Green White Green Forever By Raymond Inkabi
Much has been written about patriotism, probably too much, and each day seems to bring more headlines and tragic stories about patriotic causes and ultra patriotic atrocities. Revolutions, wars, ethnic tension, protests and other conflicts of varying degrees have occurred throughout our history because of a love for one’s country. The undying spirit of nationalism of our fore bearers shaped our history and destiny for a collective future – under the Green, White, Green. However, did this patriotic action by our founders unite us into a cohesive, stable and tolerant nation? Or did it tear us apart resulting in a long period of social upheaval and political chaos?
The following is my self-understanding of patriotism—a topic that I have contemplated and researched for some years now. I have attempted to draft a speculative blueprint, of the slogan which has found it’s way into our nation’s vocabulary. Patriotism has, to me at least, grown into something not only dangerous but also politically indispensable. I developed an early suspicion of any form of patriotism courtesy of a geography teacher and an imaginary football match. I was asked by my only teacher of Indian origin in my high school days in Yola, in a benign voice who I would support if Nigeria and India played a match. Aside from the ridiculousness of the question the dubious intent behind it was rather clear, even to a teenager. Still, I dutifully replied, “Sir, I will support Nigeria,” for which I received a gratified smile and a pat on the head. I was offended less by the crude attempt by someone in power to force a kid to prove his patriotism, than by the outright silliness of the game. If all it took to establish the euphoric security of nationalism was that simple answer, I figured there must be something drastically wrong with the question. I was left, however, with an uneasy feeling (one that has persisted through the years), not because I had given a right answer but because I had been forced to answer a baited question. The answer made pragmatic sense in a schoolboy way (you don’t want to piss off someone who is going to be marking your papers), and I hadn’t read King Lear yet to know that the only appropriate response to the question should have been silence.
The desire to be a good neighbor “One who loves his country and zealously supports its authority and interests.” When you study the definition of ‘patriotism’ as defined by my old Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, you may be hard-pressed to understand why the belief in such a concept should be an issue of contention in our society. And yet it is a subject on which Nigerians often find themselves divided along party lines, like on so many other issues. The leaders wear their patriotism proudly on their sleeves, while the lower class of society often scoff, sneer or shrug at the notion of patriotism unless they themselves are running for office. In that case, patriotism will be redefined, saying that it really means “having the courage to be critical of one’s country,” or some such other thing. The word “country” in the definition above refers to far more than the geographical territory upon which a nation exists, as evidenced by the phrase, “… supports its authority and interests. ” The land doesn’t have “authority and interests;” but a nation does. In other words, to be a patriot means to be loyal to a country in terms of its land, its people and the political system that represents its authority and advances its interests.
To understand the significance of patriotism, consider what happens within a family when a certain amount of loyalty does not exist. A spouse cheats on a spouse, a parent fails to defend his child, a child ignores an elderly parent. The family disintegrates.
Another apt comparison is a football team. What would happen if players who are unhappy with the coach decided to get even by revealing their game plan to the opposing team or by undermining the team’s strategy and purposely failing to do their jobs? That would lead to the end of the team eventually. In a country, patriotism is necessary to preserve and protect the nation for the benefit of all.
Let me repeat: patriotism is necessary to preserve and protect the nation for the benefit of all. But if patriotism is necessary to the preservation of a nation for the benefit of all, and the opposition, cynics and dissatisfied persons downplay or even deride the notion of patriotism, what can we conclude from this? There are two possible answers: (A) Such persons do not comprehend the importance of patriotism to a nation; or (B) Such persons do not wish to preserve and protect this nation for the benefit of all. Answer (A) fits perfectly with my theory of such critics as being psychologically immature. Someone with the mentality of a child would not necessarily grasp the importance of patriotism, just as they may not understand what loyalty means to a family. While this is not a crime, it certainly begs the question: Is there any place for such self-acclaimed Messiahs in our government if they do not comprehend the necessity of patriotism? I would say the answer is a big, fat “NO.” Answer (B) also fits my theory of the opposition as being immature for a couple of reasons not genuinely motivated by the affairs of the state, but the bottom line is this: These groups do NOT support the authority and interests of this current administration. It is evident. And it is not patriotic.
The insurgents in the northeast are fighting to replace the current political system with a preferred design of their own.
