By Isaac Asabor
Do you love Nigeria?” The foregoing question was the question I was asked by a friend that read an article I recently published on an online media platform about patriotism. He might have asked the question in the bid to measure the pride and love that I have for my country, Nigeria, particularly now that Nigerians are marking its 60th year of nationhood. Without any iota of exaggeration, it is a valid question. To me, I wished my friend extends his question to the level of a poll, and asked other people, “Is independence day the only day to love Nigeria?” There is no denying the fact that the question will serve as a better way of ascertaining to what extent Nigerians love or despise their country.
While the celebration, the razzle-dazzle or rather the marking goes on, and invariably put us in a self-congratulatory or self-condemnation mood, it is expedient to say that amid the rhetoric wishes, comments and back slapping that we ought to take some time for reflection. Just as those of us in the Christendom have being encouraged in Ephesians chapter 5 verse 20 to be “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”, it is expedient at this juncture to say that we are progressing in so many ways through hard work and a tenacious spirit, despite the fact that there have been countless bumps on the road to realizing the expected level of progress.
The fact that the green, white and green colour of the Nigerian flag is a major fashion statement is not to be taken lightly. It indicates how deep-rooted the Nigerian culture has become in many corners of the earth and how united we are. However, 60 years on, we cannot claim to have achieved the objectives of our founding fathers who started the Independence journey. And as we become reflective, we also have the right to be critical of those things that have retarded our progress. This should be an everyday practice, and not just on October 1st.
To my view, if there is anything that the country need at the moment from the people to lift it up from its present economic quagmire, it is unarguably what can in this context be called “everyday patriotism”. For the sake of clarity, patriotism in the real sense of the word, and which I have chosen to describe as “everyday patriotism” in this context has being defined by the popular online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, thus, “Patriotism or national pride is the feeling of love, devotion and sense of attachment to a homeland and alliance with other citizens who share the same sentiment. This attachment can be a combination of many different feelings relating to one’s own homeland, including ethnic, cultural, political or historical aspects”. To me, all that is expected of every Nigerian in line with the foregoing definition, particularly our leaders, is to be demonstrated on daily basis. With leaders and their followers being patriotic in their dealings by each passing day, it would be difficult for anyone to be mired in the cesspit of corruption.
To my understanding from the backdrop of the foregoing definition, patriotism is more than the green, white and green flag that we salute to. It’s more than reciting the Pledge of Allegiance while placing our right hand over our chests or singing the national anthem a couple of times a year at political rallies or football fields. I believe that patriotism is much deeper than that and typically, we see it on a daily basis all around us.
Patriotism is bred in those who cultivate and foster our future generations. It can be seen in everyday individuals such as teachers, nurses, counselors, social workers, soldiers and many more of those that are seemingly seen as ordinary people. The teachers devote their time toward educating and shaping our future citizens who, in turn, will shape the future of our country for the better. At the moment, many soldiers are in the northern part of the country fighting bandits and terrorists for the nation, and some ill-fated ones among them have being killed in the battle field. To me, it is high time we became patriotic on daily basis. To do so is not for formality sake, but it will be a better way of expanding the minds of our future politicians, scientists, doctors and journalists.
Patriotism is doing the hard work today, knowing it is going to benefit those of tomorrow. So, it should be an everyday thing, so it should not be ritualistically demonstrated only on October 1st.
When we stand united in believing in the potential in those who will come after us, we can know we are leaving Nigeria in the hands of some of the brightest, most innovative and compassionate individuals to take our place. It’s a patriotism we can all take part in, one small contribution at a time on daily basis. We should eschew the behavior of being patriotic or loving Nigeria only on the day of independence.
For sure, patriotism means different things to different people. For some, patriotism means an unquestioned loyalty to one’s country, while to others the country offers an opportunity for them to garner wealth and power ruthlessly, yet there are others who believe that government or some godfathers ought to take care of all their needs. Then there are the disillusioned, including scores of young people, who feel let down by Nigeria because there are so few opportunities even when it is factual that there would have been more opportunities if the right things were done by the leaders.
Against the foregoing backdrop, if patriotism means unquestionable loyalty to one’s country, then many people have simply been paying lip service to its ideal if the level of corruption, killings and inept leadership are put into consideration. For example, how much love do business people have for Nigeria when they evade the taxman and fail to pay customs duties?
How much do they love Nigeria when citizens engage in smuggling guns and ammunition knowing that they will be used to kill innocent people? Is it love that causes people to engage in the kinds of antisocial behavior that scars the good name of Nigeria? How patriotic is it to manage the economy in a reckless manner with the only emphasis being on election victories? It’s a reasonable conclusion to draw, that one man’s patriotism is another man’s treason.
Indeed, one of the things that have held us back in the recent years is the fact that we continue to see issues through the lens of the APC/PDP political spectrum. It means every issue becomes polarized into right and wrong as we apportion blame to one side or other. We need the kind of inspired leadership that will help to convince the majority that the grave misjudgments of the past will not be repeated, and that there are indeed better days ahead.
If we want to wake up to a new Nigeria, we need to stop the finger-pointing at each other and admit that both political parties have engaged in flawed policies to the detriment of the country. Instead of trying to convince us that one party has all the answers, we urge all parties to work together to achieve success on the economic, social and political fronts, then will we have a good chance at regaining the nation’s vitality and restoring hope. To achieve this, it is incumbent on our leaders to make patriotism a daily issue that should be practiced; and not only on October 1st.
Isaac Asabor is a Public Affairs Analyst.