By Ladesope Ladelokun
When former President Olusegun Obasanjo said in 2004 that any Nigerian who 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 agitation 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.
Even when we need to interrogate what makes people see clearly to trumpet how misgoverned the Nigerian space is after they leave power, Obasanjo captured the mood of the nation.
And, it is only commonsensical that a people working harder than the devil to detach themselves from their motherland cannot die for their country. Who wants an overdose of sadness and bitterness that blanket Nigeria?
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.”
But 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 Muhammadu Buhari can lead that charge by dismissing in words and action the claim by his critics that he is a Fulani sectional leader who 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 Service, 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 South-East 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. No other person is in a better position to confirm the growing disenchantment of young people with their country than the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
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Recently, Aregbesola had lamented the rate at which the Nigerian youth are renouncing their citizenship.The minister described the trend as worrisome and counter-productive. He was literally on his knees begging them to stop renouncing their citizenship.
The minister’s plea is not just revealing but laughable. Let’s remind the minister that no one renounces their citizenship just because they woke up on the wrong side of the bed. But pleading with young people not to dump Nigeria like a piece of trash for other countries will not cut it. It amounts to treating ringworm, while leprosy has a field day.
Aregbesola’s plea brings to mind the story of 10-year-old Tanitoluwa Adewunmi who fled Nigeria with his family to escape the terror of Boko Haram. Remember Tanitoluwa- the wonderkid who gained prominence two years ago after Nicholas Kristof penned a piece about him for The New York Times, for winning the New York State Chess Championship while in a homeless shelter as a refugee kid?
And, in a little over a year,Tanitoluwa had won at least seven trophies! Of course, that can only happen in a country that gives wings to the young to fly. Not where dreams and destinies are buried because of bumbling leaders who do not give a damn àbout the welfare of the citizenry. Now,with the alarming rate of attacks on schools in Nigeria by bandits, he could have been kidnapped,or even killed and buried with his talent in a country where going to school provokes fear.
By now, Aregbesola should have known that a great number of those who ditched their Nigerian citizenship probably did so because Nigeria gives little hope of a bright future to young people and still tramples on their destinies. Little wonder Save the Children, in its 2020 report, identified Nigeria as one of the eleven worst places to be a child. It revealed: “Among the conflict zones in the world, Afghanistan has the most children who have been killed and maimed.While the highest number of children in conflict suffering sexual violence is in Somalia; Nigeria has the highest number of children fighting in war and recruited into armed groups.”
Also, in a report released through a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr John Campbell, and a former Director with Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Mr Robert Rotberg, by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Harvard Kennedy School, Nigeria is said to be at the point of no return. The report further stated Nigeria now “confronts six or more insurrections and failure of the Nigerian state to provide peace and stability to its people has tipped a hitherto very weak state into failure”.
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 reinspire 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 livable and lovable.This is one all-important message Ogbeni Aregbe should take to his principal. Begging young people not to renounce their citizenship is sheer waste of time.
*Ladelokun, a public affairs analyst, wrote via: [email protected]