I have stolen the title of this discourse from Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth Secretary General, who in an interview with Vanguard's Uduma Kalu said that "Our environment and patriotism are in a clash," adding that Nigerian environment was not friendly to his patriotism. I found his statement quite appropriate in Nigeria’s of today, and that is the main for sneaking Anyaoku's quote. Are you going to cut off my hands for that? Or are you going to order me out of the country because I refused to steal false patriotism? By the way I am already in self-exile, where I often cry to heaven in a genuine reaction to leadership failure in a country that has the potential to be one of the greatest. Even something is urging me to declare here that you and I are the true patriots. Okay, let me stop and move on to the topic in question before someone accuses me of being sentimental.
Apart from ethnicity and religion, patriotism is other bait being employed by Nigerian "leaders" in their command to further enslave the citizens' mind. Ethnicity, religion and patriotism have strong influence on community status relations; hence they are being used to scatter Nigerians like gun powder under the wagon. Nigerian administrators have succeeded in giving patriotism a bad image and in doing so have also killed love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it. It's either they know not what patriotism entails or they deliberately using the word to hoodwink the citizens whom they supposed to upbeat. My fear: since it usually takes 50 years for a nation to get started, and Nigeria has not even started, so what next? I passionately believe that when we get started, even the most cynical among us would know. Nigerians are hungry and thirsty in an environment blessed with water and fertile land. And it is this contradiction that angers them; that angers me. Nigerians are angry - angered at something unjust. We are yearning and we are burning - for genuine patriots.
I recall that every Nigerian government we have had made patriotism a blue song whenever they usurped our rights. They often claimed the love of country for their exuberance onslaught on their motherland. Both civilian and the military (coup plotters) have consistently manipulated patriotism to their advantage. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi used it. Yakubu "Jack" Dan-Yumma Gowon used it from August 1 1966 to July 29 1975. Murtala Ramat Mohammed used it until February 13 1976. Olusegun Obasanjo used it thrice - in 1976, 1999 and 2007. Shehu Shagari also used it in 1979. It was the turn of Muhammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon on December 31 1983 and then Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida on August 27 1985. Sani Abacha on November 17 1993 and then Abdulsalami Abubakar on June 9 1998. The current Nigerian "president", Umaru Musa Yar'Adua is no different. He took the baton from Obasanjo on May 29 2007. And I believe the pollution of patriotism shall continue whether we like it or not unless a radical approach is implemented in that environment.
We should know better but it seems we have all been infected with fallacy of patriotism. Although we now know that their blue songs were meant to be a decoy, there's little we can do because we have been forced to adapt to our environment which has remained a menace. We live with little food in our stomachs but we are forced to sing false patriotism; we must discover how to live with bedraggled hospitals; we must succumb to an unsound foundation for educating our youths; we must consent reluctantly to driving on our dilapidated roads; we must continue to learn from armed robbers who are so daring they even rob police stations. Even law enforcement officers kill at random. We must and we must love our country. We are told, like "the American, to die holding our national flag instead of giving it up". It doesn't matter the huge gap between great American leaders and our yeye (levity) leaders. We must forget the clash between patriotism and our fast crumbling environment. We must do as they say but not as they do. We must believe in one nation even though they do not.
The clash between patriotism and our environment which unfortunately is not a good sign for progress - will continue to pollute our country - until we adequately understand and, or ready to fight for certain things:
*Leadership by example which is most unlikely in this era
*That leadership means suffering (I mean not that kind of suffering), a doctrine too difficult to grasp for these crops of politicians alias opportunists
*That materialism does not define man
*That leadership means being genuine and being honest
*That it is highly essential to create an atmosphere where citizens are being encouraged to be themselves
*That we must create an environment where virtue and hardworking are celebrated instead of vice and laziness as being currently practiced
*That sound education for our youths is inevitable
*That most of our political activists are also deceiving us
*That the masses indirectly contributing to the endemic corruption each time they glorify their thieving politicians
*That most of our intellectuals have lost the touch and that they are now chewing "join them if you can't beat them" like kola-nut
*That most journalists and writers are potential contractors of the government they criticise
*That the business of governance still remains a relay race whereby "owners of Nigeria” (apology to Seyi Oduyela) pass the baton to one another
Apparently, the infertile environment created by those traitors called khaki boys, especially Obasanjo and his thunderous associates, has reduced to nothingness the remaining enthusiasm for love of country. In any society where the method of ruling is do as I say and not what I do, the collapse of that environment is imminent. Most Nigerian "leaders" simply detest Nigeria and Nigerians, and the reason behind this I may never know. For instance, they always come up with thousands of promise without fulfiling one. Whenever they turned on their blue song, fake patriotism filled the air. Now that we know it's false, what next? The masses and the intellectuals have been tacitly supporting coups and counter coups - military or civilian - by their joy in seeing every incumbent leaves office. It was, in retrospect, one of the worst mistakes we ever made. Quiet numbers of Nigerians are now saying that Obasanjo's empire is better than Yar'Adua's kingdom.
