Being text of a lecture delivered by Dr Dakuku Peterside at the GLOBAL PATRIOT NEWSPAPERS/ NIGERIA CONSULATE, NEW YORK/ NIGERIANS IN DIASPORA ORGANISATION, NEW JERSEY CHAPTER International Conference on Patriotism, Security, Governance and National Development
It is a known fact that no nation can make progress without the people being at its centre. They are the driving force of every development. From pre-industrial times to the different phases of the industrial revolution, progress or growth involves the people, as individuals and as a group. Several people must strive together to achieve collective goals. These individuals are often motivated by the desire to accomplish a collective good. The quest for common good and shared responsibility is the foundation for organized society.
These perceived gains from the collective good give members of the society the impetus to sacrifice some of their comfort and freedom for the majority’s good. This is the basis for the social contract between the state (or king) and her citizens advocated by John Locke and Thomas Hobbes . The people surrender part of their rights and freedom to the State (King), and in exchange, the state (or the king) guarantees them freedom, protection from external aggression and protection from the state (king) itself.
This is also a fundamental foundation of democracy and the reason why we have the constitution. The constitution spells out all parties’ rights and responsibilities (the state or sovereign on one hand and the citizen/citizens on the other hand).
Patriotism, therefore, is a function of this mutual relationship embedded in the social contract relationship . However, suppose the state fails to protect the citizen/citizens. In that case, the people have the right to withdraw their allegiance to the state (king) and protect themselves from harm and the state’s arbitrariness or excesses (or king). This manifests in citizens becoming unpatriotic or exhibiting acts that are not patriotic.
When the state breaches this social contract, it makes it difficult for citizens to be patriotic. The attitude of the citizens in that instance is to loathe the state. Societies that protect their own often have more patriotic citizens, whereas societies that do not give their people social, economic, and physical protection have less patriotic citizens.
You can imagine how the US will respond if one of her citizens is abducted in Nigeria and compare it to how Nigeria will react if one of her citizens is abducted abroad. This different response explains why a US citizen is likely going to be more patriotic than a Nigerian. The reason is that America watches the back of US citizens physically, economically and socially, whereas the same cannot be said of our country.
The more individuals who belong to a nation-state are willing to love and sacrifice for the majority’s good, the better the chances of that nation succeeding. The reverse is also the case. Most successful societies are societies where the social contract is enforced, and the people willingly subscribe to collective values and ideals. Citizens are ready to stand up for the country or nation-state and against anything contrary to the country’s collective interest.
Less successful societies are societies where this social contract is not respected, and citizens are driven by self-preservation and care less about the common good. The motivation to love one’s country, devote your whole being to it, sacrifice your perceived individual freedom for the higher benefit of all is referred to as patriotism. The term patriotism is as old as the idea of a nation-state or country. Patriotism manifests in different ways. I’ll tell you a short story for you to assess whether that action represents love for one’s country or otherwise.
A family of a mother with five children lived in Israel. The father served in the Israeli army and was killed in the war. In Israel, there is a rule that one among the family must serve in the military. Now it was the first son to join the army. Unfortunately, even he was killed in the war. This went on till all the four sons of the family were killed. Now the mother asks the fifth and the last son to join the army. So, he goes to the committee where they will decide about his job. In the meeting, the officials said, “See already your family has suffered a lot. All your family members have been killed while serving in the army. So, it will be better if you don’t join the army”. So, the fifth son, who was determined and made up his mind to serve in the army, replied, “No sir, I am ready to serve in the army”.
They had a conversation for a long time to sort out the problem. The officials were too strong on their decision. Finally, after some time, they decided that “Since your mother is old, we let you spend time with your mother. She needs you. After she is no more, we will allow you to join the army.” So, the son returns to the home with a sad face and explains the situation to the mother. Even the mother felt sad.
The next day, when the son goes to the mother’s room, she is no more. She had committed suicide. There was a letter lying down which read, “Dear son, now you can join the army. The country needs you. Go.” Hats off to this lady(mother) who thought her country is more important than anything. It is up to you to evaluate if this family is made up of patriots or not. This may be an extreme position but love and devotion to one’s country are at the heart of the matter.
It takes us to the question of what do patriots do? Patriots are devoted to the country and are ready to give their lives for it. Our founding fathers, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Sarduna, Tafawa Belewa, Ernest Ikoli, amongst others, demonstrated in the midst of challenges that they loved and were devoted to this country in different degrees. Nelson Mandela, a man who was ready to lay down his life for the freedom of fellow South Africans, was, without doubt, a patriot within the context of South Africa.
