For God, Country or Ethnicity?, By Salman Mohammed Jiddah

“Loyalty means nothing unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice” – Woodrow Wilson

In a country massively defined by religion, ethnicity, and the alarming question of patriotism to the state, a question of loyalty to whom, what, and why will be highly provocative and entirely exposed to subjectivity.

Martyrs they call themselves; people with utmost loyalty to religion to the point of self-sacrifice, while the rest of the institutions call them ‘extremists’; the state calls its loyalists ‘patriots’ while they are called ‘infidels’ by the religious loyalists, and then there are the proud children of their ethnicity being called ‘ethnocentric’ by the other institutions. “Who are the righteous loyalists?” Although a valid legitimate question, it is not the question or the “colossal argument” trigger I wish to ask here.

I am sure I am not the only one who has observed the typical way we Nigerians behave during an introduction. We always seem to be interested in the other person’s state of origin, religion and ethnicity, which I believe is not an educative inquest or curiosity, but an inquest towards categorisation and stereotyping… Always digging up our differences, and with every difference we dig, we strike out a uniting factor which further questions the loyalty we claim.

We never fail to pull out a flag of loyalty at every opportunity we get to prove ourselves: to God we say we are loyal, to country we say we are loyal, to ethnicity we say we are loyal… spiraling down to ourselves we say we are loyal, which in my opinion categorises us as self-righteous or outright traitors or blatantly clueless.

I believe loyalty can only be certified if acknowledged by the entity being pledged to. And I do not see any proud institution in this country of ours. The supposed religious leaders, ethnic leaders, government leaders connive to drag the three institutions through the mud while we sit in the comfort of our pitched tents of hypocrisy and shed crocodile tears. The leaders betray us, while we ultimately betray the institutions.

Some of them tie turbans around their heads and tell others to go strap themselves with bombs in the name of God; some fly around in private jets and yet preach to you about piety; some of them tell you your ethnicity is all that matters and they still go out of the way to marry from other ethnic groups… And they all carry one beautiful message “Love one another… While you hate the others”.

As a member of an ethnic group you hate the next ethnic group, then you go on to be a member to a certain religion with the same ethnic group your ethnic group does not like and hate on the other religions. Then all the religions come together as nationalists and hate another nation… Is this madness or not?

Is it that most of us are not truly loyal to anyone or anything? Or are we genuinely lost in the translation of loyalty and applying it in life? I will prefer the latter, as I love to give the benefit of doubt where necessary, and it clearly accommodates the lack of common sense in most of us (my sincere way of not using the word “stupid” to define anyone).

As smart as we always think we are, it seems like a reflex action of ours to automatically shut down our “common sense” functions as soon as the words POLITICS, RELIGION or ETHNICITY come up.

“That is how all ‘x’ religion followers are!”

“Don’t mind the ‘y’ ethnic group, they are always not trustworthy”

“The ‘z’ political party is a curse upon our poor country”

Caught up in a never ending blame game, it turns out we are all right without even knowing it; the next person is always the problem of this country. Collectively we are all the problem of this country because, guided by survival, most of us are only truly loyal to ourselves hiding behind the relative concept of good or bad through our individual perspective.

I believe the question to ask is not whose loyalty is true to whom or what, but how do we understand and embrace this thing called loyalty as we should.

‘Humanity’ and ‘common sense’ should be our cardinal mainstays in doing so, however you understand loyalty or whatsoever you are loyal to, if your understanding transgresses against humanity and common sense then you are doing the right thing wrongly.

Most of the leaders of all our institutions are sociopaths; not deserving of true loyalty, they do not really care about us, all they care about is what they have designed to achieve with us.

The next time you seat at a bar or at a “mai shayi” spot, at your church or mosque or shrine, blindly supporting or defending somebody just because you belong to the same ethnicity or religion or God knows what else, ask yourself if the creed of the institutions you love them for is proud of them.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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