As citizens reflect on Nigeria’s 57th independence anniversary, lack of patriotism among most political leaders has been identified as a major limiting factor in the nation’s march towards greatness.
This was the view of a former Commissioner for Transport in Rivers State, Chief Emeh Glory Emeh, while speaking with newsmen in Port Harcourt.
Recognising the immense benefits of democracy in Nigeria, especially the freedom to chart her own political course without outside interference, Emeh, however, posited that the contributions of successive administrations have not translated into significant improvement in the quality of lives of the citizens in the last 57 years because of the subordination of national interest to personal interests.
“Most Nigerian leaders are not patriotic. When you hear the stories of corruption in this country, you know we are not patriotic at all. Americans put their country first, and pray God to bless America. Their interest is America, and they think America.
“At the last United Nations event in New York, United States President, Donald Trump said he thinks America first and all the time. He went further to charge other world leaders to also think of their countries first, and all the time”, Emeh recalled.
The Emohua-born political strategist and legal practitioner further said that thinking of one’s country first was a measure of one’s patriotism, but regretted that Nigerian leaders think only of themselves, hence the observed widespread looting and stagnation of the economy.
“In this country, when you look at the buildings associated with only one person all over the place, at home and abroad, and you are a Nigerian, you know they are not patriotic. If our leaders were patriotic of the type of the British; of the type of the Germans and Americans, we would have gone beyond where we are today.
“Besides, if they had been inspired by the spirit of patriotism, the type of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa and that generation of leaders, we would have made more progress. It was Ernest Ikoli who reportedly said that the early nationalists were inspired by the spirit of patriotism to fight for independence, especially as Western-trained elites were neglected and frustrated by the discriminatory policies of the colonialists”, Emeh explained.
Insisting that patriotism will reduce nepotism, corruption and ineptitude in Nigeria, the former chief of staff, Rivers State Government House also observed that Nnamdi Azikiwe and his contemporaries, who fought for the country, were more interested in the independence of Nigeria than who got what thereafter, a spirit he said has been lacking among subsequent leaders of the country.
“Anything you do, you consider the value it will add to your country, but unfortunately, most of our leaders are busy removing instead of adding value to the economy.
“We have remained on the same spot: growth has been slow and some areas have been neglected, including agriculture. Today, Nigeria is importing palm oil from Malaysia, a country that got its palm seedlings from Nigeria years ago. Development in Nigeria has been a case of one step forward and two steps backward”, he argued.
Emeh, who lamented that the nation had witnessed lots of theories and motions without movements, expressed delight that the narrative was gradually changing, particularly in Rivers State where Governor Nyesom Wike has redefined development to mean provision of enduring utility infrastructure, particularly those that will provide opportunities for the youth to be trained, and to be gainfully employed.
Commending Wike’s giant strides within the short but very impressive period of two years, he challenged Nigerian leaders to give priority attention to agriculture and other productive activities as they have the potential of engaging more people than buying and selling.
The politician, who was pleased that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has gained wide acceptance in Nigeria, with the youth becoming increasingly adventurous, hinted that Nigeria was catching up with the rest of the world, and now at par with the West in the use of mobile phones.