Ahh I know right? Some people wonder what it means to be patriotic, while others wonder if there is anyone who can proudly say he or she is patriotic, not of the country they have Japa to, but of Nigeria. Someone once asked me what it meant to be patriotic. I asked him if he was willing to die for his country? He laughed at me like he was watching his favourite comedian and asked me which country I was talking about? Although being patriotic is not all about dying, it is also about loyalty and devotion to the country, the pursuit of the common good, and advocacy for truth and justice. Does our country deserve our patriotism?
Patriotic Nigerians seem to fade with time. I grew up hearing about our heroes, the ones we refer to in our national anthem, their exploits, and their fight for freedom. I remember watching plays and even acting in one (I was happy I got the role; it probably lasted for a week). These heroes inspired me and, no doubt, others too. What changed? Just like I said, patriotism seems to fade.
When you grow up in an unjust system where nothing seems to work, loyalty and devotion fly out the window. You start to understand why you are hailed at checkpoints and have to buy pure water (you get it, which is no excuse). Rather than patriotism, we have seen selfishness take centre stage, with professional interests consistently taking precedence over national interests.
Our leaders are a reflection of patriotism in Nigeria; what they do and promote demonstrates their patriotism and, in turn, reflects on their followers. What are they doing and what are they promoting? Those whose words and actions promote love and national development are well-known and well-liked. Political positions must be recognized as opportunities to be patriotic and serve (we all know that right? It seems hard.)
People practice selective patriotism (don’t look it up). They choose when to be patriotic and when not to be. Nigerians will only show their patriotism at football games or other sporting events or while competing for and defending Africa’s best jollof rice and entertainment. There is nothing like selective patriotism. You are either patriotic or not.
The vast majority of Nigerian youth intend or desire to leave the country in search of better opportunities and greener pastures. Who can blame them? However, the issue is not leaving the country, but rather that most seek permanent residency and wish to sever ties with Nigeria as soon as possible. Who do we believe will fix this country if we all leave indefinitely? History would have been written differently if people like Mahatma Gandhi and Lee Kuan Yew had left and never returned to their countries.
An average Nigerian does not believe the government cares about his or her issues. Citizens are dissatisfied with their government’s perceived lack of vision, inability to maintain law and order, and, most importantly, the state of insecurity. The military continues to be a symbol of patriotism.
Should Nigerians be patriotic?
Yes, come rain or come sunshine. As Obafemi Awolowo once stated, “ After rain comes sunshine; after darkness comes the glorious dawn. There is no sorrow without its alloy of joy; there is no joy without its admixture of sorrow. Behind the ugly, terrible mask of misfortune lies the beautiful, soothing countenance of prosperity. So, tear the mask!” We must all have hope and know it starts with us.
How to be patriotic
You have to choose to be patriotic. Adlai Stevenson captures it best: “Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” Play your part. Fly a flag whenever possible; observe national holidays; and show your patriotism through your attitude, actions, conversations and working at making Nigeria a better place.