During my undergraduate days, a philosophy lecturer came into the class and asked us a very sensitive question, “Are you proud to be a Nigerian?”, he asked. Hurriedly, we echoed yes! Now, he pointed to one of my coursemates and said, “why are you proud of Nigeria?”, the silence that ensued could be likened to that experienced in the graveyard.
Following the unfortunate demise of the Chief of Army Staff, Ibrahim Attahiru, and the disappointing and unpatriotic reactions from some Nigerians, it is expedient to analyze the place of national pride and identity in the hearts of Nigerians.
Honestly, I was thrilled when I knew that I would be writing on this issue. There couldn’t have been a better time to discuss this. Therefore, I implore my esteemed readers to read with keen interest as we critically look into the feeling of national pride and identity amongst Nigerians.
An understanding of the subject matter
According to Wikipedia, national pride is the feeling of love, devotion and sense of attachment to homeland and alliance with other citizens of the country who share the same sentiment. Basically, national pride is that positive affection the citizens have towards their country. It is also the self-esteem that a person derives from one’s national identity.
On the other hand, Wikipedia defined National identity as a person’s identity or sense of belonging to one’s state or to one’s nation. It is the sense of a nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture and language. The expression of one’s national identity seen in a positive light is Patriotism which is characterized by national pride and positive emotion of love for one’s country.
It is important to note that national pride and identity is not an inborn trait or emotion. Rather it is socially constructed. A citizen’s perception of his country influences how he feels about national pride and identity.
Bringing it home
Discussion on national pride and identity doesn’t excites a lot of Nigerians. In fact, most persons are frowned at or given a suspicious look when they talk about national pride and identity in the country.
National pride and identity is heavily influenced by the following; History, Economy, Sports, Security, Fair and equal treatment, politics of the country. These give an indication of how the citizens feel about their country. A sound analysis of some of these indicators will paint a clearer picture of how Nigerians feel about national pride and identity.
- Politics: Indulgence/non-indulgence in Nigeria’s political process is one way Nigerians demonstrate how the feel about the country. Lack of transparency has affected effective participation of some Nigerians in the governing process. According to Wikipedia, there were 73,528,040 registered voters for the 2011 general elections in Nigeria with 53.68% turnout. In 2015, Nigeria had 68,833,476 registered voters for the general elections with 43.65%. In 2019, The country had 82,344,107 registered voters with 34.75% turnout. The downward slide in percentage turnout (from 53.68% to 43.65% to 34.75%) shows that many Nigerians have lost hope in our political process, and consequently, do not want to identify with the country in that regard.
- History: History provides us with a sense of national pride and creates a common ground for national identity. When a country clings onto her history and heritage, the people develop national pride and identity which ensures the continued protection of her interest and guarantees survival of such country. To understand the place of national pride in the heart of Nigerians, we have to go back to 1914 when the northern and southern protectorates were amalgamated by Lord Frederick Lugard. In the process, about 250 dissimilar groups which include three major groups of Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba, were combined to form a country. It is a fact that this uneasy union is still struggling not to collapse. Most Nigerians, consciously or unconsciously, view things from a tribal and religious angle rather than from a common national point of view.
According to a newspaper, the federal government stopped the teaching of history in primary and secondary schools for almost a decade (The Guardian 25 July 2019). Sadly, some of our leaders of tomorrow, who sing the national anthem pledging that the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain, know no national hero. Poor knowledge of Nigeria’s history has had an adverse effect on how Nigerians feel about national pride and identity. Consequently, many Nigerians identify more with their ethnic group than with Nigeria as a nation. A sound knowledge of our history will play an important role in the forging of national identities.
- Economy: The feeling of national pride and identity amongst Nigerians is affected by the economic condition of the country. Every well-meaning Nigerian feels proud when our economy is buoyant. The economic hardship in Nigeria has stirred up hate for the country in the hearts of many Nigerians. Many who couldn’t cope have left the country, with some swearing never to identify themselves with the country again.
An article released by Borge Magazine on 28 August 2020, states that Nigeria is known as the poverty capital of the world. We recently came out of recession in the fourth quarter of 2020 (Bloomberg 18 Feb 2021). At the centre of this is the growing corruption of Nigeria’s elite which has given rise to disillusionment through out the country. “This country hard” is an expression heard from many Nigerians and it is a pointer to how they feel about the country.
