Patriot. We often read about it, we were taught in school, we use it as part of our daily lexicons and in political slogans. But do we really appreciate the essence of the word as citizens? Do some of the conceited fops in government and opportunistic opposition even know what a patriot is or what patriotism really entails?
Patriotism is love and devotion to one’s country, nation or land. Patriotism is being ready to make sacrifices for one’s country, it is reciting the words of the national anthem and actually meaning it. Do the powerful words contained within the nation’s anthem still mean anything to most Nigerians anymore? “Arise O Compatriots...”
I watched a programme recently about a successful Somali restaurateur in the UK who went back to Somalia to set up a restaurant. Some didn’t understand the rationale behind his decision as he wasn’t pressured into it. But he was convinced that after being successful in the UK, it was proper for him to do something patriotic in his country of origin. The aspect of the documentary that I found inspiring was, despite his restaurant being attacked by extremist militants, he wasn’t deterred. Rather he chose to rebuild and continue running his business. I asked myself, how many Nigerians are this patriotic; if anything many are ready to check out once the slightest opportunity rears its head. I watched the show with a fellow Nigerian who narrated how some fellow destroyed his Nigerian passport after arriving in the UK- how patriotic.
As I often ask those disillusioned by the advancement of their adopted countries, was it aliens that built the country you now reside or its citizens, was it the vision of Martians from Mars that was actualised where you live or that of their forefathers? In view of this, who would develop Nigeria if not Nigerians?
I must admit, our situation is depressing, as one cannot confidently term many of our public servants ‘patriots’. With all the insolent profligacy that’s rife in government circles, one begins to question how patriotic the ruling class are. Please note, patriotism isn't seeking or contesting for public office for the purposes of enriching oneself; that is “Authority Stealing” according to the late maestro Fela Kuti. Patriots actually seek public office for the purposes of dutiful service to the nation and fellow citizens.
Patriotism is feeling a sense of wish cum depression, anytime you are abroad witnessing what other nations -including those with limited resources- have achieved over a short period of them.
Patriotism is ensuring the country's educational infrastructures are world class and enforcing children of public servants study locally.
Patriotism is ensuring the country's medical facilities are adequately funded, enacting laws to prevent the needless travelling abroad by public servants and proudly using our health centres when confronted with any sort of ailment.
Patriotism is ensuring the roads are properly constructed so there’s limited need for utilising private or armed forces helicopters for personal functions or in fulfilling administrative duties.
Patriotism is ensuring there's traffic flow and not causing undue vehicular congestion, economic standstill and physical hardship whenever a public servant visits any part of the country.
Patriotism is doing what is in the best interest of your nation and not parochially following the dictates of neo-colonialists, imperialists and foreign capitalists.
Patriotism is ensuring refineries are constructed locally so we don't have to import refined products or need to subsidise fuel.
Patriotism is institutionalizing probity in the petroleum sector, being prudent with oil revenues, curbing overreliance on oil and promoting economic diversification to other viable sectors.
Patriotism is having a serious plan for the power sector and reversing the dependence on generators as a primary source of power.
Patriotism isn’t about “yesterdays” or “today’s” men, but continuity in the servitude to ones nation, benefitting all and not just a few.
Patriotism isn’t the inauguration of a series of committees on visions of the nation’s future by the visionless.
Patriotism isn’t being vociferous about the ills of society or becoming an overnight social crusader suddenly concerned about the injustices prevalent in the polity, due to losing a political position or being out-schemed from a share of the ‘national cake’.
Patriotism isn’t toying with the lives, safety and futures of unemployed youth, by enticing them with stipends to settle political scores or cheap propagandising.
Patriotism isn’t diverting funds meant for equipping our security forces adequately, and jeopardising the security of lives.
Patriotism isn’t encouraging criminality in the police force, perpetuating corruption in the judiciary, and abetting avarice amongst the legislative.
