By Ibrahim Dahiru Gambarawa
As Mahmud Jega once wrote in his usual Monday column of DailyTrust Newspaper entitled ‘Ministry of Happiness’ sometime in February 2016. “I know president Muhammad Buhari wants us to be happy so he should please, as part of amending the many potholes in his 2016 budget, create a UAE style Ministry of Happiness”. Left to me, before Mr. President creates such Ministry of Happiness there is more urgent need to have Ministry of Patriotism. Added to that, patriotism as a subject in all our school curriculum should be considered as well, this will shape our minds toward love for our country and also enable us to have Nigeria at heart. There may be no way we can be as happy-country-men as we should be without having the conviction of being able to make sacrifice for our dear nation as citizens. Not quite long, patriotism of all qualities got missing in our lexicon and many Nigerians enjoy their disconnect with the nation without regret. Restoring it must be a priority at all cost because we started it and hence we are the only ones that can end it if we so desire.
At present, the geopolitical struggle of outdoing one another is increasingly manifesting itself in various forms with attempts to sabotage and undermine internal development as the economy seems to recuperate plus internal unrest and threats to national security from without.
Every story has two sides. And in the relationship between the state and its citizenry, caution must be exercised to ensure that both sides have their story not only told, but in the best accurate light possible. While your country –this country certainly needs you as a member if you are a genuine Nigerian– knows that reliance works both ways. What I want to do today is explain why I believe this to be true, middle men patriotism is sometimes viewed as an old fashioned concept. Old ideas of patriotism such as blind loyalty and unquestioning obedience do not sit well with us and there is a good reason to believe that. History shows that powerful institutions like government ministries and agencies, business magnets, organized establishments, religious institutions must resolve to see this challenge as worth amending and parental upbringing must be redefined so as to work for common good and promote patriotism in all ramifications. Otherwise, we are preparing a recipe for moral scandal, corruption or dysfunctional national system that will continue to replicate itself in every generation.
However, states exist as a middle man in a world where empowered people are increasingly eager and able to act on their own behalf, often breeding skepticism of those same institutions originally set up for their benefit. What is obtainable at the moment calls for Nigerians to rise up and be patriotic citizens and deal with corruption, militancy, ethnicbigotry, religious fundamentalism and intolerance, sectionalism and so on. It is a time to rise up to development and economic independence for our common good.
It is timely to have this debate on what patriotism should mean to everyone of us as a nation, now and in the future. It may be unfair to begin judging this current administration’s performance especially on every pedestal. Even though our economic growth is reawakening and our confidence is slowly building but that is not to say that we are assured of our place in the world yet.
Despite the fact that PMB’s administration so far is working assiduously in getting the country back on track after long derailment and economic bastardization by some past ill-minded individuals, facing a very different world than that of few years ago is not an easy prey.
This is because more than ever before, our future as collective individuals and as a nation largely depends on the action of others, be they nations, conglomerates or individuals with power of a sort. We rely deeply on everything Western and of Western extract, America in particular and some Asian countries and a handful of Arabs and African crafts for our continued prosperity. This interdependency has only increased to our detriment even though with meagre benefits that doesn’t worth the symbiosis. At the same time it brings uncertainty, it equally offers opportunities and risk factors not without profound consequences on our daily lives.
Patriotism in 21st century Nigeria should see the state as a tool for carving the Nigeria of greatness that will prosper and make its stand in the comity of nations in a globalized world; a profoundly changing world. This is the contemporary rationale for supporting our institutions of state to attain success. And that will allow the state to fulfil its own part of the patriotism deal. A two sided patriotism where the institutions of state are something we can be proud of and where interaction with those institutions is something we see as being in our own collective interest especially in a changing and uncertain world.
However, coming to the individual level, more often we used to forget that it is our responsibility to radiate patriotism so that our children and the younger generation can learn from us, that is if we desire our succeeding generation to bring about the desired change we have been praying and hoping for. We get almost everything wrong in Nigeria especially family setting, which is suppose to be the foundation of uprightness. It is not too late to begin teaching ourselves hardwork and instill patriotism in the minds of upcoming generations, this will enable them to stand gallant for the nation with satisfaction, not having to steal which seems to be the norm these days. We must do away with the syndrome of “my children will not suffer as I did”.
It is common knowledge to find children who have never worked to earn for five minutes in their lives but fancy flying on business or first class while travelling and riding flashy cars fully paid by their loving parents.
Recently, I read an article online which narrates how Nigerian elites spoil their children with freebies, to me, that makes them unpatriotic citizens as they grow and the story makes my heart to sober. The writer narrates his time in the UK as student, UK born whites at undergraduate level did holiday or weekend job to support themselves including the children of millionaires among them. It is the norm over there regardless of how wealthy their parents are. And he soon discovered that virtually all foreign students did the same,except status-conscious Nigerians. There was a time Richard Branson (owner of Virgin Airline) confessed to biography channel that his children travel in the economic class even when he and his wife are in the upper class. Don’t forget Mr. Branson is a billionaire in pound sterling, I am sure if he were a Nigerian, his narration would have been a practical impossibility.
We have seen the VW Golf car or something close to it that Kate Middleton (the wife of prince William) drives, even though there may be difference between us, frankly speaking, their billionaires work for their wealth, most of us stole from public coffers. A quick survey once shows that only children from Nigeria fly business and first class even while on studies trip to the UK. The same also applies to our elites and government officials when they fly abroad.
There is no aircraft attached to the office of the UK prime minister. He travels by commercial airlines (British Air) and the same applies to the British Royal household. The Queen does not have an aircraft for her exclusive use but in Nigeria it’s a different case, why? Are they more patriotic than us? Am speechless, you can judge for yourselves.
On a different tone, my heart felt condolences to Nigerian government, the army and family of Lt Col. Muhammad Abu Ali and other heroes who lost their lives last week in the battle field, may almighty Allah forgive your sins and grant u Aljanna Fir’daus. Amin.
Ibrahim Dahiru Gambarawa, wrote from Abuja. Can be reached at email@example.com