The national anthem and the paradox of patriotism
While I refuse to throw epithets around either in support of or opposition to the present government, I realistically insist that we are still very much disillusioned by the absurdities we encounter and endure on daily basis as a nation. The promise of change made maybe under construction and execution, but what I see and sense is that this government hit the ground running, unfortunately, it seems in the wrong direction. Only time will tell if Muhammadu Buhari and his cabinet pursued the much touted promise of change or not. On our part, the regular folks, the question we ought to pursue is whether we know for sure what we need to change? Most Nigerians will conclude that we need to change our “fantastically corrupt” system. I beg to differ. I am a realist; I do not see either a half empty cup or a half full cup. What I see is simply a cup with content. Whether one perceives corruption simply as graft or understand it as an umbrella for all the malaise that has almost crippled the country, as a people, if we truly grasp the areas in which we need change, it should shame us all. To the point that I propose a temporary ban on the national pledge and anthem.
I have noticed in several countries that while the ritual of national anthems singing was performed, the body language and attitudes of citizens are one of pride. A good number of countries sing their national anthems with fervour, passion and positive enthusiasm. I recently realised that my own country’s anthem and pledge, its guiding creed is an antithesis of our reality and to my utmost surprise, I had become uncomfortable singing and expressing it. For the very first time in my adult life, I was confronted by a problem, pure epistemological in nature but graphically damning to the psyche. Perhaps on the individual level, we might find a handful of persons who actually make efforts to abide by the virtues and moral values professed in the national creed, but collectively, we have failed, woefully too, as a people. Patriotism, the call to serve ‘our Father land, the labours of our heroes past now lies in ruins; to guide our leaders right, help our youths the truth to know, living just and true; all of these moral codes extolled, in the Nigerian context, have become a rhetoric of absurdity. The entire nation is the exact opposite of its creed and anthem!
What then does one do if one’s professed creed has been emptied of its natural quiddity? How are we supposed to react as a people when every time we mouth the lyrics of our own national anthem, they accuse us of impropriety and lack of patriotism? In our pledge to the Father land, we make the promise to be “faithful, loyal and honest” and turn to God for help.
Right there is the malaise of a people’s persistent tendency to be pathological liars and unrepentant duplicists. Not merely are we dishonest with ourselves, whereby corruption is entrenched as a way of life, and as the way of life. We are hypocrites in the way we use religion and the name of God, to mask the real problems staring us in the face.
The climate of uncertainty of our continuous united survival as one nation is based on a multiplicity of social problems that government and people have created and entrenched over the years. There no longer exists the responsibility of individuals, because the system gives no room for it. Here, the powerful takes at will and the political and economic system continues to encourage and support repaying hardworking, honest civil servants with nothing while political anarchists smile off to their foreign bank accounts. Whoever came up with the idea of quota system is an ingenious anarchist. Unfortunately, excellence of capability no longer matters but nepotism and ethnocentrism reign.
I am of the opinion that we should suspend the singing of our national anthem, and forbid anyone to make any pledge to the country. It may shame us and help us to refocus and re-reflect on our national identity. Until a few of the following issues are resolved, let the entire country remain in deep thoughtful silence.
Do we see a truly common destiny binding all of the citizens of Nigeria? Do we have possible, patriots, technocrats and architects willing to sacrifice themselves to mend the fragmentation that exists? Do we have the courage to overturn the problems of ethnic and religious divide that we have fostered and allowed to thrive for so long? Can we possibly erase the endemic problems of nepotism, corruption, ‘above the law’ practices of some of our leaders?
We need to agree that our national constitution is binding for all citizens and not make laws to protect anyone from prosecution.
[This is possible only if we have a functional judicial system, which holds in sacred trust, its duties, to arbitrate distributive and equal justice to all, not minding class or status.] As a nation, we must realise that no one single religion can trump our common good and all religions, including our traditional religions be given equal rights and respect. To lead the country should no longer be a question of what part of the country you come from, nor can we afford to continue to support ignorant practices like the ‘quota system.’ Our leaders should be elected based on a proven track record of honesty, public service and ability. Let the nation emerge from the years of wandering in circles, chasing our own tails, where we elect people into office based on political balancing of the scales between the North and the South, between who is Muslim or Christian. We need to create a new country without ‘cabals’, ‘vested interest groups’ or the so-called ‘elder statesmen.’
We need now the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper names. We have, for far too long, as a nation, yielded to convenient but enslaving compromises with those who are hell-bent on ruining the nation for their own selfish gains. Our inaction today is complicity in the crimes against our Fatherland, our heroes and heroines past, the flag, anthem, pledge and the future of our children. And until we remove our endorsement of injustice and the support for a structure of sin which we have erected and worshipped, let no one sing the national anthem, let no one mock the nation by making a pledge we do not intend to keep.
Sometimes, to prepare for peace, we must first prepare for war. But this is not a war to be fought with bullets, armoured tanks and soldiers. It is an ideological warfare where a few must be willing to confront the established status quo by the sheer force of intellect, dedication and truth. The problems may be numerous and seem insurmountable, but the solutions are simple and possible. One such solution, as simple as it might sound, is to boycott, and abandon the national pledge and anthem!
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Is. 5:20)
Rev. Fr. Odeyemi writes from Pittsburgh, United States of America.