Reflections On Patriotism and Nigerian Unity (Part 2)

I love writing. I especially love writing about issues affecting Nigeria, my country. I do my research as deeply as possible to avoid misleading any of my readers, or to give them the misconceptions that I am promoting certain issues, people or individuals. I am not a trained writer; in fact I graduated in the Sciences, and only took up writing a few years ago. I am certainly not the best writer on the internet, but then, I am not looking for glorification.

I am also aware that when I write on a particular issue that I chose, as long as it is published in the public realm, like the internet or newspapers, then I am putting my head on the block, and readers of my articles are bound to take positions, views and opinions which may or may not differ from mine. This is normal. We cannot all lie on the same bed and face the same way, because if we all do, and we are all wrong, then we face the same fate together. Hence, the necessity in life to agree to disagree or disagree to agree.

However, one thing for sure is that I am not writing on behalf of individuals or groups in order to pander to them, or to seek favour or position or for monetary gains. All my articles have never put a penny in my pocket, and neither have I asked for any remuneration. I am satisfied to express my feelings and opinions about issues affecting my country as best as I could, in most cases, out of frustration for the plight of the country. When in such a mood, I often found solace in putting my thoughts down on paper. I feel much better. Again, in most cases, I am much concerned if what me, and other writers write is falling on the deaf ears of our rulers and countrymen.

I also take great joy in readers responding to my articles, either by making critical comments or by commending favourably on the contents. It encourages me further, either way. Some readers leave comments on the website, while some write to me directly via my email address. I take it all in good stride, and sometime laugh inwardly when I see the humour and inventiveness of the posters. In fact some comments are more like articles in themselves. I like it.

However, some criticisms are outright attacks, because such critics do not share my views. Well, what can we do about this? Nothing really, and that is why in most cases, I do not engage in fisticuffs over the internet, but try and say to such critics that I was only expressing a view, and not forcing my own personal view of issues or events down people’s throats.

For example, my last two articles about the Niger Delta (The Niger Delta and Nigeria) and about patriotism and unity (Reflections of Patriotism and Nigerian Unity) attracted a lot of diverse comments, especially the latter. Some readers felt I was calling for a forced patriotism of Nigerians towards their country despite all the ills of the country. No, why should I? And how can I? Is it possible to force people to be patriotic towards their country which has not exactly been looking after their interests for decades? Is it possible to unite a disenchanted and fragmented country of tribal and religious differences just by writing to them and exhorting them all on empty?

So where do I stand? My articles are calls to arms, so to speak. It is an appeal for us to realise that we stand better chances of survival if we are united to fight forces of darkness and retrogression, both internal and external (especially the former) by first recognising the problems and then tackling them. They have been my own way of expressing my thoughts, and at the same time, looking forward to hearing from diverse views and opinions on such issues.

My thoughts were perhaps most accurately expressed by Walemi Ogunleye in his article “I love My Country, But Does My Country Love Me?” (NVS, Sunday 10th August 2008). In the article, he asked a series of questions “What do I expect from my country? Nothing extraordinary. Just a few mundane things – food, good road network, kerosene, gas and oil for his car, security of life and property, electricity, good and qualitative education at all levels for leaders of tomorrow, a good and efficient health care system for the rich and poor alike, good mass transportation system for ease of movement around the country, provision of the enabling environment for the creation of jobs for the unemployed”… And he’s not asking for too much, is he? Especially in a country as blessed as ours.

Walahi tallahi. These are all I am asking for too, before we can even talk about patriotism or unity. But, there are more that I would add. Equality, justice and social justice, humanity, zero-tolerance to corruption, good governance; and if I may add, reduction of poverty; equitable distribution of wealth; all people, be they from the maimed and killed Niger Deltan, or the disenfranchised Igbo, or the grumbling Yorubas and all other minorities from the Middle Belt or the oppressed Northern “talakawas”, to be one before the government of the land. As a Nigerian, am I asking too much? Aren’t these what we all want? So who am I to force patriotism and unity on the people of Nigeria? How can it even be forced? It will come by itself.

God knows it has been a lack of all the above that has fragmented Nigeria into little pieces, but like they said, there is Unity in Diversity and we are not minding this wise saying? The moment we unite, that is when we will see real patriotism.

In previous articles, I have lambasted pseudo-leaders who like to see and call themselves patriots, just because they are in charge of the wealth, but we know they are not, by any imagination. These are the people we should hunt down and expose and bring to justice to account for their evil sins and crimes against their own people. This very act itself will be an act of patriotism.

So, a very good friend of mine spanning over 30 years, “Ewuro” (A Yoruba word meaning “Bitter leaf”, his pen name on Nigeria Village Square) went for my jugular on my last article (both in Nigeria Village Square and Chatafrik Articles). In fact, I respect his views which were in most parts, very valid points. (As indeed were the views of another Villager called Amen, who did not spare the rod on me, bless him), but where Ewuro erred was to say the article was “a bundle of contradictions”. He failed to see that the message being sent out was not a call for enforced patriotism, but rather an appeal to seek the true patriots who can facilitate change in the country to make the country realise its full potential. While Ewuro dwelt on Patriotism, he failed to address the issue of Unity which went along with it. He knows we share the same views, but he still went on to damn me. He then went further to accuse me of “a hidden political agenda” on my part and “that this was one of my exit strategies back to Nigeria… To smoothing my way back into a political appointment back home”.

