On Saturday, October 1, 2022, Nigeria marked the 62nd anniversary of its independence. Every anniversary of a country’s independence should be remarkable. In the past, school children across Nigeria would come together at national and sub-national events to relish the occasion because it inculcated in them a sense of belonging, national pride and freedom from any form of social, political or economic subjugation in their motherland.
But all across the country this year, the event was marked rather quietly with low-key celebrations; without much fanfare and memorable activities as used to be the case. President Muhammadu Buhari’s independence speech itself was replete with his administration’s achievements, but with little recourse and reflection to the essence of Nigeria’s liberty from British colonial rule in 1960.
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Fundamentally, the anniversary of freedom and liberty should evoke a sense of patriotism among the people. Patriotism is a sense of affection towards one’s country, to such a degree that the individual in the society defines himself or herself through his or her country. Patriots demonstrate interest in the welfare and wellbeing of their country, not minding making sacrifices for the sake of the nation state. It is demonstrated regardless of whether the country is better than any other.
To express their commitment to their countries, citizens are ready to sacrifice their lives, if that would contribute to the survival of their motherland. Though patriotism is an ideal that may be difficult to attain, in our contemporary world, there are countries whose citizens do not give it a second thought when the need to pay the supreme price for the survival of the state arises. In Nigeria, this height of patriotism is lacking, as many Nigerians enunciate with pride that they cannot die for the country. Many, particularly the youth, are also quick to say they want to relocate to other countries, rather than stay here and build a Nigeria that will make us all proud.
Evidence abounds from Asia to Europe to America, and even parts of Africa, that many countries’ social, political and economic prosperity came as a result of citizens’ unalloyed loyalty and patriotism. In spite of ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity, citizens of some of these countries would come together, defend the pride, integrity and interest of their countries, irrespective of the social, economic and political status.
Though patriotism is difficult to measure and quantify, the World Population Review in its Most Patriotic Countries Report for 2022, a product of a survey carried out in 2021, shows that 10 countries stood out, in percentage of citizens who are devoted and loyal to their countries. Top on the list is the United States (41%), India (35%), Australia (34%), the United Arab Emirates (27%) and Saudi Arabia (25%). Others are Thailand (25%), Philippines (15%), Indonesia (14%), United Kingdom (13%), and Denmark (13%). One may not totally agree with the outcome of the survey, but Nigerians who have visited some of these countries can attest to a high-level of citizens’ loyalty, commitment and patriotism towards these countries.
The heroes of Nigeria’s independence recognized the significance of patriotism for national cohesion and development, as is obvious in our National Anthem and National Pledge. However, over the years, the application of the principles that could have entrenched the lyrics of the anthem has dwindled.
Through studies in Civic Education at the level of basic and secondary education, and during training for military and paramilitary services, patriotism is inculcated among Nigerians. Unfortunately, it does not sink deep into the psyche of the people, as it seems that after reading to pass examinations, students, military and paramilitary personnel, quickly discard what they are taught. Patriotism hardly reflects in their lifestyles thereafter.
As we mark the 62nd anniversary of our independence, it is an opportunity for a national rebirth, through fresh emphasis on patriotism, and the torch bearers in this rebirth should be our elite, political leaders and top civil servants. The elite must desist from using divide and rule tactics to create disaffection among Nigerians. Our elite and political leaders, in their quest for political and economic power, frustrate patriotism among citizens when they use ethnicity and religious bigotry to create division among the people.
The people would believe more in Nigeria if corruption is investigated and perpetrators are punished. Citizens will be patriotic when human rights abuses are curtailed, and when the rights of citizens are protected at all times. Moreso, patriotism could be inculcated if it is preached regularly and patriots are rewarded for their loyalty to the country. The leadership must look away from looking after themselves and instead work for the good of the people. Nigerians must all learn to rise above parochial leanings to create a prosperous nation.
Happy Independence Anniversary, Nigeria!