As the nation gradually returns to business as usual following the protests, vandalism, killings and curfews and killings that happened in a number of states across the country in the past two weeks, I believe it is important to continue to encourage young people not to give up or be discouraged in the pursuit of a better nation. I have lived in a Nigeria that was good so I believe it can be good again.
As mentioned in last week’s column, I will bringing back some of my old writings from this column where I sounded the warning of impending doom for the country if we – our leaders mostly – don’t chart a new course away from the current status quo of corruption, police brutality, under development and poor leadership. This week, I will be culling from one of my writings entitled Nigeria: A Fractured Nation. I once read a statement in an opinion piece of a daily newspaper, and it has stuck with me ever since: “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.” The writer in that article was asking if Nigeria deserved our patriotism. He explained that over the years, Nigeria had 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. In other words, Nigeria was like a ship that has been steered for so long by captains who are either grossly inept at steering or are selfishly setting a course that benefited only self. It makes one wonder just when is the right time to abandon the ship.
One thing that rings true in all the different scenarios and challenges Nigeria is faced with is the lack of patriotism that abounds in the country because only one who cares nothing for his/her nation will work tireless to destroy it like so many of our leaders and even the rest of us do. I recall an incident that happened during a visit to Accra, Ghana, and how I witnessed a citizen arrest at work. It all happened when a taxi driver lost control of his car and ran into a cable pole by the roadside. The impact caused the pole to come down. Immediately, people gathered around, and members of the public arrested the taxi driver before the arrival of the police. Now, this is very different from mob justice, which is against the law of the land and humanity. The driver wasn’t assaulted but made to stay put until the police arrived.
The main lesson for me here was the respect people had for public property. As far as the people were concerned, the cable pole belonged to everyone, and so they had a responsibility to safeguard it, or like in this case, ensure that the situation was adequately attended to and managed. Here in Nigeria, the taxi driver would have been on his merry way because as long as it is for the ‘government’, no one cares. Worse still, if the knocked-down cable pole hurt anyone around there, jungle justice would have been carried out immediately, where the taxi driver would have been lynched. Most of us lack a sense of belonging and it is not easy to be patriotic when you don’t belong.
Sadly, these monumental and grave challenges that Nigeria is faced with 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 and 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.
When we hear the word patriotism, we think it’s 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 government for being excluded from the government and societal benefits. If we look at the recent issues with regards to the Niger Delta militants and the Biafran movement, there’s 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, yet live in dire poverty, is their lack of patriotism justified?
True Patriotism, not a lack of it, will 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 will embezzle billions of naira meant for the construction of Federal and State roads. It is a lack of patriotism that will make an individual embezzle billions meant to improve our aviation industry and allow Nigerians to fly in rickety aircraft from sub-standard airports waiting for death. It is lack of patriotism that makes an individual or groups spend huge sums of money that can 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 embezzle billions meant to improve the education sector and instead send his or 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 doesn’t just stop with the ones with the 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.
For wanting a change and asking for one, it appears the Nigerian youth are displaying a level of patriotism that the older generation haven’t shown in a long time and can learn from. I can only imagine that those who fought and died to put this country together are now spitting at us from their graves for making a mockery of their gallantry.