By Dr. Ignatius Odianosen Okosun (Ph.D.).
Patriotism is an emotional attachment to a nation which an individual identifies as their homeland. This attachment, also known as national feeling or national pride, can be viewed regarding diverse features relating to one’s own nation, including ethnic, cultural, political or historical aspects. Amid the recurrent misperception, frustration and anger of our political disagreements, patriotism, a deep-seated love of our country remain something that has the latent to bring us together, principally at times of national crisis or accomplishment.
But within my own particular intellectual tribe of philosophers, patriotism is often regarded as a “problem,” an emotion that many find unyielding to defend as morally appropriate. But the philosophical problem of patriotism is not about whether or not certain expressions of patriotism are appropriate; it is about the moral defensibility of the attitude as such. At the beginning of Plato’s “Republic,” Socrates asks what justice is, and Polemarchus replies that it’s helping your friends and harming your enemies. That was the answer among the ancient Greeks as well as many other traditional societies. Moral behavior was the way you treated those in your “in-group,” as opposed to outsiders.
Socrates questioned this ethical exclusivism, thus beginning a centuries-long argument that, by modern times, led most major moral philosophers especially, Mill and Kant to conclude that morality required an impartial, universal viewpoint that treated all human beings as equals. This universal moral viewpoint seems to reject patriotism for “cosmopolitanism” the view perhaps first formulated by Diogenes, who, when asked where he came from, replied that he was a citizen of the world. Certainly, patriotism can take an explicitly amoral form: “My country, right or wrong.” But even strong traditional Patriots can accept moral limits on the means we use to advance the cause of our country.
But the moral problem for patriotism arises at a deeper level. Suppose the question is not about blatantly immoral means but simply about whether our country should flourish at the expense of another? Should we conclude that patriotism is ultimately at odds with a moral viewpoint? There remains the option of denying that morality has the universal, all-inclusive nature modern philosophers think it has. Alasdair MacIntyre, argued that morality is rooted in the life of a specific real community; a village, a city, a nation, with its idiosyncratic customs and history and that, therefore, adherence to morality requires loyalty to such a community.
Patriotism, on this view, is essential for living a morally good life. MacIntyre’s argument has provided the most powerful contemporary defense of a full-blooded patriotism. It may seem, then, that we must either accept modern universalist ethics and reject patriotism as a basic moral virtue or accept patriotism along with MacIntyre’s traditional localist morality. Does Patriotism fail? The straightforward and immediate right answer is No. Patriotism does not fail but the failure to apply patriotism to solve a given problem or to address a certain issue can pass for the failure of patriotism. This is because patriotism by its nature has the potential to naturally permeate the human mind with little or no direct effort on the part of the people. So failure to apply patriotism is almost equal to the failure of patriotism.
The Government Secondary School in Chibok town in Bornu State Nigeria; was raided two years ago by unpatriotic terrorist group Boko Haram, about 300 young girls aged between 15 and 18 years, who were writing their final school examination, were hauled like crates into Lorries and ferried away to unknown destinations. Although there were military networks all around, these terrorists succeeded in disappearing with the young girls mostly virgins into thin air never to be seen or heard from again for the preceding next two years, except in very sketchy and unsubstantiated details. The culprits who carried out the abductions were not patriotic and loyal to the country; otherwise nothing of such could have been contemplated on their part. A failure to apply patriotism, which itself, points to the failure of patriotism. The government’s response to the abductions of the Chibok girls was the most embarrassing and unpatriotic action any government could exhibit.
They were apathetic to the situation and even tried unsuccessfully to deny the kidnapping of the Chibok girls. It took three weeks before the government officially responded to the issue when the Chibok girls had become modern day slavery to the callous Boko Harm terrorists and objects of ruthless sexual abuse. The then government could not have been absolved of complicity in the crime because of the initial docile attitude they exhibited. It was a clear case of not applying patriotism to tackle an issue of national tragedy. A glance at the period when the Chibok girls abduction took place revealed that military checkpoints were active everywhere. It was even claimed that a few hours of the incident, a military checkpoint close to the school was dismantled based on orders from above. Conspiracy theorists, therefore, claim that the government either had the intelligence or even unofficially aided the terrorist to abduct these innocent girls. Till this day, no military officer or commander have been interrogated, at least, not to the knowledge of the public, or prosecuted for negligence of the duty.
Government’s handling of the issue at the early stages was very poor and unpatriotic which threw clogs in the wheel of any attempts to rescue the girls. They resorted to politicizing the issue by trying to blame everyone else including the state government and the opposition party instead of taking responsibility and tackling the security negligence quickly.
Another area where government displaced out-right un- patriotism was when words got out that the girls had been loaded onto trucks and moved in a certain direction, no conscious attempt was made to hunt the terrorists or even galvanize red alerts, yet there were security networks all over the region. Although some villagers made sightings, the government just dragged its feet and tucked her tail in between her legs in what analysts will regard as unfounded fear and the national disgrace.
