Rethinking our patriotism as Nigerians




Sacrificing for one’s fatherland is a major component of patriotism. Besides making just common sense (apology to Senator Ben Bruce), it equally has some spiritual backing from the two holy books –Qur’an and Bible.  

For instance, our Holy Prophet Mohammed (Peace and Blessings of Allah Be Upon Him) is reported to have said, “Love of your country (patriotism) is part of your faith.” Nothing better underscores that position than the above quote.    

It is quite interesting and exciting to love one’s country. Nothing really could be much better than that. But the pre-condition is that the laid down rules governing the relationship between the citizens and the mother country must be respected and adhered to by the two parties.

Listening to an audio clip of a lawmaker, Senator Isa Misau recently, I was flabbergasted with his resonating voice of reasoning on the floor of the Senate. Waving aside politicking and brimming in palpable anger and fury, the lawmaker painted a pathetic picture of how the nation was almost getting grounded as a result of the myriad of security challenges bedevilling the people.

Yes, the content was a submission in the 8th Senate as the lawmaker did not return to the red chamber for another term. His submissions, however, still remain a sad reality of today. Do we need say things are falling apart? The government may have been doing its best, but it’s obvious this looks like just a drop  in the ocean! The tension from insecurity is far from ebbing, even though it’s not a creation of this administration.

The nation’s blessings are fast becoming its source of woes. Do we really need trace where and how this all started? Is this desirable or of utmost necessity? The response if you ask me, is a blend of the two- but more of dwelling on fixing our challenges as a nation. And this can rightly be achieved if we agree to changing our ways and embracing new path to development and decent living.

As a student of history, you can’t have a perfect understanding of the present without studying the past to situate the future. Being futuristic and envisioning a better Nigeria peopled by intelligent personalities, the nation’s founding fathers (even though this appellation has of late come under serious criticism) across the various divides, embarked on leadership drive to harvest a crop of tomorrow’s leaders upon the nation’s independence.

And in achieving this, everything this crop of Nigerians needed was virtually dropped on their laps, just in realisation of the national dream. Free education and free health service were just a few of   privileges enjoyed by these leaders. They got it all! The question is; what really have they made of the opportunities given them by the nation? 

Turning around today, these leaders come up to tell generations after them to fasten their belts and get set for tougher days ahead. They further want to lazily inspire some sense of patriotism in the led, forgetting that despite the nation’s huge investment in them, they have failed their fatherland.

I think they should be reminded that you can only build something on something and not something on nothing. Today, it is a huge task talking to young generation of Nigerians (including my own generation) to demonstrate patriotism. The next question that readily comes up is; was(is) the nation there for me at the time of my need? You are asking same?

With some visible worry of a concerned mind, one might be tempted to ask; what went wrong and where? Other nations- developed or not- also evolved to their present level of development. Why has it become extremely difficult for Nigeria, a country with resilient people, to move in the same direction with the fast-progressing nations of this world?

This concern or thought was taken a notch higher in an informal engagement with a colleague here at Deutsche Welle Broadcasting- Wanjiku Mwaura. It reopened the typical African worries on the level of the continent’s development.

Wanjiku has been in the organisation for a couple of years, thus making her imbibe some German culture, norms and characteristics. Nonetheless, she still refuses to allow that Africaness in her vanish with the wind. She’s quite proud of that. A discussion ensued between the two of us while we were out on an official assignment. For sure, as an African of Kenyan descent, getting someone of like mind was, for her, quite exciting.

The level of infrastructure, planning and orderliness that are hallmarks of developed world caught our fancy. And the two of us raised same question-why do our leaders who are always in this part of the world choose to act badly in position of authority? Rhetorical as the question sounds, the obvious answer lies in the greed, self-centredness, planlessness and lack of vision that usually characterise the typical African leadership. At the end, we agreed that leadership remains the bane of development in Africa.

Back home, I still find it highly incredulous and incomprehensible that despite several visits overseas, our leaders still do not see reason they should replicate the better and civilised life lived elsewhere. No arm of government is left out in this regard. Executive, legislature and judiciary are all guilty of this condemnable act which can best be situated in sheer malfeasance in the African leader.  

Yes, it is shocking but commendable that some African nations like Rwanda- a country once pilloried for its seemingly endless strife – is fast becoming a model of development. Yes, there may be some pockets of politically-motivated killings there, but it goes without saying that the speedy level at which that country is moving on the path of development is one thing other African countries should look up to.  At 59, the giant of Africa prettily sits watching the supposed minnows overtake it in the race of development.  

Taraba state Governor Darius Ishaku frankly underscored this after a recent visit to Rwanda when he said: “We’ve failed to take Nigeria to enviable position. Yes, we are 59-years-old, but I don’t think we are 59 years mature — it is sweet and ugly.  It is sweet because we have independence, but ugly because we have not been able to utilise the 59 years to take the country to an enviable position. “It’s a shame that Nigeria as a giant of Africa is still lagging behind. I was in Rwanda and I was amazed at their development in the healthcare sector alone.”

May be when these leaders talk to themselves, it will make some sense and meaning. The open confession by Governor Ishaku is an admission of failure of leadership in Nigeria. Hey, if going to Rwanda to borrow its model of development, oh, why not if not? Twenty years after its five-year-internal strife, the country has reasonably stabilised. And 49 years after similar war in Nigeria over the same period of time, we are still wobbling and struggling as a nation.  What does that tell us?   

And at a time others are discussing issues that can catapult their nations into the higher realm of development, we are busy making issues out of the phantom marriage between the president and a serving minister. At a time when the world is cruising on in the ICT arena and earning huge foreign exchange from the sector, our concerns are the in-fighting in Aso Rock between a first lady and family members of a member of an alleged cabal.

It’s just important we redefine our sense of patriotism in such a way that an average citizen will readily take it upon himself to genuinely demonstrate some sense of patriotism. Our leaders should think in this direction to engender development. Honestly,  I deeply sympathise with the National Orientation Agency on the near-impossible task of herding Nigerians into the patriotic train. Herculean, you said?  Hmm! May God help our country.

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