Their interest is to be in control of our fatherland and our freedom, not to promote the authority and interests of our country as we currently enjoy. They may be noble in their intentions – who knows? – but they are not patriots for Nigeria. In sum, patriotism is a necessary element to the long-term survival of a nation, but you don’t have to take my word for it, just observe the actions of such critics.
We can already see that they perpetually engage in activities to undermine our sovereignty and crack the very foundations of this nation. If they trivialize and ridicule the notion of patriotism, it can only be because they wish to deprive this nation of something that is necessary to its survival as it presently exists.
In our present state, one would have to be blind not to recognize the clan of the unpatriotic has never offered a superior alternative of the government we currently have. Secondly, the desire to usurp the world’s most populous black nation’s political system for the sake of acquiring power and control for oneself, with no regard to the consequences, demonstrates a child’s absence of wisdom, a child’s lack of conscience, and a child’s need to indulge his own ego. If the radical call of politics is cast in terms of a call to action and a demand for a response, how do we situate their refusal to stand up and the refusal to be counted in a collective as societal reformers and patriots?
Recently I publicly debated a regressive politician who said our country should use whatever means necessary to move ahead. He wants us to abolish the English language and to adopt the use of our native dialets in every classroom in the nation, and the national pledge recited every morning. “We have to preserve and protect Nigeria,” he said. “That’s the meaning of patriotism.” To my debating partner and other regressive, patriotism is about securing the nation from outsiders eager to overrun us. Yet many of these same regressive have no interest in preserving or protecting our government. In fact, regressive in the National Assembly have substituted partisanship for patriotism, placing party loyalty above loyalty to Motherland. They couldn’t care less if they mangle our government in pursuit of their partisan aims.
True patriots don’t hate the government. They’re proud of it. Generations of men and women have risked their lives to preserve it. We may not like everything it does, and then justifiably worry when special interests gain too much. But true patriots work to improve the government, not destroy it. But regressive politicians and critics loathe the government – and are doing everything they can to paralyze it, starve it, and make the public so cynical about it that it’s no longer capable of doing much of anything.
The question of “family” values posits the family as: civilization’s most basic social unit; its most fundamental economic unit; and “the child’s first and most important school.” this further stipulates an “inherent” reciprocity between the institutions of family and nation: There is indeed an inherent and indestructible relationship between the very concept of family and that of nation.
The word nation is derived from the past participle of the Latin verb nascor, nati, natus, meaning to be born. Which is reminiscent of the fact that patriotism is derived from the Latin patria, fatherland, from pater, father. There can be no denial that the very idea of political sovereignty, and thus of all lesser legal authority, is inextricably fused with the idea of blood kin, of family, of parental
responsibility and authority.
Patriotic feelings must be shaped by sound judgment and good will. Provided it is integrated with the steady willing of the true good of the community, emotional attachment to one’s nation is a powerful motive for fulfilling the responsibilities of authentic patriotism. Unless patriotic feelings are shaped by sound judgment, they easily lead to moral failings of various kinds. Some people mistakenly think emotional attachment suffices to make them patriots, although they fail to fulfill their essential responsibilities to the community. Others allow themselves to be swept along by nationalistic feelings into supporting injustices toward other communities or violating the rights of some members of their own community, for example, by joining in the persecution of those who legitimately criticize commonly held opinions and widely accepted practices.
Two final thoughts: Being a patriot does not necessarily mean that you tow the line, by agreeing with and or abiding by the actions of the individuals who are in charge at any particular moment.
Patriotism means loyalty to country and to a political system, not necessarily to any one individual. Working within the established political system to remove or neutralize the power of an individual can be patriotic if the ultimate goal is to “zealously support the country’s authority and interests for the benefit of all.” On the other hand, actions that are contrary to the design of the political system or that ultimately undermine the original design or intent upon which our nation was born are not patriotic. Finally, what of those who do not agree with a country’s political system and so do not wish to support its “authority and interests”? Is that a legitimate position? Sure it is. But it’s not patriotic. It may be understandable. It may be brave. But can everyone else’s patriotism be a problem, while one’s own intimate patriotic tendencies go unchecked?
This brings us to the title of our piece “Green White Green Forever.”
The writer, Raymond Inkabi, is a freelancer who holds a B.Tech (Hons) in Geography from the Federal University of Technology, Yola. He tweets via @alykka. He can also be reached on email@example.com or 07085196243, 08187325242
Do not hesitate to leave your opinion in the comment section below.
To contact Abusidiqu.com for Article Submission and Advertisement or General inquiry, send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org