Nigerian "leaders" often show cruelty by being supercilious, sarcastic, and even sadistic (And I believe I am not exaggerating). They have begun to take surreptitious pleasure in our suffering. Otherwise something should have been done to address the near abject poverty that people face everyday. I grew up with the parlance - E go better. Today, many of those people I heard chewing those words have died without seeing the better days. In a nutshell, political apathy is rampant in our environment. I believe it is another way of manipulating the masses by calling for their patriotism, especially from the same people who have put us in this mess. I mean if former military heads of state are swimming in money - naira, dollar, pounds, euro - and the masses crawling in hunger, how possible is it to talk of love of country? The realistic approach would have been to create an environment where citizens are given the opportunity to excel. Imagine, virtually every aspect of our life is in jeopardy. Education, health, road, power sector, water, security, to mention a few!
An example will suffice here. A former Minister of Communication once told the nation that telephone is not for the poor people. Today, the fellow is deciding our fate in his capacity as the senate president. This man, it seems, still wallow in ignorance with another poverty-stricken comment attributed to him at the recent Diaspora Day celebrations in Abuja . He said that it is lack of patriotism for Nigerians to run the country down at home and abroad when "this country is doing well...moving in the right direction". He then suggested that those who insist should go, "start another country". First, what he is saying in essence is for us to lie about our country. I challenge this man to tell the nation his achievements as a General in the army, as the communication minister and as the senate president. If he dare ramble about any achievement, then it further shows the kind of "leaders" we are "blessed" with in this country. I quite agree with Ms Mary Kanu who says, "If anyone needs to leave this country, it is the Senate President and his colleagues. They don't belong here. They should go start somewhere in the desert with the sand dunes as their constituents. That way, they will not hear any unpatriotic comments by people like me".
Unfortunately, it is the government's priority to initiate new programmes that would inspire patriotism. I find it absurd whenever Nigerian "leaders" quote John F Kennedy's "It is what you can do for your country and not what your country can do for you". Of course there's nothing wrong in doing something for one's country but the environment must be conducive enough, something which is currently non-existent in Nigeria today. Many of our athletes for example, have changed their nationalities obviously due to lack of support from their own government. Each government we have had seems not to know the primary duty of a government. It is the primary duty of any government to protect the interest of its citizens; it must boost their confidence to live. If however a government makes a silly mistake of exploiting its citizens, the aftermath of such error is the situation in today's Nigeria: confusion, contradictions, fear, cynicism, insecurity, hypocrisy, dishonesty and other negative traits. It is even worse if a government creates the impression that iniquity is a virtue.
I reiterate here that there's little difference between Nigerian politicians and armed robbers - the former being the worse. Although they both steal and take lives, politicians do it with impunity while of course; they helped create armed robbers due to bad policies and casual lack of concern. Again, when the time to make things work begins, even the most cynical Nigerian would know. But if the idea of making things work is what Dora Akunyili, Information and Communication minister, has labelled Re-brand Nigeria Project, then we are only circling around. Though Akunyili showed a hint of patriotism (some have started saying it was media hype) during her days as NAFDAC boss, her recent obsession with outward appearance has - in my view - stripped her of a genuine patriot's honour. Suffice it to say that Nigerians often confuse patriotism with ambition. For one example, if Akunyili's "brilliant performance as NAFDAC boss was because of a strong drive to become a minister, then she cannot be described as a genuine patriot but ambitious.
When a country breeds "leaders" who are not ashamed to loot, who enjoy oppressing the citizens, and whom nothing can embarrass (Obasanjo gaffe), then it would be unrealistic, even impossible to demand genuine patriotism from the people. The survival of a country is remote in a dirty environment where one man can steal a horse while another must not even look at its halter. Every community has been polluted with rottenness. There are only a few role models in the whole country. The youths have been forced to follow the wrong path. Instead of organising youth’s development programmes in every community; instead of teaching our youths how to make cassava, we prefer to let them roam the street. Our environment has taught them the easy way out of doing things. Our youths do not cherish hard-work because leaders in their communities are showing them that laziness pays better. And our youths have realised that majority of those being honoured by the government are the cruelly rapacious Nigerians who had in one way or another brought ruin on the entire nation.
How can they be talking about patriotism in an environment where citizens in their great numbers are being forced to "check out" of their motherland everyday? Recently, two hundred Nigerians were reported to be among the five hundred illegal immigrants whose boats capsized 300 miles off Libya water. Nigerian Tribune once reported that a Nigerian lady died in the desert giving birth. More Nigerians are said to be seeking asylum in Europe and other countries, according to the Nigerian Guardian. Nigerians are being deported from the USA, Spain, Italy even Libya. The most recent example being that of a Nigerian woman and her two daughters whose request for asylum was rejected in Ireland. Her husband was reported to be in Nigeria while she and their two children travelled to Ireland seeking asylum. The hopelessness of patriotism can be seen daily in the shabby attitude of our law enforcement officers who collect tolls daily, and who kill at random - their recent victim being a three-year-old girl. Even our journalists collect their own "toll" there and here. Hum...
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