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Am I a Nigerian? (2)

Muiz Banire > The Sun Articles  > Am I a Nigerian? (2)

Am I a Nigerian? (2)

Identical experiments are currently ongoing and it is yet to be seen how sustainable the effort will eventually be. Due to the failure of the development visions and programmes in Nigeria as a result of poor handling by corrupt bureaucrats, growing poverty symptoms, including electoral fraud, untrue and inefficient political and economic representation, pervasive violence, religious crises, crises in the Middle Belt and Niger Delta regions, hostage-taking and cultism, food insecurity, low agricultural production, illiteracy (that also weakens democracy), crime, high mortality and morbidity rates, prostitution, poor health and national image, low GDP and GNP and high unemployment rate all developed.

This response, correctly, in my view, denotes the evil inherent in wrong leadership, thereby rendering the term patriotism unknown to the average Nigerian. Another respondent queries the idea of derivative principle grounding the allocation of resources and resulting in 13 per cent allocation formula to the states producing particular mineral resources. He is of the opinion that this has created a sense of “entitlement” promoting laziness among youths and residents of certain communities.

For instance, he referred to the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, where many people are of the opinion that the resources are meant to be shared among the fittest. All this, to the respondent, confirms that all the regions still see Nigeria as a temporary project, a marriage of convenience, with loyalty to the tribe or ethnic area, and if we ever get to the point where all states dispense with unhealthy competition, envy, undue comparison and see Nigeria as “our own,” it wouldn’t matter whose natural resource contributes more income to our national purse.

An excellent example is the raging legal battle between Rivers State and Bayelsa State with its attendant tension. He felt that, when the oil dries up anyway (as it soon might), we will all be forced back to the drawing board. My view, however, is that the use and management of these resources by the states to whom 13 per cent allocation has always been given is the most important, much more beyond the derivation principle. It is in this context that I once again agree with my colleague, the professor of law whose view I alluded to earlier, that the derivation principle is the effect, rather than the cause of lack of patriotism.

Most of the governors of these states see this 13 per cent allocation as their personal entitlements, mismanage a greater percentage of it and use the remaining to oil patronage of some elements in the state at the expense of the majority whose education, health and economic existences are left to rot. These states are among the worst in terms of infrastructural development and one wonders what conscience dictates the consciousness of the citizens of these states who have not really been known to hold their leaders to account. Rather, they have visited their anger on the innocent Nigerian nation.

The other respondent’s position was in no way different, as his opinion is to the effect that, since patriotism speaks to the pride and devotion of a citizen to his homeland, several policies and omissions by successive governments erode the pride and devotion which a Nigerian has towards Nigeria.

He mentioned successive governments’ approaches to the fight against corruption, which many Nigerians feel are inadequate, if at all sincere, while the issues of insecurity, falling standard of education, etc, constitute part of the reasons for the non-committal stance of an average Nigerian when it comes to patriotism.

Many Nigerians are equally not comfortable with what they see as nepotism, ethnic and religious bigotry on all the divides and levels of governance in Nigeria, which many feel characterise appointments into government offices. It is true that patriotism fails where a people feel they are regarded as second-class citizens and other people of the same ethnic origin with a leader are unduly favoured. The last respondent, moving away from the general to a specific, is of the opinion that some of the CBN’s cashless policies imposing charges on selected states, leaving out other states, are capable of militating against patriotism.

Why should the location of a transaction determine the charges a citizen will be subjected to? The view is that you do not trigger a process once you are not ready with infrastructure all over the nation. The discrimination does not promote patriotism. This takes us again to an aspect of our discussion relating to quota system as an unrelenting factor that could continuously weaken the patriotic zeal and efforts of Nigerians. It is, therefore, irrefrangible that the retrogressive policies of federal character and quota system continue to militate against patriotism. As in the pictures painted in the scenarios above, how can such a victim be patriotic when he cannot enjoy nor lay claim to the same rights as his contemporaries from other parts of the country?

The two concepts or policies of federal character and quota have become spent. As at today, there is no part of the country that is disadvantaged in any regard. The northern part of the country that used to be categorised as “educationally disadvantaged” is no more so. From my interaction with my brothers and sisters from the North in almost two decades now, the region can boast and supply more than sufficient academically competent hands for all offices in the nation. The same applies to all other regions.

