What is on my mind today? Patriotism to a country.
As I exchanged notes with Emuobohwo Mudiaga Odje in the eulogy to Dr. Priscilla M. Achakpa, the issue of patriotism came up. The word ‘patriotism’ sent my mind on parade. Patriotic zest is reciprocal, that is, we must love our country without bounds, even if laying down our lives for its survival.
Turn it round, the country must also love us to no lid, which means it shall secure our properties and lives 24/7. It shall provide for our basic needs like qualitative education, health and efficient social safety nets that I can enjoy in retirement what I afforded when I served the country, justice, equity and fairness in all aspects of our lives.
Therefore, for me, patriotism to Nigeria means unalloyed loyalty, commitment, love, and steadfast support for the course and virility of the country, which could make one want to die for it.
This issue made me search for the pictures and events after Late Deborah Samuel’s death. May her soul continue to find peace and a good night’s rest with the Lord.
From Sokoto to Bauchi, most children who destroyed properties and set the market wares ablaze were children aided by adults who had no milk of human kindness running in their veins. Ask them to define patriotism, and one would be shocked by the answers from each of them. For them, Nigeria exists only in the minds of a few.
The children were waiting on the flanks for any fire to ignite. Once they found a reason to act, which is premised on religion, they readily became the fuel to keep the entire space burning.
The questions are, where were the rational adults? Where were the elites who should stand in the gap for the Government?
For them, patriotism is only to tenaciously uphold their religious tenets over Nigeria, which can burn to ashes for all they care. Many elites behaved like an ostrich and justified the killing to protect themselves from the ravaging and fearless children. The same reason they kill Deborah is the same reason they get easily enticed to extremist ideologies. Can a state or a country, in all honesty, demand patriotism from children they refuse to invest in their education, health, and future?
From afar, they look like minors who had been brainwashed from their kindergarten years to see anyone not of the same religion as pagans who should have no right to existence. That is partly also responsible for ISWAP and Boko Haram taking all Moslems who refuse to imbibe their ideologies as pagans, who should have no right to existence.
The Government abandoned these children to their fate from their earlier ages. The children cannot find the nexus between the good in other people’s religion, humanity, and humaneness. It does not matter whether their actions resulted in a subsequent civil war. Take it or leave it; Nigeria refused to invest in them on ethics, oneness, educated minds, and the future. They will in turn also refuse to support Nigeria.
In reaction to the above, I saw a Pastor of a mega church saying that we Christians should go and defend ourselves. This is not an issue because one can kill in self-defense, but the law sets out what constitute self-defense and if the process used did not meet the criteria, one would be convicted for murder.
So, my worry is that the man of God asking others to defend themselves has a huge apparatus of state woven around him and his family. He usually has a pilot vehicle with armed Mobile Policemen in front and another vehicle behind him loaded with armed secutity officials. How do I reconcile someone asking me to defend myself against a group, but he who is my spiritual leader who should lead by example would have the state defend him?
If the police officers in his convoy killed in the process of defending him, he shall be free to preach the following morning. Sadly the other person that killed defending self will take more than twenty years to see outside the prison walls. I think our preachers need to exercise caution and and should preach what Jesus taught about vengeance and revenge.
Step the above to the next layer. How can the students that spend seven years instead of 4 years in the University be patriotic to a country that wasted three years of their productive years?
How do we expect our students sent out of their schools abroad because their parents can no longer pay their fees due to the slumbering Naira against the dollar be patriotic to Nigeria?
How do we expect students on scholarships abroad (the PRN published Sokoto State abandoned medical student on my mind) to be patriotic to Nigeria; when the officials who should pay their school fees divert the funds for their personal use?
How do we expect Doctors abandoned in their moments of need during the heart of the COVID-19 warfare and subsequently chased out of a recruitment center to show patriotism to Nigeria?
How do we expect first-class students, who roamed the streets until granted free tuition and boarding for Master’s degrees by foreign countries choose Nigeria, which never was part of their education, over a country that gave them free education and means of livelihood?
How do we expect citizens who toiled through schools without the Government’s Kobo and do menial jobs to survive with the ink of patriotism in their vessels? The same people strived through community “wahala,” to pay multiple times for the same plot of land, build their houses with no government safety nets to be committed to the cause of a nation that cared less for them? Worse still, the people drill self-made boreholes and become mini-waterwork companies in their domains. Besides, they buy electric cables for the transmission companies to link their houses to a power grid without power, pay for no power supply and run generators 24/7. What manner of patriotism do we expect from those sets of people?
How does one expect a retiree, who served for thirty-five years meritoriously without stealing money from employers, not paid gratuity and pension, dying because of aging ailments without money to buy medicines, to be patriotic or preach patriotism to the grandchildren?
How can anybody treated as an outcast in any part of Nigeria because the person was not born and bred in a particular state and, therefore, cannot have full-time employment or access to amenities of a freeborn in that state be patriotic to the cause of Nigeria?
How can a youth who did better than others suddenly find out that those not as qualified are having jobs because of their connections be told to be patriotic?
How can someone be patriotic seeing three persons diverting close to a quarter of a trillion from the people’s commonwealth? Just imagine how many manufacturing outfits a quarter of a trillion Naira can put in place to employ our youths.
Our challenges stem from the fact that the country has not cared for its citizens the way it should, and things must change. My next President must be one that will ensure that Nigerians have access to free and qualitative education and health care, minimally to secondary education level. The first degree must be highly subsidized and also qualitative. Those who wish to go further should then have access to grants, loans, and scholarships.
The next election is an opportunity to start afresh and do things differently. Can we? Yes, we can.
Grace and peace!!!