How can we fix Nigeria and make it a country of our dream? How can we create a place where everybody will have a fair share of whatever that exists, where people’s rights are not trampled upon with impunity and where everybody is treated with dignity? How can we build a Nigeria where people can realize their potentials and where merit will be given its pride of place?
In order to achieve these objectives, certain fundamental things must happen prominent amongst which are: patriotism, accountability and a social system that gives opportunities and advantages to people on the basis of their ability rather than their family background, political connection, religious, social or ethnographic considerations etc.
Patriotism is defined as love of, and or devotion to one’s country. However, patriotism has had different meanings over time and its meaning is highly dependent upon context, geography and philosophy of who is defining it. Although patriotism is used in certain vernaculars as a synonym for nationalism, nationalism is not considered an inherent part of patriotism. For example, a writer, Francesco Duina while writing on a topic, ‘why do the worst-off American citizens love their country so much’ observed that “ somewhere between 85 to 90% of America’s poor are patriotic. They would rather be citizens of their country, for instance, than of any other country on Earth, and they think America is a better place than most other places in the world. Their love of country contributes to social stability, informs and supports America’s understanding of itself as a special place, and is essential for military recruitment. It is also a force that can be tapped into by politicians eager to rally a large contingent of voters.”. In the US, patriotism stands first before anything else. However, patriotism is also the reason why Americans will not expect that anybody will do anything that undermines the union or do things to undermine the effort to build a better society and state.
Nigerians are also very proud of their country, they are very patriotic, but they feel let down by their political actors, our shrinking value system, decadent political structure, endemic problem of corruption, and decades of leadership challenges. This has made some Nigerians to act or behave in ways that undermine the pride of the country thus given it a bad name and terrible image both in our relationship with one another or internationally. In a sense, some Nigerians do not feel the country neither does the country feel them; hence, there is no connection between them and the country and this is the foundation of patriotism and love for one’s country. According to the Francesco Duina, the writer on why Americans are so patriotic, “many view the United States as the “last hope”—for themselves and the world. Their strong sense is that the country offers its people a sense of dignity, closeness to God, and answers to most of humanity’s problems. Deprive us of our country, the people I met told me, and you deprive us of the only thing that is left for us to hang on to”|. Americans are highly connected with their country, their leaders and everything that represents that moral and value system. Patriotism is not just about love for country but also duty and commitment to that country.
Nigerians are hardworking and goal -oriented people. They can do anything just to survive in order to keep afloat or eke out a decent living. They earn poor wages and engage in multiple modes of livelihood just to keep afloat.
However, Nigerians want accountability, personal, institutional and public accountability. The question of accountability starts from public institutions and structures; people believe that government business is nobody’s business. The fear of tomorrow, greed and selfishness make people to be corrupt and unaccountable. Conversely, accountability is not just about money, it is also about attitude and disposition towards other people, it is about opening the books, and it is about collective responsibility. In a word, accountability is the opposite of arbitrariness.
The insensitivity of some of those who hold public offices in Nigeria, their arbitrariness that often manifests in authoritarian disposition towards the general public is core to the crisis of patriotism in Nigeria. It is impossible to say that those who loot public treasury and who are arbitrary are patriots. The psychic impact and ripple effect of such values are quite devastating and destructive of the political system and our social fabrics.
One of the critical governance problems in Nigeria today is that many of those who govern have no business with governance; majority of those who lead have no business with leadership. While many of our leaders since independence lack ideas, some are shallow, hedonistic, selfish and individualistic. They are driven by selfish instinct rather than the public good as opposed to a tiny majority of our leaders who have genuine vision and wider plans for socio-economic development of the Country.
This same minority few join other ordinary Nigerians to complain about the “Nigerian problem”. However, they little realize that just like Chinua Achebe stated in the first paragraph of his little pamphlet titled The Trouble with Nigeria that the real problem with Nigeria is the failure of leadership. There is leadership failure because what we do in governance is not driven by ideas and patriotism. Oftentimes, the most sterile and uninspired people are the ones at the corridors of power in Nigeria and they permeates all facets of government, local, state and federal.
They deny ordinary Nigerians their inalienable and constitutional rights and they insist on the wrong way of doing things as long as it serves their parochial ends. To this category of leaders, Nigerians should be blind to what they do because followership means total submissiveness. This class of clueless leaders struggle to occupy all political offices from Local Government level to the federal level including all public institutions such as our schools, hospitals, water and energy Boards and other institutions that perform essential services in the country thereby creating a cobweb of inefficiency, ineptitude, inefficiency and total decay.
Nigeria needs reform, but it is not the reform that says “mirror others only and leave me out”. It is not the reform that says a few privileged people can steal the wealth and resources of the country and people should turn the other way, while those who commit minor crimes get severe punishment. It is not a reform that abuses all democratic ethos and the rule of law; it is not a reform that gives absolute powers to the state at the detriment of the people, where the state fails to protect and provide for the welfare and security of the people as enshrined in our Constitution and it is not a reform that allows a few individuals to control the commonwealth and convert it to their personal uses without observing any modicum of transparency and accountability. Accountability in governance is important, but that accountability must start with how we consider public office, the premium we place on the political mandate and our collective will to bring about social economic change in the Country.
We must all be interested in politics, we cannot abandon politics to others and say government business is nobody’s business, or that politics is a dirty game. Such claim is convenient to the political parasites that do not have a second address beyond politics but continue to use that slogan to scare descent and patriotic people away from active political participation while they have a field day milking the system and feeding fat on the national assets. Nigerians must not allow themselves to be deluded or deceived. As citizens and responsible ones at that, as tax payers and people who believe in accountability, we all have a right to ask for accountability in all public institutions. But to have the moral basis to do this, we too must be accountable.
It is unbelievable to hear the enormous amount of moneys and proceeds of crime that are daily being declared by our anti-corruption agencies all stolen by unscrupulous leaders and their collaborators in Nigeria. It is unbelievable that, some Nigerians collude with others to defraud their country, all in the name of doing sharp and quick business or moving on the fast lane. This is not patriotism.
Those who give Nigeria bad image are not just the Cybercrime or Yahoo-Yahoo boys, they are not just the Mugu ideologues; they also include some politically exposed persons and their turncoats in the private sector. It is therefore paradoxical that many of the unpatriotic people are found in responsible leadership positions at all levels in Nigeria. This group of Nigerians is what I call a dominant minority. Their pervasive, unpatriotic and despicable activities both at home and abroad are what make the international community to conclude that most Nigerians are corrupt and fraudulent.
The first major way to tackle this cankerworm is to internalize the principle of leadership by example. Our leaders must see themselves as role models that the youth will want to copy, for good. They are a window on Nigeria for which every foreign dignitary, foreign journalist and research will wish to relate with on first hand basis to know their values and disposition. Second, we must set best practices in all we do. This will make public departments and agencies to instutionalize a culture of probity and accountability. If our leaders practise these, then the followership will take a cue from them; learning by example and precepts will become the rule and not the exception. This is the way we can make patriotism have meaning and well rooted.
For sure, the ordinary Nigerians have nowhere else to go except Nigeria, if the health centers and schools are bad, they still have nowhere to go. Their survival as a people therefore, depends on good leadership, accountability and sense of patriotism. To the ordinary Nigerians, ground is the limit and the stakes are so high amid no-choice situations whereas to the few rogues, the ten per-centers and tiny minority who steal the country blind, patriotism is a pass time; they use it when it only suites them, when it is convenient and they abandon it when it is expedient to do so.