On 26th of May of that year, the then Nigerian chief of defence staff, Air Vice Marshal Alex Badeh, currently under EFCC investigation in the U$2.1billion arms purchase scandal that was supposed to be deployed to fight terrorism, announced that the Nigerian security forces had located the kidnapped girls, but ruled out a forceful rescue attempt for fear of collateral damage. It turned out to be a false flag propagated only to calm the fraying nerves of Nigerians, instead of making concrete security efforts to secure the release of the abducted girls.
Afterwards, the federal government of Nigeria awarded a contract to an American public relations firm, Levick, to the tune of $1.2 million with the aim of check-mating and manipulating the international and local media narrative scenario surrounding the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping, a misplaced priority that saw the rage of social media activists and all patriotic Nigerians.
On the part of other Nigerians, they failed to apply patriotism to the issue, when some tried to give the issue some form of religious and ethnic coloration. Proponents insisted that Chibok, being a predominantly Christian community, was attacked for that singular purpose and the girls who were kidnapped were all Christians. Matters were made worse when a video of Boko Haram surfaced with the girls dressed in hijabs and reciting verses from the holy Quran. Abubakar Shekau in the video claimed that the girls had converted to Islam and would be sold into slavery. But facts and figures released about the identity of the abducted girls revealed a substantial number of Muslims among them thereby rendering this unpatriotic position unacceptable in all respects.
Patriotic Nigerians view the girls as Nigerians who were abducted by the terrorist with a deviant ideology. Moreover, some patriotic Nigerians led by former minister of education Dr. Oby. Ezekwesili displayed solidarity with the Chibok community thereby mounting substantial pressure on the government to intensify action aimed at liberating the girls. The revitalized Nigeria army by the present civilian government of President Muhammadu Buhari has made a tremendous advancement in the war against Boko Harm terrorist in this regard.
This group of patriotic Nigerians sat out daily and called on the government to fast track action while counting the days these girls were held in captivity. As a social pundit, I was left wondering why and how in the last two years, many of the Chibok girls had not devised ways to escape from their abductors. If they were married off to various Boko Haram commanders as alleged in many quarters, does it mean that they have all been held together in captivity and guarded day and night such that all communication with the outside world was restricted? If this is the true scenario, does Boko Haram still have territory in the geographical entity called Nigeria? If the answers to these questions are in the affirmative, negative form, then why have some of the Chibok girls not escape from their captors? Though this might not be so easy – two years can be enough time for some out of the two hundred girls makes a formal contact with the outside world. Do not misjudge my analytical reasoning and sense of judgment.
I am not in any way impugning the Chibok girls, but trying to find a way around the puzzle. It could well be that the girls, at least most of them, have been indoctrinated and brainwashed to such an extent that they now are apologists of the terrorists. If we consider how innocent they were coupled with the fact that they were yet to attain adulthood when they were abducted, this may be very much possible. A case in point is the rescued girl who claimed to be in love with her Boko Haram husband. The girl called Zahra John according to the report, was only 14 when the insurgents stormed her village of Izge, in northeast Nigeria, in February 2014. After razing homes and killing men they encumbered women, girls, and children onto trucks and disappeared.
Zahra claimed to be still in love with her Boko Haram husband due to the way he treated her while she was in captivity. Reports also had it that even when they were taken to a refugee camp in Yola, Zahra and her Boko Haram husband Ali, stayed in touch by phone. What made the Chibok incident so different was that it occurred is a formal setting. Even the dramatic display by the former Nigerian first lady, Dame Patience Faka Jonathan did not convince Nigerians that the abductions did not take place. If it had been an informal setting, everything would have been denied and coveted. Two years on, only one of the Chibok girls, Amina Ali Nkeki has been found, and all attempts so far by the army to rescue others met a brick fortification. This teenager kidnapped by Boko Haram more than two years ago was freed, the first of more than 200 girls seized in a raid on their school in Chibok town to return from captivity in the insurgents’ forest lair. The Nigerian soldiers working together with a civilian vigilante group rescued the girl and her four-month-old baby near Damboa in the remote northeast along with “suspected Boko Haram terrorist” named Mohammed Hayatu who claimed to be the young girl’s husband.
Finally, all hope is not lost, but the Chibok girls are fast becoming Chibok women in captivity, a modern slavery in this millennium. As we witness the second year of their unfortunate abduction, patriotic citizens around the world feel the quandary of the parents, family, and friends of the Chibok girls and pray fervently that they all get rescued soon. If only the previous government had acted with patriotism when the news of the abductions surfaced, the situation would have been different today. This article is a clarion call to all concerned patriotic citizens all over the world to mount pressure on the present Nigerian government to ensure the speedy release of these “articles of slavery and sexually abused” Chibok girls by the ruthless Boko Haram terrorist.
Dr. Ignatius Okosun is a researcher, prolific writer on various national/global issues and a social commentator
. From: Toronto-Canada. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org