By Sola Odunfa
Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo has said that any Nigerian who was not prepared to die for the country did not deserve to be a Nigerian citizen.
President Obasanjo thinks Nigeria is worth dying for
The earlier such a person walked out of Nigeria, the better for the country, the president said on national television on Sunday evening.
He added, betraying his intended target, that if that person had held public office in the past he was an impostor and did not deserve the office.
The only known past public office holder who said recently that Nigeria was not worth dying for was Omololu Olunloyo, a professor of mathematics and one-time governor of Oyo State in western Nigeria.
In a funeral speech, Mr Olunloyo recently said that he once asked Nigeria's former Justice Minister Bola Ige if Nigeria was worth dying for.
According to him, Mr Ige said that he was sure that Nigeria was worth living for but he was not so sure that it was worth dying for.
Mr Ige was assassinated by unknown gunmen in his bedroom three years ago.
At the funeral, which President Obasanjo attended, Mr Olunloyo said that with all he now knew about Nigeria, he was convinced Nigeria was not worth dying for.
The controversy has sparked a country-wide debate about patriotism and duty.
"I would love to die for my country, but not Nigeria in its present state," a man on the streets of Lagos told me.
"We the masses are suffering, so how can I die for Nigeria?" a woman said.
Crowds surround the casket of Bola Ige, who believed Nigeria was worth living for
"I have to think about myself first and Nigeria next," said another man.
The late US President John F Kennedy once urged Americans not to ask what their country could do for them but what they could do for their country.
Nigerians seem to be saying that the country must first inspire their patriotism before asking them for sacrifices.
We asked for your comments, the following reflect the balance of opinion we received:
A selection of your views will be broadcast on BBC Focus on Africa at 17.00 GMT on Saturday 3 July 2004.
Ridiculous! President Obasanjo feels patriotic because he is well taken care of and does not have to wonder where his children's food will come from each day. If the government in Nigeria protected and took care of its people then perhaps more people would feel patriotic. The flaw in his argument is that he does not live on the same level as most of his people and is not doing enough to make sure that they can live a decent life.
L Chukwu, USA
I am a Nigerian living in the USA, I would love to die for Nigeria only if President Obasanjo and his gang packed their bags and gave a chance to a new generation. Then I will believe that Nigeria would be worth dying for. They had their chance to make that country great, but they have achieved nothing. Mr Obasanjo should shut up and be more concerned about sympathising with the plight of the poor people rather than questioning their patriotism. These people are already patriotic by staying put in that country despite all the mess.
Victor Abiodun Abiona, Rockville, MD, USA
I am a Nigerian citizen and I feel that it is absurd for the president of Nigeria to ask people to die for their country when the country is regressing. If there were signs of hope, then maybe he can make such a request.
H. Okoronkwo, New York, USA
Time was in Nigeria when people felt strong about making sacrifices that would inspire change, but I suspect most people see Nigeria as a place where they make a living. There seems to be a deeper commitment to ethnicity than to the country as a whole.
It is hard to be patriotic in Africa where most countries are run by Mafia-type governments that are notorious for only one thing: self preservation at all costs. Damn the nation!
No matter what the current situation of things is in the country, every patriotic Nigerian should be ready to make sacrifice for and if needs be die for the NATION. If people do not appreciate this now, history will judge them.
Ogundepo Kazeem Tunde, Ibadan, Oyo-state, Nigeria
The present situation in Nigeria has resulted in millions of deaths (if that is dying for the nation). How can we die for a nation that refuses to be sincere to her citizens? A nation that can boast of the best brains in the world yet still suffers heavily because of the legend nicknamed "corruption". Until a conducive environment is provided nobody will 'live' (sorry, die) for Nigeria. Period!!!
Grace Tochukwu, Abuja Nigeria
Any country is worth dying for, Nigeria is not an exception as long as it is in the interest of the country.
Tokunboh Odusami, Agoura Hills
I am a Nigerian and in all honesty, I must say that there is little or no incentive that can move one to stick out one's neck for the present failure and disaster called Nigeria. The big question is, will Mr President and our 'patriotic' rich politician still sing the same patriotic tune and find Nigeria worth dying for if they were to share the plight of the many jobless youths roaming the street in a country that has all it takes to be among the richest countries of the world? Who on earth is fooling who?
