Here’s a great article written by my friend Mark Amaza (http://www.facebook.com/mark.amaza) on the occasion of Nigeria’s 50th Anniversary celebration. Re-posted here with permission…Thanks Mark!
Last Friday, the Nigerian state celebrated 50 years of independence. In 4 years time, it will celebrate 100 years of existence, as the Northern and Southern Protectorates were merged in 1914 by the British colonial authorities. Evidently, both celebrations were and will be celebrated by Nigerians. And that will be the focus of this article – not the celebrations, not the nation being celebrated, but the people doing the celebrations.
What makes one to be called a Nigerian? Is it by virtue of having been born and raised in Nigeria? That will be analogous to calling the whale a fish merely because it is born and raised in the seas. Is it by parentage and bloodline? This reminds me of the story of an eagle that was raised among chickens, and saw itself as a chicken despite the fact that it had the parentage and bloodline of an eagle.
What makes one a Nigerian is one word: PATRIOTISM. It is that feeling that you have about your country that makes you believe it is the best place to be in the world, despite the fact that it does not have all you desire, nor is it living up to expectations. It is that burning desire to see your country prosper, over and above your own prosperity because when your country prospers, you also prosper. It is that pride and excitement you get when you see your country reported in positive terms in the international media, and that anger you feel when it is negatively portrayed.
It is not just enough for us to call Nigeria our country merely because we have Nigerian parents, a Nigerian passport or because we need to belong somewhere, lest we end up like Tom Hanks in the movie The Terminal. I personally know many people that bear the passports of other countries, have non-Nigerian parents, and yet are excited about Nigeria because they have that emotional connection that I described above.
We have to rise above mere symbols to describe our nationality, and develop that love and passion for our country. We need to have the burden of our country on our hearts and minds, talk positively about it, act positively towards it, and treat others who also call themselves Nigerians in the very like manner we will like ourselves to be treated. Let us define what it means to be Nigerian from our attitudes and characters.
Let us cease to make someone feel more or less Nigerian depending on where he is, or on his ethnicity, or “place of origin” or religious faith. Rather, let us focus on who he is other than what he is; because in the end, that is what matters, that the person is making a positive contribution, and not merely being part of demography. Let us extend the meaning of patriotism from feeling towards ones’ country to feeling towards ones’ countrymen.
In quoting the words of former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, “we have no other country but Nigeria, and we shall stay here and salvage it together.” Staying here does not necessarily mean remaining in Nigeria physically, but in remembering that no matter where life takes us in pursuit of our dreams and ambitions, we will always remember that we have a country, Nigeria, which we love and loves us back, imperfections notwithstanding, and we shall always keep her in our thoughts, words and prayers; that we shall always strive to put in our own effort, no matter how small, to make her a better place. It does not matter that we are unable to change the whole country, but that we can at least affect positively a small corner that is within its geographical borders. That way, you have also changed the country.
Let it be that when we say, ‘We are Nigerians’, we are more than just stating the country on our passports or the national football team we support. But that we look up and say it with pride, declaring our allegiance to our fatherland, pledging to always make it a better place and make its citizens and residents live better lives.
And that, my friends, is what is known as patriotism.
Picture Credit: YNaija