What Patriotism Entails By Alexander Idowu | OAU Peeps

What Patriotism Entails By Alexander Idowu

Thursday December 5th, 2013 was a remarkable day in the history of South Africa, as the ‘crème de la crème’ from all over the five continents of the world thronged the city of Johannesburg to honour a resilient, foremost freedom fighter and a revolutionary patriot who left the planet to the world up yond. Nelson Mandela fought earnestly for his people, the course he believed in and as well remained loyal to the course of freedom and equity in his country till death. In fact, he rose to the challenges posed by the most vicious economic and social system of that moment; the system which was referred to as apartheid. The legacy Mandela left was that of fidelity and total service to humanity. A source;(Ziwaphi vol. 4) termed him ‘a symbol of discipline and patriotism’. What then is patriotism if I may ask?

Patriotism, according to chambers 21st century dictionary (Revised edition) is loyalty and devotion to one’s country. Which in effect means, being totally and passionately sold out to the interest, mandate and precept of one’s country for the purpose of advancement and for the furtherance of her common course. However, patriotism could be viewed in a wider and more flexible sense as love, devotion, and a strong differential concern for one’s own locality (both the place and the people who live within), state, region, or country, shown both in thought and action. (Miller 1998)By ‘‘differential concern,’’ it means to care more about this place than any other places, or places in general; and to care more about these particular people than any other people, or people in general. And this concern is shown in substantial activity on their behalf.

A Patriot on the other hand, is a person who loves, supports and defends his country and its interests with devotion (Dictionary.com). In other words, such individual is passionate about the common interest of the country at the expense of his personal or selfish interest. He is particularly concerned with abiding by the ordinances of the country, defending and promoting thewell-being of his countrymen and women. He might even go a little further to risk his lifein order to gain prestige and honour for his fatherland. Having known what patriotism and who a patriot is, we would at this juncture carefully spell out the virtues in patriotism, emulative examples of someincorrigible compatriots (both in this nation; Nigeria and abroad) who stood to defend and upheld the values of their nations in the various capacities they were privileged to showcase their genuine interest in their fatherland. We would also do well to suggest possible means by whichthe speedy decline in patriotism in our nation could be restored so as for us to witness unprecedented transformation in our country in the shortest possible time.

Going by the famous quote of Abraham Lincoln regarding moral virtue, which reads, “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him”. That exactly is what patriotic virtue is all about. Martha Nussbaum in his writing, ‘Non-relatives virtue: An Aristotelian approach’ defined virtues as character traits which dispose us to “choose and respond well”across the full range of human experience (Nussbaum 1993, p. 245). The prime benefit of this trait is that it brings about the thriving of the virtuous agent himself and the flourishing of everyone around. In fact, after the patriot is long gone, the memory will keep on lingering in the mind of everyone who benefited from the fruit of his devotion. When patriotism is in the service of valuable ends and is limited to morally legitimate means of attaining them, then it is a virtue (Samuel Johnson, Patriotism).

In the same vein, history will never forget certain men who stood the test of time to defend the interest of their country and also fought earnestly for their compatriots. Among such people is

• Obafemi Awolowo–He served as the prime minister of the Western region of Nigeria as an intellectual politician and a brilliant activist. He championed dogged move for the benefit of the masses and as well demonstrated sound attribute of a true patriot of Nigeria at home and abroad. He was described as the most articulate advocate of the right of the minorities and also headed true federalism with clarity and precision.

• Mahatma Gandhi –He led a decade-long of non-violent struggle against British rule by challenging their imposed salt tax with the 400km Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later on called for the British to quit India in 1942. This is a high level of patriotism displayed towards his country; India and his cherished countrymen and women.

Despite the good and virtuous sides of patriotism, it could as well be a vice if it is not to a valuable end. When it is serving as contempt, disregard or indifference to outsiders,it is therefore a vice. Our tender feelings toward our fellow citizens can make it easier to dismiss the value of people outside this charmed circle, or at least act in ways that fail to honor that value. Patriotism can encourage an “us versus them” mentality, and rationalizations for “our” superiority are easily generated.

Patriotism could also be a vice if the patriots do not wholly understand the purpose of their assignment as dependable ambassadors of their fatherland. But instead serve because of the financial or selfish gain. My heart almost bled when I read The Guardian Newspaper, (Saturday, July 5, 2014 edition, p. 60) with the Sub-topic: Nigeria Gave Up Victory for Money. The story was about the Super Eagles campaign at the just concluded Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup. Segun Odegbami, an ex-Super Eagles International wrote on the clash between our national team and France on Monday, 30th June which led to the Eagles defeat. That Nigeria defeat had nothing to do with the fact that the French side werein any way better than them. In fact, he said the Nigerian side outpaced their opponent until the last 20 minutes of the game. Apart from the fact that they did not prepare a night before the encounter, he relayed that the team spent the better part of the night sharing money. Below are what he said, “Unknown to most observers, the team and its officials had spent the better part of the previous night counting and sharing money – bonuses of matches not won, appearance fees that had not been paid by FIFA, and other allowances amongst themselves.”

Under normal circumstance,trustworthy compatriots who know that they are representing the course of a whole nation will never spent their moments of preparation doing what will not lead to attaining a national goal. On the contrary, the winners of the tournament; Germany were reported to collect their own rewards 48 hours after their victory. The resulting effect; Nigeria exit was not missed in Brazil.

Now, here are some of the ways by which we can restore the decline in the level of devotion to the common interest in our cherished nation.

The very first way is to adequately train our children (who will undoubtedly become the leaders of tomorrow) at the early stage of their life. Charity begins at home, so the common saying goes. The moment parents build up their children to be devoted and be faithful to anything and anyone at every point in their life, they will grow up to be devout compatriots who will make the nation proud.

Another way is to sensitize our people not to see politics as dirty game that certain people must play. This point is very crucial, because it has built up wrong notions in the mind of people to be inactive as far as issue regarding governance and constitutionalism is concerned. This mindset has led them to the point of not standing for the course of the nation as the true citizen of their fatherland. Getting rid of this mindset, will help us all to stand for the upward movement of our nation and thus lead to the eradication of selfish motive to the barest minimum level. For this reason, all hands must be on deck.

Lastly, to achieve the nation’s transformational dream in the nearest possible time as committed patriots, we must regularly examine and revisit what our founding father stood for and believed in. The first stanza of national anthem instructs us not to allow the labour of our heroes past to be in vain.

Here are the lines:

Arise o compatriot Nigeria call obey

To serve our father land with love and strength and faith

The labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain

To serve with heart and might...

That’s the call. A call to wake up and take up the vision of our great patriots who selflessly secured this nation with their blood to a glorious height.




Patriotism as an Environmental Virtue

Philip Cafaro

Miller, R. (1998). Cosmopolitan respect and patriotic concern. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 27, 202–224.

Nussbaum, M. (1993). Non-relative virtue: An Aristotelian approach. In M. Nussbaum & A. Sen (Eds.), The quality of life. Oxford: Oxford University Press

The Guardian Newspaper, (Saturday, July 5, 2014 edition, p. 60)

Ziwaphi vol. 4, N0 3. 12-25


The author of this opinion, Alexander Idowu is a Part 3 student of the Department of Botany, Obafemi Awolowo University. You can reach Alexander via his e-mail: degenuisalex01@gmail.com


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