It is no longer news that there is an Africa uprising. From Mali, to Congo, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Niger, and now Garbon, the rise and surge of awakened patriotism is a like a domino’s effect as Africans are beginning to consciously break age-old political shackles and re-questioning their understanding of the what good governance should look like in a continent abundant with human power and creativity, natural resources and the best environment for survival and enjoyment.
In Nigeria, the conversation on patriotism, nationhood and nation building is the burning topic of conversation. Following the promotions of the #VotersBackPack leading to the 2023 general elections, LightRay Media is collaborating with Dike Chukwumerije Centre in driving the conversation of patriotism into mainstream everyday tête-à-tête.
On Friday, 25th August 2023, following an 8-hour packed curriculum focused on Patriotism and Nation building facilitated by Dike Chukwumerije, the highly thought-provoking and interactive session saw participants grilled intermittently while walking them down history’s hidden and coverted memory lane, prodding and challenging existing beliefs, hidden biases, including what Lady E termed Nigerian’s tendency towards exhibiting ‘arrogant ignorance’. The participants left the session like new monks who just saw a glimpse of what political enlightenment looks like.
We asked some of the participants to tell us what new insights they would like to share as takeaways for those who missed the session.
PATRIOTISM Q & A
You spoke eloquently during the patriotism session about some of the achievements by the Nigeria Military in their missions, tell us some of the outstanding things that most Nigerians are not aware about how good the Nigeria Army, military and what they have done in their various missions?
Attendee 1: Arome Joseph (Lawyer).
Apart from the fact that Nigeria have fought for Liberia and Sierra Leone, Nigerian soldiers have sacrificed alot to restore peace to these great nations. the Nigerian troops have also be in operation in places like Sudan, Mali, Somalia, Yugoslavia onset of volcalisation. The striking thing about the Nigeria soldiers is that they are always committed tasks. Whenever you find crises and you need people who are more concerned about their personal safety, the Nigeria soldiers are more committed to giving results. Once you give the army the target, we want to restore people here, whatever it takes, the Nigeria soldiers does not count costs but they ensure they make that sacrifice; that the order given is being carried out. We go to countless places to restore peace, while people are sleeping, they stay awake. That’s why we do say that “We stay awake to ensure you can sleep with your two eyes closed.” We don’t hear about the sacrifices the soldiers make on the media spaces. You will see people who have been away from their families for months even years in different places trying to ensure peace and their own families are there, lacking their own presence, but they ensure that that purpose attached to them, they fulfil it.
For this session, what have shifted for you when it comes to patriotism from how you use to see it and your better understanding about it?
I don’t think much has changed because I have always believed that the average Nigerian is patriotic, the difference is that there is a disconnect between the leadership and the followership, so people don’t have trust in the system, even though people want to commit, you don’t commit to a system that don’t appreciate. The problem of the Nigeria system is about the leadership, people give their all and get nothing in return and they worry that even if you give more, people will spend more or loot the money, while you are trying to save for the state, people will just loot it and nothing comes back to you or the society. The good thing about this session is the fact that it create the awareness of that it is not as bad as we think, it is not an inredeemable situation, all we need is to come to a rally point that if we come together and work together, we can get to that end goal we all desire.
What shifted for you when you hear the word “Patriotism” since this session up to where we are?
It’s about the fact that I’m knowing who I am, what I have, what Nigeria has. The attractions, those little things we think are not important which we bypass because we think of things bigger over there that people miss when they get there. That for me made me understand the value that Nigeria has that I have to pay more attention to it, that I must be patriotic. That aspect of the discussion shifted my perspective about patriotism.
And again, the history of Nigeria, getting to know about the River Niger, how it moved from the mountain, which ordinarily its suppose to flow to the ocean. It made me realise that as a Nigerian, I’m unconventional and creative in my own way. I have courage that this can work, the Nigerian of my dream, the dream of my children and even generations to come can work. I can make it work, all I need to do is to go back to educate these ones that this is a reality. Even if it does not happen in my time, I will die being happy that I know I have translate this into the heart of people that will make this work, it is transgenerational.
What is your fondliest memory of Nigeria that gives you nostalgic feeling that make you proud and happy?
I will say growing up in a neighbourhood, in a communal place. My mum is a teacher, there were times we lived at the teacher’s quarters, not like now that we don’t have public schools that have teacher’s quarters. Our neighbours will cook and bring meals for us. During Christmas, you receive someone’s stew! I will say living in this modorn life, my children are missing. We keep telling them: “Dont play outside, don’t go there.” I was telling someone that when I was eight years, I could trek from where we lived to my school. There was this safety. I’m from the South, I schooled in Benue. For the five years I spent in school, plus strike period, my parents did not know my school. I came to Benue without knowing anybody but I fell in love with the Tiv people, the Idomas, the Igede, I love these people, I learnt their dance, I learnt how to tie their wrappers. These are nostalgic feelings, when I hear people talk about Nigeria breaking apart, I feel who will I identify myself with. I am from the South, I married an Edo man and I’m Akwa Ibom, it’s a whole lot.
Attendee 3: Moses Tang’an (Fibre Optic Intern).
What changed for you when it comes to the definition of patriotism in Nigeria? And what are the quick takes that shifted for you in this session?
What changed for me is love for the country and seeing things differently in Nigeria which I took for granted. The most important thing is gratitude, sacrifices people have made, our rich cultural heritage and our history.
