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The Orphan Called Nigeria

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Being an orphan is more commonly associated with a child who has lost one or both parents. A deeper meaning of the word however says that a person or a thing without a protective affiliation is equally an orphan. In this context therefore, Nigeria can be regarded as an orphan in my estimation.

Being without protective affiliation simply means that no one cares for you, no one seeks to protect you and that you are left to your own devices and to the vagaries of the weather be it clement or inclement.

A sizable percentage of those who fall victim to human trafficking, rape, child abuse and sundry offenses could be regarded as orphans, as they most likely had no form of protective affiliation and therefore were exposed at the time of their victimization. Nature has made it in such a way that parents unconsciously bear a protective feeling towards their children. While there may be a few exceptions to this norm, it remains a minimal percentage when placed against the whole.

In the same way that parents feel protective over their children so do citizens feel protective over their nations. This protective feeling towards one’s nation by citizens is instinctive and is called patriotism.

Love for, devotion to and defense of one’s nation

Patriotism is the love for, devotion to and defense of one’s nation. You do not need to be paid to be patriotic. Like a mother’s love, patriotism does not need to be solicited as it comes unconsciously. Across the world, wars have been fought, lives lost, fortunes squandered all for the love of one’s nation.

The United States of America is in the forefront of depicting its citizens as the most patriotic in the world, with Hollywood responsible to a large extent for this impression. Actors like Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, David Carradine, Harrison Ford to name a few have starred in movies portraying American servicemen showcasing patriotism at its optimum.

Patriotism is however not limited to servicemen as stories of regular citizens performing impossible feats in demonstration of love for their nation also abound. By the same token, patriotism is also not limited to impossible feats alone as regular daily activities necessary for the life of a nation such as being diligent on your job or being obedient to the basic rules of society could be regarded as patriotic acts.

In modern day Nigeria it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a patriotic citizen in the true sense of the word. This is because the average citizen is becoming more self-serving by the day. Drive along the nation’s highways and it is commonplace to see citizens flouting traffic rules and when caught, openly offer inducements to traffic control officers in order to evade justice.

At the police station the citizen must induce police officers to perform their duty. Files disappear at the civil service until the person or organization to which the file pertains appears and greases some palms. In the shops, at the markets and at every place of buying and selling, citizens daily rip each other off with arbitrary prices in a bid to get ahead. The political class is now more self-seeking than ever, with lawmakers inserting all kinds of clauses to the national budget, allocating huge allowances to themselves and lording it over citizens they are voted to serve. The executive arm is no better; seeking its own rather than the public good.

Then come ethnicity and religion which take their toll on the already broken system and cracks are further widened as ethnic jingoists and religious bigots capitalize on the gulf created between the people to feather their own nests.

Open a newspaper or listen to the news on television or on the radio and what you hear are messages of discontent and disunity. One ethnic group or one state or better still a group of ethnic jingoists are agitating for secession or a break up of Nigeria. With all these agitations regularly rearing their heads, there is no wonder those charged with protecting Nigeria take advantage of their positions for personal gain, as Nigeria is not worthy to be defended.

One question that bothers me regularly though is; where did we get it wrong? A careful look at history shows that the seed for the religious and ethnic divide in the country was sown in the colonial era and nurtured immediately after independence.

While there are many Nigerians who fought for independence, three prominent men are regarded as the founding fathers of modern Nigeria; Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. These eminent Nigerians form the tripod on which Nigeria was granted independence by the colonialists in 1960. While these men are still revered across Nigeria for their leadership qualities, one fact remains clear, and that is; they were tribal leaders rather than unifying national figures. Chief Awolowo is seen more as a Yoruba leader than a Nigerian leader, same goes for Sir Ahmadu Bello whose domain was in Northern Nigeria. Dr. Azikiwe, an Igbo from Eastern Nigeria rose to become the first indigenous Governor General and President of Nigeria following the exit of the colonialists.

By his position Azikiwe made efforts to be a more central leader than Ahmadu Bello and Awolowo, but he ultimately failed and today is seen more as an Igbo leader than a Nigerian leader. With these three strong personalities and great leaders of their people standing firm with none giving an inch to the other, the seed of ethnic rivalry was sown in the first republic Nigeria.

A close look at history reveals that while three strong characters emerged in post-independence Nigeria as her founding fathers, most countries which are doing well today had only one strong leader under the same circumstance and this leader was able to unite the tribes and religions without bias. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Sam Nujoma of Namibia and of course Nelson Mandela of South-Africa to name a few.

In Europe, the Americas and Asia such leaders as Josip Tito Broz of the defunct Yugoslavia, Chairman Mao of China, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Winston Churchill of Great Britain and George Washington of the United States were all leaders who rallied the people under one umbrella and united their countries in the time of either a great moral, economic or political crises. These leaders led without bias and remained neutral both in their ethnic and religious convictions.

Tripod battle of supremacy

The problem why Nigeria is still an orphan 58 years after independence is that rather than rallying the people together as one, todays leaders are still entrenched in the tripod battle of supremacy between Awo, Zik and Ahmadu Bello. They forget that this is their time to make a mark by bringing the people together as one. No nation was created from heaven; all modern day nations are a mishmash of different peoples who let go their differences to form a united front.

Nigeria needs a leader now more than ever, a detribalized leader, a committed leader, one who would be a Christian, a Moslem and a traditionalist at the same time. A leader who would bring all the tribes under one banner without bias and lead the people forward giving every man, woman and child a sense of belonging.

Until we can find such a leader Nigeria would remain an orphan to be battered and bruised, raped and tortured by the vagaries of the inclement political and economic weather.

-By Ernest Osogbue

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