By Abuchi Obiora
Vox populi, vox dei.
Most people will tell you that they were driven by patriotism to dabble into the unsolicited assignment of commenting on national issues or even involving in politics. I can’t make this claim because I know that I was not so driven, going by the Nigerian understanding of the word, ‘patriotism’.
What actually excited my interest in national politics once again as happened during the June 12 annulment days is the fact that I suddenly found my quiet life and quiet lifes of many Nigerians around me disrupted beyond our capacities to handle in our usual quiet ways. While many Nigerians are being socially and economically decimated, the people whose actions have brought about these woes on the quiet, peace-loving Nigerians, are going about in a manner that suggests all is well.
I will therefore say I was called by myself into commenting on national politics, once again, for fear of extinction, that is, for self preservation, and you may as well add, for humanistic reasons on behalf of many silent Nigerians in my environment who have been numbed by extreme poverty.
Come to think of it, it is even a fallacy when people claim they were called into politics by patriotism. Let us look at it this way: self preservation, it is said, is the first human instinct. In a work titled “Swan – song of Unity” (REFLECTION Column of “The Guardian On Sunday” October 10, 1993), I identified human interest in the speech delivered to Nigerians by Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Giving his own account and reason why he decided to “step aside”, the then Military President lamented the unpleasant experiences of his immediate family members as a result of the political impasse.
Being a very strong emotion, human interest (sometimes, it can be negative and egotistic) can cause people to take some daring moves such as abandoning a plush Presidential seat as our Military President did. Human interest is the most powerful drive for patriotism, and sometimes can attain the self- nihilist level if not tempered with reason. The egotistic, sadistic and nihilist expressions of human interest can be seen as presently happen today when people commit suicide as a result of dejection and frustration from extreme poverty, and/ or sell their children to support material life. These two are already features of the day in Nigeria.
One of the positive expressions of human interest is the urge in man to be protected, rightly positioned, positively involved, with the burning desire to derive benefit for himself and the people under his care from all activities that rub on him. NIGERIANS MUST PROTECT THEIR INTERESTS.
This is not selfishness. If it were selfishness, all men from the ages past, including the holy men of God who waged wars to protect their followers and their teachings, and all the patriotic statesmen in history whose daring actions in self defense earned them the appellation of ‘patriots’ have been selfish. The principle of human interest is of the commonest sense, and is already recognized as “eye-wey-see” in Nigerian local pidgin English parlance.
What am I saying, you may ask? Simple!
It is a sin against God who created us as Nigerians where he has deposited such high amount of natural resources, to die poor in Nigeria. It will also be stupid to tell God that you died poor because you allowed somebody to appropriate to themselves, either by trick or by force, all that was given to all of you.
Patriotism should be the destination of all, but it is difficult to be, or even feign patriotism with an empty stomach especially when you have the misfortune to watch your children die of hunger and simple treatable ailments as malaria and typhoid fever because you lack the money to feed them and pay for proper medical attention for them, though you work hard.
It is a sin against God for this to happen in a country where some of her citizens are stocking unearned tons of pounds, dollars and naira in septic tanks, uncompleted houses, bushes and other secret places. It is a sin to die poor in a country where billions of naira are either swallowed by wild animals in human habitats, or simply disappear from the vaults of the CBN under the watch of people who can be identified.
Let patriotism start from the leadership and we will all join the queue.
Nigerians, this is the time for action. Every one of us has a talent deposited in either his head, his limbs, or even his pockets. I am giving out mine. Let all of us give out our talents and synergize efforts to wrest our destiny and future from a few thieves and oppressors around us. We have nothing to lose than our poverty and penury. Poverty and penury for us and our children born and yet-to-be-born are greater dangers to our existence than fear of the unknown. God can take care of the unknown as we decide to put up defense against oppression, and serial Kleptocracy. (Reference: “Case Against Kleptocracy”, written by me and Published in the REFLECTION Column of ‘The Guardian on Sunday’ of May 8, 1994.) There are several examples in history where God blessed the actions of people who fought against oppression. The examples in history will form our topic for discussion in another forum.
Jimmy Cliff, Jamaican reggae maestro and inspired song writer sang that “you can’t be wrong and get it right”. The truth is that Nigerians must decide to get it right in order to get it right. This is the time for the decision.
Great courage must be enlisted in such matters as in the struggle against oppression. Franz Fanon said that he is either a coward or a traitor who keeps silence in times requiring actions. A coward or a traitor is either an enemy or a friend to the enemy. A friend to an enemy is an enemy. They must be undone. The worst-case scenario in the struggle against oppression was also captured in one of the song writer’s works “The Harder They Come, The Harder They Fall”. He sang that “I would rather be a free man in my grave than live as a puppet or a slave”.
You will be hearing from me before the curtain draws. Someday, I know it must draw for everybody, but meanwhile, and before it draws for me, Nigerian youths and all you good people must imbibe this spirit, rise up and pick up the gauntlet as we jointly take the bull by the horn.
Nigerian youths, I charge you to awake from your slumber. You have a lot to do to save all of us and the future of our children…. your children, who have survived a system that is deaf to, not only the cries and agonies of men, but also to the voice of God.
Vox populi, vox dei.