes the default medium of communication, interaction, and socialisation?

If the problems of environmental degradation has not been solved through traditional means, isn’t it time for us to re-think our approach to tackling these issues? Isn’t it time for us to work collectively to solve that problem because a problem for one is a problem for all? Isn’t it time we work to protect the geese that produce the golden eggs as a collective people who gain directly from milking the cow that produces the milk? Shouldn’t we care more, think solutions more, and actively engage more with our collective selves to solve our problems? If the milk or eggs is for all of us, why isn’t the problem from where the milk and eggs are gotten from ‘OUR PROBLEMS TOO’?

It therefore, becomes imperative that we must ANTICIPATE our problems if we are going to AVERT these problems. That requires civic intelligence. We must from today begin to upgrade and evolve our ways of thinking and acting even if many of us may feel comfortable with the status quo, don’t want to change our ‘cherished habits’ and think we can get away with rationalising the circumstances we are in. Civic intelligence is not just about altruism or blind idealism.

It is getting your hands dirty in the mud of being a solution provider to every issue around you that is a problem. In other words, the problem doesn’t have to be yours directly for you to act. When you spot a problem, what role do you play in solving it? Take for example the issue of Yali’s focus today: ‘No Violence Campaign as part of the nationwide ‘NaijaVotes: Make It Count’. Let’s look at how you can be a civic intelligent person. What are the 6 aspects of civic intelligence? They are:

  1. Orientation
  2. Organization
  3. Engagement
  4. Intelligence
  5. Products and projects, and
  6. Resources as the key elements needed to create projects, policies, technologies, perspectives that will drive collective participation.
  7. I will add a seventh one: Influence

Orientation in this context is your position, predisposition, disposition or understanding of voting in relation to how it affects getting the richer value of democratic practices and how just a single vote can make all the difference.

Organisation: what kind of system are in place to drive democratic values: Civil societies, system of governance, associations, establishments, administration, business and degree of order have we ensured is in place to sustain democratic practices, values and rewards?

Engagement and Influence: what arrangements are in place to foster and entrench good values, practices or order that has ripple effects that stimulates, inspires, encourages, guides, control, persuades, prompts, shapes, changes, motivates, affects and impels people to make desired actions and sustains repeat actions that imprints and evolves growth, embraces need for change and collectively influence whole communities to act with one voice for the good.

Intelligence: how much brainpower, mental energy, understanding, and political will is needed to help us solve our problem? How can we work assiduously to increase more brainpower, policies, frameworks, plus brawn power to help us tackle the issues of election violence and reduce voters apathy? What are our sources of information, news, reports, data, and communication models and medium? Are they compromised? If so what are the solutions to tackling them?

Products and projects: what products are in place to ensure voter’s registration? Ease of registration process, ease of access to PVCs, time frame awareness of engagement to get these products or access? What advocacy, campaigns, training, workshops, mentoring, skills development, manpower, brainpower are in place to ensure all-round participation and success?

Resources: what is the budget? What are the due process in budget implementation, transparency, accountability, impact measurement of funds application in all regions to enable fairness, clarity and level playing field for all stakeholders? Are the resources well spread? Or selective?

As a civic intelligent change agent, your job is to use these 7 aspects of civic intelligence and define your roles and responsibilities within each according to what I call the“5 CAPACITIES” and type of intelligence you are already gifted with. Your 5 capacities are: Talents, Skills, Interests, Hobbies, and Passion (your purpose, calling or mission in life).

According to Howard Gardener, an American Psychologist There are at least 9 intelligences of humans that can be expressed through our 5 capacities. They are:

  1. Naturalist (nature smart – discriminate among living things: plants, animals and have sensitivity to other features of the natural world)
  2. Musical (sound smart – they have capacity to discern pitch, rhythm, timbre, tone)
  3. Logical-mathematical (number / reasoning smart – ability to calculate quantity, consider proportions and hypotheses)
  4. Existential –sensitive and have capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, meaning of life, etc.
  5. Interpersonal – ability to understand and interact effectively with others, read moods and temperaments of others, entertain multiple perspectives, effective verbal and nonverbal communication skillset
  6. Bodily-kinaesthetic (body smart) –capacity to manipulate objects and perfection of mind-body movements
  7. Linguistic (word smart) – ability to think in words, and use language to express and appreciate complex meanings)
  8. Intra-personal (self smart) – capacity to understand oneself, thoughts, feelings, and to use such knowledge in planning and directing one’s life)
  9. Spatial (picture smart) – ability to think in three dimensions. Core capacity include mental imagery, spatial reasoning. E.g. sailors, pilots, sculptors, painters, architects, (intelligence fascinated by mazes, jigsaw, drawing or day dreaming)

All of these points to the reality that collective civic intelligence is an important mindset Nigeria needs to solve many of its systemic problems.

Today, we not only make the pledge to Yali’s‘No Violence Campaign’, but we must make sure in 2019 the ‘NaijaVotes: Make It Count’ campaign becomes a reality. Get your PVC. Inspire others to take action to go get their PVCs no matter the distance or hours demanded to get it. Stay in line at the polling centre. Wait till all votes are collated and declared. Make your vote count.

As you leave here today, make that decision to tap into your strongest intelligence and expand it into your five capacities to drive your civic intelligence to create the Nigeria you deserve. The Nigeria of Our Dreams.

Thank YOU.



Project Director


FRLP Fellow Wole Soyinka Centre

for Investigative Journalism



8 thoughts on “Civic Intelligence: The missing link in Nigeria’s socio-political success

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *