When we hear patriotism, we think about laying down our lives for the country. I would describe it as intense loyalty to one’s nation and its interests.
Love for one’s country is a primordial affection that does not hinge basically on anything substantial, simply an intangible essence with no physical substance, yet vicariously glorious. I once read this statement in an opinion piece of a daily newspaper and it has stuck with me ever since. The writer in that article was asking if Nigeria deserved our patriotism, explaining that Nigeria, over the years, has had a deficient and decadent political class and leadership elite that robbed the nation of its well-deserved chance to sport among its peers and superiors as an eminent member of the comity of nations, both in terms of development and prosperity for its citizens.
READ ALSO: Is patriotism a bull market? (1)
In other words, Nigeria was like a ship that has been steered for so long by captains who either were grossly inept at steering or were selfishly setting a course that benefited only self. It makes one wonder just when is the right time to abandon ship.
Last week, I ended my piece with the promise to discuss the issue of patriotism. Today, our nation is faced with monumental and grave challenges that have been with us for decades. And unless the leaders and those that are led can demonstrate some love for the nation, Nigeria will continue in crisis.
This crisis brings with it disjointed development, massive corruption, civil war everywhere/anywhere, deficiency in educational and health development, infrastructural decay and everybody to himself or herself. There is no more love for the nation anywhere, which is known as patriotism. So, let me begin by trying to explain what patriotism is and what it means to a nation like Nigeria.
In the 2000s, a particular part of the nation wanted and in fact went as far as instituting Sharia law in some states, about nine of them; rather than examine and try to understand the reason behind this, we swept everything under the carpet and continued with our lives. My understanding then was that a good part of Nigeria was no longer happy with western education. It is possible that this activism went underground and came out as Boko Haram. The same could be said of when the advocacy for resource control started in the South-South. We can see what the result of that unaddressed agitation is now.
When we hear the word patriotism, we think it is all about laying down our lives for the country. I beg to differ, as I would describe patriotism as intense loyalty to one’s nation and its interest. It is a well known fact that most of the developed countries of the world today attained greatness partly as a result of the patriotism shown by their citizens. From the kneeling movement in America to the Biafra protests in Nigeria, people have come up with different ways of expressing their discontent with society. We have instances where tribes rebel against the authorities for being excluded from government and societal benefits. If we look at the recent issues with regard to the Niger Delta militants and the Biafran movement, there is a common lack of patriotism, which in turn causes a backlash from the government. For the Niger Deltans who harbour the majority of the country’s oil, but live in dire poverty, is their lack of patriotism justified?
Again, as in the case of the Sharia states, there was no effort to sit down and discuss their advocacy. If you put these scenarios together, you would see that the majority of Nigerians do not feel any sense of belonging in their nation. And like I mentioned in my last column, it is impossible to be patriotic when you do not belong. The unorganised and politically-oriented ruling class that do not understand democracy have helped in sweeping the problem to promote their selfish agenda. Even when the faith and traditional institutions in the country tried to mediate in many instances, they were sidelined. So, what we have now is that the carpet has been turned over and the dirt is now haunting and killing us.
Lack of patriotism cuts across tribe, religion, age and status, that is the reason you see the Igbo queue behind and defend a national thief who is an Igboman, The Hausa and Yoruba do the same when someone from their tribe is caught stealing the nation’s resources. It is not only with the leaders but also the followers. Patriotic followers can check the excesses of unpatriotic leaders, but in the Nigerian situation the followers turn a blind eye and claim to mind their own business, which is funny, when they usually are not known for minding their own business.
True patriotism, not a lack of it, would make it hard for an individual to embezzle funds meant to provide health facilities for 170 million Nigerians. A lack of patriotism is the reason why an individual would embezzle billions of naira meant for the construction of federal and state roads. It is a lack of patriotism that would make an individual embezzle billions meant to improve our aviation industry and allow Nigerians fly in rickety aircraft from substandard airports waiting for death. It is lack of patriotism that makes an individual or groups to spend huge sums of money that could be used to better the lives of Nigerians to sponsor terrorists and militants to kill and make life uncomfortable for Nigerians. It is lack of patriotism that makes a public officer to embezzle billions meant to improve the education sector and instead send his/her family members abroad to study. It is lack of patriotism that makes an individual embezzle billions of dollars meant to improve power supply, leaving millions of Nigerians in darkness. The list goes on but it does not stop with people with power and opportunity, because it is lack of patriotism that makes an average Nigerian watch with indifference and docility while a few embezzle the national resources and wreck the country.
I can only imagine that those who fought and died to put to this country together are now spitting at us from their graves for making a mockery of their gallantry, and as such it appears that nobody is prepared to die anymore for Nigeria. And it boils down to everybody for themselves, everybody sharing and eating the cake together until it is all finished. Will the cake finish before the sharing or will the sharing finish before the cake? I highly doubt the latter and seriously fear the former.