Nigeria’s potential for greatness is huge and limitless. The natural endowment here makes many envious. But over time this is making the plight of the Country and its entire citizenry pitiable. When we talk of human capital, majority of Nigerians are talented, hard working and goal oriented. The few who had become bad eggs might have become such out of frustration and lack of self esteem. There is a spirit of hard work, dedication, commitment to personal success in every Nigerian. Anywhere you get to around the world, you find Nigerians working hard and striving to dominate the economy. In United States of America, a report claimed Nigerian descents are one of the most educated species among all the immigrants.
Nigerians do not come behind. Given every opportunity, Nigerians want to be patriotic. They want to live a decent life, beat their chest, stand tall, being proud of their personal achievement. Nigerian in the Pre – independence had values even though government, Political class made that a tough call too. You are constantly reminded to rememberbe the son of whom you are. The leadership then were also laying foundation for a high level patriotism. Even though it was later to be compromised by ethnic and parochial interest. What obtained then was at best far better than now. Teachers, Policemen, Soldiers were highly referred.
The desire of leadership then was not to build hundreds of houses and keep Billions of Naira in foreign account. The leaders were living in moderate houses. Sardauna a of Sokoto, Tafawa Balewa, Awolowo Obafemi, Nnamdi Azikwe to a certain degree laid good example which propelled followers to have fate in this Country. The Country currency was also strong in the international market. Traveling out of the Country was never because of greener pasture but to acquire quality higher education that was not available then. After a person served his father’s land for thirty five years or so, one could be sure his/her pension was sure. It was not going to be missing.
To a certain degree, meritorious services were well rewarded. Those who had electricity and power supply needed not pray for its supply. Government tried as much as possible to provide quality infrastructure that would not be out of use before they were commissioned. If lights were installed in a village, one would not need ‘generator’ to power the bulb during commissioning. The small village health centres, where they existed had drugs. Education was free and qualitative. A graduate from Nigeria needed not to do any further examinations to be allowed to practice in Countries like United States of America and United Kingdom.
Patriotism was a bit easy then. Patriotism here is the ability to be loyal, committed to basic values, willingness to stand for what is right. It is also a concern for the reputation and integrity of an entity. The essence of patriotism is captured in Nigeria’ national pledge which reads, inter alia, ‘I pledge to Nigeria My Country to be faithful, loyal and honest… to serve Nigeria with all my strenght’. What a commitment indeed! Each day individual’s level of patriotism seems to be going down. If there is still any. Many Nigerians as of today do not even know what patriotism really entails.
Nigeria as a nation wants commitment. But people asked, commitment, loyalty should not be one sided. Patriotism will not be in short supply if i know my country places high premium on my life too. At a small opportunity, many have changed their citizenship without thinking twice. Some of the Nigerian best athletes, sportMen had changed their nationality. They now offer their skills to other nations. Some African nations have benefitted from this as well. Who will blame them. Consider a football player who was injured playing for Nigeria on a pitch. He had to nurse his wound and injury by himself. Let us talk about Military and Police who daily endanger their own lives without any life insurance. Who in the event of death while on duty there is no guarantee for any of his immediate family. Citizens have become ‘local government’ of a sort by themselves. You contribute to construct street road, street lights, dig ‘boreholes’ for your own water supply among others. You have to buy everything the doctor needs when you are ill.
In certain emergencies, you may pay for petrol to power the generator which will supply the light for small needs operating theatre needs. The writer just left electricity distribution company that is charged with responsibility of supplying light to his house. There was regular ‘supply’ of overcharged bill to be paid when what one is paying for is not there. The instruction first was to go and clear your bill before we entertained any complaint. What a country? In metropolitan cities like Lagos, one constantly sees security operatives and those in leadership breaking traffic rules and yet one is expected to be patriotic. People steal government money and went away with it but a common man that steals two hundred Naira (just a little above One US Dollar) is punished beyond measure.
sometimes, one really wants to be honest, especially the civil servants at local, state and Federal levels, but when they witnessed what happened to a colleague who just left service, they will rather help their destiny than to wait for what is not guaranteed. A dishonest follow is quickly ‘drafted’ into Council of elders at the village level. They are given chieftancy titles while the patriotic ones are ignored. Student Unionism which used to be a platform for service is no longer so. Student leaders now have business, complimentary cards with retinue of cars which serve as escorts as they go to see ‘political leaders’ who used them.
At the recent 5th year after a constitutional lawyer(Chief Gain Fawehinmi) memorial in Lagos, the question was asked what is the hope of student unionism in Nigeria? Many students leaders will rather now take leave of absence from studies to remain a leader on campus than to go out and become irrelevant in the scheme of things.
What should we do then? We must go back to the drawing table to re evaluate our stance. Leaders must be leaders indeed who live by examples. We must develop a national value which everyone of us will sign allegiance to. Family values must be drawn and applied. Values must be placed on integrity, honesty among others. Honour should be given to whom honour is due. Come to think of honour, who and who, amongst us are given national honour. Eighty percent of such people are known to have embezzled public funds, defrauded the society of its rights yet they are considered the best of us. What a plight of a nation? How easy is it then to be patriotic here?