Nigeria @60: Reflections On Patriotism
As a child in primary school and as a teenager in the secondary school in the then Bendel state, I was taught with other children to be patriotic to our country, Nigeria. We were also taught to respect our national symbols, particularly the national flag and the national coat of arms. Luckily enough, I was fortunate to have participated in the compulsory morning assembly sessions held in both schools with the national flag hoisted on bamboo poles mounted right in front of the assembly arena. We were also taught to religiously observe some national rituals of which one of them was to sing the national anthem at the assembly and recite the accompanying national pledge with undeniable nationalistic pride. Today, with the proliferation of private schools I doubt if this ritual is still being done as most of them are located on road-sides, and therefore lack enough space to do that.
Again, we were taught how great Nigeria was; given its vast arable land mass, its rich geography and robust economy coupled with its good people. Then Nigeria was nicknamed “Giant of Africa”. It was truly a giant as one of our former heads of state while in power once boasted that Nigeria’s problem was not the lack of money but how to spend it. Nigeria then was enviously regarded by other African countries. Little wonder that when the entire Ghanaian population was facing economic hardships no African country came to their minds for refuge except Nigeria. They came, and most of them were gainfully employed particularly in the private sector.
However, at a point after my secondary school education I thought of joining any of the armed forces or any of the para-military forces to enable me have a platform of expressing my patriotism as I was taught by my teachers. But my ambition then was fruitless as I was pessimistic of scaling the hurdles that were literarily placed on the way of selection process. One of the most nagging hurdles was quota system.
Also, at a point in my career as a Garment Sorter in a dry cleaning company, I thought of resigning my appointment to enable me further my education on full time basis. Due to inadequate savings as a result of poor salary, I was cowered considering the fact that I would likely be faced with crushing hardship given the fact that the governments of the then Bendel state and the federal government would not have granted me sustainable bursaries; that is if I were to be considered lucky to be a beneficiary. Then, I had no option than to go for a part-time studies which I relatively concluded but not without pitiable struggles.
Still in the same nexus, I nursed the ambition of becoming a civil servant but to no avail. No thanks to the adoption of the preposterous quota system policy by ministries, departments and agencies at all levels of government
Be that as it may, I was able to realize my potential and follow my dream by seizing the opportunities that were present in the private sector. This goes to show the complementary role which the private sector is playing in our nation. If not for the private sector what would have been the fate of the teeming population of the youths who have various dreams and aspirations? Is it not wise enough that the governments create an enabling environment for the organizations that fall within the private sector across the six geo-political zones?
The foregoing is not all about this writer but epitomizes the journey of life which millions of Nigerians are passing through as a result of bad leadership. People have been taunted with John F. Kennedy’s motivational quote that says “…ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” But why would one not think of what his country can do for him? The bible says in Psalm chapter 11 verse 3 that “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Methinks it would have been more reasonable for the leaders to provide a good foundation for the people before they (the people) can give back to the nation. That is how things are exactly done in America where the hackneyed quote originated from. America, through her well thought-out and established policies, does not abandon her citizens to struggles and later expect the abandoned citizens to give back to her. An average American child knows what he or she would be in the future and the country is statutorily prepared to support such a child. Perhaps, this is the reason why the level of patriotism in America is considered to be higher compared to other countries of the world. An American is ready to die for his country at any given point in time because it is very clear that the country made him.
As it is now, the level of patriotism in our nation is fast waning. One can even say that it is because of this reason that the level of insecurity in the country is getting worse. People are no more patriotic because the governments seemingly do not invest in their lives. No doubt, lack of patriotism is making the youths to be vulnerable and some mischievous politicians are cashing in on it. In my view, creation of opportunities for the citizens by the governments at all levels would be an added impetus to the overall level of patriotism of the people, and this would in turn positively affect the development of the country.
Today, many Nigerians who want to contribute their quotas to the country’s growth by establishing businesses of their own are already frustrated because of the unfriendly business environment being created by the various tiers of government.
Many Nigerians want to be patriotic and nationalistic but as it is today many are not. The reason for this is not far-fetched. Today, I see the patriotic inspirations and aspirations of many Nigerians waning because they are not benefiting in any way from the nation apart from the roads they walk or drive on. In some neighborhoods, residents provide security, boreholes, and electricity services on their own in spite of the fact that they regularly pay their taxes to the government. With this, what level of patriotism is expected from them?
Today, I can see millions of unemployed youths that are roaming the streets of our cities in search of elusive jobs. I can see dejected people living under the bridges, uncompleted buildings and under the trees. Still today, I can see some politicians that parked their cars behind the kerbs of our highways caressing their mobile phones like newly found lovers amid cosmetic gesticulations suggesting that all is well.
This piece was written to sensitize our leaders that they should not relent in providing the necessary “dividends” of democracy for the people as failure to do that would in the long run diminish the level of their patriotism, and that in turn would affect the growth and development of the nation. Again, our leaders should not see Independence celebration as a time to steal, dine and wine. Rather, it should be a moment of sober reflections such as reflecting on why patriotism has been on the wane. Without any iota of exaggeration, we need patriotic Nigerians in this moment of the country’s trials as Jennifer Ritchie Payettes said that “Patriotism creates warmth and helps overcome ethnocentrism and division. Break down barriers and work together towards peace and tolerance.”