- Fair and equal treatment: How can one have a sense of belonging to Nigeria when he is treated unfairly because of ethnic and religious sentiment? Our political appointments reeks of tribal prejudice, with little or no attention given to merit and qualifications. The perceived marginalization of some ethnic groups has increased calls from various secessionist groups for the major ethnic groups to go their separate ways. It is common knowledge that those who feel marginalized will have little or no pride about the country. Evidently, the feeling of national pride is greater among the dominant ethnic groups than among ethnic minority.
- Security: National identity is most noticeable when a nation confronts external or internal enemy or natural disaster (Wikipedia). The citizens feel proud when the country is able to combat security issues. The perceived inability of the government to put an end to activities of Boko Haram, Armed herdsmen, Unknown gunmen, kidnappers, etc has created a huge doubt in the minds of Nigerians. Many Nigerians do not feel proud about how the country has tackled security challenges.
However, all is not gloomy. There is always an incredible emotional feeling when Nigerians join in rendering the national anthem. The feeling of national pride is obvious when non-Nigerians tries to criticize the country or to even join the Nigerian pastime of self-condemnation. At this point, in spite of all the negativities, one would notice that Nigerians still care about their country.
Sports is a cohesive force that hold Nigerians together and is one of the biggest sources of national pride. An average Nigerian feels proud when the country performs well in sports competition. Many sportsmen and women have flown Nigerian flag during celebration in their various sports. Recently, a powerful and fascinating correlation between sports and national pride showcased itself when Nigerian striker, Kelechi Iheanacho, wrapped the Nigerian green-white-green colours around himself while celebrating his club’s FA cup victory. Conversely, some Nigerians have refused to represent the country in sports because they do not feel any pride in doing it. Hence, they identified with other countries.
Many Nigerians, even those in diaspora, have shown that they are proud to identify with Nigeria. They have shown this by wearing of Nigeria’s native attires, patronizing made-in-Nigeria products, eating our local delicacies, vibing to Nigerian songs, etc. UFC welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, is one person who easily comes to mind in this regard. Kelechi Iheanacho was so proud of his cultural heritage that he accentuated his name at the back of his jersey. This particular act of his, has got so many sports commentators trying to know more about our language and culture.
The resilient, dogged and competitive spirit of Nigerians is something most Nigerians are proud of. So many Nigerian musicians have made the country proud by injecting our culture into their music and transporting it to the world. In literature, Nigerians like Wole Soyinka, the first African playwright to win the Nobel Prize in literature, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, have made so many Nigerians proud. Nigerians are so enterprising that there is hardly any country where a Nigerian cannot succeed in. Our exploits in many spheres of endeavour has earned us our famous sobriquet “The Giant of Africa”.
Generally speaking, the level of patriotism or national pride the masses has for the country cannot be compared to that of the politicians. Despite the bad leadership in the country, many Nigerians have shown reasonable degree of national pride. The politicians, on the other hand, are mostly unpatriotic. If they were, they would do the right thing and build a Nigeria that everyone can be proud of. Many believe that if the country cannot provide Nigerians basic security; physical, economic and social security, then no one is under obligation to love and respect the country.
The feeling of national pride and identity amongst Nigerians is better described as mixed feelings. The failure of leadership in the country and the unpatriotic actions of some Nigerians have been a source of national shame. Despite our distinctive cultures and traditions, Nigerians should begin to see the country as a cohesive whole. Then, we can work together to make Nigeria a country we can be proud of.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-18/nigeria-unexpectedly-exits-recession-with-0-11-growth-in-4q (visited on 26 May 2021)
https://www.borgemagazine.com/the-poverty-capital-of-the-world-nigeria/ (visited on 26 May 2021)
https://www.en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_identity (visited on 24 May 2021)
https://www.en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrotism (visited on 24 May 2021)
https://www.en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Nigerian_presidential_election (visited on 25 May 2021)
https://www.en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Nigerian_presidential_election (visited on 25 May 2021)
https://www.en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_Nigerian_presidential_election (visited on 25 May 2021)
Michael Ogbonnaya is a graduate of mechanical engineering from the Federal University of Technology Owerri. He is a creative writer who tries to tackle societal problems with his writing and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org