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For love of Nigeria

By   /  February 1, 2014  /  No Comments

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This year promises to be the worst in recent times. It also promises to be the best. I make this contention because the scroll of 2014 unfurls with awful foreboding. Only a few days in, we are learning that a hit list bubbles. The presidency denies it. Governor Amaechi, Buhari and Tinubu are names highlighted in the target list.

Whether or not this is true, this year has not begun on a rosy high. Tension thrives on both sides of the political divide. The PDP and the APC are not acting as sportsmen but as antagonists on the verge of a war in which blood and guts are collaterals. What no one has addressed is whether it is Nigeria we want or our individual or group interests.

In Rivers State, it seems we are witnessing the love of family over the love of country. The first lady has staked a proprietary attitude to the state, undermining the governor. The police commissioner has also defied the state chief labourer as well as the inspector general of police. It does not seem the national security adviser has a latch on him. The reason is that the first lady has her thumb on police commissioner Mbu. The president has not restrained his wife. The question is not whether family is more important than country. It is whether the president can distinguish between what he owes his wife and his country.

Still on family, why are Nyako and Tukur playing the game of sons in Adamawa? Each of them, one a sitting governor and the other a former excellency, wants their son to be the governor next time. Have they turned their state into private patrimony, such that no one can be governor unless his blood curdles with the colour of the father’s name?

We have seen the fealty to friends, too. Why would the president not discipline or fire aviation minister when all the evidence is before him over the car scandal? Why has the oil minister not received a query over spending N2 billion on travels? There are many questions to answer, including his choice of Tukur over his party faithful.

We also saw this in the Anambra State governorship election where some partisans conflated loyalty to tribe with fairness. It was openly advanced that a particular candidate was a planting of outsiders, and therefore not worthy of being governor, even though Ngige is the best whoever shepherded the state. Loyalty to tribe is unavoidable, and even salutary, but where does loyalty to country dovetail with loyalty to tribe?

Some elements in the Niger Delta have started to speak in apocalyptic terms about razing down this country if their candidate doesn’t win. Is it Nigeria we seek, or our tribe or family? Or political party? We heard the same temper of rhetoric in the buildup to and in the aftermath of the 2011 polls. The tendencies of ethnic and regional love upended any sense of nationalism, which some would see as the last refuge of the scoundrel.

Those voices are not helping us in the search for a nation. We have to build a nation. Rather, we are building personal fiefdoms. We saw president and an ex-president writing letters and neither of them exhibited presidential dignity. Obasanjo wrote his to lionise himself and show up the incumbent. The incumbent replied with a façade of restraint while revving up past irrelevancies to show superior morality without answering questions about Oduahgate or the mess in the economy, and even failing to clear simple facts about an international transaction for Rivers State water project. Who loves the country, or who loves themselves?

We also witnessed the formation of APC, which has brought together many strange bedfellows. People who have been seen as belonging to different tendencies in the past now cuddle under the same party umbrella. Politics has been described as the art of the possible. Foes cannot be permanent. But the question remains if some of the partisans are inspired by a need to rescue Nigeria or as a mere revanchist platform. Are some of them joining because they want Nigeria to have a two-party state, or are they driven by a sense of frustration from PDP, a sense that they did not get what they wanted on that platform? So, is their move to APC less out of love for Nigeria and more about greed for a new way to advance personal interests?

Some have said the APC has big names and therefore collision is inevitable. It is the role of the APC chieftains to prove that this is no personal agenda but the zeal of a collective to entrench a higher political realm for the nation. Big names are good for politics. Lincoln, Churchill, de Gaulle, Mandela. Even families, especially if they are democratic in instincts. The Kennedys, the Bhuttos, the Ghandis have helped their nations advance democracy even better than some political parties and groupings. It is where royalty embraces republicanism, where democracy romanticises feudalism. APC’s big names can either advance this position or fluff it. The strange bedfellows can turn their beds into steamy romances or tragedies. But if the APC comes across eventually as a mere gang-up against Jonathan, then it will lose its patriotic promise.

We need to see persons and groups who show love of country and not exploit it for family, tribe, friends and party. We have had this before in this country. During the years of democratic struggles, we saw this in those who fled the country and lived in uncertain circumstances abroad. Rewane, Kudirat and Moshood Abiola and many anonymous warriors became martyrs for this democracy. Those who did not die sacrificed a lot, and lived uncertainly abroad. Soyinka, Enahoro, Tinubu, etc.

Those who think that criticism or even opposition to Jonathan is unpatriotic are as narrow-minded as those APC chieftains who come to that party merely to win elections. The Jonathan votaries forget how Mark Twain defines patriotism, “supporting the country all the time, and the government when it deserves it.”

What we need is not the NADECO-style sacrifice, or the sort that Charles de Gaulle gave France when he would not yield to Nazi domination along with Petain and other Vichy France cowards. He flew to Britain ahead of plots to court-marshal him for treason. Treason for trying to free his country. Churchill growled that de Gaulle carried the honour of France with him on that small aircraft.

We are not seeking sacrifice of family in the way Mengisto Haille Meriam reacted to threat to kill his family when in captivity. He said they should not only kill them but butcher them. That was his own version of love for Ethiopia. He became a butcher himself. Nor am I asking for the Greek version when Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia so the Greeks could get into Troy. A similar story is in the bible about Jephtah who had to sacrifice his daughter after a vow of battle. That is not what we ask of those choosing family over country.

We should learn the Mandela example, who understood the prize and price of patriotism. If our leaders won’t sacrifice or lose their Winnie, we are not asking for that much. We only want a year of rules and civility, and any sacrifice for that won’t necessitate bloodshed. Jesus said, I would rather have mercy than sacrifice. I am not asking for either. I want us to follow the line saying, “to obey is better than sacrifice, to heed than a fat of rams.” With this mindset we can turn a macabre potential or year of cause celebre into a one joyful calendar. This way, we can turn worst to best.

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  • Published: 5 years ago on February 1, 2014
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  • Last Modified: February 1, 2014 @ 7:39 pm
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