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Let’s dust off our patriotism

When I first came across John F. Kennedy’s historic words, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do…

When I first came across John F. Kennedy’s historic words, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”, I was dumbfounded being familiar with how things are going here; and after I deeply meditated about the present day Nigeria many questions trailed my contemplation: how many daring Nigerians spare even a thought for their communities let alone the country? Is this practicable in Nigeria? The questions are endless.

I oftentimes deliberately raise some arguments while discussing some critical issues with my friends purposely to gauge how patriotic we are to our dear country, Nigeria; but unfortunately, nine out of ten of such occasions, the result is the same. I cannot help but conclude that, though it may sound abrupt, if we have love for this country it is a very faint or shallow one. It will never -so sad – shoot us to something great.

Unlike what many people mistake it to be, “Patriotism”, argued A. T. Jones in his What Is Patriotism in the United States, “is the spirit which prompts obedience to the laws of one’s country, and to the support and defense of its existence, rights, and institutions”. I argue: very few Nigerians will qualify as patriotic going by this holistic definition.    

Although I have led a sedentary life as many other Kanawas for I had both my primary, secondary and undergraduate education in Kano – I could not stay at campus for one business or the other. Perhaps this is why I have chosen to explore other geographical locations via literary texts. How fake this may be?  I am yet to know howbeit it has got complete possession of me. I have seen how patriotic other nationals are through my reading, at least – in 2017 tired of my desk-bound life and armed with an opportunity given to me by the NYSC scheme, I visited Niger Republic. Before then I heard of many tales of how law-abiding and patriotic Nigeriens are. 

At our arrival at the border, a friend Usman Usman and I cracked a joke with one important custom officer whose rank I could not guess for he was clad in mufti. My reply when he asked why we did insist on crossing the border was simple; it came in a matter-of fact-tone: having been thirst for the unfamiliar I said, “We want go abroad”. Hearing this, he laughed his head off and told his officers to collect our documents and keep it for us. 

The commercial motorcyclist who conveyed us to the border refused to cross the border conveying two passengers. “It is not possible”, I still remember his words. We had to flag down another one to take us there. 

The story is the same when you cross the border. The police do not have to shout at or pursue a driver to enforce law. . The first thing I asked Usman Usman was, “Guess how patriotic this people are”. He was speechless. I know he was mirroring the happenings at home. “The country, although far behind ours in richness, will in few years overtake ours by storm. The government does not have to replace streetlights, buildings, facilities after a riot or street protest. The people love their country so dearly as to destroy public properties or facilities”, he enthused at last. 

We later noticed some changes in our complexions. So marvelous was the weather, although almost akin to what one has in Mai Gatari. The people, their world views and mode of dress are almost the same: two worlds apart.

When many Nigerians see patriotism in the subtle or superficial, as Lawrence W. Reed would say, I too “subscribe to a patriotism rooted in ideas that in turn gives birth to a country”. It is that idea that swells in my stomach when I feel patriotic – something much more than colouring my face in green-white-green or holding my breath when the national anthem is being recited and only perhaps to pensteal thereafter or wearing wristband with Nigeria’s coat of arm cut on it and later vandalize public properties provided for our common good. 

Another, a friend, Adamu Sulaiman, who did his master’s degree in India once told me that at the simple mentioning of mother India an Indian will come to your aid, befriend you as one of his best. He in many instances claimed that their lecturers are not only there to lecture but also to polish the image of their country. Is this viable in Nigeria? Do Nigerians have that respect for their country?

On Saturday, 28th April, 2018, I was with Professor Abdel Aziz A. Tantawny, Dean of the Institute of African and Nile States Research and Studies, Awan University, Egypt at the Tahir Guess Palace, Kano.  We discussed a lot on postgraduate studies, admission and opportunities there. To my surprise, toward the end of the conference, Prof. Abdel Aziz turned out to be a hidden persuader, patriotic citizen and educationist all rolled into one.

 Even before this meeting I have stayed long enough with Egyptians to learn this by heart. They have that undying love for their country. No wonder, a brother once told me, “By merely boarding a taxi in Egypt, the driver, before you know it, will up front sell the idea that his country is one of the best in the world to you”. And you have no option but to nod your head in acceptance. 

Many of our founding fathers have risked their lives, fortunes, on the line to build this nation as W. Reed said of America. But we are recklessly undoing their labour not knowing that it will one day backfire or boomerang. Not true? Sincerely answer this: for how many times have you posed as the worthy ambassador of this nation?

When American political scientist-cum-political economics wrote his The End of History, it sold like hot cakes and many Americans devoured the book. Why? To him and many patriotic Americans what we are witnessing today is “The end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and universalization of western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”, exemplified by America today. Have they not love for their country?

Upon my insistence on this issue of dusting off our patriotism and my little but untiring efforts to draw references to furnish him with reasons, a friend argued the other day that disloyalty, which is arbitrarily antonymous to patriotism, “is a product of dislocated society”. This is maybe because the people have lived long enough in scabby poverty amidst gaudy luxury; they have no taste for the country at all. They see everyone that is well-off as a direct enemy. Even if this is the reason it is a lame one. But one has nothing to say but to ask for redemption of souls.

AbdulHamid wrote this piece from Kano 


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