I Love My Country, But Does My Country Love Me?

by Walemi Ogunleye

The fact that I love my country so dearly has never been in doubt. I love Nigeria, the country of my birth. A land of tremendous opportunities and promises; so full of highly capable, energetic and intelligent citizens, and so blessed with a variety of resources, that makes other less fortunate nations accuse God of partiality. I love this nation, and so does God. The blood of patriotism flows continually in my veins.

Over the years, I have always demonstrated my love for, and abiding faith in this great country. I gladly served my fatherland for one full year after graduation, through the NYSC scheme. For the first time in my life, I was flung several hundreds of miles away from my family and loved ones, all in the name of national service. And I had no cause to complain even when I had to share a sleeping hall with several hundreds of fellow corps members; when I had to patiently take my place on a queue, several meters long, bowl in hand, just to get my portion of some coloured water called tea, with a dry loaf of bread; or when I had to adjust my feeding pattern to align with the lean allowance I was being paid by adopting the 1-0-1 dieting formula. In spite of all the sacrifices that go with this scheme, I still recollect, with very fond memories, the feeling of patriotism and fulfilment I had all through the service year. The sacrifices, risks and inconveniences pale into oblivion in the face of the joy and fulfilment of patriotic service to my fatherland!

Service year over, I joined the labour market. Luckily, I did not stay long in this most loathed market as I got a job under a year. However, it is instructive that my short stay is an exception rather than the norm. I have friends who were applicants some 6 years after national service. Now as a worker, i pay my taxes as due, without waiting for some tax enforcers breathing down my neck. The PAYE system of taxation does not even give one much choice anyway, as the money is deducted before you have the luxury of a mind change.

Though I am currently engaged in the private sector, I ensure that I fulfil my work responsibilities to the best of my abilities. I don’t give bribe, neither do I take. In my own modest ways, I continually strive to contribute my quota to national development.

More so, when a number of my contemporaries were taking off in search of greener pastures in some more organised climes, I brushed off the temptation of joining them. Not that I had no sense of adventure, or parade an inferior measure of intellect and skills. Rather, the patriotic blood flowing in my veins convinced me that my space lies in this great country called Nigeria – the giant of Africa. I fulfil all civic responsibilities expected of me as a good citizen. I go to cast my vote when election beckons; even when I know that my choice hardly ever counts. On the few occasions when I have found myself in the company of my peers from other nations, I have never failed to speak so glowingly of the innumerable potential of my country, and the imminence of its ascension into the league of well run and progressive nations. I have always insisted that now that the ship of democracy has finally berthed on our shores, things can only get better.

My early morning prayer sessions are hardly ever complete until I have spared a generous portion of time for my dear country and its leaders. I have no criminal record, and I don’t engage in any illegitimate dealings. In my own modest estimation, I have been a good Nigerian. Or what else is expected of me to qualify as one? I sincerely can’t think of any.

Conversely however, does my country love me in return? Does my fatherland appreciate and reciprocate the patriotism and loyalty I have displayed over the past couple of decades of my existence? I sincerely can not answer in the affirmative. What do I expect from my country? Nothing extraordinary. Just a few mundane things, ordinarily taken for granted by my contemporaries who have the fortune of being born in some other more caring and better governed climes. I am not asking for too much…

Someone once said ‘food is the fuel of life’. Much as I don’t expect my country to dispense food to me, I definitely require it to make cooking gas or kerosene readily and affordably available. I have managed to buy the stuffs I need, but I can not cook. Presently, the kerosene pumps are dry in most filling stations, and the queue in the few ones with the product are so long that it will take days before you can have the good fortune of coming close. In the black market, it presently goes for about N200 per litre. Gas is not any better as the cost has steadily driven it out of the reach of ordinary folks like me. A hungry man is an angry man, and i don’t want to get angry. Nigeria, I need kerosene to cook my food and stay alive. Is that asking for too much?

I don’t expect Nigeria to provide me a car, but I sure require a good road network to drive the tokunbo I worked my back bent to buy. I need to be able to move round in the pursuit of my legitimate livelihood, on well maintained surfaces, not some pothole filled death traps that make every successful trip an occasion for testimony in church. Nigeria, I need motorable roads in return for my loyalty and sense of patriotism. Is that asking for too much?

After a hard day’s work, I need to be able to sleep with my two eyes closed; rest assured that my government values my life and safety, and has taken all necessary measures to ensure I don’t get any unexpected visit from men of the underworld in the course of the night. My nation owes me security for my life, and the few properties in my name. Is that asking for too much?

Electricity is vital in this modern age, and ordinarily, it should be the responsibility of my country to provide it, but for some obvious reasons, it has failed me in this regard. However, I have managed to squeeze myself into buying a generator to ensure I remain productive in spite of the country’s failure. Now, the diesel I require to power my generator has hit the roof at almost N200 per litre. Nigeria, I require fuel for my gen set, at least till the time when the proposed emergency measures by Mr President will have visible results in power supply. Is that asking for too much?

What happens if I stretch my list to include good and qualitative education at all levels for the leaders of tomorrow; or good and efficient health care system for the rich and poor alike; or good mass transportation system for ease of movement round the country; or provision of the enabling environment for the creation of jobs for the teeming mass of unemployed; or…..?

Hope I am still not asking for too much….

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Reesa Guerra December 4, 2008 - 5:58 pm

I agree with both of their comments, your article really moved me.

Reesa Guerra

Bunmi Mak October 27, 2008 - 8:20 am

Nice write up. One of the best i ve read of late. kudos to the writer. If you look carefully at the list of expectations of the writer from his country, you would discover they are all basic and mundane things. His expectations could not have come leaner than this. So quite frankly, d country owes him these.

opessir@yahoo.com October 26, 2008 - 12:11 am

Great write up, u can also make this things available, u said u work in the private sector, must everything depend on government? Do something that will make kerosene & gas available locally & cheap. You can do it!


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