Every nation has laws by which it abides. The constitution is the basis for the legal systems that exist in each country. Each country’s constitution is equally binding on all its citizens and there is nobody that is above the dictates of this document. The sovereignty of any nation state is guarded by its constitution and indeed, no external influence should bear enough influence to revert that document. Nationhood is the child of a state’s constitution. It is a binding structure that supports the nature and limits of a state’s functions. It seeks to unify all members of a state under a common umbrella, purpose and destiny.
A nation exists because people choose to keep existing together. The will has to be there, if not it disintegrates or atrophies from within. However, the history of a people, like no other factor, has been responsible for melding similar or disparate entities into well blended or tensely intertwined communions. States are structures erected to give order to governance. The leadership shapes the state. The citizen is the individual to whom much belongs and from whom all is expected as he identifies with the state structure within a nation body.
Where is the sense of belonging in all this? Merely existing within the geographical boundaries, under the governance of the state structure, or in submission to the constitutional doctrines, still does not in any way draw out the sense of belonging from an individual. How do you come to belong to where you believe you belong? Who owns you or to whom will you be owned? For most, birth is a good answer to that question. Rudyard Kipling does justice to that concept in his poem, “Land of Our Birth” (1906). He sees within this land all that it would take to make an individual grow into a proud citizen. He also describes values that, if imbibed, would help one gain a consciousness of selfless service and comradeship in the context of nation building.
However this is not always the case. The making of a citizen is not simply accomplished by native birth, shared history, cherished folklore, citizenship documents, taxation or fear of harassment. The nation and the citizen should share a compact that breeds patriotism. A citizen has roles to play and responsibilities that need to be fulfilled as a member that belongs to, and functions as part of a state. This calls for maturity, a sense and conscientiousness that mandate a citizen to enter into ‘his own’ where he belongs. Not an alien but fully integrated. Not a slave but a freeborn. Not as a loss to the state but a joint investor in the common good, shared purpose, and progressive future of the state and its commonwealth.
The citizen is a beneficiary of the liberal standing of the governance of the state. He profits from their exercise of public goods and popular benefits, and he sees to it that he is always staying on the right side of the law. That is the call of the citizen, executed not from fear or compulsion but as a joy and a delight- the joy and freedom of the empowered.
Nigeria as a nation has suffered much from a demoralizing colonialism, a stillborn democracy, a disorienting war, decades of emasculating and corrupt military leadership, and a backward-looking democracy. Much evil was done by external forces, much worse has been done by her own. Nigeria needs healing. The national psyche has been battered then traded for worthless values that lay no hope for a progressive agenda of nation building.
There is a national orientation agency but much of the nation lacks an orientation to see beyond the daily bread or even the next meal. Poverty has laid the people bare and toughened the cause for daily survival. There is the strength to build but the will is lacking. There are few harnessing the means properly, much fewer calling and mustering to service, and the true leaders where are they? Quo Vadis Nigeria?
Citizens must arise in this nation. Each individual must make the choice to arise and build, be an example, shine a light, and work to profit the common good. We cannot work as base fellows. We must uphold pristine values. There is dignity in labour. Every man must be honoured for the service he renders for the common good, building the nation. The charge must be, “Not for us but for others” (Non sibi sed allis). It is indeed up to us, as we approach the 50 year mark to repent, truly repent, turn to God as a nation, and take what He has given us to build a strong, formidable and productive nation. It is our call!
Guest blogger Simon Adebola is a physician working with the WHO in Geneva. He blogs at iInitiative.