Chibok: Beyond sovereignty and patriotism
LIKE the Kwale incident which the late literary icon, Chinua Achebe, cited as the turning point in the Nigeria-Biafra war, the Chibok abduction would also mark the greatest undoing of the Boko Haram sect. The quest to rescue the over 200 school girls has since taken a global dimension but the criticisms that trail Federal Government’s acceptance of foreign assistance towards finding the missing girls is a pointer to our propensity to politicise everything. From politicians, to the academia, even some religious leaders have all frowned at what some of them believe is a surrender of the nation’s sovereignty. The counter criticisms that followed have been, to say the least, most befitting. In an era when the world wide conquest of liberal democracy has brought to the fore the need for people to live together, seeing themselves rather as citizens of the world, some persons still entertain sentiments in the name of sovereignty.
The will to live together presupposes, not the fear of an impending danger, but a will to achieve a common task – conquest of freedom. Living together in this context does not mean occupying the same place in space. It does not mean, either, being subjected to the same physical or external conditions or pressures, or to the same pattern of life. Living together means sharing as human beings, not as beasts. That is, sharing with basic free acceptance, in certain common sufferings and in a certain common task. Common sense would tell us that the most significant synonym of living together is suffering together. Experience has shown that men do not enter into a political society simply to share a common suffering out of love for each other. Common suffering is accepted out of love for the common task and the common good.
The offer by the governments of France, USA, Israel, China, Britain, et al to assist the Nigerian government in rescuing the missing girls, and the latter’s acceptance is a bold statement that the will to achieve a world-wide common task ought to be strong enough to entail a will to share in certain common suffering made inevitable by that task. The feeling of indignation by these foreign governments is never because of their military might but because the victims – innocent school girls are not being treated with dignity, the worth they, the foreign governments, believe the girls are due as human beings. Dignity refers to a person’s sense of self worth. Indignation arises when something happens to offend that sense of self worth. Indignation in this sense extends and engenders a feeling of solidarity. Little wonder this unconscionable act of Boko Haram has elicited a global response.
It is the height of incivility for a Nigerian (in this case an elder statesman) to say that any patriotic Nigerian ought to question the decision of the Federal Government. It is baffling how cunning Nigerian politicians can be just to score cheap political point. Patriotism indeed! Patriotism may have been a virtue in the ancient world when it compelled men to serve the highest ideal of those days. Patriotism cannot be a virtue nowadays when it requires of men an ideal exactly opposite to that of our religion and morality. It admits the dominion of one country over all others, and not the equality and fraternity of all men. What of the persons sent by these foreign governments, what happened to their sense of patriotism? This is indubitably a vice and not a virtue. The sentiment of patriotism is evidently uncalled for these days (much less in the attempt to find the Chibok girls) because there is neither material nor moral foundation for its conception. Patriotism is chiefly impossible today because even the dullest and most unrefined of men must see the complete incompatibility of patriotism with the moral law by which we live.
In writing this, I lay no claim to being neither a professional writer nor a true embodiment of world political messiah. I am merely thinking aloud; dispassionately and within the permissible limits of human wisdom. One can rightly say it is an irresistible attempt to reflection on the dialectical growth of world politics. On what ground, and for what reason can a person, say a Nigerian or Kenyan, fail to stop the killing of a Spaniard (if the opportunity presents itself) when he is well aware, however, uneducated he may be, that the Spaniard or Spain against whom his patriotic animosity is excited are not barbarians but human beings like him, maybe a Christian like himself, and like him desirous of peace? Sincerely, I see no reason for Nigerians to “feel ashamed” over this development.
In what terms can one, in this contemporary world, express the patriotism of an Irish man living in the United States, who by his religion belongs to Rome, by his nationality to Ireland, by his citizenship to the United States? Indeed, one can only remember what we profess as Christians and merely as men, those fundamental moralities by which we are directed in our social, family and personal existence, and the position we place ourselves in the name of patriotism in order to see what a degree of contradiction we have placed on our conscience and our opinion. The emergence of liberal democracy depicts concepts like patriotism as the cruel tradition of an outlived period because democracies do not raise arms against one another. The brotherhood of nations represents an ideal which is becoming ever more intelligible and more desirable to mankind.
More baffling is an advertorial in The Guardian of May 20 (page 76). At a time when groups and organisations across the globe campaign for the unconditional release of these innocent girls, the publication is a mere phrase when we ask for solution. I join other well-meaning citizens of the world to plead with the Boko Haram sect to; #Bring Back Our Girls!
•Ifeanyi is a member of Arise Nigeria, Enugu State chapter. email@example.com 08035014819.
•This article was first published on Friday, July 4, 2014.