Dike Chukwumerije explains “How to love a country that has never loved you”

-“How to love a country that has never loved you”-
Dike Chukwumerije, award winning author and performance poetry artist, has explained “How to love a country that has never loved you”. He gave the explanation yesterday in Abuja when he served as Guest Speaker at a Town Hall Meeting organised by the National Association of Seadogs (also known as Pyrates Confraternity).

The theme of that Meeting was “Rebuilding a Nation”.

Read an excerpt of Dike Chukwumerije’s presentation at the event here:

“There are 2 types of patriotism. There is a patriotism that precedes a nation and there is a patriotism that comes after a nation. There is a patriotism that citizens have when their country takes good care of them. When it gives them jobs, when it gives them security, when it gives them roads. There is a patriotism that citizens have as a matter of cause when their country takes good care of them.

“Then there is a patriotism that citizens need in order to build a country that would take care of their children. There is a patriotism that a nation, a functional nation gives birth to, in its people. Then there is a patriotism that people need in order to give birth to their nation. This is the type of patriotism that a nation builder has. It is special because it motivates you to love and care for a nation that has never loved and cared for you.

Cross section of participants at the Town Hall Meeting

How? How is that possible? How do you love a country that has never loved you? This is a challenge that confronts my generation. A generation that has never known security. A generation that has never known what is like to be regarded with respect by the international community.

“A generation that did not have the luxury of sleeping 2-2 in a room at university or going to the mess hall to eat a good meal with a meal voucher or studying peacefully for your exams in the middle of the night without fear of being caught in some cult war and killed. A generation that does not know what is like to graduate and have a job, a car, a house waiting for you.

“It is the very definition of irony that it is those generations who benefitted the most from this country that turned around and did the most damage to the nation’s building project in this country.

“It is the very definition of irony that it is this generation that has benefitted the least from this country that are now saddled with the extremely difficult task of moving the nation’s building project forward in this country. So how do you do it? How do you love a country that has never loved you?

“Well, you can start by thinking. By thinking about her hills and her mountains. Her rivers and her lakes. Of her sunrises and her sunsets. You can start by imagining what it would be like if we could send our children on excursions to the creeks of the Niger Delta. If we could go camping with them in Sambisa Forest. Rock climbing in Suleja.

“You can start by trying to imagine what it would be like if our teenagers could hitch hike safely all the way from Port Harcourt to Kano. If a girl from Chibok can go to school, graduate, then fall in love with a boy from Aba and together they build a safe, stable and secure home under the brown rusted roofs of Ibadan.

“How do you love a country that has never loved you? You can start by thinking of her people. By opening your eyes and seeing the people around you everyday. You can start by looking into the eyes of your neighbor and realizing that his desire to make a way for himself in  life even as a non indigene is no different from your own desire to make a way for yourself in life as an indigene.

“You can start by looking into the eyes of that Fulani boy…. Or looking into the eyes of the boy on the other side and realizing that ‘this can be my younger brother’.

“You can start by closing your eyes and hearing the cries of every single one of those hundred women: Our mothers, our sisters, up and down this country. North and south, east and west. You can start by closing your eyes and hearing the cries of every single one of those hundred Nigerian women that die every single day while trying to give birth to our own babies.

“You can start by closing your eyes and hearing the plight of a hundred million people out there who do not care where the President comes from because they are too busy trying to survive, trying to escape from extreme, extreme poverty.

“How do you love a country that has never loved you? You can start by allowing these things to move your heart. By allowing these things to keep you awake at night. You can start by allowing your heart to be moved by the culture that we have together evolved over the years.

“You can start by allowing your heart to be moved to laughter at Naija comedy. To be moved to pride at Naija Sports. To be moved to nostalgia at Naija music. Ah! ‘Africa is now or never. You got to win it or lose it forever’.

“Imagine! If we could create such beauty in spite of all the ways that our government has neglected us over the years, if in spite of this we could create such beauty, then how much more would we do if our government was standing up for us?

“How do you love a country that has never loved you? You can start by dreaming, like Martin Luther King before you. You can start by dreaming of the night before he was killed.

“The night before he was assassinated, he said ‘I would like to live a long life. But that is not what matters now. Now I just want to do God’s will and He has allowed me to go up the mountains and to look over and I have seen the promised land. I may not get there with you but I would like to let you know tonight that we as a people would get there.’

“How do you love a country that has never loved you? You can start by dreaming like Nelson Mandela before you as he stood in the dock in 1964 charged with treason, not knowing whether he was going to be sentenced to death or life imprisonment. 

“You can start by dreaming like Nelson Mandela before you. Dreaming of a democratic society where all peoples can live together in harmony and with equal opportunity. You can start by connecting with that struggle. By connecting with the struggle of every black man or black woman wherever they may be found on this planet.

“You can start by feeling the solidarity of the racially oppressed. You can start by understanding that no matter what a black person achieves in this world, whether he rises to become President in America or becomes a member of the royal family in the UK, he or she would never escape the stigma of being African, of being black, not until Africa, the continent, stands up.

“You can allow yourself to feel the weight of this responsibility. The responsibility of being the largest African black nation on the face of this planet. You can allow yourself to dream of carrying that flag, carrying that torch on behalf of an entire continent.

“How do you love a country that has never loved you?  You can start by considering this fact: That in the history of the nation building project in all these western countries we like to admire, that they have never found a peaceful solution to the challenge of diversity in human society.

“That in the history of the nation’s building project in all these western nations we like to look up to, that their solutions to diversity, their solutions to encountering other people, their solutions to the native India, to the African, to the Asian, to the Muslim, to the Buddhist, has always been racism, imperialism, violence and exclusion.

“You can allow yourself to consider the fact that we have the opportunity to show the world that there are other ways of dealing with other people. That there are other ways of tackling the problem of coexistence. That there are other paths to nation building.

“You can allow yourself to understand that the future of this world depends not just on advancement in scientific thinking but also on advancement in our approaches to the eternal and universal problem of getting along. This is how you can motivate yourself to love a country that does not love you, that has never loved you:  By considering the bigger picture.”

Cornelius Ellah
Twitter: @lin_cornellah
Facebook: Cornelius Ellah

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