Patriotism: The fruit of equal participation, freedom and justice

It was on a hot afternoon, after our Community Development Service (CDS) in 2005. I was standing close to a coaster bus when I heard, “come here, join the bus, we are going to the villa”. I was asked to join the bus. I didn’t mind that I was tasty. I hopped into the coaster bus filled with our supervisors and few other fellow youth corps members.

We took off. It was heart warming to be opportune to be invited to be in a team to visit the Aso Villa to pay the last respect to then Nigerian First Lady HE Chief Mrs. Stella Obasanjo. It was a day of her lying in state at the state house Banquet hall.

Journeying through the gates, seeing the stern looking soldiers in their combat attire, lowering their guns as we passed by gave me a sense of pride and honour. I wished I had enough time to see so many other places around the Aso Villa; the seat of Nigerian government.

I can imagine the feelings of the young blacks that visited the White House in the East Room few days ago, to be with their president and have him speak to them. I can imagine the pride and sense of belonging that singular act created in the minds and lives of those youths. They could dream to be one day in the White House as president. It was a lifetime honour to visit the seat of government.

Being an Igbo in Nigeria’s highly ethnic conscious polity where a certain group will demand I must be a loyal person to their ethnic dominance or I will forget dreaming of being in Aso Villa.

In 35 years after the exit of Fmr Vice President, Late Dr. Alex Ekwueme and in 32 years of the defacto Vice Presidency of Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, no Igbo man has been a Vice President or President of Nigeria.

As Fmr Gov. Peter Obi has joined the ticket as Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2019 presidential election, there are cacophonies of voices saying he should not be there. The brashest coming from the Northern Youth Leaders Forum (NYLF) saying, Peter Obi is not pro-north and therefore he should forget the dream. The forum speaking through their leader Elliot Afiyo in a statement, said, “Peter Obi doesn’t have the courage and boldness…”, “Northerners consider Peter Obi as anti-North” he continued, “70 percent of emirs, traditional rulers from the North will not support Peter Obi as the Vice President.”

The forum claims to be speaking the minds of the 46 northern youth organisations. They extend their warning to Atiku to drop Obi as his VP or lose their votes. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate is a northerner. The forum suggested that “either Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike or his Bayelsa State counterpart, Seriake Dickson, should be considered as Atiku’s prospective running mate”. “If Atiku fails to heed our warning, then APC will win”.

It means that one should not be pro-Nigeria to be a VP or President but must be a northerner or pro-north or anyone the northerners choose. It also means that as I felt that day being in Aso Villa, I as an Igbo person should not dream of being in Aso Villa so far I am not pro-north or northerner because I may be considered not to “have the courage and boldness”. I ask, is courage or boldness only found among the northerners or those they consider pro-north? Are those who are pro-Nigeria lacking in courage and boldness? Is it the duty of a section to determine who should dream to lead or the whole Nigerians?

Nigeria is owned by everyone within this sovereignty. Aso Villa belongs to all and every child be he Igbo, Efik, Anan, Idoma, Berom, Nupe etc, should desire to be in that seat. Where there’s a segregation and demand from one group that their interest must be met above a collective interest, then patriotism is far found in the blood of every Nigerian.

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