In every given society, there are different classes of people. The very rich, the rich, middle class, the poor and the very poor. However, there is something common with all these classes of people, everyone in all the classes, believes that his/her mother’s soup is the best. Despite the differences in the quantity and quality of the ingredients used in preparing the soup, nobody wants to accept that another person’s mother’s soup is better than his own mother’s soup. It then means that there are some other considerations apart from taste that come into play when people reach the same conclusion on an issue where the input is different from family to family. It is a matter of honour, pride, loyalty and love for someone to appreciate one’s mother’s soup above others. There was this family that was so poor during a certain festival and couldn’t afford food at all for the family. The parents brought home the reality of their situation to their children and pleaded with them to be patient and protect the image and pride of the family. They convinced their children that the condition was temporary and assured them that soon it will be over and they will rejoice.
Meanwhile, to cover their shame, they robbed palm oil on the lips of their children to create the impression that they were well fed in their house before going out to play with other kids in the public square. The children obliged them and maintained outside that their “non-existent” mother’s soup was still the best. Today, some of those kids are doctors, lawyers and engineers and even in their new found affluence, they still congregate periodically to eat their mother’s soup because East, West, North or South, home is the best. Nigeria is our country. We may not have enough food to eat, we may not have electricity to power our homes, we may be encumbered by different vices of corruption, terrorism, recession, banditry et cetera, but one thing is clear, Nigeria is our home and like our mother’s soup, is the best.
Loyalty is defined by the dictionary as the act of binding oneself intellectually or emotionally to a course of action. It invokes a feeling of allegiance, nationalism, patriotism, steadfastness, faithfulness and fidelity which culminate in love. Yes, unconditional love. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail. Love is eternal … (1 Corinthians 13:7-8 GNB). Loving one’s country is not an option, it’s a duty. I was taught from primary school to pledge to Nigeria my country, to be faithful, loyal and honest. A country is the foundation upon which the security of lives, property and prosperity of the citizens are established. If the foundation is destroyed, there is nothing the righteous can do. Things will fall apart and anarchy will prevail. Anarchy retrogresses a society back to the state of nature where life was nasty, brutish and short. But as long as the foundation is sustained, there is hope, no matter the current irritations. Loyalty is tested not when things are going well, but when things are going awry. The true test of love and loyalty is in its ability to reward evil with good. It is not an easy thing to remain loyal to an entity or someone who despitefully uses you, making the Minister, Babatunde Fashola to advise that we should pray “may our loyalty not be tested”.
Great countries are built on the sacrifices of their citizens who gave all their best to their country and expected nothing in return. The success of the institutions they built and their benefits to the generations that came after them were the rewards they looked forward to. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a president of United States of America once said, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. This is the loyalty upon which the United States was built and the spirit that led them to become the most powerful country in the world. Time has come for us to live up to our pledge to our country, “to serve Nigeria with all our strength, to defend her unity”.
Nigeria is a great country. Naturally blessed by God with human and material resources in abundance. The only thing that has been lacking is good leadership and disloyalty of majority of its citizens to the country. If a leader is bad in Nigeria, Nigerians take it out on Nigeria. If Super Eagles loses a match, Nigerians take it out on Nigeria. If a policeman shoots a citizen extra judicially, Nigerians take it out on Nigeria. Whatever goes bad in Nigeria is heaped on Nigeria. When some officials in government are caught in corruption, Nigerians call it “the Nigerian factor”, making people to begin to ask, can anything good come out of Nigeria? It is commonplace to witness in Nigeria, where the Super Eagles lost crucial matches and fans went wild into the streets and started burning football association’s headquarters, blocking roads and smashing cars. A police shoots a citizen and the people go on rampage burning down police stations and killing other innocent policemen. Two people from different tribes will be fighting and members of the different tribes will jump at each other and start killing each other until it degenerates into inter-tribal war. We can be better than this. The problem is not in our stars, it is in us. Every person should be held individually responsible for his actions not Nigeria. In advanced countries, whenever anything goes wrong, what the citizens think about is solution, in Nigeria, whenever anything goes wrong, what we think about is destruction. As a man thinks, so is he. That is the secret of our backwardness today.
