I woke up to “Happy Independence Day!” texts and somewhere down my stream of thoughts, I began to wonder what role patriotism plays in economic development. Surprisingly, not much research exists on this. Maybe the link between patriotism and growth is a non-issue? Maybe measuring patriotism presents its own challenges? Given that Independence Day in countries usually stirs the feelings of patriotism, today (October 1) in Nigeria would be the best day to find out if a cause and effect of some sort exists between patriotism and economic development. What other day could the flames of patriotism burn brighter? (Only a Cup win by the Super Eagles, the Nigerian Football team garners such level of patriotism). So if one could gather necessary data through the day, what effect would we get from patriotism?
Will our patriotism reduce the level of corruption? Maybe patriotism ensures that one dissuades one from renegading on a contract, or embezzle money? Couldn’t we assume that patriotic people would serve the country rather than their private accounts? When stolen money never remains in the country, emphasis on Nigerian patriotism becomes questionable. Such funds probably becomes capital for new hotels in Dubai. Hence, if we attempted to measure capital flight, would we see capital move into the country instead of out on Independence Day?
Would the nostalgia of Nigeria draw our foreign intellectuals, doctors, engineers, writers, back into the country? Or does patriotism only become a significant factor when professions/intellectuals decide to remain in Nigeria rather than live abroad.
Today, will Nigerians engage in economic nationalism and eschew foreign products for those made within Nigeria? Or will we celebrate the Independence with Golden iPhones imported from outside the country?
Our religious and ethnic differences in Nigeria have constantly been a deterrent to our national unity and growth. Will today’s spike in patriotism be enough to conquer our deep-seated mistrust for one another? I wonder if the marginal rise in patriotism today could cause a fall in ethno-religious bigotry and initiate all the benefits that come with diversity?
Does patriotism lead to economic growth or does economic growth lead to patriotism? What if we’re seeing it the wrong way? What if it’s actually economic development that has an effect on patriotism? A citizen is likely to associate more with his country when he/she can see burgeoning socioeconomic development. Likewise, it’s easy to disconnect when things aren’t going well. After all, even Peter denied Jesus when times were tough. For example, I doubt the feeling of nation pride swells the heart of any Nigerian that received the news of 78 murdered students.
The Dark Side of Patriotism
Can patriotism stunt national development? Yes, it happens when people develop a warped sense of patriotism. I’ve seen a number of Nigerians derive joy from the fact that we’re able to break the law and frequently get away with it. Several bad attitudes displayed by Nigerians have been chucked up to us being Nigerians. You dare to complain about incompetency in Nigeria, you get slammed with the question, ‘Are you not Nigerian?’. Ask people to get in a queue and you’re likely to be told to “stop acting like you’re not from here.” Being a true Nigerian apparently involves embracing and vociferously defending the inefficiencies, flaws and weaknesses of the nation. Such blind patriotism…Pointing out what’s wrong about a nation isn’t what ruins the nation; doing nothing about it does. Nigeria does not need us making excuses for its flaws; Nigeria needs us to fix those flaws.
Components of Patriotism
Let’s be clear; every nation faces these questions on how patriotism ties into their economic development, and nuances exist in the formative stages and factors of patriotism. Citizens of The United States might see democracy as a reason for their patriotism, whilst a number of Chinese citizens might not share similar sentiments when their feeling of patriotism is stirred. Essentially, the people and the system define the sources of patriotism.
We must critically question what characteristics of our nation we decide to be patriotic about. As we celebrate our Independence Day, let’s all reflect on what makes us as a nation worth being proud of. Get rid of the negative correlations and build on the positives. Happy(?) Independence day, fellow Nigerians.