Patriotism isn’t hiring paeanistic sycophants to line our airports, welcoming the ‘raised from the dead’, ‘half- dead’ or ‘living dead’.
Patriotism isn’t keeping mum on exigent national issues, but finding adequate time for augmented ripostes to criticisms by well-meaning Nigerians and the supposed opposition. It would have been of immense benefit to the country if the same enthusiasm and energies were exerted on “good governance” (And, I don’t mean the state to state jamboree being touted by the current regime).
Patriotism isn’t using religious sentiments and ethnic bigotry to elect public office holders, but making adept choices that will benefit the majority and not just a segment. A patriot sees beyond the platitudes of ethnicity and religion.
A patriot occupying public office should be able to walk freely in public without protection, because of a clear conscience of performance in office, and not partaking in the siphoning of our commonwealth or the flagrant abuse of human rights.
A patriot in a position of authority realises the potential in the sea of unemployed youth, knowing it can be structured into a solid work force able to transform any economy.
A patriot in an elected capacity would make the harnessing of our underutilized abundant resources priority, encourage industrialization and facilitate economic growth policies.
A patriot doesn’t harass investigative journalists for doing their job, or paying unscrupulous individuals to troll the internet for social media critics, neither is it using positions of power to oppress and arrest those who are critical of your administration.
If not for patriotism there wouldn’t be platforms such as this one; forums that stimulate our intellect and reawakening our conscience. One must give kudos to the real patriots on every form of media, sincerely championing the cause of the masses and are genuine in the quest for good governance.
A patriotic government doesn’t preoccupy itself with tenure elongation, rather it is concerned about giving a detailed account of stewardship for the initial term in office.
A patriotic government ensures the electoral commission is actually independent, embodying the ideals of free and fair elections.
A patriotic government doesn’t incur debts for future generations, and not expect criticism from concerned citizens. A 'democratic' government without channels of criticism has planned its own downfall: how is a government kept on its toes and how does a government know its flailing or out of touch with socio-economic realities? I don't suppose it’s by praising ineptitude a nation saves itself from further deterioration. It’s because of this sort of sycophancy and insincerity Nigeria metamorphosed into its current state of retrogression. May be some of the government praise singers should take time to watch BBC Parliament daily and observe how the country's leaders are criticised on governmental policies and matters of national importance.
The hubristic innuendo by some of the ruling class is so appalling, you wonder if governance is on any of their lists of priorities. With these impediments in context, what is really pathetic are those with the supposed exposure and enlightenment, who remain immersed in ethnic and religious prejudices. Does corruption, mismanagement of resources, lack of development, dilapidated infrastructure and their societal impacts know any religion or ethnic group?
Some amongst us have queried if our acknowledged founding fathers were nationally patriotic or just ethnocentric champions (that being another topic for discussion), but, whatever they were, the nation felt the impact of their socio-economic decisions however biased; from “Groundnut Pyramids” to “Cocoa Plantations" and exports etc,. While the purpose of this write up isn’t to recant history, one must acknowledge some of their feats. My intention is to reawaken our subconscious as to what it is to be patriotic in our present socio-political clime. It would have been generally beneficial if the so called geo-political zones were competing on matters of economic growth and industrial development and not autochthonous disparities.
There are those who have conveniently cocooned themselves in certain theoretical proclivities of rulers being a reflection of its people. On the contrary, our constituted inertia is a consequence of the noble and conscientious patriots amongst us not exercising our democratic rights and abandoning our civic duties: invariably allowing unpatriotic pettifoggers to align, and systematically stymie the collective progress of a nation.
In essence, if your aspiration for elected or selected office, assumption of government critic or opposition, or the setting up of NGO’s or socio-political groups, or becoming a prolific writer of articles, is to be duly welcomed into the ‘ravagers’ ranks’ or the ‘looters league’, then ask yourself a truthful question; are you a C.O.N (Compatriot Of Nigeria) or a ‘CON’ (Crook Of Nigeria)?