For many reasons, Nigeria seems to be a disappointment to her citizens. Regardless, we owe our country certain duties and it behoves us, the youth, to show the world that we are indeed a country with great potential. How else can we prove that we are the leaders of tomorrow?

As the elections come around in a few years, there are two things that I believe we owe our country. The first duty is political participation-being involved in those activities that influence or shape the political arena. Political participation is not limited to exercising the right to vote or be voted for. It also involves activities such as signing petitions, participating in peaceful rallies, and lobbying for better laws.

The depth of our politicians’ hunger for power is displayed in the ways they use the media and other means to discredit their opponents. Today, politicians are more concerned with fighting and discrediting their opponents than they are with actually governing the people. Votes are often bought and people are canvassed to decide their fate for the next four years based on handouts such as foodstuff and money, amongst other things. How can a bag of rice or a few naira notes determine who you vote for? We need to educate ourselves about the consequences of such poor judgement, and make efforts to reach and educate those who don’t have access to the information that will enable them make better political choices.

We also need to get more actively involved in politics or governance through signing of petitions, and peaceful campaigns for laws that address flaws in the system that should be corrected. There is a saying that, ‘Heaven helps only those who help themselves’. Let us start taking a few steps to save our country, instead of expecting God to save us without doing anything ourselves. We must make an effort to change things through voting.

The second duty we owe to our country is patriotism. We have become a country that continuously points out our ethnic differences. There’s rhetoric of bigotry and ethnic stigma, and it is trying to tear us apart. Our religious and ethnic differences have become more glaring than they ought to be. We have replaced love with fear, tolerance with insurgency, and patriotism with greed and selfishness. We need to participate in politics in order to make a direct impact on society.

However, political participation has to be sensible in order to achieve the effects desired. We need to scrutinize and properly research the candidates for whom we are voting before casting our votes. It is best not to limit our views to hearsay and prejudice based on ethnicity or religion, which, all too often, seems to be the case these days. In this country, belonging to a tribe or an ethnic group seems to come before being a Nigerian. Some people never get the chance to marry those they truly love because of tribal differences. This is not just limited to marriage; however, it stretches into national matters such as voting along tribal/ethnic lines during elections. Such narrow-minded views drag our country backwards. As the youth, we have to remove these shackles that are holding our country down, through deliberate action.

The American and British people are known for putting their countries first, breeding some of the most patriotic citizens in the world. Their countries also rank among the most developed countries in the world today. We should learn from such countries and, as youths, try to promote ‘One Nigeria’ through the various talents and resources we have. Our ethnic differences should bind us together rather than pull us apart. Our country should always come first regardless of whatever tribe we come from. The best way to move Nigeria forward is to stand united.