Benjamin Offor, Enugu, Nigeria
It is possible that the president's message was misunderstood. "Dying for Nigeria", means taking pride of being a Nigerian and acting and living in a manner that will uplift the image of the country. Nigerians are known for the scams that tarnish the image of the African worldwide. I can therefore understand why most don't care about their country and certainly will not die for it. They need a social clean up just like Rawlings did in Ghana. The country cannot develop because of the endemic corruption, the ethnic quarrels and the exportation of massive scams. When a country is known internationally for its scams, corruptions, etc. it is hard to find citizens who would want to die for it. This is well known in sociological circles as a social desirability bias effect.
John, Paris, France
We should not miss the point here, patriotism has nothing to do with the current government or whoever is the leader ,it is a national duty as a citizen towards a given state, its the country which is at stake, not the president, most of us seem to miss this. The problem is most of us in the developing world want the government to change things for us instead of changing things for ourselves and then supporting the government
Nigeria is NOT worth dying for, in Nigeria it is the survival of the fittest.
Ige, Lagos, Nigeria
Ha! Ha! Ha! I am glad the President has a great sense of humour.
Osagie Ogbomo, Chicago, USA
I am a Nigerian leaving in the UK, I would like to die for Nigeria if the Obasanjo stepped down.
Mr Okoabah, UK
Patriotism is a sacrifice not based on conditions but the love for your nationality. I am proud to be a Nigerian, and if it happens I will die for the country.
Bazunu Louis, Zurich Switzerland
A future Nigeria is worth dying for. Rough as it might be Nigeria presently has a wonderful economic team. This dream team if given the chance can perform wonders. It's too early to judge. I'm not interested in discussing any of those present and former military juntas. The question now lies: Are Nigerians ready to allow these people to work?
Nze Ikay , Moscow, Russia
I believe in this country. In its successes and its failures. I believe we will rise above all this to achieve the potential we so obviously have. I will fight to protect its name anywhere I find myself. And if there is a need for it, I will die for Nigeria.
Kyes Bakfur, Jos, Nigeria
Why should I die for a country where the so-called leaders do nothing? I saw a car sticker in Lagos the last time I was there, it said 'DO NOT STEAL, THE GOVERNMENT HATES COMPETITION.' How appropriate!
Martini, Warri, Nigeria
I hope this man will stop making a fool of himself, people like him made Nigeria not worth dying for.
Chamo, Nyc, USA
Yes, I would die for Nigeria at any time and under any circumstance. If Nigeria is bad, then I'll die trying to make her better - If Nigeria is great, I'll die trying to keep her great and make her greater.
Ola Osanyinjobi, Houston, Texas
Nigeria is a great country .It is worth dying for. If you are not ready to die for Nigeria then you should reconsider your value for life. Jesus died for humanity even while we hated him. He did not disown man. If anybody is waiting for everything in Nigeria to be good before loving her then the person has not realised the value for life.
DR ORJI ERNEST, BALTIMORE, USA
Patriotism should not be based on how well a country is taking care of its citizens. Most Americans who fly American flag and are ready to go to war in defence of their country are not always the ones that are well taking care of. Patriotism should be based on identification, love, and attachment to ones country that goes beyond what you get from the country. If we base it on what you get from the country, it will be few in all countries that will be patriotic. Let's remember that even if it is Nigeria or America or any other country in the world, that in some cases, majority of the people are often dissatisfied with the government. So I agree with MY PRESIDENT Obasanjo, that Nigeria is worth dying for. I also believe that when Nigerians will choose to love Nigeria unconditionally, ready to give up personal comfort for her, then we will see the transformation that we are all hoping for.
Obinna, Rancho Cucamonga, California
What utter rubbish. If anyone dies who will take care of their offspring? Please note that it is so difficult surviving in Nigeria even with the bread winner's alive. To die for Nigeria is to send your offspring to the POVERTY heap!!
S Cole, Essex UK
I agree completely that you guys are missing the point. Patriotism has nothing to do with the current government or who the leader is. It is a national duty as a citizen towards a given state, it's the country which is at stake, not the president. The problem is most of us in the developing world want the government to change things for us instead of changing things for ourselves and then supporting the government. Nigerians themselves are the problem not their leader. Every society gets the leadership it deserves not desires.
Daniel, Lagos, Nigeria
I cannot die for any country in the world, how much less for Nigeria. Dying for any country for the sake of patriotism is the usual jargon politicians throw out to the poor masses during wars.
John Phoenix, Aba, Nigeria.