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Patriotic leadership: Demonstrating commitment for greatness

By Taiwo Odukoya
05 March 2017   |   3:31 am
Patriotism is an ideal we often invoke to inspire citizens to give their best to their nation. And it is indeed a noble ideal, a potent force, a commitment that has transformed...

Taiwo Odukoya

So, we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work (Nehemiah 4:6).
Patriotism is an ideal we often invoke to inspire citizens to give their best to their nation. And it is indeed a noble ideal, a potent force, a commitment that has transformed ordinary nations and people into global powers, one we must of necessity imbibe, individually, if we are to contribute our quota to nation building. But patriotism is latent at best, if not modeled by leadership.

The patriotic fervour that birthed America is a reliable example in this regard. The much-rehashed sacrifices of that nation’s founding fathers, who despite their relative wealth and comfort, put everything at stake to secure independence, and went to great extents to limit their own powers, created an environment of patriotism that lasted generations.

The rise of countries such as China and India can directly be attributed to patriotic leadership. Patriotism is defined amongst other things, as pride in a country’s values, culture and inherent greatness. The Chinese leadership officially expresses this sentiment as ‘aiguozhuyi,’ literally translated as ‘love and support for China,’ one that requires the subordination of individual interest to the pride and glory of the country. We see this sense of national pride and patriotism in the determination of the Chinese leadership to have China compete globally and excel in the comity of nations.

It was John Quincy Adams, who said, “A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not.” Leaders, who prioritise their personal gain over the welfare of the people and the progress of the country, unwittingly create an environment of selfish pursuits and acrimony. This has largely been the problem with most African countries, where governance has been anything but leadership, a vehicle for accumulating wealth and wielding power. And so, what Africans have long endured are anti-patriots, whose strategy is divide and rule. Their methods are divisive, splitting the people along religious and ethnic lines, while they gorge themselves fat on the commonwealth. The dream of seeing united and prosperous African societies will continue to elude us, until we find a way to vote into office, leaders who are willing and able to create a culture of patriotism, uniting the people around the common cause of development.

Patriotic leadership raises the sights of the people, it gets them to believe in the country as a cause greater than themselves, as something worth fighting for, and if need be, worth dying for. They see leadership as an opportunity to actually lead, and understand the imperative of building bridges across ethnic and religious divides, connecting us across walls of religious and primordial sentiments.

Nigeria has such great potential. Nigerians are creative and resilient. We have everything it takes to, not just be a regional force, but a global one. Leadership needs to get in front of the people and demonstrate that we have everything it takes to get it done. Though there seems to be some effort by the current government in this direction, a lot more has to be done. The only difference between Nigeria and Singapore, India, Malaysia, or China, all of who at some point were on the same level with us or even worse, in terms of development, is patriotic leadership. How badly do we want Nigeria to succeed? What are we willing to give up personally as leaders to make this happen? What bottlenecks are we willing to obliterate?

In the context of our opening text, Nehemiah was a highborn Jew, who like the rest of Israel, had lost his homeland to a conquering invader. But unlike the rest of the Jews, Nehemiah was still privileged. He was the king’s cupbearer and had the privileges of the palace. But he was a patriot at heart. He knew his homeland was in shambles, and at the very risk of his life requested to go back and rebuild its fallen walls. The people wasted no time in uniting around that common cause, warding off their enemies, and giving their all to the task, because Nehemiah’s commitment and sacrifice was never in question. He was patriotic. He was inspirational. He demonstrated leadership.

Today’s leadership can begin the urgent task of rewriting the Nigerian story. We can relegate the attitude of self before country, which has kept us down for many years, to the ash heap of history. Let the generations coming after be proud of the country we are handing over to them, because we were proud of it enough to lay a solid foundation for the future.
Nigeria Has A Great Future

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