A Grateful Nation

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Every time I make gracious remarks about the United States of America, majority of private respondents end up sending me hate mail. And every time I voice my support for America’s war efforts, an ample number of my readers send me derisive mail — using pejorative term like Uncle Tom to describe me or insinuate that I have been brainwashed. A few have been so acidic that I continued to exchange post with them just to understand why and how they developed such loathing for a country that, when it’s all said and done, have been good for them and for the world. Seventy percent or more of such people, as it turned out, live and work and school and prosper in the same country they love to hate.

Whether one agrees with the stated (public) or unstated (ulterior) foreign and domestic policies of the United States or not, one can be sure that the end game of such policies, for the most part, is for the overall benefit of the country. It doesn’t matter whether the man at the helm of affairs is a Republic or Democrat or Independent; the objectives are usually the same: to care for the nation. The same can be said of the men and women in the US Congress. Yes, every so often one finds crooks and cheats and self-seeking lawmakers; but by and large, every Congressman and woman who goes to Washington does so at the behest of and to represent his/her district and the larger interest of the USA.

But can we say the same about the Nigerian Presidency and Parliamentarians? Critical analysis or criticism is one thing; but to go into rage, blindly abuse and deride a country that is providing human and basic security and also providing for ones future, is to say the least, uncalled for. Why do some of us hate this country as much as we do — yet continue to bask in her glory and prosperity? Why?

Those of us who live in this country know this simple fact: Americans like to complain about taxes. Given the choice, not even Donald Trump or Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey would pay taxes. But they pay their share of taxes. Most of us do. And we see and feel and benefit from our contribution to the tax pot. Not too long ago an acquaintance lost his passport and other necessities that would enable him return to the US. Guess what, the US Embassy in the said country facilitated his return home. But think of our own country: most of us don’t pay taxes and even those who do don’t expect anything from the government anyways. The smart ones don’t even look to government for anything.

If you are lost, feeling lost or gets stranded in a foreign country you do so at your own peril. The embassy may be closed; they may curse the hell out of you for demanding services you are clearly entitled to; or they may arrogantly and dismissively tell you to “come back another day.” Oh, “another day” may simply mean next month or next year or whenever the spirit moves them. Embassy officials are gods in their own right just as the policemen at the Lagos-Ibadan express road, custom officials at the Seme border, the clerks at any of our ministries or the security folks at our various local government. Every where you go, you are likely to witness or be a victim of incompetent officials and unnecessary power-show. Nigeria is full of gods.

Those of us who call America home cannot or could not have failed to witness — on this Memorial Day or on many other days — that the United States is a grateful nation. This is a grateful nation, a country to die for. You may point to this or that failing on the part of the government; you may criticize the White House for this or that shortcoming; and you may complain about various others imperfections within the system. Yes, you may! But at the end of the day, this is still a better system with better institutions and officials with commonsense who captains three separate, equal but interconnected ships. Things work. And it is because things work that we are able to complain and criticize and make the president and other officials tremble at regular intervals.

This Memorial Day a grateful nation celebrated the life and death of her service men and women. The government and the people of American honored the memory of their fallen patriots. The fallen are given decent burial; and their families are compensated. Decades after the Korean, Vietnam and other wars, America still spend millions of dollars to retrieve bodies or search for the missing. If you die for America or die for a great many other countries around the world — these governments will express their gratitude and their regret to the family of the fallen by building monuments and by celebrating their lives. America does not leave her fallen soldiers behind.

What does Nigeria have to say to the family of the fallen during the 1967-70 Civil War, and to the families of all the men and women who fell during several peacekeeping missions? How many Nigerian soldier and policemen have died in the service of our country? Day after day our policemen are killed in the line of fire, trying to protect us. What did we say to their families? What did we do for their children and those they left behind? In decent countries, it is rare to get away with “cop killing.” In Nigeria, you can. Where else can you kill the nation’s Attorney General and get away it? Only in Nigeria!

What explanation would we give to our children? That if you die for Nigeria — you die for nothing! Why is Nigeria the way it is? We don’t celebrate our fallen; we don’t particularly love our country; and we assassinate our best and brightest or encourage them to go into exile. In addition, we are a nation without heroes. Every country on earth has men and women who lived their lives in the service of their country. Every country remembers and celebrates their heroes — every country but Nigeria!Nigeria does not revere the extraordinary men and women who lived their lives in the service of the country. In contemporary times at least, Nigerians behave as though no man or woman ever gave his or her life or sacrificed their freedom and liberty so future generations can have a better life.

On this Memorial Day, I am grateful to all the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States of America who gave their lives so I am and others can live; I am grateful to all the men and women of related services who gave their lives to the service of this great country. I am thankful to all their loved ones for the sacrifices they made, and for the pain and sorrow they endured. To you, and to all the men and women who gave their lives to the service of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I say, Thank You!

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Bunmi June 12, 2006 - 12:00 pm

I belive what you say is very true. while the Nigerian society is degenrating every day and moving further from our dreams of how a country should we Nigerians fail to understand our responsibility in all the decay. The civil servant who refuses to do his/her job and who is so ready to point out the failure of the hear in Aso Rock, the bus drivers who readily give the #20.00, the common man who sells his votes to politician who will never perform but will recoupe all he gave. We are all responsibile. But l love this country where else can l call home. l pray Nigeria becomes a country we can be proud of but we are all responsible. The embassies abroad have Nigerians as staff and not President Obasanjo. God help this country.

Anonymous June 5, 2006 - 6:21 pm

Great article! I equally cherish the way this government and its citizens hold their service men and women (living and deceased) in such high esteem. I believe such virtues in the form of pride, respect and honor are instilled and taught to children very early in this nation.

Our leaders in Nigeria could learn from this by equally instilling these attributes in our youths at an early age. I belive there is still hope, as is never too late to try. Those men and women of the armed forces who currently serve and those who have died in the line of duty serving Nigeria surely derseves better!!!


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