Monday, 4 August 2014

Who Is A Patriot?

A few weeks ago, I overheard a weird conversation. I'm still not sure what it all means. This guy (Let's call him Godwin) received a phone call  not too far from where I was at the time. He happened to be one of those people who cannot talk quietly on the phone. He spoke English and Igbo, mixing both languages fluently as he talked. I understand both languages so it was easy to follow.

The call he got was from a middle eastern, oil producing country. The caller (Let's call him Iyke), was serious about a move by some easterners to break out from/of Nigeria and form a new nation like was attempted in the late sixties. He wanted Godwin to help with strategy and work with some people within the country who were already 'putting things in place.' His offer? eight million dollars. I kid you not.

Iyke meant business. He spent the next couple of minutes explaining how much work had been done, how badly they needed Godwin on board and why it was important for Godwin to identify with their cause. I froze where I was, wondering how Godwin was going to refuse the offer. Godwin's response was the real shocker.

The offer upset him and he minced no words in letting Iyke know. He told Iyke about their parents and the horror they went through during the civil war; horrors they were yet to recover from. In his opinion, a secession will not work because the problems of the Igbos were internal and the wranglings within their ranks will be their downfall. He chided Iyke for living in a white man's country, devoid of the issues an average Nigerian grapples with and daring to dictate solutions to Nigeria's problems. He asked Iyke if he knew about the unemployment situation in the country, if he knew how hard it was to survive and asked how he intended to convince people who couldn't find food to eat, to go to war. He asked Iyke if he, surrounded by all the luxury his paycheck provided him, could stand a few days of constant gunfire.

He told Iyke to give him the money. That if he didn't know what to do with it, He (Godwin) could put it to good use. He listed all the possible youth empowerment and poverty alleviation projects he will undertake and told Iyke to come back in six months to see just how far eight million dollars could go. While Iyke pleaded on the phone, Godwin warned him to leave Nigeria and its many problems alone if he couldn't think of constructive ways to help. 

Then as suddenly as the conversation started, it ended.

Patriotism is a lot of things, but most importantly, it is the unflinching solidarity and acceptance of a country by its citizens, warts and all. Patriots are not ostentatious people, they are not talkers, they do, more often than not, quietly. They are optimistic and see the silver lining where others see the clouds. The way a mother will find it easy to love a deformed child is the same way a patriot loves his country. He will kill for it and be killed for it. A patriot never stops hoping, he never stops believing. Even in a sinking ship, surrounded by water, the patriot looks to the horizon with a firm believe that before it is all over, somehow, help will come.

Godwin is a patriot.

©Naomi Lucas

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