Well, who would know it? I am in trouble and in a dilemma, because if indeed I do get offered a political appointment back home now or in the future, my friend, Ewuro, will say “Didn’t I say it?” And if I don’t accept such an appointment, my family and friends, including Ewuro himself, will say “you are a fool for not accepting it”. That has put paid to seeing myself as somebody who could, most sincerely and honourably, contribute my own quota to the survival, development and progress of my country, something I have always expressed and have the determination that I will do to the best of my ability, if the opportunity comes my way. Ewuro, thanks very much (LOL). I am tempted to accuse Ewuro of a breach of trust, but I won’t.

However, this minor setback is not daunting in my efforts to go back to Nigeria. I’ve got my farm to feed my family, and will do other businesses on the sides to sustain me, as I am rather too old to seek paid employment, and insulate myself from the problems of Nigeria as much as I can, and don’t get involved. And Ewuro is an honourable man, and I am sure he will support me as a friend. In fact he has to support me now, as I know he’s not planning to stay in the UK forever. Ewuro and I are still going to sit over some bottles of Guinness and argue it out this weekend.

That was a little digression. If we do not recognise and accept that there are agents of doom and darkness militating against our survival, including patriotism and unity, we are in for a very nasty surprise. When I say Agents of Doom, I am not referring to writers on the issues of Nigeria, I am talking about our leaders, past and present. I am talking about those who deliberately put us in this swirling quagmire of poverty, religious and tribal intolerance, corruption, mistrust, oppression, etc. Unprofessional and corrupt military rulers, mad and greedy politicians, murderous coup plotters, avid tribal chiefs and traditional rulers, corrupt civil servants, unscrupulous businessmen, you name it.

The problem with us, and with the word “patriotism”, in this case, is that we tend to take meanings too literarily, according to the various definitions of dictionaries. The word “Patriotism” projects a vision of billions of Chinese waving flags, or millions of Americans waving flags and singing their national anthems with nationalistic emotions. Well, don’t we do the same in Nigeria, even as we profess not to be that patriotic? Patriotism is not only by definitions or quotable quotes of great philosophers or great men. Who can deny that our own Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, is not a patriot, despite his well-known and long-standing criticism of many a government and socio-political issues of Nigeria? Yet this great man and hero to many of us is always projecting his Nigerian-ness to the whole world. He has made us proud in many ways, and never have I heard him say, “To hell with Nigeria”. Professor Chinua Achebe, likewise a Nigerian, an Igboman who has suffered as a result of the Biafran war, has never denied his love and patriotism for the country of his birth. And I suppose Chief Gani Fawehinmi hates Nigeria, considering what he has gone through in his life fighting for social justice for Nigerians, which they still haven’t got? Joseph Yobo, our Super Eagles captain, is an Ogoni man, whose people have been maimed and killed for their oil. The young man is always proud to lead his country out to play football, but we can’t label him patriotic? Segun Odegbami, former Green Eagles captain, will forever be a patriot looking for ways of improving Nigerian football, not to talk of our many athletes, from various “under-privileged tribes” who have toiled and represented Nigeria all over the world. When Nigeria or Nigerians are participating in any sporting event or other life’s endeavours, we all sit with our eyes glued to the TV wishing success for Nigeria. If that is not love of or patriotism for one’s country, despite our many ills and shortcomings, then please tell me what it is. British Airways mistreated some Nigerians recently, and over 5000 signatures were received in protest against BA about how they generally treat Nigerians on their routes, how do you classify this call to arms? MEND, MASSOB and OPC are concerned about Nigeria in different ways; yet, concerned they are. They all want a change of some sorts in their country and fight for their rights.

Those who write and read and comment on the various internet websites and newspapers do so because of their concern, and hence, love and patriotism for that country known as Nigeria. If you are not concerned, why do you wake up eagerly in the morning to read Nigeriaworld, Nigeria Village Square, Nigerians In America, etc and contribute to the discussions on issues like this? My brothers and sisters, it is because of your patriotism and love for the country of your birth. That is the way I would like you to look at it. Patriotism may be individualistic. It is not definitive or shrouded in mystery. We are not calling for mass nationalistic hysteria or fealty flag-waving or committing kamikaze because of Nigeria. We all have an idea of how and where Nigeria should be and how ALL Nigerians should be, and if you are actively discussing our problems and proposing suggestions, that may very well make you a patriot.

Like my friend and brother, Adebayo Adejuwon wrote from Canada, “The more I read about some ugly stuff about Nigeria which sometimes demoralises me, the more I receive some inner conviction that I must not be discouraged on Nigeria at all. I just can’t explain why. The sense of this ultimate safe landing for Nigeria where all her enemies and ‘conquerors’ will be powerless to continue in their demonic manoeuvrings remains ever strong”. I share his views.

Let the truth be said, I say. It will set us free.

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