Let me remind us that the genesis of policies, which lie in reverse discrimination, always has a terminal date. It does not inure in perpetuity, as we are branding it to be in Nigeria. I state again that the continuous application renders people to ask the question, “Am I a Nigerian or a Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo man?”

To promote the spirit of nationalism and patriotism, we must urgently jettison these policies. I say no more on this, as my forthcoming paper on patronage will take the issue further.

Interestingly, in an open discussion with a brother from the North, he drew my attention to a recent study done by a state in the North, in collaboration with a foreign non-governmental body, that actually revealed that quota system does not even favour the northern Nigerian states.

The avoidance of the two scenarios above spell out the issue of nationalism and patriotism. This is how, literally, patriotism can be promoted. This brings to the fore again the Kennedy aphorism referred to earlier of putting the country first. An analysis of the Kennedy statement presupposes the duty owed by the citizens to the country without correspondingly indicating the duty of the state to the citizens.

It is instructive to remember that the basis of state existence lies in the social contract. It is that which apportions responsibility between the state and her citizens. The latter gives up part of her natural rights to the state or society and makes contribution to the sustenance of the state under reciprocity for protection and provision of certain rights by the state. In the face of all the failures characterizing governance in Nigeria, the citizens seem to have given up hope and, therefore, sees no reason to be committed to a nation that does not care about them.

A large proportion of citizens has become their own local governments, to the extent of even grading the roads that lead to their houses, as alluded to earlier. What does patriotism mean to such a person in this stead, just as in the cases of persons mentioned in the scenarios above? Absolutely meaningless. To worsen the situation, obtaining a passport of your country is like struggling to pass through the eye of a needle. Apart from the complexity and frustration involved, compromise is mostly inevitable.

I have heard the new Minister of Interior, a friend and brother, lamenting over this, times without number. This is supposed to be a right, guaranteed by the state. Alas! This is not to be. It remains a herculean task to obtain the Nigerian passport, which is an insignia of nationality. The same applies to common national identity card. That equally remains inaccessible.

To register as a resident and a Nigerian comes with attendant roadblocks whilst the actual issuance comes nowhere close to realization. I have registered months back now but no card yet. People who registered long ago have told me the fact they are yet to receive their cards also. The current imbroglio with the prospective candidates for joint matriculation examination registration is a clear confirmation of this frustration.

In fact, as at two days ago, after numerous complications experienced by those who intend to obtain the registration as a pre-requisite to the registration for the examination, the examination body had to cancel the requirement when there was solution in sight due to the confusion ravaging the process of registration and issuance of the national identity cards.

Is this not a shame that such instrument of nationalism and by extension, patriotism, is impeded by hiccups? How do you convince the victims of this unholy baptism to be patriotic?

Lastly, as opined by a colleague in his response, ignorance remains another major obstacle to the promotion of patriotism in our people. Our people don’t understand the import of patriotism or nationalism and no serious effort on educating them on the subject is being given.

In Britain, I am aware of a subject that is taught and examined called ‘citizenship’. Similar courses incorporating the virtues of citizenship were taught in our own days under social/civic studies. I am not too sure that this much, in terms of content, is still being taught in our schools now.

Furthermore, the proper history of the nation, particularly in terms of the heroes who served this nation meritoriously, with or without holding any public offices are never reckoned with. Names, such as Simeon Adebo, Ojetunji Aboyade, Tai Solarin, Adamu Ciroma, Jerome Udoji, Allison Ayida, Dipcharima, Alli Monguno, Gani Fawehinmi, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Adekunle Fajuyi, Ademulegun, Kaduna Nzeogwu are not sung as to engender any sense of patriotism in anybody.

Except we start celebrating authentic public service as against the nouveau richie (aka “money miss road”), patriotism will remain a mirage. Even in Nollywood, pioneers such Herbert Ogunde, Oyin Adejobi, writers like D. O. Fagunwa, Akinwunmi Ishola etc ought to be celebrated.

In conclusion, if we do not want a situation where people continue seeing themselves from ethnic or tribal angle but as Nigerians, it is imperative the state starts taking her citizens seriously in all ramifications, particularly ensuring equity as against equality. The two terms appear identical but attract different implications and consequences. The present policies of state attempt largely to promote equality but not equity which is fairness. We have to start providing level playing field for all the citizens to compete and be entitled. This is equity!

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