Sylva Nze Ifedigbo
When last did you take note of a flying Nigeria national flag?. The one you took note of, how was it looking? I am almost certain that there must have been something wrong with the flag. It is either it is tattered almost in rags, discoloured as a result of continuous exposure to the elements of the weather, flying at night in the dark, wrongly flown with the green and white laying horizontally, perpetually flying at half (or even quarter) mast when the nation wasn’t mourning, very tiny in comparison to other flags flying beside it or looking so funny like an article just out of an apprentice tailors shop with the green and whites sewn together and so poorly done.
These are the much I can remember of the very sorry states the Nigerian national flag is commonly seen. I guess you might have seen and in a better position to describe even worst forms of flying Nigerian flags as you must have observed in you own vicinity.
There is this one I see every day. The flag-if at all it qualifies to be called that- hangs miserably on a wooden pole about twelve feet long. It wasn’t even hanging as there was no rope what so ever suspending it from the top of the pole. My guess, it is nailed to the wood. But that is not even the worst part of the flag. The poor flag which from immediate observation presents the picture of a worn out piece of cotton has painfully lost the green parchment at its edge. So effectively, it is green and white only and it flies there from January to December, twenty four hours a day, in the sun and in the rain and daily –every morning- the pupils of the primary school in which it is located face and salutes it while singing the national anthem.
Each time I walk past, I feel a huge sense of shame, a mesmerizing pain in my tummy and a reminder that just like the flag, my country (which the flag represented) was also in rags. For if national symbols are important instruments for creating and sustaining a peoples national identity, then what ours shows is a country of a people who do not even –in the remotest sense- appreciate what it is to be a nation and thus practically not in a position to be one. At least, not in the true sense of the word, nation.
Abuse of our national symbols now seems a national policy. A whole lot of Nigerians have little or no regards for the Naira which over the years has been a victim of un-speak able kinds of abuse. A great percentage of our school children sing the lines of the national anthem wrongly and their teachers who don’t equally know what the right lines are do not bother to correct them. Same goes for the national pledge. A few years ago the nation was treated to drama when a ministerial nominee could not sing the National anthem before the Senators. An even greater percentage of our populace cannot recite the pledge and don’t even bother asking any one to explain the symbols of the Coat of Arms, what you will get is absolute silence.
Of all the national symbols which includes (as I was taught in Social Studies Class back in my primary school which I believe has not changed) the national flag, the coat of arms, the national anthem, the pledge, the national currency, the Nigerian passport, etc. I think the national flag suffers the severest forms of abuse.
It is disheartening to note that this abuse of the national flag is not limited to obscure institutions like the Little school with the rag I pass by every day described above, but surprisingly also perpetuated in bigger Government institutions such as the premises of the police and in federal ministries and parastatals, in private institutions especially banks and in a host of other premises occupied by people who ought to know better such as churches, party offices etc.
Some days back, I past by a party office of the ruling party in one of the Area councils in the FCT and observed that the tiny Nigerian flag was sandwiched in between two much big and better looking flags of the party.
The flag of most corporate institutions especially banks are far bigger than the national flag that flies along side them. The national flag seems to be there only by compulsion or a need to fulfill all righteousness while theirs, which represents their corporate image flies tall and big, not only intimidating the poor green and white, but also virtually removing it from existence. How wrong this is.
And of course, the national flag all over the country perhaps with the exception of military barracks flies all day long. My elementary civic studies taught me that the flag should not fly in the dark. I wonder if the tradition has changed.
In effect, our national flag has been (and is still being) defaced, desecrated, mutilated, disrespected and abused. What is more interesting is that no one really cares. For a country like The United States where Respect and Pride in the State is a national policy, the national flag is treated with such respect that when any group of people are demonstrating against Americas foreign policy, they make a huge show of burning the American flag in front of television cameras just to hurt the Americans. If you do the same to a Nigerian flag with the hope of injuring our sensibilities, you will be simply wasting your time as we ourselves do worst things to our flag.
What is more, the man who designed our national flag is un known, unsung, and currently languishing in poverty in his old age.
The issue here is simple. We are just not proud of our country or put more appropriately, there is hardly any thing to be proud about our country or better still, the condition of the country makes it impossible for us to be proud of the country. We have too many things to worry about that remembering to honour a piece of cloth ranks last in our line of thought.
The state of our national flag represents the state of mind of a people who have given up so to speak on the ideals on which their nation is built and are more pre occupied struggling to make ends meet.
The solution? A massive national re-orientation. But it does not end there, we need to get the basic things such the economy, jobs, food, power, etc right. Only a man whose stomach is full remembers to respect the national symbols. Only a man whose need has been met by his nation will care to know and respect the national symbols and laws. Until our leaders begin to do what they should do, the way it should be done, we will continue to be what we currently are; a pariah state.
Sylva Nze Ifedigbo