By Ladesope Ladelokun
When former President Olusegun Obasanjo said in 2004 that any Nigerian that was not prepared to die for Nigeria did not deserve to be called a Nigerian citizen, he probably did not envisage that a time would come that the clamour for secession by frustrated Nigerians would reach a disturbing decibel.
Only recently, the Owu chief hugged the headlines when he lamented that rather than flowing with milk and honey, Nigeria has become a land flowing with bitterness and sadness. “The task before us now is to think of what to contribute to make Nigeria what God created it to be, a land flowing with milk and honey. Right now, it is a land flowing with bitterness and sadness. That is not what God meant for this country”, he averred.
It is no fairy tale that between 2004 and now, the cacophony of we-must-go chants speaks to the disenchantment of a number of Nigerians with the Nigerian state. But the growing agitation for new countries opens a festering sore in a country where equity and justice have taken flight, making sectionalism, parochialism and nepotism king.
Truth be told, patriotism can neither be legislated nor decreed. A country that fails to be sincere to her citizens cannot inspire love. In his landmark inaugural speech, former American president, John F. Kennedy had called on Americans to commit themselves to sacrifice for their motherland. Kennedy said: “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
JFK’s quote has become an easy pick for today’s tribe of leaders who freely deploy it as a weapon to neutralise the resistance against misgovernance and hardship by the Nigerian people. As a matter of fact, it behoves men of power to inspire patriotism before demanding sacrifice from long-suffering Nigerians.
President Buhari can lead that charge by dismissing in words and action, the claim by his critics that he is a Fulani sectional leader that harbours disdain for other tribes, particularly the Igbo. Without any particle of doubt, no one wants to love a country where they are made to feel like second-class citizens (or a dot in a circle if you like).
We have screamed ourselves hoarse, for example, asking why the Igbo have no presence in the security council. Also, outrage had greeted the Department of State Services (DSS) recruitments in 2017 that were heavily skewed in favour of the north, especially Buhari’s Katsina State. While Katsina alone had 51 cadets, the entire South-south and Southeast got 42 and 44 cadets respectively. This cannot be defended by any compelling argument.
Of course, when injustice and rudderless leadership reign in a country that kills her own, we need not bother our heads as to why young people do not just seek greener pastures in droves but ditch their Nigerian citizenship.
In spite of the thick darkness that hovers dangerously around Nigeria, sunshine can still beckon. The once-vibrant-but-now-a-decaying nation can still flow with milk and honey instead of sadness and bitterness. We can still bind our wounds and live together in peace. But, it is incumbent on the Buhari government to first
Re-inspire national cohesion and patriotism to give Nigerians a reason to die for their country. Very little will be achieved by spitting fire and clamping down on agitators for secession. Those in the power loop must make Nigeria liveable and lovable. Begging young people not to renounce their citizenship is sheer waste of time.
About the author: Ladesope Ladelokun, firstname.lastname@example.org