Once upon a time, it was Nigeria first, tribe second. Once upon a time, not so long ago, it was Nigeria first, self-second. I remember the days of my youth; we aspired to join the army, not because there are no other jobs. We were simply fired up by the patriotic zeal to serve the nation. The military was an ideal. The crisp uniforms, the regimentation, the blindness to tribe or religion, the willingness of soldiers to spill their own blood in defence of the Green-White-Green, all those were attractions for the patriotic youth, which is what we were! Indeed, patriotism was the order of the day.
We believed in Nigeria, we believed and worked for the good of our nation. Teachers taught just to produce bright and knowledgeable citizens. People took pride in their jobs more so as those jobs were a means of serving the nation. Citizens were keepers of the nation. Citizens were proud of the nation. Where has all that patriotism gone? Where has the zeal to serve the nation and its people gone? Why have we as a people become so unpatriotic? So destructive of the Nigerian state!
Do we not know that no country can be great if its people work against it? Do we not understand that a leaf cannot long be green if the tree trunk is damaged or harmed? How long will a fish thrive in a polluted river? Too many Nigerians are undermining their own country. The ruler and the ruled, the aristocrat and the commoner, they are all guilty of lack of nationalism and patriotism. We all, we are guilty of undermining our nation. We all are guilty of acting in ways that impoverish and demean our fatherland.
The policy maker who authors policies knowing fully well that such policies are wrong, but goes on to push such wrong policies for tribal or personal gain is an enemy of the nation. Indeed, this is one of the major challenges facing Nigeria today. All the failed white elephant projects littering our nation’s landscape are the brainchildren of unpatriotic policy makers who put selfish interest before national interest.
Examples of nation killing unpatriotic acts abound in the land. Many projects are sited where they are not needed while ignoring the needy areas or the areas where such projects would lead to national progress. I have seen community projects diverted into private homes. I have seen roads diverted from the original planned route and moved to villages of little economic consequence just to suit one big man or the other. We have seen school projects diverted from the needy schools to areas where such are not needed.
Patriotism is the capacity to put the nation first. A patriot will not let harm come to his nation. A patriot will not undermine his nation for either local interest or foreign interest. Those who go abroad to rubbish the nation with their conduct or utterances cannot be said to be patriots. Those who import substandard equipment for our hospitals are not patriots because they are playing with the life of fellow citizens thus undermining national wellbeing. Those who buy substandard equipment for the military and those who accept such into military stores are not worthy of the uniform they wear. Such men work against the territorial integrity of our nation and as such, they cannot be termed patriots, indeed, they are saboteurs and they should get the China treatment.
Any action that undermines a nation in any sphere is an unpatriotic act. This includes looting of nation’s resources; it includes all behaviour that reduces a nation both in the eyes of its citizens or in the eyes of foreigners. Many of our embassies abroad are manned by unpatriotic elements that daily undermine and negate the very essence of diplomatic missions. They mistreat Nigerians abroad while often misinforming the Nigerian government. Quite a few of them ignore their duties while engaging in private businesses.
That is unpatriotic and our nation should not tolerate it. The fact that we are still debating a N30,000 minimum wage speaks volume on how unpatriotic our political elites are, yet, South Africa, a smaller economy, has just approved N120,000 as minimum wage. Patriotism is putting our nation first, and if the elite had put the nation first, it would have dawned on them that N18, 000 minimum wage is both a disservice to the worker and a crime to the nation. A wage so low cannot inflate and sustain an economy because without purchasing power, there can be no impetus for industrialisation and the consequent productivity. Let us look back and see where the sickness of unpatriotic acts has left us. I repeat, without patriotism, no nation can stand long.