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Patriotism means more than holding your hand over your heart…

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Comrade Edwin Ekene is the National President of Young Nigerians for Change, in this brief interview, he speaks on the need for Nigerians to cultivate the spirit of patriotism to foster national growth and development. Excerpts.

IP2N: What does been patriotic mean to you?

Each time I recite the National Pledge, I usually found new sense of obligations and responsibilities to my nation.

For the sake of knowledge, below is our National Pledge: “I pledge to Nigeria my country, to be faithful, loyal and honest. To serve Nigeria with all my strength, to defend her unity and uphold her honour and glory, so help me God”.

The above words are simple, but, very powerful. There are the words that form the basis for our co-existence as one people, with common dreams and aspirations in a united, indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation called Nigeria. However, the untoward actions of some Nigerians against the glue that hold us together have really called for the proper definition of the word “patriotism”. According to John McCain, the man President Obama defeated in the 2008 US Presidential Election, “Patriotism means more than holding your hand over your heart during the national anthem.

It means more than walking in to a voting booth every four years and pulling a lever. Patriotism is a love and a duty, a love of country expressed in good citizenship”. Patriotism and good citizenship are intertwined, and to give credence to this, McCain said: “Patriotism and citizenship, should not only motivate the conduct of public officials, but also thrive in the communal spaces where government is absent”. Patriotism is a countless acts of love, kindness and courage that have no witness or heraldry; it is an action that takes place where nobody is watching, and it is specifically commendable, because, there are unrecorded. Nonetheless, the nefarious activities of some persons against our beloved country, especially the outrageous terrorist attacks by Boko Haram on the government, people and institutions in Nigeria, have really called for common sense questions of: “Where is the spiritof patriotism in your actions?”

 

IP2N: How then can Nigerians cultivate the spirit of patriotism?

Where is patriotism, when your fellow country men and women are dying before their times just because of your actions? Where is patriotism, when your action brings shame and embarrassments to Nigeria, instead of upholding her honour and glory? Look, you can bomb Nigeria to pieces, but you can never bomb her to peace.

Peace can only come through genuine dialogue and not through terrorism. You have no any justification for your action. If conscience is an open wound only the truth can heal it, where then is the conscience when innocent Nigerians are dying because of your activities? A true patriot must not only take the responsibility, but also owns the responsibilities of protecting lives, properties and the idles that gave birth to our beloved country Nigeria.

A good citizen and a patriot must honour the duties and obligations ascribed to him by the constitution. A good citizen and a patriot must be faithful and loyal to the constituted authorities and not opposing every government policies and proposing nothing. A good citizen and a patriot know that happiness is greater than comfort. Therefore, Nigeria is a property of every citizen in the country, thus, we must all embrace and appreciate such reality! There is an enduring promise which Nigeria holds for everybody. It the promise that says, you can be whatever you want to become, if only your intensions are genuine, and are found within the frame works of the law. All you need is the will and the industry.

IP2N: How best can we overcome the various challenges that has plagued the country? How can we become patriots?

Hooliganism and oddity has no place in our country, and can never be a substitute to our aged long cherished idles and values. To build the Nigeria of our dreams, all hands must be on deck, and just as the study of English Language and Mathematics are compulsory subjects in our elementary schools, the teaching of patriotism as a subject should also be made compulsory in both the elementary and tertiary institutions in the country. Patriotic deeds of individuals should be openly rewarded and publicized all over the country so as to encourage others to be patriotic. Patriotism should be incorporated as one of the requirements a candidate must fulfill before he or she is cleared to stand for any elective position in the country.

To do this, I suggest the establishment of the “National Agency for the Promotion of Patriotic Services in Nigeria”. This agency should be saddled with the responsilities of monitoring, assessing and rewarding patriotic services in any parts of the country. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and political parties should demand for the evidence of patriotic deeds issued by this agency, before clearing and forwarding the names of candidates for elective positions in Nigeria.

The civil societies should also be more assertive by investigating and reporting any false claim by any politician about his or her patriotic deeds or services to the fatherland. When all these postulations are implemented, Nigeria would not only be producing patriotic leaders, but leaders that meet the statement of Late Vaclav Havel, the former President of Czech Republic, in one of his books about one’s duty to politics. He said: “In all circumstances, try to be decent, just, tolerant, and understanding; and at the same time try to resist corruption and deception”.

IP2N: Thank you very much.

You are most welcome.

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