The first test of our loyalty to Nigeria is love for one another. When we love each other regardless of ethnic, religious or class background, we will be able to work together to achieve whatever we set out to achieve. President-Elect Biden said, “We are United States of America and there is nothing we cannot do when we come together … we are a nation of neighbours not of adversaries … to love your neighbour as yourself is a radical act … that is what we are called to do”. He said this to start healing America that has been traumatised by the divisive tendencies of the current President of US, President Donald Trump. Americans have refused to take out the actions of Trump on America. They defend America and return Trump’s actions back to him. As Trump was blasting his country’s election as fraudulent, the election official in charge of the cyber-safety of the elections, Chris Krebs, at the risk of losing his job, confronted the President publicly and declared the 2020 American election, “the most secure election in the history of America”. He was sacked by President Trump for contradicting him. He did not take it out on his country. He accepted his sack in good faith and quipped “honoured to serve, we did it right. Defend today, secure tomorrow”. When Trump took his matter to court to nullify the election in Pennsylvania, because he lost, it was an appellate Judge appointed by Trump that threw out the appeal as lacking in merit asserting that “calling an election unfair does not make it so”. Their loyalty for their country is superior to the loyalty for their race and employer. Time has come for us to begin to defend Nigeria today in order to secure the tomorrow of our generations yet unborn. Arise and uphold the honour and glory of Nigeria, oh Nigerians! That is the meaning of our pledge.
The regime of President Donald Trump in America has taught the world a lot of lessons. The government is not synonymous with the country. The office of the citizen is more powerful and important than the office of the President. Democracy can trump up very bad leaders at times but good citizenry will provide a buffer or bulwark to shield the country for the duration of the bad leader. No matter how bad a leader is, we must not contemplate changing him by force. No political interest of any citizen is worth destroying the country for. We must be willing to make the necessary sacrifice when called upon to do so for the benefit of the survival of our country. We have had some heroes in the past who maintained their allegiance to Nigeria, despite their individual misfortune from their service to Nigeria. General Yakubu Gowon was outside Nigeria for a meeting of the Organisation of African Unity as Head of State when he was thrown out of power by his junior most trusted aides. Hear him, “Ladies and gentlemen … From all indication, a new government has been established in Nigeria. I wish to state that I, on my part, have also accepted the change and pledge my full loyalty to my nation, to my country and the new government. Therefore, in the overall interest of the nation and our beloveth country, I appeal to all concerned to cooperate fully with the new government and ensure the preservation of peace, unity and the stability of our dear motherland”. He concluded by pleading with everyone present to please pray and look after Nigeria for him. He placed Nigeria first before his interest as Head of State. He demonstrated his love and loyalty to his country despite his travails.
We have our own Gani Fawehinmi SAN. He fought all his life for a better, corrupt free Nigeria. He took on all the dictators in his quest for a democratic society. He was detained more than 69 times by different military governments. In all these travails, he believed in the institutions of Nigeria to seek redress. Despite his international popularity in the fight for human rights, he never criticised Nigeria abroad. He will lead a protest and will be detained with the people that demonstrated with him. He will not abandon them to flee abroad and start castigating Nigeria and demanding that foreign governments impose sanctions on Nigeria. He would not do anything to worsen the plight of the masses he pledged to protect. When the legal profession delayed the award of SAN to him, because of his radicalism, the masses awarded him SAM (Senior Advocate of the Masses). When he contested to be President, not many people voted for him, yet he still continued his fight for a better Nigeria. He believed Nigeria was the best and placed the country first. We are enjoying democracy today because of the likes of him.
We have a former Nigerian President who lost election after one term. A lot of his followers were already publicly spoiling for a fight as the election results were trickling in favouring the opposite direction. The nation was on edge. Some people in the opposition were also spoiling for a fight preparing for a possible bloodbath. Before the announcement of the entire results, sensing danger to the corporate existence of Nigeria, he called his opponent and conceded defeat to him. One of the fastest concession in the world. I wonder why the Nigerian people did not celebrate this as the “Nigerian factor”. He didn’t just stop there, he made himself available to the regime that defeated him to be the election and peace envoy anywhere the regime sends him to represent Nigeria across the world. His name is President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. He has demonstrated that Nigeria is worth sacrificing anything for. Above all, he placed Nigeria’s interests above all interests.
I travelled to Hong Kong sometimes ago. A beautiful Country by all standards built with London in mind. When I was done with what took me there, I shortened my departure date in order to meet up with my schedules in Nigeria. When I got to the airport, the officer that was to stamp my passport raised his face to me inquisitively and asked, “almost all the people who look like you that come into this country have applied for the extension of their stay here, but you have rather shortened your stay. What is the problem? Don’t you like our country? I was amazed and impressed by this unexpected question. This is a country that wants to perpetually improve on their standards despite their satisfactory level of achievements. They wanted to learn from this unusual visitor where they were missing it, in order to make amends. I smiled up to him and said, “your country is beautiful, I like it. I have finished what I came for and have to rush home because my country is better”. Some other officials have become interested in our discussion and didn’t know when they echoed together, “which country?”. I proudly declared “Nigeria”. When they recovered from my answer, they looked at each other and let out a subdued cynical smile. I knew what was going on in their minds and didn’t care because no matter what they thought about Nigeria, my country is my mother’s soup and it is the best. In loyalty and love, I will wait until our appointed time for greatness comes. I join General Gowon in Nigeria prays.