Democracy and the decline of patriotism is a worrying thought when you rest your mind on the global picture of Nigeria today. Or am I the only one to whom it is glaringly clear that patriotism is a waning facet in Nigeria? I must be. We have let it slide downwards continuously, damning all the evidential rhetoric. We are sadly our tribe and region first, before we are Nigerian. Daily, events unfold that make you wonder in awe what country of the future our children will live in – devoid of nationalism, without liberty, without security, and hence without patriotism.
Take Lt. General TY Danjuma, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, Chief EK Clark, Chief Bode George, Ike Omar Sanda Nwachukwu. The one thing they all have in common is that they are known nationalists by the public roles they have each played in the making of modern Nigeria. Their patriotism is expected to be unquestionable. Yet they have all have found reason in recent times to emerge as deeply primordial champions, succumbing to the pull of ethno-provincial nationalism. One after the other, they have all been let down by their contemporaries who took helm as national leaders. We have all watched in awe, as each one of those that served the country take the diminishing role of being vehemently vocal against the nation, in defence of their ethnic nationality and land. Supposed nationalists get caught in the web to raise issues against the country Nigeria, in defence of tribe and land. Me thinks when this happens in a nation, it is an indicator that patriotism is imperilled, and in devastating decline. Disappointment with failing leadership acts as primary cause. Debatable may be, yet I am convinced that patriotism is on the decline, and seems to be the reason there is mass disobedience of law and order, and the growth of bizarre crimes like abduction, rape, sex for marks, banditry, farmer-herder conflicts, and indeed our running insurgency of 10 years and running.
Nigeria emerged and gained its pride of place as a great leading African nation owing to the patriotism of the country’s founders. Evidently with the lapse of time, the patriotism those founding fathers displayed in the struggle for independence from the colonial masters has diminished. A great many citizens who sing the national anthem vowing that the labour of our heroes past should never be in vain, sadly know no national heroes. Hundreds or even thousands of youth are willing to risk a trans Saharan crossing as well as take on the Mediterranean Sea in a leaking boat, and ultimate slavery abroad, in blind search of greener pastures.
Nigerians do not trust themselves and hardly exhibit respect for one another such that would encourage other nationals to do likewise. Today, the Nigerian hardly speaks with pride about the nation and does so only when the country is involved in sporting events, and winning. In this, we do not see from tribal and ethnic perspectives. Turn to politics and governance, the opposite is what prevails.
What is behind all this? Nigerians are generally politically disgruntled. Winners take all and are still disappointed and dissatisfied. Losers lose all and try to bid their time, but are intensely hopeless. The election process in the country does not encourage hope, as the winner always wins by hook or by crook. Love for the nation is diminished. Our uncouth democracy kills patriotism.
Without adherence to faith based injunctions, all human existence would be perilous in anarchy as obtains today. It is the erosion of the fear of God engineered by the apparent victory of ill gotten wealth over honest and modest earning that has itself caused the growing victory of might over reason and diligent service. Patriotism dies. Thus blame the decline of patriotism on the festering corruption in Nigeria. Corruption and patriotism are inversely proportionate relatives, the higher the one, the lower the other. It must be said that corruption has never been confronted by any leader like President Buhari has done, albeit without clearly defining it. Inadvertently, the justice system is corruptly slow, and frustrates Buhari even more than anyone. Cases that could take 12 years are treated selectively to leave the impression that there is favouritism. Then our natural psyche of corruption takes its toll. President Buhari only needs a small nap, and one or more, right under his nose play the corrupt card. Nigerians look on and ask, what is the difference? They find hardly any. He also turns a blind and deaf ear to herdsmen killing instead of negotiating for grazing land, and this aspect kills the patriotism of the Danjumas and the Falayes of our nation. One notch higher is the regional “armies” metamorphosing as expression.
In a functioning nation state, law and order should be maintained not by the presence of law enforcers but by fear of the creator and his promised retribution for evil, and the inspiration of leaders. Corruption is evil for which retribution in Nigeria often comes late. So late that the spoils of corruption are laundered into positions of respect and authority, for more corruption in a never ending cycle. Whereas the common folk believe that retribution for evil, which corruption is, should not be late in coming. Sadly in Nigeria, it is so late in coming that the corrupt could be said to have gotten away with it. The impact on the national psyche is horrendous. This includes the erosion of the human feeling of relationship, compassion, and raw discipline, and explains our type of banditry, kidnapping, and vicious crime. We can regulate life for the ordinary man and like a dog on a leash, he would obey as long as he is kept company while on the leash. The common man’s leash is poverty. Without company of the powerful and the well to do, the common discover the power of their majority in unfettered freedom. No longer have they any dread, but anger. No sense of responsibility or guilt. No qualms, having discovered the limitations of law enforcers, having themselves acquired firearms and knowledge of its usage.
Only religion creates love and compassion as civilised behaviour. Isms on which the modern democracy is so delicately founded and dependent, such as capitalism, socialism, or a mix of the two into any ism et al do not promote love and compassion, save instead, vicious competition. Religion itself has suffered from corruption and is a factor of our declining patriotism. Peoples’ deities have disappointed.
Our leaders are unable to wage systemic war against the urge to bend or break the law – that feeling of narcissism that corruption quickly takes advantage of with helpers that massage the leaders’ narcissistic ego. There is need for our leaders to keep company with citizens each one of them on a leash of a myriad of challenges. From the national down to the local level, the decline in patriotism has to be confronted with words that encourage, and actions that convince of commitment to a better nation. Our leaders must inspire.