The world is celebrating the first centenary of The Great War of 1914-18 which, it is claimed, became the First World War only in tragic retrospect. The War and its immediate aftermath, including the flu pandemic, is believed to have consumed 37 million casualties. But historians insist that the war did not just happen. No war ever just happens as it is conceived in the minds of men. Analysts also say that the four- year war occurred, at all, as a result of failed diplomatic arrangements. Identifiable leadership failures of various political and military figures lit the fuse and the conflagration was inevitable.
As world leaders converged on Paris, the French capital, to participate in activities mapped out to remind humanity of the disastrous impact of this particular war, The Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis, admonished that the World War 1 should serve as a severe warning to reject what he described as a culture of war. He is worried that the war’s lessons have been largely ignored because of a predilection that suggests that “we never learn”. In the opinion of the Pope, it will be more rewarding if the world invests in peace, not war! He called the 1914-18 war “a severe admonition for everyone to reject the culture of war and search for every legitimate means to end the conflicts still bloodying several regions of the world.”
In response, temporal leaders like the French President Emmanuel Macron is warning against the dangers of nationalism and rising tide of populism. In his opinion, the “ancient demons” that caused World War I and millions of deaths are growing stronger. In describing patriotism as the exact opposite of nationalism and nationalism as a betrayal of patriotism, he warned those who choose the path of self, first, those who assert that their interests come first, that it will erase the most precious thing a nation can have; that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: Its moral values.
In Nigeria, as the year 2018 winds down, the military is already preparing to mark the Armed Forces Remembrance Day. It is a day, like the one celebrated in Paris, set aside to remember men and women who lost their lives in the service of fatherland. It is also a day of sober reflection on the undesirability of conflicts in which self-conceited political and military leaders lead otherwise patriots and heroes, to their untimely death. Interestingly, it is coming on the heels of the 2019 general election. Just as the Pope is worried that events around the world indicate that no lessons were learnt from the cataclysms instigated by past wars, Nigerians, especially the political class, seem to have forgotten or, perhaps, submerged themselves in a state of temporary amnesia.
The state of insecurity in the country today which even the leaders themselves aver are politically motivated points to the fact that nothing was learnt in the political crisis that presaged the 30 month civil war that set the country back on all spheres of her life. Preparations by the political parties and their gladiators for the upcoming polls give the impression that what is in the offing is a war and not an election for the people to choose their leaders under an atmosphere of peace. Threats of hail and brimstone are surreptitiously beclouding the process and putting the electorate in a confused state that engenders fright and the subsequent indecision.
As this proceeds with all the embedded trepidation, nationalism is taking the place of patriotism in the country with the dangerous implication of state actors, in their utterances, playing down the high ideals of love of country. Politicians are revving up their inclinations towards ethnic nationalism in a manner that is beginning to put the country and her patriotic demands in the back quarters of forgetfulness.
Reports of importation of illicit military hard and soft ware heighten the tension that is tending towards putting the country on edge. However, this newspaper is convinced that at this time, what the nation needs, is a group of men and women, imaginative, courageous leaders who can avoid the worst happening if they’re smart enough, if they’re aware enough, if they work hard enough. Unfortunately, in the prevailing Nigerian political space, personalities with such rare characteristics are becoming scarce commodity.
In the build up to the events of 1966, the Leaders on all sides, privately, did not choose the war that they ended up fighting. When they were indulging in their shenanigans as they are doing now, little did they know that they were playing with a flint that caused a spark that almost consumed Nigeria as a country. We are persuaded to suggest that to avert the mistake of the past, what the world and Nigeria, in particular, need are patriots not nationalists as well as statesmen who will look out for the next generation. Leaders who will learn the lessons of history so as not to repeat its mistakes.
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