Patriots are proud of their country and respect the values and ideals of their country. Simple seemingly inconsequential things demonstrate elements of patriotism, such as Benjamin Azikiwe changing his name to Nnamdi Azikiwe, Jeremiah Awolowo to Obafemi Awolowo, Harold Rowland Wilcox to Harold Dappa Biriye, amongst many others. Patriots respect common rules and law because they recognize that it is the only way to have order in society for the good of the majority. They have a sense of responsibility and often subscribe to a common value-system.
A common denominator for all patriots and patriotic acts is the recognition that the nation has given them an identity, so they owe her responsibilities. They have an undying passion for their country and an uncommon belief that it belongs to everyone. As individuals or groups, they must play their part to make it work for all and posterity. This common denominator engenders sacrifice, courage, strength, and integrity. On the corollary, those who lack patriotic spirit do not subscribe to these values.
Patriotism is an individual attribute, and like any other quality or attribute, it must come from the heart, just as the feeling of love cannot emanate from outside. Just as self-love is the greatest love of all and foundational to forming external attachment, patriotism is the foundational love of the nation on which all social progress is made.
However, some people may be unpatriotic, and it could be for several reasons. One may disagree with their logic or reasons. Some of the reasons for their position include, but not limited to, the fact that their country has not protected them from danger, guaranteed them freedom or treated them well. Meaning the state has failed its part of the social contract that binds her and citizen/citizens. Apart from the identity, the country has not offered them anything for her to earn their loyalty. The country has not met these people’s expectations. Some believe that patriotism means losing a sense of individual reasoning and judgment that they are unwilling to lose.
Manifestations of unpatriotic spirit include corruption to protect oneself from economic vagaries, nepotism to protect the tribe above the nation-state, impunity, crime, not paying taxes or performing patriotic duties often because of a feeling that the state has not offered any reason to earn their loyalty. There is also the flip case of one being law-abiding, performing civic duties but still unpatriotic. This often happens when one does not support or believe in the nation-state’s territorial integrity. The fundamental belief in the nation’s oneness and the readiness to protect it is unique to patriotism. The pertinent question at this juncture is: What can be done to raise a new generation of Nigerians that are patriotic?
It is crucial here to distinguish between patriotism and nationalism. A nationalist agrees with everything the nation-state is doing, whether good or bad, because they love their country. On the other hand, a patriot may go against the grain and popular sentiments because he patriotically wants to protect the nation and its image from taint by evil nationalistic ideologies.
A patriot may have to lay down his life in pursuit of this common good. For example, before the outbreak of world war 2, Jews were persecuted in Europe, but mainly in Germany. Although the nationalistic Nazi government, through propaganda, created mass hysteria against the Jews and consequently annihilated about 6 million of them, many German patriots resisted Nazi racist ideology. They even lost their lives and livelihoods for that.
To train next generation patriots is a task every meaningful Nigerian should play a part in. Leaders are responsible for keeping their part of the social contract by ensuring that Nigerians are protected from physical, social, and economic danger. The most important act to raise the next generation of leaders is to get our leadership right. Leaders that reflect our true values. Leaders who will lead by the strength of their example. We must hold our leaders to account for their actions .
We must define our shared national vision and values. This will require multi level reorientation. What is our minimum acceptable national values and how do we enforce it ?
For next-generation patriots, it would be best if you caught them young, they say. It is imperative to start early to train children on civic duties, love of their country, good social and moral values. Society must extol acts of patriotism and celebrate it where possible for children to understand its importance and imbibe it.
At this point, I call for Education Authorities to re-establish Civic Education in our primary school system and History in secondary schools as compulsory subjects. Young ones must know their history and learn about great actors in history to emulate their bravery and patriotic acts and understand shared vision and values.
To sum up, patriotism is the building block of national development. Reason ; It is the foundation on which all other developmental strides rest. Patriotic leaders lead selflessly and in the interest of all. They do not squander the commonwealth of their citizens nor be comfortable in stupendous wealth whilst the majority wallow in abject poverty. They put the people first in every decision they make. They love their people, and they are happy to leave legacies for posterity. Does this describe leadership in Nigeria? I leave you to answer from your heart. However, patriotic citizens are law-abiding, creative, industrious, selfless, and love their country from the heart. Does this describe Nigerian citizens? I will also leave you to answer from your heart. If you have the most unpatriotic leaders and citizens in Nigeria, little wonder it is in bad shape in terms of development.
Dakuku Peterside, is immediate past DG/CEO of NIMASA, Turnaround Expert, Author, Leadership Coach and Columnist.