If you have a chance to leave Nigeria, what is that one thing you will miss about the country that if you go, it will want to make you come back?
I will miss the food obviously, the lifestyle, football panthers, I will miss a lot about Nigeria.
What message, if any, do you have for young people you will like to tell them about patriotism?
Patriotism runs beyond the political situation of the country, the corruption and all the negativity that has to do with the country. Patriotism has to do with love for the country and its people, it is way beyond what we can see and what we are passing through currently.
Attendee 4: Oiza Dominic (Freelancer).
What shifted in your perception on the definition or idea of patriotism?
At first, I do have this mindset that nothing good can come out of this country. At a point, I was kind of fed up about everything, looking at the past election that we had recently. But right now, I think that I am in a better place, I feel it is not what I will get from this country but it’s about what can I give to this country.
What is your most important take aways if you will share a tip or two with other persons?
Work, live for something and be ready to give to your country. I want to die for something because eventually, we are all going to die someday, so if I’m going to die, I want to die for the good course, not minding if I will get something or not. I know the step taken today is a big one, it is a big one, I might not see the result today but I know that someday, something good will come out of it.
Attendee 5: Sunny Ogbu (Engineer/ IT Specialist).
What do you think is the one thing or more about Nigeria that you know is outstanding that we should emphasis more rather than the negative?
Nigerians trust a lot. In my own sphere, I have come across Nigerians that trust so well. Growing up, I travel often from Bauchi to other parts of Nigeria and at some point, I get to stop at some point to see one or two people, I can easily drop my bag at a Nigerian selling something by the roadside and I can be guaranteed that the bag will be save, I do whatever I have to do and return back to it in good order. That is a value I love so much and I have experienced.
What changed for you when it comes to the issue of patriotism, what was the shift that happened to you?
You can be so devoted to something, you can want to put your life on the line not necessarily because it can build a change but it can start a change.
Do you have anything to Nigeria as regards to how they can review their identity of Nigeria as a nation?
Speak well of Nigeria, look at for things that are going well in the country rather than things that are not going well in Nigeria.
Attendee 6: Uju Obiekweihe (Medical doctor).
Can you tell us quickly how did your patriotism prism changed or shifted after the session?
Patriotism has always been a big thing for me because I had the experience of growing in a foreign country and had a lot of backlash and racism for that but coming back to Nigeria, it has always been a hassle maintaining patriotism but when the lecture was going on on how Nigeria was built and all the misconceptions of things that have been said in the past, we began to see that we have taken our leaders out of context in a bit to bring Nigeria down. Like he said that we need to start building the concept of Nigeria and what Nigeria means, Niger Area and it means black people which means Nigeria is the home of black people and we must work together for that image to be kept, we need to come together to propagate the concept.
If you are going to give a quick take to Nigerians listening, what will you tell them in regards to changing their mindsets when it comes to the love for Nigeria or the die for Nigeria?
Let’s calm down and listen to one another, hear what others are saying. Try to be in their shoes and you will see that it is possible you react the same way the person is reacting.
If you are to remember Nigeria for anything meaningful and exciting and nostalgia, what are the things that makes Nigeria outstanding?
It’s our get together spirit. I can give you an experience. One day, I was coming back from work, I was tired, I was sleeping on the wheels and drove off the road, I had a terrible accident and the car turned upside down. The way the drivers on the road stopped to attend to me, “Madam, are you okay”, they brought me out of the car, stayed with me and asked me who should they call and they eventually called my husband. Like four people sat with me till my husband arrived. I was marveled at that. This is someone that you don’t even know. Nigerians go extra miles to help one another, we can move forward if we decide to move forward as a country. That’s the beautiful thing about Nigeria, being there for one another.
What is your idea of patriotism? And what shifted since attending this session?
For me patriotism is many things I never thought about. I never looked at Nigeria and said there are things to be grateful or thankful for. I think there is this entitlement mentality that we have taken for granted and you also think of people putting their lives on the line just to ensure we live peacefully. For me, patriotism right now is true love. I see good things all the time and one thing he cleared for me is the country and the people, it is the country that remains the value, so we should not allow the bad leadership make us lose our love for the country.
If you are going to have message for someone listening to you, what should patriotism become for them?
It should be a way of life, it should be what we build, our children should be born, once they are conceived, what we should be preaching to them is that they should love their country, there is so much to be proud of being a Nigerian.
Attendee 8: Indesit Alunyo, Gender based violent specialist / cyber security expert.
What was your first impression about your understanding of what patriotism is, and what shifted for you?
I have always been a patriotic person. For me, it hasn’t really shifted but just to rejuvenate my stand, just to make sure I still have that love for country and that Nigeria is the best place we can work together and this is beautiful and it has been insightful. It is mind deepening and I’m glad that something like this is happening and the value of people I met in there shows that we are still in that place regardless of the noise we hear. There is still full room of people who want the best for Nigeria. For me, this is what people should take out time and come to be be refreshed.
What is the fondliest thing about Nigeria that when you leave this shores and you are somewhere else you will remember fondly and can’t wait to get back to it?
It’s always the people. There is no place you go to that you don’t just miss the Nigeria vibe. Nigeria will always be that part of my being that I can never take away from. I really do hope that people can take this of course and get refreshed of what being a Nigerian is, just be patriotic, it’s your civil duty.